Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Trainspotting


Two years and one day after the first (failed) mirror was cast (see yesterday's post) the second (successful) disc began its trip from Corning, New York to Caltech in Pasadena, California on March 26, 1936.

The 20-ton piece of glass traveled 3,000 miles by rail at the breakneck speed of 25 miles per hour. It seemed like all of America came out to watch the event as thousands of people went down to the train tracks, all across the nation, to watch the train roll past. The route was carefully chosen to ensure that all bridges could handle the load and the the crate would safely pass under all of the overpasses along the way.

The train did not travel at night, making layovers in Buffalo, NY; Cleveland, OH; Bellafontaine, OH; Indianapolis, IN; Matoon, IL; St. Louis, MO; Brookfield, MO; Kansas City, MO; Wellington, KS; Canadian, TX; Clovis, NM; Belen, NM; Winslow, AZ; Needles, CA; San Bernardino, CA. It took 16 days to travel from Corning to Pasadena.

With the delays caused by World War II, the mirror remained at Caltech for 11 1/2 years as it was carefully crafted into the proper shape .

A few years ago I had the honor to meet a retired gentleman who was an elementary school student in Kansas when the mirror made its historic trip. He told me how his entire school was brought down to the railroad tracks to watch the mirror and the train go past. It is always a pleasure to meet people who have had a personal connection to part of the Palomar story.

2 comments:

santosh said...

This one story motivated me so much...I bought a 6" blank to build my own telescope the very next day I completed reading the book "The glass giant of Palomar".
Thanks a lot for sharing that wonderful picture, Scott.

Scott Kardel said...

Thanks for sharing that santosh. You really made my day. :)