Sunday, November 23, 2014

Live webcam from Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery, Moab, Utah

Curt & Alesia Stripeika, owners of the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery at the vineyard in 2014 - Click for larger image (

Live Feed From the Spanish Valley, Utah - the Moab Wine Webcam

Our new webcam, located at our sister website, Moab Wine is now online.  To check it out, simply click on this Webcam Link.  Either link will take you directly to the Moab Live webcam.  Be sure to bookmark the MoabLive webcams for easy return visits.
While you are there, check out our Links Page, featuring over 90 Moab-related websites, now under development as a Moab web community.  Many of our Moab website names are for sale.  If you are interested in learning more about this unique web community, or purchasing your own Moab website, click Here to contact us.
Included in the Links Page is, our new commerce website, where you will find unique Moab Jim items for sale.

Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery Webcam
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Camera View:
Welcome to the Spanish Valley Vineyards & Winery live webcam, featuring views of the vineyard and Moab's famous Slickrock in the distance. Facing north from the winery, the webcam shows the prevailing weather as it approaches Moab, Utah. Enjoy!
We hope you enjoy the only vineyard webcam in the State of Utah.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ride the D&RGW Narrow Gauge Rails with Twentieth Century Railroading Legend, Engineer Steve Connor

Locomotive No. 478 at rest in Silverton, Colorado in 1965 - Click for larger image (

Ride the D&RGW Narrow Gauge Rails with Twentieth Century Railroading Legend, Engineer Steve Connor

In 1965, my father, Dr. Loron N. McGillis and I visited Durango, Colorado. There we rode on the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) to Silverton and back. No longer a freight or ore hauler of any distinction, the narrow gauge steam trains were quaint, yet powerful. During our stopover at Silverton, my father and I photographed the waiting train and visited with its engineer.

DRG&W Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of Locomotive 478 at Silverton, Colorado in 1965 -  Click for larger image ( December 2013, while writing about our 1965 excursion, I included an image of our engineer in one of my articles. In the original photo caption, I referred to him as “our unnamed engineer”. When I published his picture, I thought, “Someone must surely know who this man is and will contact me with his name”.

In October 2014, I received an email from Mr. Paul Connor, who is the grandson of our 1965 locomotive engineer, Mr. Steve Connor. Over the course of several emails, I learned more about the Connor name in D&RGW history.

Engineer Paul Connor and Locomotive 476 stopped at Ah! Wilderness while on the way to Silverton, Colorado in 1977 - Click for larger image ( Paul wrote to me, “I am Steve Connor’s oldest grandson. My father, George Connor worked as a brakeman/conductor for the D&RGW. I spent the first twenty-one years of my career working for the D&RGW and Southern Pacific Railroad. After hiring out at Durango in 1974, I began there as a mechanical laborer/coach cleaner. In 1976, I started as fireman at Durango, and later worked out of Pueblo, Minturn, Alamosa and Grand Junction as a locomotive engineer/fireman. In 1995 I was promoted to Road Foreman of Engines and have held the same job since. After the Union Pacific merger with Southern Pacific, my title became Manager of Operating Practices, working out of Grand Junction.

All told, the Connor family currently has somewhere around one hundred and twenty years of railroading history in western Colorado. I say this because I am not certain of my great grandfather, Richard Connor's hire date. We think he started in the 1800's when the tracks were being laid into Durango.

Animas Canyon, near where John Connor was killed in a train accident in 1921 - Click for larger image ( youngest of seven siblings, for many years of his career Richard Connor was the section foreman at
Hermosa. His oldest brother, Jim, retired as a locomotive engineer at Durango. His brother John was a fireman and was killed in a train wreck in the Animas Canyon in 1921.”

Regarding his grandfather, Paul Connor wrote,
“Steve Connor was born in the section house at Hermosa, just north of Durango to Richard and Julia Connor. He hired out around 1923 and retired in 1971 with forty-eight years, but was furloughed for many years during the Great Depression. At times, when they were short of manpower, he made trips on the Rio Grande Southern. As the narrow gauge dried up, he would work at Durango in the summers and work out of Alamosa in the winters. The Alamosa/Durango seniority rosters were combined during those years. I always joked that by the time he was number one in seniority, there would be only Author James McGillis waiting his turn to speak with Engineer Steve Connor in the cab of DRG&W Locomotive 478 in 1965 - Click for larger image ( job left on the narrow gauge.

As you might expect, there are a lot of photographs of Steve Connor around but few that are this good. Your father really captured a great deal of his personality and a nice moment in time for me.”

Regarding Steve Connor’s experience, Paul wrote,
“The locomotive 478 was my grandfather's favorite of the three used on the Silverton Branch in those years. I am not sure why, but if I had to guess it is because it rode the best, the whistle was not as shrill, and it was then equipped with power reverse (long since removed). Steam engines possess personality in the way they fire, steam, and run. For lack of a better word, I would call them quirks. In the years I worked there, I had no particular favorite of the three. As a fireman or engineer you had to work around each of their personalities.”

Each October 15 for the past three years, I have closed the season while staying at the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park. In cooperation with the campground, I operate a live webcam that features the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. If a webcam viewer is lucky, they may see the steam train running either north or south through the RV Park.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Locomotive 480 traveling through the United Campgrounds of Durango RV Park in 2014 ( October, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad runs only one round-trip train to Silverton each day. During the fall season, the railroad uses mostly their larger 480 Series or K-36 locomotives, so that they can operate a longer single train. By October, it is rare to see a smaller 470 Series or K-28 locomotive, with its lesser tractive power.

Still, if you visit Durango during the summer season, you might have the opportunity to see or ride behind locomotive 478, which was the favorite of twentieth century railroading legend and D&RGW Engineer, the late Steve Connor (d.1974).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Artist Costantino Proietto and Others Painted at The Capuchin Convent on The Amalfi Coast

Marion Grayson's Original Oil Painting of the Amalfi Coast, by C Proietto - Click for larger image (

Artist Costantino Proietto and Others Painted at The Capuchin Convent on The Amalfi Coast 

On July 4, 2011, I posted an article on this website regarding a relatively unknown twentieth century Italian modern impressionist painter. His name is Signore Costantino Proietto, but he signed his paintings “CProietto”. In our article, we mused about our C Proietto original oil painting and asked anyone else who owned one or had information on C. Proietto or his painting to please contact us and provide an image of his or her artwork.
An original oil painting of the pergolato, Capuchin Convent ruins at Amalfi, by Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876) - Click for larger image ( days later, Marion Grayson of Belton, Texas sent us the image of the Amalfi Coast painting shown at the top of this article. American relatives of Marion Grayson lived in Italy in the mid-1950s and they purchased her painting while there. Please click on the image for a larger picture of the Marion Grayson painting. When compared to my CProietto original oil painting, the similarities are striking. Although some architectural may differ, both paintings feature a single potted plant beneath the pergolato, with a view to the sea. Each painting, however, shows a different perspective; mine includes a view to the Amalfi Coast, and Ms. Grayson’s looks out to sea. Both feature afternoon sun and clouds rising from the horizon, rather than floating above.
During my research, I discovered the name of the place from which Costantino Proietto painted the Amalfitan Coast. In Italian, it is the “Amalfi dal Original Oil painting of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Carelli Consalvo (1818-1900) - Click for larger image ( dei Cappuccini”. In English, we call it The Capuchin Convent of Amalfi.  Although no evidence of the fifth century chapel originally built on that site exist today, the foundation of the original monastery dates to 1212 CE. For the following 650 years, various orders of the Catholic Church owned and used the property. In 1882, the interconnected buildings and grounds became the predecessor to the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel. In 1899, the property experienced a catastrophic landslide, destroying its original cave and some early buildings. Over the next century, reconstruction occurred in many phases, culminating in 2002. Today, the "hotel dei Cappuccini Amalfi" combines enticing luxuries, such as an infinity pool and al fresco dining on the terrace, yet the beauty and tranquility of the original site remain for posterity.
A view looking up to the monastery trail at the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Hermann David Salomon Corrodi (1844-1905) - Click for larger image ( in the 1870s or 1880s, artists of note painted seascapes and landscapes, both from the terrace itself and from locations, below and around the property. Notable among them were Italian artists Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876), Carelli Consalvo (1818-1900) and Hermann David Salomon Corrodi (1844-1905). Austrian artist Franz Richard Unterberger (1838-1902) and Danish artist Carl Frederik Aagard (1833-1895) also painted stirring scenes of the monastery and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Italian photographer Carlo Brogi (1850-1925) captured scenes from the terrace, which appeared on postcards as early as 1904.
It was during the mid-twentieth Century that Costantino Proietto stood A view of the terrace and pergola of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi by Austrian artist Franz Richard Unterberger (1838-1902) - Click for larger image ( times upon the well-worn stonework of the old terrace, painting that classic scene, always from a new perspective.  It is rare in our world to find a place that retains its classic charm over hundreds of years. Destruction and reconstruction in and around classic monuments of the past may leave the monuments themselves in place, but rarely do the surroundings retain their original character. Even since C Proietto’s time, the terrace of the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel has changed, yet its columns and pergola echo the 1880 or perhaps the 1580 feeling of that place. Even today, the contemporary coastal scene, oft painted by the masters of old, retains the look and feel of the original place.
During our research into original oil paintings by C Proietto, we located or received new and heretofore unpublicized scenes of the Amalfi Coast. One is from Marion Grayson, as mentioned above and another is from the Italian Wannenes Group, and its Art Auctions website. Each clearly shows the unique signature of my favorite Amalfi Coast artist, twentieth century Italian A view of the Capuchin Convent at Amalfi (ca. 1904), by Italian photographer Carlo Brogi (1850-1925 - Click for larger image ( Impressionist, Signore C. Proietto. Although his art becomes better known to the world each week, biographical information regarding CProietto is still scant. If any reader knows more about him, please contact me with the information. Once verified, I will be happy to provide attribution, as requested by the contributor.
When I was young, I remember seeing a realistic copy of the sculpture, Michelangelo’s David at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As David spoke to me across the centuries, his magnificent grace and power struck me. Viewing that sculpture at age ten changed what I believed art could be. In that spirit, I am now writing a parallel art mystery story using my superhero comic characters, Moabbey, Coney, Kokopelli and Silver Girl. You will find them at my website, Join me there for the exciting story, and be sure to tell the kids. Scene from the terrace of the Convento di Amalfi Grand Hotel, by 20th century Italian artist, Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (

Email James McGillisEmail James McGillis

Monday, November 3, 2014

Grand County Council Drives Moab & Greater Canyonlands Over an Environmental Cliff

As old Moab, Utah fades away, it is being replaced with a new industrial desert - Click for larger image (

Old Grand County Council Drives Moab & Greater Canyonlands Over an Environmental Cliff

In mid-October 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting Moab, Utah once again. While in Moab, I planned to visit some of my favorite haunts, see old friends and perhaps meet some new ones. I also planned to document some of the changes that are rapidly overtaking Grand County and Greater Canyonlands.

In 2014, a new gas well drilling rig sprang up adjacent to U.S. Highway 191, north of Moab and in sight of the Book Cliffs - Click for larger image ( some readers will recall, in the latter days of the second George W. Bush administration, there was an all-out push to lease every square inch of public lands for oil, gas and mineral extraction. The effort was so slipshod that lands near the Moab Golf Club and some directly over the well fields that supply Moab with its precious culinary water were included in the original auction proposals.

Through the good work of many in the community and with a change in presidential administrations, the most egregious examples of mineral exploitation were removed from the final auction process. Still, the opening of Grand County to mineral exploitation soon went into full swing. Grand plans like the Utah Recreational Land Exchange of 2009 (URLEA) expanded the template for oil and gas exploration in Grand County. The federal government,
A proposed railroad network spanning seven counties in Southeastern Utah would haul crude oil and tar sands to market - Click for larger image ( its Bureau of Land Management, divided Grand County into two categories. Some public lands were to be protected, but the majority was up for grabs as oil and gas fields.

Throughout this process, the Grand County Council took every opportunity it could to tell the federal government to keep out of what the council considered to be local issues. In October 2014, the council voted six to one to join six other Utah counties (Emery, Duchesne, Uintah, Daggett, Carbon and San Juan) in what they call the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition (SCIC). Infrastructure, in this case will include roads, pipelines and a rail network designed to accelerate oil, gas and mineral extraction from the member counties.

Faulty welds abound on the new collector gas line on Dubinky Wells Road In Greater Canyonlands, Near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( add insult to the injury of the mineral extraction projects that the SCIC supports, the group plans to divert millions of dollars from “community impact funds" to pursue their goals. Rather than helping heal the land and the health of those affected by unbridled extraction of chemicals and hydrocarbons, the coalition plans to use the community impact funds to help build haul-roads, pipeline access and rail facilities. All of their efforts will now go full speed ahead to scrape, drill, pump and haul as much raw hydrocarbon as they can from the affected lands.

When asked why the Grand County Council could not wait until after the November 2014 election to join the SCIC or to put the matter to a public vote, council member Lynn Jackson retorted, "The people voted when the seven of Forlorn and underfed cattle find nothing to graze on at Poverty Flat, near Ken's Lake, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( were elected up here". Despite the overwhelming number of written protests and the overwhelming number of citizens voicing their opposition at the final Grand County Council meeting on the subject, the Gang of Six extractionist boosters on the council voted to join the anti-environmental cabal of counties. Jackson was subsequently elected as Grand County's representative to the SCIC.

In the past, I have written about the “sense of entitlement” that many residents of Southeastern Utah feel about the public lands in the area. Some feel entitled to grow alfalfa with water diverted from Ken’s Lake (Puddle). Others feel it is acceptable to sell Moab’s culinary water to gas well drillers at bargain prices. Still others feel it is their right to search and remove artifacts New gas well rigs the size of small cities now dot the landscape in Greater Canyonlands, near Moab, Utah - Click for larger image ( ancient cultures that once lived in the area. For many residents of the area, the predominant feeling seems to be, “This is our land and we can do whatever we want with it”.

In the past several years, arches, spires and even dinosaur tracks have crumbled, disappeared or been stolen by local residents. Still, there has never been a study completed to determine the health or even the size of the aquifer that supports all human and other life in the Spanish Valley and Moab. To my knowledge, no one has ever studied the potential seismic effects of oil, gas, potash or tar sands exploration and extraction in Greater Canyonlands. Through ignorance, greed or willful disregard for the greater good, will the “entitled few” spoil the
In stark contrast to rampant oil, gas and mineral extraction near Moab, Utah, the grape vines at Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery enhance both the culture and the ambiance of the area - Click for larger image ( that took nature eons to create?

On Tuesday, November 4, 2014, the registered voters of Grand County have a choice between continuing to stack the Grand County Council with extractionist sympathizers or to go in a new direction and bring environmental sanity back to that elected body. Soon enough, we shall see the results.

Author's Note: November 6, 2014 - Moab Times-Independent - "Grand County voters buck national trend by electing moderates progressives to county council". By sizeable margins, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary Mullen McGann and Chris Baird defeated their more conservative-leaning opponents in an election in which 74.15 percent of active Grand County voters cast ballots.