New York City’s Historic Steam System

Let Me Remind You…
About New York City’s Steam System

Everyone knows what happens if you put a whistle-top kettle on the stove, half-full with water, and turn the heat up as high as it will go. When the water starts to boil rapidly, it produces steam, when that steam escapes through that whistle, you know it’s done and time to make tea.
But what if you boil water to 305-450 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed system with strategically placed vents, like radiators and other systems of pipes throughout a building? You now have heating, cooling, steaming and in some instances, even sanitization.

Harnessing and controlling the power of steam is not a new invention by any means. The ancient Romans were one of the first to use steam to heat up their homes and baths.
A few hundred years later, in 1882, some businessmen in New York City started the New York Steam Company, providing steam heating/cooling to over 300 buildings. The city gave them a contract and they built the first boiler plant at the site of the world trade center.

But in 1888, a blizzard blanketed the city in snow, knocking out power lines and forcing everyone inside, trying to stay warm. This tragedy was an eye opener for officials. They saw how efficient steam power was for the 300 buildings and they extended the contract to service over 1500 buildings in NYC, which happens to be the same number today. Some saying closer to 1800.

Using steam instead of coal reduces carbon emissions (though I’m not certain they were overly concerned about that at the time), and changed how we see NYC today. If it weren’t for the steam system, the skyline would be dotted by buildings covered in chimneys and the power grid would be far more extensive and less eco-friendly.

1888 blizzard leaves the city blanketed in snow

NYC has the largest steam system in the world, larger than the other major steam-using cities put together.
Some of the more notable buildings that have always used steam include the Empire State building, The Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller. Apartment buildings in NYC still have steam heating/cooling systems.
Having steam used in these buildings allows for other buildings like hospitals to divert the use of electricity for modern machinery like MRI’s and Xrays  etc. and using the steam for heating/cooling, sanitizing and laundry.
Museums even use the steam technology to help regulate the humidity in the galleries in order to help preserve the artwork, restaurants use it to sanitize dishes and laundromats use it for pressing clothing.

The great part about the steam system is that it can be tapped into without requiring your own boiler. Kind of like just attaching a pipe under your sink to drain in more than one place.
Obviously, it would be efficient to have your own boiler system, especially if you’re not near one of the boiler plants, and even though the entire system is completely interconnected, some places do have their own system. NYU has the largest privately-owned facility. These smaller plants are called “co-generation plants”.

But with the massive power of steam being forced through the pipes comes disaster. A user on a forum* said that he was speaking with a ConEdison employee about why residents on a massive stretch of the city didn’t have water leading up to Hurricane Sandy. The employee said, “ they’re doing it so that floods won’t hit the steam pipes and cause explosive rupture, with flying manholes to boot.”
Despite being made from heavy metal and getting serviced monthly, there’s still room for error, or fluke accidents, usually caused by a compromised pipe that’s decades old, affected by something called “steam hammer” or “water hammer”, which can lead to a faulty steam trap and cause explosion. this usually occurs when the hot steam is traveling through the pipes and runs into something cold, like water. These have happened a few times in the past. A couple notable ones happened in 1989, and another in 2007.

1989 steam pipe explosion

So next time you’re in NYC, If you see one of the iconic orange and white stacks in the street, shooting steam out the top, that means they’re working on some pipes below. If you’re lucky, you might have seen an (illegal) art installment by an artist, Mark Reigleman II,  who makes small houses to put over the stacks and it looks like steam is coming out the chimney. Though the city is aware of him, they haven’t been able to catch him yet.  

Mark Reigelman art installation: “Smokers”

fun fact: 1 gallon of water will produce 8lbs of steam.

Sources: (photo only)

As always, thank you for taking the time to read! Have a great day!

Kristina Moore is the Author of The Pecan Trees, available on Amazon.

The Maritime Express

Let Me Remind You…
About The Maritime Express: The flagship train that united Eastern Canada.

Maritime Express Postcard taken by an unknown photographer for the ICR

It was only going to be a day’s travel, a far cry from the multiple days in a rickety box, trying to get comfortable in a small cabin with less than meager accommodations. The days it took always seemed longer than they were. Now, it would be like traveling in luxury; a personal cabin with sleeping quarters; a restaurant car adorned with varnished wood and polished silver. A menu to choose from and cocktails while you could look out your window, watching the land pass by. So much green whipping by so quickly it appeared the train was going backwards. When the dense tunnel of forest opened up, you would be surprised with a vast scape of rolling green hills and farm land, or even a mountainous range where the Appalachian trail poked it’s long limbs over the border into Canada.
Although the trains and speed may have changed over the years, the view from the windows going from Quebec to Nova Scotia has not changed much. You can still see what the passengers of one of the first Express trains would have seen as they travelled to see family, or vacation on the East coast.

The road to civilization and building a country is a long one. Or maybe it’s a short train track.
Before the Confederation in Canada, in 1867, Canada was 3 separate colonies. As the population started to grow,  and the government started to dig their claws into the land, a dirt road and carriages were starting to seem to be an outdated way to communicate and travel through the Eastern provinces. Especially during winter storms which could potentially bury the trails. Even train travel during snow storms would become difficult, and they ended up building stretches of snowsheds; long tunnels to protect the tracks from getting piled in multiple feet of snow.

It all started when the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia wrote to William Gladstone (Prime Minister of the UK at the time) with a request to survey a train route through the colonies. Once he got the go-ahead, he started scouting the best places to set the tracks. It took many years and a death of the head surveyor before they finally established a route and could start building in 1868. Leg-by-leg, stop-by-stop, the railway was completed.
Even though it was completed after Canada joined the 3 colonies and became a country, It was still called Intercolonial Railway or ICR.

By the 1890’s people were using the trains to go see family on the east coast, or the reverse: going to Quebec. Being smart business men and knowing what the competition had, In 1891, The Maritime Express was added as the flagship for the ICR, in competition with other “Express trains”. This passenger car would make the 1000+mi trip from Quebec to the far corner of the East coast in 28 hours (If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, or some of L.M Montgomery’s other books, this is the train frequently taken.)

The ICR recognized the active tourism that naturally occurred with this connection and started marketing it as such; toting the beautiful areas of Nova Scotia. This drove people to start vacationing there even more. Eventually, the combination of travel during the holidays and tourism led them to add more times and railway lines in the early 1900’s.
But even though the Maritime Express could have you at your destination by 3:30pm the following day, it still made many stops and was a longer trip than other express trains the competition had. That’s when the ICR added the Ocean Limited, which could make the same trip in 3-4 less hours.

Pamphlet for “The people’s railway”

The ICR’s direct competitor, The Canadian pacific Railway (CPR) had a train that was making the trip from Quebec to Nova Scotia in even less time. They also had “running rights” from the federal government, organically forcing business to them.
This drove the ICR to try a rebranding tactic. They petitioned the federal government to extend their own tracks and improve existing rails and cars. By 1912 the Maritime was a huge success and even made it on to the $5 bill. The ICR was now dubbed “The People’s railway”. In 1917, the Halifax Explosion took out a large section of the tracks, but this would not stop the momentum the ICR had been building.

Maritime Express on the $5 bill.

Going into the wars, the ICR had an influx of traffic. Afterwards, not so much. They had to cut back a lot and the express trains were starting erode with wear-and-tear that no one wanted to deal with apparently. By the 1960’s the Maritime Express was running local routes and eventually by 1964, the Maritime Express was retired. I imagine with the popularity and availability of cars it just wasn’t needed as much.

To this day, you can still take a train across Canada, or even just short trips. You can even take the same route that was traveled in the late 1800’s. But if you want to go from West coast to East coast, you may have to adjust your schedule and train tickets as the west and east have their own railroad companies and aren’t a fan of each other.
Check out some of the routes HERE.

I would love to hear if you’ve travelled any of these railways. Information was harder to find than I thought, and was conflicting in a lot of places. I would love to hear more personal accounts and fun facts about this.


University of Calgary

As always, please check out my novel The Pecan Trees, a fictional novel set in Hill Country, Texas. Available on Amazon or my website:

Norma Wallace; The Last Madam of New Orleans

Let Me Remind you…About Norma Wallace…

TW: suicide, sex-work

Norma Wallace

If you google-maps 1026 Conti St, New Orleans, you might see a rundown building, in the middle of a tattered neighborhood that wouldn’t catch any of your attention as you walked by. But you would be missing a history of scandal, sex, crime, love, bribes and a woman who ruled the streets of New Orleans for nearly 40 years.

Author Christine Wiltz didn’t know where to start when she was handed a box full of tapes, journals, notes, and more, detailing Norma Wallace’s life. The voice coming through the cassettes was old, but not weak, and her story was remarkable.

Christine had been contacted by the Norma’s ex-husband, Wayne and his current wife, Jean who had pushed the meeting. She knew of Norma’s wonderful stories, Probably because she was dating Wayne when he and Norma were still married.  Heck, they still lived in Norma and Wayne’s house in Mississippi. The house which still had a bullet hole in the ceiling (We’ll get to how it got there later). Christine was an author of multiple thrillers that Jean was fond of, so when everyone else had fallen through while Wayne and Jean pursued writing the book about Norma, Jean reached out to Christine, and the book of Norma’s unbelievable life came to fruition.

But lets start at the beginning.

Norma was born anywhere between 1900 and 1916—the dates on that could even be off because she fabricated her age many times, to the point where she admittedly couldn’t even remember it herself.
She said,  

“Don’t ask me what year [I was born] because I lied so much about that I don’t even know anymore. My mother caught me lying about my age once. Then she started lying about her age, and I wound up older than my mother!”

Her father seemed to be a relatively decent man, but after he caught his wife cheating on him, he left. Without looking back, he left Norma at 11 years old along with her younger brother Elmo to fend for themselves. Norma’s mom, an alcoholic, was known to leave the kids for weeks at a time. Norma and her brother would steal food where they could but when the neighbors realized what was happening, they took the kids in, and made sure they were fed and taken care of.
Later, when Norma was making loads of cash, she made it possible for these families to purchase their homes (minorities were unable to own property at the time).
Eventually her father was found in Slidell, where he had another family and his own lumber business.

At fourteen or fifteen, Norma knew what she could do to get by. She wasn’t dumb or blind and had seen the women in the windows and streets of Memphis. She became friendly with a local veterinarian, who was already decades older, but somehow telling him she was seventeen made everything okay. She strung him along for six weeks, going out for lovely dinners and shopping, until finally he gave up when she wouldn’t give him everything he wanted.

It wasn’t long after she started using her body for money. She had a bigger goal though, and by the age of 19 she became one of the most renowned Madams of one of (what some might call) the most notorious brothels in New Orleans.
As much as she was breaking the laws in ways, she was also helping law enforcement. Her most popular house, 1026 Conti Street) was no stranger to well-to-do businessmen, policemen, politicians, actors (and actresses) and even the mayor of New Orleans. She knew everybody’s business and she wasn’t one to stay tight-lipped if she knew it could buy her some favors or get-out-of-jail-free cards. She knew when to keep her mouth shut, but she knew when to run it and who to run it to.
This didn’t save her from multiple raids, but being a savvy businesswoman, she had an adjoining apartment building that she could drop a plank of wood to cross the upper balconies and her girls would shuffle over to the other house until the police left. She also kept a little book with the names, times and dates of everyone that filtered through, so if anyone tried to threaten her, she could pull out the book that even had personal details only the person themselves and the girl who serviced them would know…if you catch my drift.

In the 1960’s though, there was a new district attorney in town, Jim Garrison. He was intent on “cleaning up the city” and was ready to crack down on Norma’s establishment. Eventually even Norma couldn’t outsmart him and she went to jail. She had a personal relationship with the judge though and he let her out after a mere 3 months. She had said that being in that place was enough for her to realize she wasn’t going to do this anymore. It wasn’t the first time she had been to jail, but it was going to be the last. She opened up a restaurant out of town, called the Tchoupitoulas Plantation. I’m not going to get into all the things wrong with the name, but I’m sure you can imagine. It was a two-for-one hit to minorities. After that, she never went back to being a madam, but instead stayed as the owner and presence of the restaurant.

At 1026 Conti she ran a tight ship when it came to her house and girls. The girls would be cleaned and were taught how and what to look for in the men to make sure they were disease-free. They weren’t allowed to have pimps and if they worked for Norma, they only worked for her. It seems that many of the girls became like daughters to her since she never had her own; there was a mutual respect between them.

She was married though—5 times and they all seemed tumultuous. She collected diamonds like a child might collect rocks.
The first love of her life was a bootlegger, Andy Wallace. They never legally married but referred to one another as such. Andy was wishy washy and Norma was a firecracker. It never lasted. She did have this to say about it:

I kicked up something of a fuss, you might say, and I’ll tell you what I got for my trouble. I got shot. Well, I also got a seven-carat diamond ring.”

The husbands in between the first and the last were not much of note—and quite frankly, I couldn’t keep track when I tried to line them up. I think one was in law enforcement (this could be the one she couldn’t even remember the last name of); one rumored to be in business with Capone; another was actor and musician, Phil Harris, who is recalled changing his song line-up and lyrics when Norma and her girls walked into the bar and Norma shrugged off her over-sized fur coat in the middle of the walkway, assuming someone would be there to catch it.
Either way, husbands 2-to-4 were the jealous type. One set multiple fires in the Conti house while she was on vacation with her new husband. Her right-hand girl called her in a frenzy announcing that he was there “setting the couch on fire”. Norma told her to deal with it and hung up.

Then there was Wayne Bernard. Norma was 60 when she found Wayne, who was 38 years her junior and seemed to be the most stable of all her other husbands. Him and Norma moved to the country in Mississippi. Partially a tactic by Norma to keep Wayne from being tempted by younger women, though she knew he was fooling around and seemed to accept it. Eventually, Wayne too lost his immunity to women his own age and stopped coming home on a regular basis.

In 1974, with one of her girls, Rosemary and her baby in the other room, Norma grabbed a pillow, a pistol and walked into the kitchen to call Wayne’s sister while she shot twice, killing herself.  She was anywhere from 60 to 74 years old.
Eventually Wayne and Jean, whom he was seeing regularly behind Norma’s back, got married and still lived in that small country house when Christine Wiltz gathered the tapes to record Norma’s life.

What I touched on here it not even the tip of the iceberg; it’s like a corner piece that broke off and floated away. I would highly recommend at least listening to the Death By Champagne episodes on this, go to one of the websites below, or check out Christine Wiltz’s book.

Further Reading: The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz


Death by Champagne podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my novel
The Pecan Trees
Available on Amazon or my website, HERE.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper

Let Me Remind You… about Thomas Crapper

When the American soldiers were serving in England during WWI, they came up with a clever new phrase we still use today: “I’m going to the crapper.” No need to delve into what it means, I’m sure we all know.
But how did this phrase come about?

In 1861, at about 29, Thomas Crapper, who was a journeyman plumber, inventor, and businessman started his first business as a sanitation expert and with his imagination, he invented the ballcock (It’s the round bulb part in the tank of your toilet that stops the water from filling too high). Though, this was used for syphon toilets (think the high wall-mounted tanks with a pull string), we still use them in the modern toilet.

syphon toilet

Eventually, he would open the very first bathroom showroom that showcased many of his items, which included not just toilets, but also bathtubs and sinks. While people were there, they could try them out, so-to-speak, and see just how they liked them. In a time where you could barely show your legs, actually trying the toilet out in public became a scandal. Eventually it would shut down, but his success was not tarnished by any means.
His wares were so high-end that word of mouth travelled and eventually he received his first royal warrant from Prince Edward for Sandringham palace. After that, he received many more royal warrants finishing the bathrooms for Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle. Today, if you walk around London, you can still see his name on some of the manhole covers.

showroom advertisement

So why did Americans call it “the crapper”? Well, it was hard to miss the large

Valveless Waste Preventer
no[serial number]

On the front of all the toilet tanks, sinks, etc., emblazoned in large embossing. Thus leading to the calling of the toilet “the crapper”.

Eventually Thomas Crapper would give his business to his nephew, and business partner, which was sold to a rival company in 1966 until it was completely dissolved. After many years, a historian, who enjoyed antique bathroom fittings, started remaking the items as authentically as he could, and still sells them in a not-so-scandalous showroom today.

They are actually quite beautiful, and I would recommend checking them out here.

There is a couple myths that float around today:
1.”The word ‘crap’ came from him too.” It’s actually been around for many years before with some roots in French and Dutch.
2. “He invented the toilet.” The toilet itself was actually invented by a Game Of Thrones star’s distant relative: Sir John Harrington. Sir John invented a complex toilet system for Queen Elizabeth I using a cistern, a series of pipes and holding tank that would provide a flush of water to remove what was in the tank. 
We can also thank Sir John for the phrase, “I’m going to the John.”

youtubepedia on

The Origin Of The Flower Girl

Let Me Remind you…

Of the origin of flower girls.

               We can thank the Roman Empire (4th-5th century) for crafting this custom of cute little girls, usually tossing rose petals down the aisle, smiling brightly in their 15 minutes of fame—or crying, as the bride ambles down a velvet carpet behind her, to her groom.

               In ancient Rome, It’s likely she was chosen to represent the bride in her youth, with the bride following behind. The procession represented the woman being passed from childhood into adulthood, and soon-to-be motherhood.
The little girl was typically dressed similarly as the bride and held a basket or a sheath of herbs and wheat, instead of flowers. She would toss them along the path in front of the bride to embody and bring forth fertility and blessings. In some instances, she would carry a ring, or bundle of garlic to ward off bad spirits and offer protection.

Over 1000 year later, when the tradition was adopted into the Elizabethan era, not much changed. Though, the flower girl would now toss rose petals, a symbol of love. She would start from the bride’s house and guide her all the way to the church.

Over the years, the tradition stayed the same, but the dresses changed. They went from bride’s dress copies to elegant puffy things, to a flapper-style dress in the 20’s to slowly what you see today.

The flower girls have always been the youngest person in the wedding party, around the age of 6-8 years old. Today, they are typically a family member, maybe even a daughter, or friend’s child. Some women today even opt to have no flower girl at all. The custom has certainly changed from something that had a strong preternatural belief to the desire to be able to include all ages into one’s ceremony.

Did you have a flower girl? (reply on my Instagram post @Kristina_moore_author)

Online Sources:


(more were read, but with no new info)


Welcome to an infrequent little off-shoot of your regular programing. The Let Me Remind You (Quickly)… will be just a shorter read compared to the regular one. A tid bit of knowledge, if you will. Enjoy.

Let me remind you (quickly)… about Play-Doh.

If there’s two things that we don’t use a lot of these days in our homes, it’s wallpaper and coal. But back in the early 1900’s and before, it was common to heat one’s home with a coal-fed boiler or furnace, or even cook over a coal cooking-range.
Unfortunately, a by-product of all the coal usage (aside from the asbestos and lung cancer) was soot on the walls. It wasn’t easy to clean off either as you can imagine, and if you’ve ever tried to use a wet rag on wallpaper, you will have found out fairly quickly that you shouldn’t… unless you want rubbed off bits of paper.
What people would use, though, was a compound clay or putty that could be balled up and either rubbed on the walls or rolled over the area with the soot to clean it up.

This product was the money maker for the 1912 Cincinnati soap-making company called Kutol, owned by Noah McVicker. But after WWII when natural gas options for heating were adopted more widely used in residential homes, along with the transition from wallpaper to other materials, including paint or a washable vinyl material, the Kutol Products Company started to become obsolete; their biggest asset was no longer needed.

Noah called on his nephew, Joe McVicker to come help save the company from becoming bankrupt, but what he got was something he least expected. Joe’s sister-in-law, Kay Zufall, a school teacher for young kids read an article about using this wall-cleaning putty as a kids craft for molding things into different shapes (sound familiar?). When she brought it to her school and the kids loved it so much, she took the formal idea to Joe and it was a hit.

Originally Joe wanted to call it, “Rainbow modelling compound”. But luckily Kay swayed him in to calling it “Play-Doh”.

In 1956, McVickers took it to a school supplier and some trade shows here and there. By 1958 they made over 3 MILLION dollars (over $77 million today!). General mills originally bought Play Doh from McVickers for the 3 million shortly after, but since then its traded many hands and now resides in the palms of Hasboro.

Did You Know: Play-Doh’s scent is trademarked?

Online sources: