Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sask Pool in Stranraer, Part 1

While driving the backroads of Saskatchewan in 1986, I decided I would drop in to an elevator. It occurred to me at the time that these wooden classics would not always be accessible. I pointed my Saskatoon rental car northwest from my second overnight stop at Rosetown.

Stranraer - its name just had a neat ring to it. It's named after a town in Scotland. Fun fact: the Supermarine Stranraer was a British pre-war flying boat! Stranraer still boasted three Sask Pool plants in the 1978-79 crop year - of  2470, 1820 and 1310 tonnes capacity. Located at Mi. 69.5 of CP's Kerrobert Subdivision, about 15 miles from the also-interestingly-named Druid. If there were Druids in this part of Saskatchewan, they'd have a challenge finding trees to worship!

Anyway, I'd never done this before - let's see and photograph the inner workings! The agent was busy receiving and shipping grain - four brown and yellow Government of Canada cars were already loaded, and he was working on a fifth - a red Coke can car! But he was not too busy to allow me the run of the place while he was working! 
A young farmer drove a classic grain truck into the drive shed and started unloading. He chatted with the agent as the grain flowed. Grabbing a handy bucket, the agent did an initial test. Look at that 'air-conditioned' trucker cap!
The farmer shovels out the last of the load:
After the farmer left, the agent headed out the front of the elevator, trackside. Ascending the latter to the top of the Coke can car, he manoeuvered the loading spout and more grain started flowing!
Joining him atop the car, he noted the danger of falling in! Remember, he would normally be working alone with no safety harness, no personal protective equipment except for steel-toed boots, and in the pre-cellphone era!
Back inside, I wandered around snapping some photos. Here is the main leg, with bin selector wheel:
To load the car, the agent filled the hopper with several hundred pounds of grain, weighing and recording each hopperload. Then he pulled the handle, releasing it downwards by gravity to the pit below, where it was elevated and directed out the car loading spout.
Another view from below. Note the trouble light and bin access hatches:
Looking up to the 'attic' of the drive shed, it looked like a logical place to climb to next:
This vantage point allowed me to get photos down to the drive shed floor, including the work desk and weigh scale at left:
Similar view from the drive shed floor. Let's just take in the myriad details in this view:
In Part 2, I'll complete the Stranraer elevator tour with some exterior views and an update.

Running extra...

Train and Grains. What could be more Canadian? Have you heard about my upcoming project dealing with these two iconic Canadian symbols? Probably not. It's at the very top of the sidebar at right. It's kind of hidden there, though. Perhaps you scrolled right past it. I've been keeping the project quiet. Shhhhhhhh. I'm not really sure what it's going to become. Don't tell anyone about it. There are probably only ten people who are interested in it. Oh, maybe 11 now!
Well it's about time Jeopardy host Alex Trebek received the Order of Canada. What can be more Canadian than a game show host wearing a CANADA 150 jersey? Alex hosted the Tournament of Champions this week, as Buzzy Cohen, New York music executive garnered $250,000 in prize money. What is...a lot of money? Governor-General Julie Payette did the honours at Rideau Hall. I'll bet they shared a few potent potables and maybe some potpourri!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Fallowfield Effect


Let me begin by saying that I don't really understand The Fallowfield Effect. I dabbled in it my own layout as early as 2015. HO Galt Subdivision modeller Bob Fallowfield has a social media footprint that is more like a stomp than a footprint. Churning out high-quality, realistic and thought-provoking iPad and iPhone (and other technology I haven't used and don't understand) low-angle photos showing views of CP's Galt Sub is where Bob has made his mark. Er, Bob, not Mark.
Bob freely shares not only views of his layout, but also his experience in presentations, as well as sharing his layout with visiting guests. Since Bob's layout is fully-scenicked and highly prototypical, it makes a great backdrop for various manufacturers to operate, make videos and publicize their latest products.
But that's not all. Prescripted restrictions of online groups can be really, unrealistically restrictive. Sending a signal, Bob took his stomp-print somewhere else:
The coffee's hot? Who says that? Bob does, that's who! Bob likes to turn a phrase, taking his business seriously but not himself too seriously. Knowing Bob is like knowing martial arts. It's not something you take lightly. Not something you over-use. If you know karate, do you go around karate-chopping everyone? Nooo! So when Bob said he was planning to reduce his car fleet to a more prototypical base, I simply suggested he start a Facebook group to thin the herd. Then this happened....Bob said he'd send one my way:

Bob almost made me promise not to install X2F couplers. Bob, friends don't ask friends to do stuff like that. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I can't flatter Bob because I try not to model other's layouts - I'd rather model a prototype. I guess I have that in common with Bob. But making memes is potentially the most sardonic form of flattery. And I've shared quite a few memes with Bob on Facebook with The Fallowfield Effect being the theme. CP Rail Century at Smiths Falls  in 1987 was the basis for this meme:


Bob gets several requests each week for his trackplan. A trackplan is not a layout, nor a modelling philosophy. It's just a trackplan, people.
Now let's circle the wagons back to where we were before the memes...thinning the herd. The mailbox knows the results:
Describing this humble blogger as Mr Manitoba, I think Bob remembers Tangent Scale Models reproductions of Manitoba's 1980 leased covered hoppers for grain traffic.  That's what was in the box! I was fortunate to see CRDX 7209 and 7316 in Manitoba in 1980. Now, here's 7216 in Vermont in 2017, nicely weathered by Bob:
The boys from the shop gather round. "Never seen one of those before". Someone mutters, "Scale coupler" and someone else opines, "Won't work with X2F's."
Boston & Maine 1730 ambles over from the shop track to make the guest comfortable, poling CRDX 7216 into the shed at the ET and HK Ide feed mill in St Johnsbury, VT! Welcome home! Coupler change to come. The Ford gets me part way to the Fallowfield Effect. The brush-painted Geep, the lichen, no sound, and the complete lack of meaningful ballast and stand-up static grass stop me in my tracks, well short of the full Effect. Bob would call my Effect the 'The Gagnon Gander'!
Lots o' Bob o'links: 
Sincere thanks to Bob. The guy wouldn't even enable my paying the postage. So, a donation was made to CRHA Exporail as my way of saying thanks and body-surfing into what Bob would call the mosh pit of friendship. That CRDX car means an awful lot! I'm looking forward to seeing more of Bob's work online - and in print!

Running extra...

Speaking of Vermont, creativity got the better of me and Randy O'Brien - graphics guru and Portage la Prairie modeller. When I posited the name 'Green Mountain Boys' (aka the Vermont Air National Guard) for my new Vermont-based layout (eventually settling on The Green Mountain Lines), Randy thought that sounded an awful lot like five-string music plucked out on the front porch. Turning a youthful fencepost frame of this humble blogger into a X2F/banjo-axe guitar-toting musician, with a recently-pressed CD. I took it one step further to a 'vintage' LP:
 Bob, Randy and I can all agree on the this model railway-based meme:

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Love/Hate Relationship of Caboose Life

Riding in the caboose seemed to me to be the ideal workplace. Travelling in a self-contained comfortable world all your own. As fate would have it, my career was not to be spent working on the railway. Less than a decade after I would have hired out, cabooses would have been removed and my comfortable world would have disappeared. Who knows - maybe my first training trip would have shattered my idyll. Were cabooses really all that great? Near White River in 1984 (top photo).

I recently posed the following question on the 'If Your Work[ed] On The Railroad - Railfans Welcome' Facebook group of which I'm a member. What did group members Love about cabooses and what did they Hate? Responses poured in: good-natured banter, memories both good and bad, and the changing state of life on the rails. A plethora of replies! The answers are presented in this post - edited only lightly, recalling the past forty or so years. Not having worked on them, I'm able to still entertain my utopian thoughts of caboose life and lore. However, those who did work on them paint a more realistic picture for me to share herein!

LOVED...
  • the prestige of being the rear brakeman
  • nice touch to a local
  • repairing their electrical system
  • having a tail-end crew
  • waiting to give rear end air test inside in cold weather
  • Canadian cabooses were like an RV
  • excellent BN cupola waycars were clean, well-kept and rode well
  • seasoned conductor cooked us a great meal after we stopped at away-from-home terminal's grocery store
  • compared to riding in locomotive - roomy, more comfortable seats, no fumes, much quieter
  • could make backup moves just about anywhere
  • sleeping in the bunks
  • bringing the girlfriend for a trip
  • used to throw my grip up in the front and get on the back
  • dice games and cooking steaks on old Santa Fe work trains
  • teasing the head-end crew a mile up ahead by radio, "We're having a great meal back here, wish you could join us", while they're heating a can of Spaghetti-O's on the sidewall heater
  • sleeping my midnight shifts away up in the cupola
  • EL had full bay window seats, passenger trucks, coal stoves - what's not to like? Warm in the winter
  • workarounds like chains or bars for moving cars when things went wrong
  • riding an old UP crummy at 70 mph down the Columbia Gorge! Can't count the number of people we rescued in the Gorge.
  • throw a switch on the head end, rear end can take over
  • the solitude
  • the cushion drawbar on a long hopper consist
  • cooking on the stove and card games
  • when the conductor told you the rear end was moving
  • liked having the additional man on the crew
  • sleeping on them on the midnight shift while in Car Department
  • could sleep better on one of them than I could home in bed
  • the poetry graffiti'd on the walls
  • safe, warm place to sit when weather was bad
  • yes, they were very warm in the winter!
Chalk River in 1985 (above)

HATED...
  • slack action - getting shown every corner of the hack on a good day. On a bad day you could go out the door
  • hated drilling and throwing switches on a local
  • didn't enjoy the smell of the furnace - but liked the heat from it!
  • sleeping in them on overnight turnarounds
  • changing belts
  • trying to swing up with a grip in one hand and the engineer thinks 15-20 mph is good for boarding
  • slack action
  • when you went in emergency, you'd better grab on to something quick and hang on
  • I worked with an engineer who was jealous of the conductor and flagman on the caboose. He told me one night 'You know they are asleep' so he would apply the engine brake on and off to annoy them
  • the ones I dealt with at the BNSF were like a prison cell - pretty much bare bones
  • Southern cabooses were bare - had a monkey stove till the end
  • The MoPac cupola cabooses were OK, but the short bay-window cabooses were junk and rode poorly
  • I had a D&RGW cupola caboose once, and it still had a coal stove; very sooty inside
  • Our cabooses were coal heat, kerosene markers and a toilet frame that went straight to the roadbed. No radios 19 train orders and messages were our travelling papers. Doubled op 100-car train after switching out transfer - fun times- used telegraph poles for carlengths
  • too much hearing loss from riding in locos, especially loud horns mounted on the cab
  • unplugging a frozen toilet
  • I don't miss clogged s----ers especially when it's piled to the lid
  • working them on long hauls sucked
  • getting knocked around when the slack runs in 
  • most dangerous place on the railroad
  • worst was when the stove wouldn't stay lit in the winter
  • the slack action
  • hated lack of heat on some of them during the winter
  • don't miss assigned cabooses
  • the slack action - though would definitely keep the flagman awake
  • didn't like them when I coulnd't find one to sleep in 
  • good riddance!
  • I was a carman - cleaning those stinking toilets!!!
  • 105 cars back in the crummy - with a B/O radio!

REFLECTING ON THE CHANGE...
  • Wish I could say I rode one. 20 years on UP. Never had the chance
  • I didn't get much use of one as they were mostly gone, replaced with boxes. The ones remaining usually were for a regular job with a regular crew.
  • I only got to ride in one once. Rode in the cupola right into the scrap yard where they cut 'er up
  • sad day in my career when cabooses were removed
  • bean counters would never allow it
  • today's engineers aren't taught how to pull a caboose
  • if cabs were back, the conductor would be back there all alone. All the work is at the headend of the train, where conductor should be
  • even after all these years, a passing freight without a caboose still seems incomplete
A cylindrical covered hopper so-long in 1985 (above). For more caboose posts, check out the 1984 Cabooseless Train, prototype CP Angus Shops vans, Rapido Trains Inc's HO scale Angus Shops vans, CN International Service yellow cupolas, and CN cabooses through the decades and the unusual Loose Caboose

Running extra...

In case you ever wondered why Ebay exists....found this image tonight:
Wow, just wow. CN 4528 is on the Queens South Service Track/Queens 4. A riotous rainbow of beautiful boxcars in tow: SR, IC, NOPB, SCL, Chessie and a couple that my studious squinting can't quite make out. Doesn't matter. The trainman is beside the transfer caboose - perhaps the unit is going to run around the train. It seems likely that these cars are to/from CP's interchange on Queens. IC and Chessie were there on May 9, 1981 when I was.

Another Ebay denizen, someone who plucks potentially portentious photos is Bob Fallowfield. This is a big week for Bob. No longer constrained by a restrictive Canadian Modelling Facebook group, Bob is starting out on his own. I'm looking forward to some neat stuff. Find Bob on Facebook: Bob Fallowfield's Galt Sub. You won't be disappointed!

A trip to Toronto aboard VIA No 651/48 this week revealed this logo-filled image under the Toronto Union trainshed. How many logos can you find?