Saturday, March 19, 2011

Close only counts in horseshoes and grenades

Horseshoe Curve is a world famous stretch of track located in Altoona, PA.    It was constructed to link from the eastern segment of the Pennsylvania Railroad line with the western segment.  When it was completed it was an all-important seamless rail route to the American west.  Construction on the rails was completed in 1854 and considered an engineering marvel

In order to bring together the two sections, engineers had to figure out a way to get the trains to climb the rock wall up to the tunnel that was cut 150 feet below the top of the 1,261ft high mountain. The mountain was very steep, the trains had to gain several feet of altitude very quickly in order to reach the summit.   Instead of forcing the trains to scale the steep mountains, the track was built to double back in a loop.  The grade was 1.8% and permitted a moderate gain in altitude as trains ascended.

Horseshoe Curve is located in Kittanning gap in the Allegheny mountain range; referred to as the Eastern continental divide because they stretch from Newfoundland to Alabama.  The tracks run along the north side of the valley, then turned to the left and crossed a man-made embankment to Kittanning Point, where a rock wall was shaved away for the arc that is the center of Horseshoe Curve. The curve 1, 800 feet across that bends in an arc of approximately 220 degrees with radius of 637 feet on the north side to 609 feet on the south.   It is a half-mile long, and the west side is 122 feet higher than the east side.

I grew up relatively close to Horseshoe Curve and spent quite a bit of time there.  Of course, I spent time at the Curve doing the touristy stuff but nearby there are some smallish cliffs where I learned how to rappel. 

Rappelling is the process of descending a fixed rope by making a controlled slide down the rope, usually with a mechanical braking device, like a rappel device, Figure 8 descender, or a carabiner brake fashioned with up to six carabiners. Rappelling is one of the most dangerous aspects of climbing because the climber relies solely on his safety system and equipment, including his ropes, harness, rappel device
There’s a definite adrenaline factor and it’s a lot of fun. Why would one want to do this?  To get from the top to the bottom . . . duh! 

The tie in to today’s project . . . get it, tie in . . . is rope.  Not the same kind of rope, but rope nonetheless.


How to Make a Parachute Cord Bracelet

Things You'll Need:
Parachute cord, 4 feet
Sharp scissors

Make sure you burn the ends of the cord to prevent fraying.  Fold the length of cord in two, holding the ends together, to locate the middle.

Lay out the doubled-up strand of cord on a flat surface. Have the recipient lay his wrist across the cord, as near as possible to the loop in the end of the doubled strand. This loop is the middle of the cord if you laid the cord out straight.

Grasp the loop at the end of the double strand and wrap it around the recipient's wrist until it meets the rest of the cord. Wrap the cord as tightly on the recipient's wrist as you want the bracelet to be, pinching the cord between your fingers to mark the appropriate length (one wrap around the recipient's wrist). Start braiding at the pinched midpoint of the cord, working toward the looped end.

Hold the cord so that the bent loop end points toward you and the loose ends face away. Starting from the place you measured out in the previous step, cross each strand of cord over itself to form a large, open loop about the size of a quarter.

Feed the tail end of each cord through the opposite loop. The right-hand loop should lead away from the paired pieces of cord, clockwise, and cross under the paired cords before coming up out of the other loop. The left-hand loop should lead counterclockwise from the paired cords, crossing over the paired cords before going down into the other loop.

Grasp the paired pieces of cord just underneath the paired knot and tug on the loose ends to snug the knot down. Don't tighten it all the way. Leave two small, even loops, large enough for the cord to pass through later.

Tie the same knot again just below the previous knot. This time, snug it all the way down. Repeat this pattern all the way down to the looped end of the parachute cord strand. Run both loose ends of cord through this single loop and pull snug to lock the bracelet knots in place.

Thread each loose tail end of the cord through one of the small loops left from the first knot. Knot the two tails together several inches past these loops to create a sliding closure for the bracelet. Try it on--or have the recipient try it on--to make sure it fits properly, and then trim off the excess cord on the other side of the knotted together tails.


  1. Very cool. I feel like I'm back in Boy Scouts, heh heh!
    One thing, I suggest that since 4 feet didn't make a bracelet long enough for my wrist, 6 feet might be better.

  2. Wow, that's funny - we just did this at my son's Den meeting this past Monday!