Full Steam Ahead with Southern Pacific

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger

This is the 36th Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is a 1000 piece puzzle titled “Southern Pacific” by Mike Bennett. This is the second Mike Bennett puzzle I have put together, the first was "Santa Fe 3751". The steam engine in this puzzle was engine number 4449.

Mike Bennett's Southern Pacific puzzle assembled by Elmer Prather

Southern Pacific 4449, also known as the "Daylight", is one of only two GS-class locomotives surviving, the other being GS-6 4460 at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. I have seen this locomotive at the Museum of Transportation. GS is abbreviated from "Golden State", a nickname for California (where the locomotive was operated in regular service), or "General Service".

The locomotive was built by Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio, for SP in May 1941. No. 4449 was retired from revenue service in 1956 and put in storage. In 1958, the SP donated the locomotive to the City of Portland, Oregon. In 1974 the locomotive was restored to operation. The engine has operated in excursion service throughout that area since 1984.

I have had the pleasure of riding several different steam engines in my life. My favorite and longest steam engine ride was from the Terminal Station in Atlanta, Georgia to the Terminal Station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a three hour ride. The steam engine was Norfolk and Southern Railroad engine number 611. When we got to Chattanooga, we had lunch at the restaurant in the terminal building. I have included a picture of the steam engine that took us there and back. If you will notice, the steam engine we took to Chattanooga had the same color paint configuration along its side as the engine in the puzzle.  

Norfolk and Southern Railroad Engine Number 611

Before and during our trip I spoke with several of the volunteers who maintained and operated this engine. I found out how much they loved and respected their engine. The Train Engineer stopped the train about half way to Chattanooga and let all of the riders off the train and backed it up several miles and then he drove the train by us at full steam. We took a lot of pictures of the train as it passed. It was amazing to see all of the people parked at some of the railroad crossings taking pictures of the train as it passed on the way up and on the way back. It appeared that a lot of people love steam engines.

Engine number 611 was used for excursions throughout the Southeastern United States for several years. These excursions stopped in 2018 when Amtrak changed the rules concerning excursion trains being on their tracks. Engine number 611 is now located in the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

There are still a few steam engines running excursions in America but not very many due to the cost of maintaining the equipment and regulations. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to ride as many of them as I did. Those steam engine rides are fond memories for me.

Southern Pacific 1000 piece puzzle by Mike Bennett

Available at your local retailer or favourite online store.

On the USA and Canada Cobble Hill website, search item code: 80291

Buyer Beware: Puzzle Problems with Pretenders!

Scams! Covid-19 has brought up the most incredible scams. We won't get into all of them right now, but we do want to highlight one in particular so you can protect your wallet!

There have been numerous websites that pretend to sell Cobble Hill puzzles, but they are clearly untrustworthy companies.  We wanted to call them predators, but it sounded so scary, so we kept it light and call them "pretenders".  It's quite possible that they'll "sell" you a puzzle, take your money, and you'll never see a copy of the puzzle.  The websites that we're talking about are ones that have just quickly put up a storefront, stolen copyrighted images from either our website, social media accounts, or another retailer's store. We are quite certain that they are not legitimate operations, but rather pretending to have actual inventory. 

I'm sure that many of you reading this blog know exactly what I'm talking about. In fact, some of you wonderful puzzlers have even reported the pretenders to us, for which we are so thankful!  

So, what can be done about these fake websites?  While we have been successful at getting several of them removed, others are trickier. We'll give you an example of one that we're trying to take down now and show you some things to look for when you're determining whether to purchase a puzzle from the company or not.

1. The Logo
First of all, if you're familiar with our Cobble Hill puzzles and you see one of our boxes with a logo missing - euh, that's a pretty BIG clue right there!  Do not buy puzzles where the brand's logo has been altered in any way (see the red circled area) below for The Witching Hour. Big clue! If they're trying to hide that from you, what else are they hiding!

2. The Brand Name
Another good indicator could be the omission of naming the puzzle brand.  Most companies who sell online will give you various specifics about the puzzle including the manufacturer name and/or the artist's name - they're not afraid of giving credit where it's due. Fake websites are often infringing on copyright and "stealing" images, like the puzzle box above and even the image to the right of it with the couple enjoying a puzzle together - that belongs to Cobble Hill. There is no mention of any puzzle brand or artist in the description of this puzzle.

3. The Contact Info
Also, look for the contact information. If it's a reputable company, they'll have an email address with their company name after the "@".  For example: info@legitimatecompany versus info@oiweohvia.abc (looks like someone just randomly typed letters). See below.. really, @dyfgeh.xyz? 

4. The Images
If you see a distinct image or video that you know you saw on social media from a puzzler, then there's a good chance that image or video was ripped off - so question the website. Another key factor - at least for Cobble Hill puzzles specifically, is if you're familiar with our puzzles, then you know we have a signature fun(ky) random cut pattern. Our puzzles are not ribbon cut with every piece lining up in a neat row/column grid.  So the image below is definitely not one of ours as this is a ribbon cut style on our "Marmaduke" puzzle by Geoffrey Tristram.  

Fake Marmaduke puzzle ribbon cut

5. The WhoIs Lookup
If all of that isn't enough to make you at least question the website, then you can also check the WhoIs Lookup and see when this site was created.  You can gather different pieces of information to see if this instinctively "feels right" to you.  There are several legitimate retailers who have created websites recently, but if you're looking to buy from a US or Canadian company and the website shows a recent "Creation Date" with the server in China or the registrar's name includes "Beijing"... we're going to venture to guess that there are better options for you. Buyer beware! 

You'll have to use your common sense and gut instinct on some of these websites. And if you're a part of a puzzle group/community, it may not hurt to ask around first to see if anyone is familiar with the website. If you know the brand for that image, then you can also contact the company - like some puzzlers have done with us. It gives us a chance to hunt down the pretender and get the site removed or at least cripple it in some way. 

As of posting this blog today, we went to check on a website that we were working to take down and we have an update!!  Last week, we dug further on the "pretender" above and found the actual host for this website. We submitted a DMCA takedown notice on July 17th to the ISP (copyright issues with our images).  It looks like as of July 21st, they have removed our images. Yay! While that's a little win for us, it looks like the website it still up and running with the ability to purchase puzzles - so not a complete win for you, the shopper. However, who would buy from the website if the below image is what you would see?? From all the surveys we have done, we know image is the basic reason why everyone chooses a puzzle! Can you imagine what you would receive, if anything, if you ordered from this website? Why would this website still be up and running?? So weird... so, so, weird... 

Well, thanks for joining us on our adventure today. Enjoy your day all & stay safe! Happy puzzling!

A Day At The Lake - Catching Fish & Naps!

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger

This is the 35th Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is a 500 piece puzzle titled A Day At The Lake by Douglas Laird. This is the second Douglas Laird puzzle I have put together, the first was titled Flat Iron. When I first saw this puzzle I was amazed at how much the rocks and lake in the puzzle looked like a real lake. 

Douglas Laird's A Day At The Lake (500pc) assembled by Elmer Prather

I have fished during some of my past trips to Canada. It is in the Pas, Manitoba. I have been to the Pas three times to fish with several of my good friends. On these trips to the Pas we would leave Atlanta, Georgia on a Friday in the third week of June. We did this because the temperature in the Pas is quite cold for most of the year.  The Pas is 2000 miles from Atlanta and it usually took us about 40 hours to get there. This is driving nonstop except for bathroom breaks and gas.  Once we got to the Pas we drove to Clearwater Lake and camped in the campground. Clearwater Lake a natural glacier formed lake. It is the clearest lake in Canada and the second clearest in the world. The lake is filled with Great Northern Pike and Lake Trout. We carried enough supplies to allow us to have a fish fry every night we were there.

On our first trip to the Pas we met two other fishermen. They were from Dallas, Texas. They shared with us that they came to Clearwater Lake every year to fish and camped in the same spot in the campground. One of them was a doctor and the other was a builder. On our subsequent trips to the Pas we made it a point to camp in our same spot so we could be close to our new friends from Texas.

The rocks at the edge of the lake in the puzzle remind me of a favorite place we fished near the campground. It is called the jetties. It is called the jetties because the rock formations there extend into the lake for about 100 feet. The jetties allow fishermen to walk across the rocks farther into the lake in order to be able to fish in deeper water and lake trout like deep water. I have posted a picture of me catching a nap on the jetties along with a picture of this puzzle below.

Elmer Prather camouflaged amongst the rocks! What a great nap!

We drove over to the jetties several times on each trip and fished for lake trout. The mosquitoes there were enormous and plentiful. We made a mistake on one of those trips to the jetties by not closing the doors on the VW bus while we were fishing and when we went back to the bus, we found what seemed like a million mosquitoes all throughout the bus. On this trip to the jetties, we had caught a few lake trout when we saw two Game Wardens rush into our fishing area.They asked to see our fishing licensees and we produced them. The wardens noticed that the four of us had a total of five fishing poles in the water and one of my friends advised them that he had two of them. The Game Wardens gave him a ticket, took his rods and reels and told him to be at the Judge's office that afternoon at 4:00pm. We drove into town and let our pal out at the Judge’s office. When our friend returned to the bus, he explained what an experience that had been. He said that the judge was dressed in his full English judge attire and after firmly reprimanding him the judge charged him $25.00 for the infraction and dismissed him.

The next day we were back at the jetties fishing when about mid afternoon we noticed an old Toyota pickup truck with two Inuit Indian ladies inside, pulling a small aluminum fishing boat, drive onto the jetties and park beside our VW bus. They put the boat into the lake, loaded their fishing gear into the boat and took off. Approximately two hours later the ladies came back to the jetties and docked their boat. We watched as they drove the boat onto the trailer and hooked the boat trailer to their truck then we saw them struggling with getting something out of the boat. They finally were able to get it out and to our amazement, it was a huge lake trout. It seemed almost as long as the women were tall. It must have weighed between 30-35 pounds. I was so impressed that I asked them if I could take a picture of it with them holding it. They said yes so I took the picture. I have posted a picture of the two ladies and their prize fish below.

Huge lake trout catch!

On one of the days that we were on this trip, we drove over to the boat rental place which was about 25 miles down mostly dirt roads from where we were camping. When we got there, we rented a boat and motor and did some lake trout fishing. We motored across the lake and found a huge mound of ice about ten feet tall on the edge of the lake. This huge mound of ice was formed by the ice that had covered the lake during the winter months breaking up into ice chunks and being forced off the lake and onto this mound by the strong winds and huge waves on the lake. We climbed the ice mound and posed for pictures. We left the ice mound and headed back to the boat rental place. On the way back we saw several Inuit Indian children swimming in the lake (talk about tough people). We had our insulated underwear and our field jackets on and these children were swimming in that cold lake water.

These trips to the Pas with my friends have been some of the most enjoyable times of my life. The obstacles that we overcame during these trips have caused us to bond and have made us lifelong friends

I am glad that I found this beautiful puzzle because it has caused me to reflect on some of those good times we had.

A Day At The Lake 500 piece puzzle by Douglas Laird

Available at your local retailer or favourite online store.

On the USA and Canada Cobble Hill website, search item code: 85074

Preserving Puzzles Like A Puzzle Queen

Many people enjoy puzzles in different ways. Some like to start building the frame/edge pieces first, others will start with whatever will connect together, and some won't build a single piece until it's all sorted.

Those are a few ways we start a puzzle, but what do we do when we're finished? Well, we've seen some people tell us that the first thing they do is run their hands over the entire puzzle.  They don't just do this to make it smooth, but they like to feel the puzzle, as if it's a reward for their well earned accomplishment. And then what? Some immediately tear it down and box it back up to be sold or given away to a thrift store, friend, or family member. Others will glue their puzzles together to be enjoyed for years to come, and some take it a step further and frame it!

There are also those who take pictures of their puzzles when it's completed so that they can both take it apart, while still "preserving" it to look back on. Our friend in Hawaii, "Auntie Lillian", is a wonderful puzzler. She has assembled many, many Cobble Hill puzzles, as well as other great brands.  

We have many wonderful photos of her finished puzzles from over the years, but this is the first time we've seen them captured this way! We're sharing a few fun photos from a thoughtful photo book that was created for "Auntie Lillian Queen of the Puzzles"! We thought this was such a sweet way to preserve the memories of a pastime that was thoroughly enjoyed and can be looked back on with fond feelings. 

Photo album cover of Auntie Lillian completing Cobble Hill Koi Pond.

I Love NYC puzzle
Great way to celebrate a map puzzle!

Nice grouping of dog and cat puzzles!

That's the owner's in-laws on the left! They're all very sweet too!!

Fun caption for this White Mountain Broadway puzzle! She's a star!

What do you think about keeping a photo book for preserving your puzzle memories?

We didn't ask where this exact photo book was made, but we know that you can order these through Shutterfly or MixBook (there are probably many other options too, those are just most popular - no affiliate here). We hope you have fun making memories, and preserving them! Have a great day!

Barnhouse's "Big Red" Inspires Recollections of Local Culture

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger

This is the 34th Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is a 1000 piece puzzle titled Big Red by Dave Barnhouse. This is the second of his puzzles I have put together. The first was titled Evening Services. I was drawn to his second puzzle by the great colors and friendly, homey setting. It shows a building that houses a Kinney Kone ice cream store and the Richmond Bros. Trucking Company. This is a combination that you do not often see. I enjoy traveling and have been to just about all of the towns in Georgia. I have seen many trucking companies and many ice cream shops but not both in the same building. The big red semi with all the shiny chrome accessories sitting out front is beautiful. It is no wonder that they titled this puzzle Big Red.There is another semi sitting under the covered area of the building.

Dave Barnhouse Big Red 1000 pc puzzle by Cobble Hill Photo Elmer Prather
"Big Red" by Dave Barnhouse. Assembled and photographed by Elmer Prather.

As I visit small towns in Georgia I am always interested in the local culture. It is fascinating to drive and walk around these old towns. Many of them have store buildings that once housed many different kinds of businesses but are now vacant and boarded up. When I find a town that is still alive and thriving I am excited for the folks who live there.

When General Sherman swept through Georgia, on his way to Savannah during the Civil War, he destroyed and burned almost every town he and his soldiers went through. The old towns not destroyed and the antebellum homes that are still there are a pleasure to see. Some of the old antebellum homes offer tours. Two good examples of towns that were not destroyed during the Civil War are Lagrange, Georgia, a hour south of Atlanta and Madison, Georgia, a hour east of Atlanta. These two towns are still alive and thriving. This puzzle reminds me of some of the old buildings in these towns that are still utilized after all these years.

As I travel and see these old buildings I try to learn the history of some of the more interesting ones. Things like who built it, what businesses were located in it since it was built and what architectural changes they have undergone down through the years.

I have been accused of "soaking up the local culture" when I travel to new places and I am proud to say that this is true.

Dave Barnhouse Big Red 1000 piece puzzle by Cobble Hill
Big Red 1000 piece puzzle by Dave Barnhouse

Available at your local retailer or favourite online store.
On the USA and Canada Cobble Hill website, search item code: 80188

Sheep Field With More Than Just Sheep!

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger from Canton, GA

This is the 33rd Cobble Hill puzzle that I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is titled Sheep Field by Greg & Company. It is a 1000 piece puzzle and was an easy one to assemble.

When I first saw this puzzle, I fell in love with it. It is such an idealistic setting. It has a Collie dog, nine sheep, six free range chickens, three of which are white leghorns and three Wyandettes. It has a robin sitting on the rear view mirror of an old pickup truck. The setting is a Spring day in a pasture of green grass with daisies in full bloom.

The writing on the door of the truck reads, King Cole Farms, home of Rastus, Registered Quarter horses Littleton, Colorado. I checked the web and found a picture of a similar King Cole Farm truck. King Rastus was evidently the first of many quarter horses bought and sold on the farm.  Their business was breeding and raising registered quarter horses. This type of horse is used to herd and manage cattle. They are also used in quarter horse competitions at state fairs and rodeos. They are called quarter horses because of the speeds that they are able to run in a quarter of a mile.

I was attracted to this particular puzzle because I was raised on a farm and when I was around 12 years old my mother gave me the responsibility of feeding and tending the chickens. Our chickens were free range. Free range meaning they were not caged. We had a variety of chickens, some were White Leghorns, some Game, some Rhode Island Reds and some were Domineckers. I fed them each day and when a hen started molting I would “set her”, meaning that I would put about 12 eggs under her that were marked with a number two lead pencil so I could tell the eggs that I had “set” from the new eggs that other hens had laid in her nest. Twenty one days after I set the hens, the baby chicks would hatch.

As I grew older, I purchased a truck similar to the one in the puzzle but older. We used this truck to work the farm. We had cows, horses, chickens, goats and hogs on our little farm. I learned a lot about how to take care of animals tending all of the ones we had.

All of this work taught me responsibility and I am so glad I had this experience. This puzzle took me back to my earlier years on the farm. It is a beautiful puzzle.

Sheep Field 1000 piece by Greg Giordano

Available at your local retailer or favourite online store.
On the USA and Canada Cobble Hill website, search item code: 80259

Deer Field, Reminder Of A Dear Summer

by Elmer Prather, guest blogger from Canton, GA

This is the 30th Cobble Hill puzzle I have had the pleasure of putting together. It is a 500 piece puzzle titled Deer Field by Greg Giordano. The reason I chose this puzzle was because of the beautiful farm scene shown with an old farm truck parked in the field. The old truck reminded me of one I once owned. I grew up in the country and was raised on a smaller version of the farm depicted in the puzzle. We had cows, a horse, chickens, goats and hogs.

I really enjoyed putting this puzzle together. As I put it together I kept thinking of the 1936 Chevrolet truck I found while driving around on a summer afternoon when I was 17 years old. It was parked behind an old barn on a farm about 25 miles from my home. I stopped and asked the owner if the truck was for sale and he is said that it was. He decided the truck was worth $50.00. It was in pretty bad shape but I had fallen in love with it so I purchased it. I had saved money from working at a local grocery store before and after school. My older brother helped me get the truck home and get it cranked. In those days just about anyone could work on their car or truck. We got it cranked and discovered that it had a main bearing knocking in the engine. The tires were dry rotted and needed to be replaced. We found a replacement motor in the local junk yard. My brother negotiated a price for the motor and purchased it. The truck then belonged to both of us. We changed out the motor and the new one ran great. We bought 4 new white wall tires from the local Western Auto store and my brother and I changed out the tires. Things were looking up.

We really enjoyed that truck. We drove it to school, to work, to the river to fish and camp and around our farm. My brother even dated in it. The truck was black, faded and had a dent over the cab that we straightened. It had a great patina so we decided not to have it painted. When we drove the truck around town it always drew a crowd because it was so old and so unique.

As time went by I married and did some trading with my brother and he then owned the truck. He kept it for years and eventually sold it.

As a side note, trucks like this are called “pick up trucks” because when the Ford Motor Company started making trucks many of them were delivered to the local train station via trains. The Ford Motor Company packaged the trucks in wooden crates for shipment. When trucks arrived at the train station the dealership that ordered the trucks would have employees “pick them up” and assemble them at the train station. Hence they came to be called “pickup trucks”. Once assembled they would drive them to the dealership. The trucks were easy to assemble. The wood used to ship the trucks in was used for the bed of the truck. Things were so much simpler back in those days.

I would not take anything for all of the great times I had with that truck. It is a pleasure to have owned it. It was like part of the family.

Deer Field Puzzle box by Cobble Hill Puzzles
Deer Field 500 piece puzzle by artist Greg Giordano

Deer Field is available at your local retailer or favourite online store.
On the USA and Canada Cobble Hill website, search item code: 85078