Friday, June 17, 2011

Trackside with Family

While writing the author's preface for my newly-published book Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years, there were several people I wanted to thank. Train-affected family members spent time trackside as I was compiling the information I'd later include in my book. This time trackside was a pleasant experience: fresh air, the great outdoors, sometimes waiting hours for a train to appear. Now it's Father's Day - as a father, son, brother, brother-in-law, husband and nephew, I'm recalling each family member I thanked, and picturing the time I spent trackside with them. What did those moments look like?
Pedal-powered platform prowler: My son Andrew is learning to ride his hirail-equipped two-wheeler, pictured here on the north track platform at Kingston station, with ex-UP baggage car 8623 in April, 1994 (above).
My uncle Wilf and late aunt Rosemary spent hours in support of my railfanning in the 1970's and 1980's. This involved driving me to the tracks and dropping me off each morning and picking me up at lunchtime and at the end of the day, as I took in CN and CP operations in the Portage la Prairie, Manitoba area. They loved driving around the yards, following the train that was in town and guessing where and when the next would appear. In October 1980, I was travelling on VIA's Canadian as part of a school trip (above). They met the train at the Third St NW crossing and passed up a care package of snacks to enjoy on the remainder of the trip to Vancouver. They treated me to dinner at some nice restaurants. We're enjoying dinner in the railway-themed Countess of Dufferin restaurant in Winnipeg as I mug for the camera with a stubby bottle:My brother Dave also railfanned together - he was old enough to drive and I wasn't, so he did the driving, including a road trip to Portage in 1979. Based on the consists I noted, we spent literally thousands of hours at the Kingston VIA station and vicinity. We shared quite a few fast-food meals (including Big Macs in those styrofoam boxes) while railfanning. Here we are shooting a grain train pulling out of CN's Winnipeg Symington Yard on the Sprague Subdivision in 1984:My sister-in-law Susan has been to many important railway locations like the Spiral Tunnels, Transcona, Churchill and Bayview Junction. Here she is waiting with us for the westbound CN/IC business train at Rigney Street in Kingston, June 2002:
My sister Allison actually rode trains more than she watched them. Travelling to gigs in various Canadian cities or about to jet off to some international destination, her trips often started or ended on VIA Rail. Waiting for her at the Kingston station was also an opportunity to see more trains. Home for Christmas on December 19, 2003:My mother Marjorie appears in few trackside photos. Content to let the railfans in the family do their thing, she much preferred being under a shady tree to a non-air-conditioned Volkswagen.
My wife Karen still finds herself trackside at times. She's also noticed that if I spot a train while driving, everything else becomes invisible to me: medians, traffic lights, pedestrians, other vehicles...Here she is waiting with my parents as they begin a 1994 VIA journey to Portage - the two of them know how to dress for a cross-Canada train trip, similar to the passengers seen in vintage CN and CP publicity photos.
My kids Andrew and Erika spent much time trackside in their early years - usually well-supplied with Timbits or McNuggets as we awaited the trains. By eighteen months of age, Andrew was already saying key phrases like "another train coming?". Erika was interested in trackside wildlife like butterflies and groundhogs. As we wait trackside at Rigney Street in June 2003, the kids have built no fewer than seven limestone inukshuks they then emulate:Diva railfan: Erika has brought her dolls Sushi and Miss Emily as she poses with a one-hour late VIA train 57 behind 6423-6435 and ten cars in January 1999:
Here she is with her grandfather at Mi 190 Kingston Sub watching some pipe loads on CN train 320 at 1945 hours June 25, 1999. My father Laurence made sure we went on lots of steam fantrips, often visited hobby shops, took lots of train pictures and showed us important stuff such as how to open a Dutch door and spring the trap for the coach vestibule steps. Though slowed by age, he still enjoys daily visits with my mother as they review family photo albums and she reads to him from Trains magazine. Her railway knowledge is increasing exponentially as a result!
Happy Father's Day to Trackside Treasure's readers. Keep making memories and spend time with your families as often as you can. It'll really help keep your life on track. Thanks again to all!
Everyone together in 1999 at the ancestral farm home at Lachute Road Farm, located near the former Carillon & Grenville Railway right-of-way between Lachute and St. Andrew's East, QC.


Unknown said...

This is wonderful to have so many to share your love of trains. Congrats on your book .

Eric said...

Thanks Powmill, trains seem to be part of our family's genetic makeup.

Book sales continue to be strong, notwithstanding the postal strike which is cramping my style temporarily. Reviews of my book I've received have been favourable and most welcome.

Andy said...

What a great blog entry!! My family has a railroad history as well, with my great uncle being a CN Engineer and my Dad working for Detroit Toledo Shoreline for a short time. Have many fond memories of railfanning in Brockville, Denfield Road, Port Huron, Sarnia, Durand, Ferndale, Walbridge, etc. Miss my Dad every Father's Day, but the special memories will last forever. Thanks for sharing.

Manny said...

Hi Eric, I did not know your family hailed from the Lachute area. I remember when QGRY took over the Lachute sub in November 1997. Of course you probably know that the railway bridge in St. Andrews East (no apostrophe) is still intact. I've explored the former ROW in the hills east of St. Andrews until it disappeared into farm land. That is beautiful rolling farm country, great for a summer bike ride. I have never seen photos of trains on that line. Do you have any info or photos on this line? Are you planning to do a future writeup on the area lines?

Eric said...

Good to hear from you Andy, and thanks for your comments. We often get hung up on the details, cold facts and numbers, which I transcribed a lot of preparing my book. What is sometimes forgotten is the back story that led to the many railfan trips and trains seen.

Thanks for your support as I "personal-ized" my blog in this post. Watch for an upcoming post on railfan vehicles I have known.

I've always thought the DTSL was cool, especially the wafer logo and their hi-cube boxes and short ACF covered hoppers.


Eric said...

Hi Manny,

Yes, my family on my father's maternal side had deep roots in the Lachute area. I'm not an expert on the lines in the area, but the CN passed through St Andrew's East and the CP through Lachute.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any trains on the lines - we did visit the St Andrew's East station site when the rails were still there, and saw a CN train heading for L'Orignal. I also rode the Budd car between Montreal and Lachute in 1981.

It is indeed nice farming country, part of Montreal's hinterland, and the family farm milked Ayrshire cattle there for many years.

Thanks for your comments, and I'll see what I can do about posting what I have,

Anonymous said...


Great Blog, I' ve been reading a few posts about the Angus Shops in Montreal. I didn't know cabooses were refered to as 'vans'.

I have a question. I have a special Coleman CPR lantern with a caboose bracket. It burns kerosene and what makes it different is the larger tank or fount. I've seen pictures of a holder for the lantern, but I'm not familar with were these were placed on the caboose or why?

Eric said...

Hello A., thanks for your kind comments and questions about vans and marker lamps.

The marker lamps were placed on the rear of trains, i.e. vans/cabooses or passenger cars. The red lens always faced towards the rear, and there was a bracket on the car for the lamp to fit into. This signified the end of the train to any passing train or crewmen.

Here's a good site on Angus Shops:

and here's a vestibule view I took of a marker lamp on a VIA train: