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If I had to describe my granddaughter, Shai Royce, in one word, it would be bold. Shai isn’t afraid of anything, and she isn’t intimidated by anything or anyone. Not many people can say that about themselves, and not many people can live their lives in that kind of boldness either. Shai (no matter what her name makes you think) doesn’t have a shy bone in her body. She is outgoing, bubbly, and fun. It makes people want to be around her. She has a very magnetic personality.

Shai was born on February 29th…a Leap Day Baby, and we absolutely love the uniqueness of that day in conjunction with her birthday. I don’t know that Shai always liked it, but I think for the most part, Shai, being our only granddaughter, felt picked on by the boys. They were all so close in age, and because she only got a “real” birthday every four years, the boys liked to tell her that they were older than she was…even the younger ones, and especially her younger brother, Caalab Royce. These days, I don’t think she minds being told she is younger, and that will be a bigger and bigger blessing as the years go by. While Shai is technically 26 years old today, she is actually only 6½ years old today. She has been alive 26 years, but has only had 6 “real” birthdays, and she is halfway to the next real birthday. That may not seem great right now, but when she is 60 years old, she will actually only be 15 years old. What 60-year-old woman wouldn’t love that?? So, today is Shai’s Nano-Birthday again, because in the nano-second between 11:59pm and 12:00am this morning…her birthday happened. Maybe that’s why I like to say that “Leap Happens” when she actually gets a real birthday. The really cool thing is that she can celebrate for two days, because either one counts as her birthday in a Nano-Year. I know that Shai has and will be celebrating her birthday in a big way, because it is a big deal.

Shai has had an interesting year. She is an insurance agent with Rice Insurance in Bellingham, Washington, and after Covid and the accompanying lockdowns, Rice Insurance realized that their agents can easily and effectively work from home. They are an agency without walk in traffic, so having their agents in the office is not necessary. So, now both Shai and her mom, Amy Royce, who is also an insurance agent with Rice Insurance, work from home, and they both really love it. The weather doesn’t matter to their commute, and that had been good this year, because oddly, they have had more snow than in many years past. Because they don’t get much snow, the roads are shut down when then get very much snow. The agents who work from home don’t miss a day of work. And the ones who don’t work from home can easily get going at home too when needed. It’s a win-win. Today is Shai’s Nano-Birthday. Happy 26th/6.5th birthday Shai!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Gold mining was, without a doubt, a profitable business, but it wasn’t an easy business to be in, especially in the early days. The miners-turned-innovators had to figure out ways to speed work up in order to make a profit. Gold is a tricky metal to find and mine, as are most precious metals. One thing that was needed, especially in underground mining, was a way to get the ore out of the mine, and the tools and workers into the mine. It is a waste of time to have workers walking long distances into the mines., their tools are heavy, and carrying all that in makes for slow going…if the miners are walking anyway. A mine railway, also called mine railroad or sometimes pit railway, is a railway constructed to carry materials and workers in and out of a mine. Few people would remember, but the mix of heavy and bulky materials which had to be hauled into and out of mines gave rise to the first several generations of railways. The first rails, like this one, photographed in Illinois by Timothy O’Sullivan leading to a gold mine, was made of wooden rails. Eventually they added protective iron, steam locomotion by fixed engines and the earliest commercial steam locomotives. All these came about because of the mines.

The old wooden rails worked very well. Gold carts, or ore cars, were moved up and down the railway using a pulley. The original design of these carts was used in Colorado mines in the late 1800s. The system even had a 360° operating turntable, which allowed the car to dump in any direction. The wheels were exclusive, with a curved five spoke cast iron design. Running the ore carts along the railway wasn’t easy either. There may have been a steam engine to work the pulley later on, but at first, it was all human muscle, and it wasn’t easy.

As with any new form of transportation, the first accident is inevitable. There may have been train wrecks in other countries, but the first recorded railroad accident in United States history happened on July 25, 1832, when four people were thrown off a vacant car on the Granite Railway near Quincy, Massachusetts. The people were there by invitation, to watch the process of transporting large and weighty loads of stone. The victims were observing From a vacant car as the large were being loaded. Suddenly, a cable on the vacant car snapped, throwing them off the train and over a 34-foot cliff, one man was killed and the others were seriously injured. It was a fluke, and no one could possibly have known of expected such a break. I suppose that cables had not been used for the purposes they now were…loading large rocks and their duties on trains. Cables can fray and snap. That is just a fact of life. Death is a fact of life, and on that day, when the cable broke, the wagon containing Thomas B Achuas of Cuba was killed when the wagon derailed as he and three other tourists were taking a tour.

While it was a setback, trains were, in fact, a matter of necessity, and the acceptance of railroads came quickly in the 1830s and beyond. By 1840 the United States had almost 3,000 miles of railway, which was more than the combined European total of only 1,800 miles. The railroad network expanded quickly in the years before the Civil War, and by 1860 the American railroad system had become a national network of some 30,000 miles. Nine years later, transcontinental railroad service became possible for the first time. These were great successes, but they did not come without a price, and sometimes that price is very heavy.

When architect Solomon Willard arrived in Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1825, and discovered a granite ledge in a wooded area, he knew he had found the perfect raw material for what would become his most famous building, the Bunker Hill Monument. Willard envisioned a 221-foot tall monument with a 30 feet square base that would require some 6,700 tons of granite. Transporting the massive blocks of granite from the quarry to the site of construction presented a challenge. That’s where the train came in. Quincy was separated from Charlestown, where the monument would be erected, by 12 miles of swamp, forest, and farms. The granite needed to be delivered to Neponset River, four miles north, from where a barge would transport the stone through Boston Harbor to Charlestown. Willard wanted to move the stones to the Neponset River on sledges during winter, but engineer Gridley Bryant, suggested a more efficient method…a railroad.

With the support Boston businessman and state legislator Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Bryant ended up designing what would become the first, commercial railroad in the United states. Rather than steam locomotives, Bryant used horses to pull the railcars a distance of three miles from quarries to the Neponset River. A single horse could pull three cars loaded with 16 tons of rock over wooden rails plated with iron. Later, the wooden rails were replaced with granite rails. The iron plates were retained.

Although, Bryant benefitted from developments already in use on railroads in England, he did modify his design to allow for heavier, more concentrated loads and a three-foot frost line. The Granite Railway also introduced several important inventions, including railway switches or frogs, the turntable, and double-truck railroad cars. Gridley Bryant never patented his inventions, believing they should be for the benefit of all.

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