Category Archives: Chicago

QOTS Flashback and Gear Action

I was running back through some older shots while experimenting with some processing techniques and was looking at some British Airways 747-400 shots.  With them now retired from BA service, it was a moment of reflection to see the shots again.  It was also a departure sequence which meant there was a good view of the way in which the QOTS main gear tucked away.  A cool looking sequence but a lot less common these days.  Thank goodness for the freighters and the remaining passenger jets.

The Curves Are So Cool

At quiet times, I browse through older shots to see what I have shot in the past that might not have been the most interesting subject of the shoot but was worth another look.  I had been photographing with a bunch of guys at O’Hare a few years back as the evening was drawing in.  We were out at the west side of O’Hare and the evening light was great.  An Embraer E175-E1 took off and turned overhead us.  The low light angles picked up the underside of the aircraft as it turned.  The bottom of a wing has a lot of complex curvatures to it and the low light angle really emphasizes that shape.  This shot really appealed to me for that reason.

Goodbye Alitalia

Airlines come and go but there are some that seem immortal, despite the fact that they really should have died.  Alitalia was one such airline.  It had gone through financial crisis after financial crisis.  All sorts of EU rules were broken with the government propping the airline up and then they got support from another airline which probably regretted it very quickly.  It now seems that they have finally gone.  The failure of an airline is obviously traumatic for the people that work for it and I am genuinely sorry for them.  However, Alitalia really needed to go.  There is a new airline in Italy and they have bought the rights to the name.  They paid less than half of the minimum bid that the people selling the rights said they would take.  It looks like it was just to stop someone else using the name but we shall see.  Let’s hope ITA is a better run operation.

Circus Around the Potential Jumper

Continuing the theme of the construction activities that went on around our apartment when we lived in Chicago, there was one day that was a little out of the ordinary.  I had been for a walk in the afternoon and was coming back along Wabash when I saw a lot of people hanging around.  Then I spotted the TV crews and a bunch of law enforcement.

It turned out that someone had climbed one of the cranes and was threatening to jump.  Everyone was waiting to see what happened.  An inflatable mattress had been installed underneath the crane in case the person did jump but someone was working to talk them down.  I had no interest in being around if things didn’t turn out well so, having seen what was going on, I went on my way.  I don’t recall it being a big story later so assumed it all got resolved satisfactorily.

Wildcat Has Looked Better

In 2012, A Grumman Wildcat was raised from the bottom of Lake Michigan.  The lake has numerous wrecks scattered across it as a result of the training that was undertaken during the Second World War with students ditching their aircraft.  Many have been raised over the years with some being restored to flight and others ending up in museums.  The one that was raised in 2012 was the subject of a piece I put together for Global Aviation Magazine.

The airframe was moved to a hangar under the control of Chuck Greenhill (who had financed the recovery) at Kenosha Airport after it was raised from the water and this was where I got to see it.  Opening the hangar door was quite a shock because the smell was pretty overpowering.  The airframe was covered in various creatures that had attached themselves over the years and they were not doing well in the air of the hangar.  It was a tough smell initially.  You got used to it a bit and having the hangar door open helped to get some fresh air in there.

The airframe was in several parts.  The wings were laid out in place and the tail section, which had separated at some point during the accident, was laid out behind it all.  Obviously, there was lots of damage to the aircraft given that it originally had crashed and then spent decades underwater.  The recovery process was delicate to avoid inflicting any further damage.

The airframe remains the property of the US Navy.  It was originally going to go to Pensacola for restoration but ended up going to the Air Zoo in Kalamazoo MI in the end.  It is currently undergoing restoration there.

Foundations for a Tall Building

I have already posted a couple of times about the construction next to our old apartment in Chicago.  The demolition of the Sun Times building was here and the removal and replacement of Wabash Avenue was here.  This was all associated with the construction of the new tower.  Since the plot on which this tower was going to be built was pretty small, it couldn’t be a traditional steel frame skyscraper.  The provide the stiffness needed for such a slender tower, it had to be constructed of concrete.

This required a substantial foundation.  First was the need to clear out the old foundations.  The Sun Times building had been constructed on top of a ton of piles that were timber poles driven in to the ground.  These all had to come out before anything else could be done.  Tons of them would be lying around at various times as they were pulled out prior to being taken away.

Next was the need to drill down for the new piles.  I seem to recall that they went down about 130 feet but my memory may be off on that.  Some of the piles were really wide while others were slightly narrower.  Larger drills would take out the earth and then steels cylinders would be inserted in to the whole.  Rebar reinforcements would be inserted before the concrete could be poured in to make the final pile.  This process was repeated across the site over a course of months.

All of this was the precursor to the main foundation.  The building was built on top of a concrete raft.  This sat on top of all of the piles.  It was a single pour.  The whole pour took about 48 hours.  A steady stream of trucks brought the concrete in from a mixing plant a couple of miles away.  The mix was a special high strength one and each truck was tested as it arrived.  Pouring such a volume of concrete continuously required great care because the material generates heat as it sets and there was constant monitoring to ensure that the overall temperature remained within range.  Once they started, they couldn’t stop.

The whole thing apparently went to plan and the result was a large concrete base on which the rest of the construction effort would build.  After months of preparation, finally it was time for things to start going up again.

Building a Tower Crane

Tower cranes are ubiquitous in big cities.  The only way to construct tall buildings, there are the sign of a prosperous city when there are lots of them.  They can be a nuisance when you are taking photos of a skyline of course since they interrupt the flow of a cityscape.  You seen them all the time but you don’t often get to see how one is assembled.  When we were watching the tower construction across from our building in Chicago, we got to see the cranes being put together.

The first thing that is needed is a big crane!  Got to have a crane to make a crane!  The base was put in place and then the cab was lifted into place.  From this, the elements of both booms were lifted and attached.  Then the counterbalance weights could be added along with the machinery to do the lifting work.  It was fun to watch it all go together and to see the guys walking around on the structure once it was in place including all of the bracing elements.  Once the crane is complete, there is a sleeve section that allows the inner section to be slide up and a new section to be inserted.

Two cranes were built for this project.  They were both within the footprint of the building so it grew around them and they grew above it.  There was never terribly much of the crane exposed above the building so it was well supported.  One of the crane operators on this project used to take his camera up.  He had a great selection of images from up there with all sorts of things going on a round him and some incredibly variable weather.  I will have to see whether those images are still available online.

Ferraris on State Street

There have been plenty of posts about sports cars from our time in California and Washington.  However, when we lived in Chicago, there were always a ton of exotic cars around the city.  These would be in regular use rather than part of organized gatherings.  However, one weekend, there was a gathering of Ferraris on North State Street.  I had completely forgotten about this until recently working through some old shots.

There was a combination of new cars with some older but no less exotics examples.  An F40 was there along with Testarossas.  Having this on a busy street in the center of the city seems pretty odd now but it was definitely cool at the time.  Here are some of the nice motors that were on show that day.

Goodbye to Wabash – Before It Returned

The demolition of the Sun-Times building was discussed in this post.  The building wasn’t the only thing to go, though.  The creation of the new tower meant that the street needed to be rebuild around it.  Consequently, a section of Wabash Avenue was completely taken apart before being rebuilt.  This meant our street became a dead end for a long time.  You could walk through on a temporary footbridge that they installed (which was good for seeing what was going on) but road traffic went elsewhere.  This made getting a cab a lot harder!

The roadway was elevated, built upon a series of steel girders.  The surface was drilled out and the structure taken down.  There was a lot of construction for what would ultimately sit under the new roadway and for the access to the new building.  Then new supporting structures were erected.  Finally, a new roadbed was installed.  Before the finish was laid on top of this, you could see the elements that would be contained within it.  Drainage elements as well as the central dividers that would be filled with plants could be identified.  There was also going to be a concrete pump to support the building construction and the exhaust port for this was built into the new road in the center.

Eventually the new road was completed and the traffic was free to come through again.  Since everyone had found new routes, it was actually quiet for quite a while until people got used to having the road available again.  Once it was complete, it was quickly hard to remember what it had been like when closed.

Sun Times Demolition

When we moved to Chicago, our apartment overlooked the Chicago Sun-Times building on Wabash Avenue alongside the Chicago River.  This plot was sold off for development with a large tower being built on its site.  The construction that followed will be another post but this one relates to the demolition process.  The view from our window provided a great view of the tearing down of the old building.  It didn’t hurt that much of it was done during the Chicago winter, but I could watch from the comfort of our living room.

The building came down pretty quickly.  Crews were using jack hammers to drill out the concrete flooring of each level and the machines that these were mounted on could also pull over the wall sections once cutting torches had taken out key elements of them.  There was plenty of cutting going on with torches taken out structure and piping.  This didn’t always go smoothly with more than one occasion when the cutting set fire to something and the fire department came to deal with it.  A lot of water from the hoses would pour out of the spaces in the walls and, given the low temperatures, lots of icicles would result.

There weren’t too many floors in the building with the lowest levels being where the printing presses had once been.  The whole thing came down quickly.  It wasn’t an attractive structure so we weren’t so sad to see it go.  However, since it was low, it gave us a good view across the river.  The new building would be 92 floors tall and was going to take out a chunk of our view but such is the way of things when you live downtown in a city that is constantly evolving.