I moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2012 for nine years. I have since moved back to Chester County, and I often find myself asking people what happened to “this restaurant” or “that store.” Downingtown, in my opinion, has always had a unique charm, but it has undergone a good bit of revitalization in the last decade. From the “Mickey Rooney” Tabas Hotel made into a senior living facility to the old paper mill turned into a restaurant, hoagie shop, and condo, and finally, the old Downingtown Fire House converted into East Branch Brewery Company. I think the idea of retrofitting is great. It keeps a few old memories blended with a fresh aesthetic and new use.
So that brings me to one of the biggest monuments of Downingtown, the Trestle Bridge. It is sort of a gateway into Downingtown via route 322 from West Chester. It has quite a history (see the link below for more info on the bridge). Trains stopped running there in the late 80s, and slowly it has fallen apart to the point that they put a “diaper” on it. This net suspended from the bridge is meant to catch falling debris and rocks. I would like to see a makeover for this architectural giant wonder. I heard years ago about the rails-to-trails project and thought it was an ingenious idea (see the link below for more info on rails-to-trails). The Chester Valley trail runs from King of Prussia to Exton. I think it would be progressive to see this project extend through the Trestle Bridge and connect the Chester Valley trail system to Downingtown. A new trail with some type of safety fence around it across the old bridge would give hikers breathtaking views of Downingtown and the surrounding areas. The parks system has done an incredible job with the East Branch Brandywine park, which just happens to be below the Trestle Bridge. I would like to see the same care given to the bridge.
Trestle Bridge – Downingtown Area Historical Society
Chester Valley Trail – TrailLink by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Photo by Downingtown Area Historical Society, https://bit.ly/3v8a4Np.
One of the most polarizing issues in the engineering field is software. Mention AutoCAD in a room full of engineers and designers and it might be worse than talking about religion, politics, and/or money at a dinner party. It is a necessary evil, like a car. It may take some time and money to get it moving, but in the end, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. And just like a car, a monthly or quarterly tune-up will keep it running relatively problem-free for years to come. But if you leave that CAD car out in a field and ignore it, it will take a lot of time and money to get that rusty heap back on the road so it can operate efficiently. Ultimately, it’s a balance between taking the time to set up AutoCAD or losing time on a job due to AutoCAD inefficiencies.
I have worked with CAD in some shape or form for thirty years. I have had the opportunity to manage CAD (and it is a full-time job!) and teach college classes. I have set up drafting standards at four companies with different needs, and I can say that there is no one-size-fits-all. One pitfall I see is drafters, designers, and engineers trying to solve the problems of a company they no longer work for. I think we have all heard “When I worked at (insert company name here), we did this”. New points of view can be helpful when offered in a constructive manner. Often, we focus on the software itself, but I think the people using the software are the most important part. Finding out how people draft and design and then creating standards and workflows that work with employees’ strengths is beneficial to setting up standards and a manual. Getting the company as a whole to decide on a CAD direction can be impossible. In order to be efficient, you want everyone on the same page, from the engineers down to the drafters. You don’t want the tail wagging the dog. Drafters’ input is just important as the top-level employees because they work with the software the most. Listening to the problems they face can give insight into solving issues quickly and provide them with ownership in the solutions.
AutoCAD is a great tool, but it is just that; a tool. You need straightforward and easy-to-understand workflows and standards, as well as well-versed operators to navigate the software. Setting up AutoCAD may seem like a daunting task, but it can be done, and once it is, you can get back to the job at hand, engineering!