Friday, August 10, 2018

Trackside Treasure's Tenth Anniversary

So it's been ten years. Ten is normally the number at which we switch writing a number in letters to  numbers. It means you've been around awhile. In Roman numerals, ten is 'X' and graphics guru Randy O'Brien kindly shared his inventive X2F-based anniversary logo (top photo). Thanks, Randy!

For this anniversary, I would like to have sponsored a cross-Canada tour of some kind aboard VIA Rail, greeting readers along the way. Maybe charter Glenfraser and stock it with Glenfiddich! Reality set in and I sat down to ponder the tenth, er, 10th. What to do...the usual anniversary contest and tributes? Realizing that a blog fosters online community, and exists in a virtual state, it occurred to me that I should devote this commemmorative corner of cyberspace to 10 special folks. These 10 folks, whom I would not have had the pleasure of communicating with (and meeting) were it not for Trackside Treasure.

This non-inclusive list, in no particular order, brings to light some amazing connections that I've been able to make over the past 10 years of this blog. Each one lists our connection, and in yearbook style, as applicable, a nickname (NN), fun fact (FF), probable fate (PF) and/or favourite saying (FS) then awards for awesome knowledge (K), invaluable information-sharing (I), enlightening life-experience (E) or managing any of those while being a family man (F). All of these are traits I value, and try to possess, but sometimes fall short of. Photos (where available) or text have not been pre-approved, just to keep this post fresh and edgy.

JAKOB MUELLER - Initially, Jakob contacted me regarding some VIA consists I'd posted to Yahoogroups. This was a huge push in the direction of creating my four books on VIA Rail. We had a great talk while I was at my rented table for a Kingston Rail-O-Rama train show. Jakob contributed VIA rolling stock paint transition data to my first book: Trackside with VIA  - The First 35 YearsNN: Uberviaphile, FF: Married CTSG editor Earl Roberts' neighbour's daughter. Awards: K, I.
MARK PERRY - CN hogger for 39 years, just retired. Our initial contact was in July 2007. Mark has first-hand experience with Manitoba railway operations. Mark contributed railroading stories to Trackside with VIA: Research & Recollections and Trains & Grains Volume 1. He probably wishes I hadn't made this connection because I keep suggesting he could do a killer book on MB railways, with both his photography and writing credibility! NN: Bridge Troll, PF: Retiree, FS: "Killer shot!", Awards: E, I.
BRIAN SCHUFF - Mark Perry referred Brian to me, as an off-the-grid 80's shooter. Brian enjoyed a short trainman career with CP. Pondering his own website to showcase his photos, Brian was eventually roped into joining Facebook by Mark and me, and others. Brian is generous with his time, information and photo collection, having contributed photos to Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium. NN: The Mayor of Diamond, FF: Owned an ambulance, FS: "The event is over", Awards: K, I.
CHRIS deVRIES - Chris has been a constant commenter to Trackside Treasure (under a loco-themed pseudonym) beginning in November, 2012. Chris has Winnipeg and Brockville connections. Chris and I met up to railfan Brockville on July 14, 2016. Chris' expertise includes signal indications, locomotive markings and types, placards, railcams and CN operations around Canada. NN: CdeV, FF: Prolific running shoe collector, Awards: E, I.
CHUCK BOHI: Chuck (Charles) is the dean of Western Canadian stations, railroading and grain elevators. Chuck was in contact with me in January 2012 regarding an upcoming Trackside Treasure post on Wartime, SK. The post was not published until February, 2014. Chuck contributed to both volumes of  Trains & Grains. My Dad regarded Chuck's books on CN and CP Western Depots among the ultimate books on Canadian railroading, and he would be proud to know of this connection. NN: Chuck, FF: Lives in WRJ VT, Awards: E, I.
MICHAEL HAMMOND: Michael's fine blog The Beachburg Sub debuted on April 30, 2013 and includes as its first comment one by this humble blogger. Michael has kindly credited Trackside Treasure as a formative influence on his blogging. Though Ottawa is not the rail hub it once was, Michael has succeeded in creating a true online community around what remains: CN No 589, the O-Train, Walkley Yard and Ottawa railway history.  PF: Prime Minister, FF: Published fiction author, Awards: I, F.
DAVID GAGNON: Dave is not only my brother, he's a one-time CP trainman and life-long rail enthusiast. His groundbreaking blog Rolly Martin Country began  on a Netscape browser in HTML, before transitioning through Tumblr to Blogger. Dave has branched out beyond railroading, preserving family history, Canadian history and technology interpretation online. This use of online platforms is what I believe to be the best way to document, preserve and share history. NN: Captain Megadave, Big Dave. FF: Built his North of Superior HO scale layout encompassing White River-Schreiber-Thunder Bay with pioneering handheld control, FS: "Smeeeeeeeee.", Awards, E, I.
HANLEY DESCENDANTS: When I published the first of a multi-part series on CN's Hanley Spur here in Kingston, little did I know I would make a connection to some of the descendants of the man whose name the spur shares. This shows the power of Google, the durability and spread of blogging, and the uniqueness and unexpectedness of connections that can be made. Few would now know of the existence of the Hanley spur, which was once a key connection to Kingston's Canadian Locomotive Company plant, linking downtown Kingston to railways in Canada and around the world. FF: the former Grand Trunk station was later a restaurant names Hanley Station, Award: K, I.
CHRIS MEARS: I discovered Chris' eclectic and insightful blog Prince Street Terminal in May, 2011. Chris shares varied interests from model railroading to GO Transit, commuter rail, English railways and many more eclectic and electrically esoteric realms beyond the humble island of PEI on which it began. He may be Canada's easternmost GO Transit fan. He enjoys a good beverage with a good book. And he can write. Well! PF: Beverage reviewer, Awards: I, F. 
STEVE BOYKO: Steve began his blogging journey in July, 2005, and his Confessions of a Train Geek is now Canada's longest-running rail blog, with its current cut-line "Writing about trains since 2005". Steve's blogging encompasses model railroading, railfanning, travel and photography, recently taking on hosting a grain elevator photo site. Steve is a prolific blog reader and commenter, and I sometimes wonder how he has time to other things like eat and sleep. FF: Is a five-time geek i.e. medievalist geek, Awards: I, F.
KINGSTON MEET-UPs - I've been privileged to meet some Trackside Treasure readers here on the platform at Kingston's VIA station as they travelled by train. These gentlemen are their own Venn diagrams....VIAphiles like Shron and Soknacki, book contributors like Box and Hayman, travellers and photographers like Tolton and Fidelak, engineers like McCallum and Brennan. Sometimes I provided reading material for their rail journey. I'm fortunate to have them kindly sharing Trackside Treasure's message as they criss-cross Canada. NN: The Shron, Socks, Buffy and Terry John. Awards: I, E, K, F.

It has been a treat to get to know all of the above. Thanks as always to the blog partners, commenters, contributors, pointer-outers and readers. I would probably still push a weekly post out the door into cyberspace if it weren't for all of you, but knowing that two or three are reading and enjoying makes it all worthwhile! Sticking with the numeral idea, that's 547 published posts, 37 in draft form and starting Trackside Treasure's 11th year!

Running extra...

TLC's hit program "Railfan Sisters" latest episode takes place where much of my railfanning started - Portage la Prairie, MB! The episode explores the environs of the CP station/interpretive centre, and includes this train of CP coal empties pounding the Third St crossing:
OK, so it's not high-multimarked, candy-striped SD's, but it's still steel wheels and the coal still rolls!
While there is no anniversary contest this year, I think the connections above go uncontested!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Mark A. Perry Retires

What's in a number you say? Well the above number is how many days I worked for CN Rail from July 6, 1979 until today.

...just a few days ago, CN hogger Mark A. Perry decided to call it a career with CN. From his first email to me in 2007, I've always enjoyed corresponding with Mark. I've enjoyed his photography AND his writing. He needs to create a book! Sometimes irreverent, ever-skilled and always a gentleman, I've decided to share Mark's writing in this post, as well as some photographs he's kindly shared. His farewell Facebook post, then two pieces Mark contributed to my books comprise this post. Most people try to forget about work once they retire. I think you'll agree we need to do all we can to get people like Mark not to forget, but rather to remember, and to share. More...
This morning at 0200 I was ordered on train Q147 at Ranier MN and brought it to Symington Yard in Winnipeg. We were just over 11 hours on duty (DOUBLE RX Claim, thank you) traveling the 199 miles. 
I did a lot of thinking on the trip home about my career and who I spent it with. I think quite a few people are surprised that I retired knowing my love of trains but honestly I knew it was time, it's not the same railway I hired out with for so many different reasons. The radio all the way home, was filled with congratulations and I was truly appreciative of every one of them. Norm and I finished it off in style in a one month old, "smells like a new car", CN 3824.
Sure the money was good for an uneducated bum like me but the people I worked with over the past 39 years, was truly the biggest gift of the employment. And there are so many to thank for helping me along the way.
Still wet behind the ears, the first fellow I really respected was my first trip pit foreman Bob Fraser, he was the one who actually convinced me to transfer over to transportation. Long retired, I still see Bob and his wife once in awhile in Safeway, still the total class act all the way.
Hiring out as a brakeman in 1981, I'm the last of the original class to retire, long time friend Russell Thordarson just retired a month or so ago in the same Fort Pool and now contracts out helping new hires over at the Training Centre.
Moving to Gillam in 1982 was the best move I ever made in my career, I went in as a kid and left as a adult. So many good people that I worked with up there, Pat Nowlan, Joe Jarvie, Brian Larson, Art Beadle, Rick Small, Marcel Vallee, John West, Scott McLaughlin, Rob Westhouse, Shane Thompson, Jim Langlois, John Arnold, the list is endless.
The move to Dauphin in 1987 was equally rewarding and I made some great friends there in fellow employees like Derrick Vendramin, Gary Bogoslowski, Vern McDuffee, Gary Garlinski, Jose Lopez, Brent Dillon etc. (Mark loading boxcar CN 557132 moving from Gillam to Dauphin in 1987 - above.)
And don't let me forget to mention the outstanding conductors who tutored me and helped me along the way become a pretty good conductor with a sharp pencil. Fellows like Bill Warner, John Atamanchuk, Jake Robinson, Dunc Kabel, Lawrence Larson, Merv McLaughlin, Geoff Vanalstyne and Leonard Weslowski.
Equally as important are the locomotive engineers who trained me both officially and "unofficially" in my younger years. Talented hog heads like Alphonse Kloschinsky, Keith Pottle, Lance Lauze, Tom Monson and Rick Horn. It meant a lot knowing they trusted me 100% running the engine. It is fitting to know that I tried to pass down that very same knowledge to young talented trainee engineers like Chase Vukovic, Shashi Batt and Lisa Schmidtke and it worked.
Sometimes it was just a voice on the other end of a radio or a telephone with a unknown face that made the job, so much more pleasnat. RTC's like Gordie Willitz, Dwight Kereluk, Dale Kluk, Joe Gozda and crew callers like Kenny Cloutier that made the job just that much more special in my mind.
Despite the never ending union/management battles that always happen at CN, I can sure say I did work for some truly professional individuals in the management ranks, people like Leroy Fox, Scott Lintick, Randy Anderson, Mike Cory, Graham Wood and the ever helpful and smiling Joanne McMahon.
Ditto for the guys like Carman Gordie Clyde and Norman Long, engine watchman like Charlie Lavallee and Harvey Enns. Sectionmen like Ernie Foster, Ray Lavallee and Stan Peters, TMC's like Bernie Naokonichony and chauffeurs like Pete Rozicky. Operators like Bob Semenchuk and Bill Saggs and station agents like Norm Reid.
(Mark operating CN 102 during Family Days - above.)
The last eight years working in Winnipeg, were some of the best times I had working for CN. Starting out on the Emerson 532-533 assignment, working with conductors Joel Bourgeois and Calvin Kahler, was simply a joy to behold, on a somewhat difficult at times, wayfreight job.
Finally moving over to the big time mainline railroading on the Fort Pool, working with the likes of Richard Plouffe, Ken Gunlaugson, Ken Kulbbuba, Blair Brown, Tom Hosfield, Doug Charban, Brent Brooks, Brian Shymkiw, Glen Bynkoski, Neil Sheirich, Scott Fardoe, Gerry Lowery, Tom Trenchard, Bill Tataryn, Doug Biggs, Will Kossman, Mike Pallick, Dave Bolianis, Kevin James, Ian Coley, the list is endless. These people sure helped this branchline bumpkin, find his way around the place and lights. Sitting in the kitchen or outside in the front of the hotel on countless days, sharing laughs, lies and tales, is a memory I will never forget.
And all the new hires I worked with, that listened to my endless bullshit stories and laughed along. People like Chris Snell, Kris Isford, Areimei Kamei, Dave Moline, Curtis Wall, Dustin Mowe, Brad Spence, Matthew Kruczynski, Koryn Grenier, Joe Dobransky, Brendan Hosfield, Dustin Kolback, Drew and Kyle Brown, Duane McPherson, G note, Chris DeVries. Way too many to list, heck you all made the old man proud. Thank you.
I always tried my best and had pride in the job despite some trying times. I accumulated 105 demerits in my career though 55 of them were wiped clean just like that, a few years ago. Thanks! Oh well that's the way it goes and just comes with the territory. Big thanks to the union people who fought hard battles for all of us. Without enjoying the fruits of the hard fought for furlough board, for many years, there was no way I could have ever been a single parent when my kids were young and needed me the most.
So to end this off, it was a great 39 years and honestly I would do it all over again, if I was young and foolish again. But it's time to move on in my second phase of my railroading career, I'm equally proud to say that the Central Manitoba Railway (CEMR) has thought enough of me as a skilled railroader and has offered me a job as a conductor/engineer. I'll only be working a few days a week which is fine with me but I'll get to hook up and learn from again with some talented old railroaders again like Doug Charban and Rob Nykoluk. I won't be on call all that much, pretty much will know when I'm going to work and I won't be working midnights for endless hours with little or no sleep ever again.
So to you all at CN, huge thanks for being my brothers and sisters all these years and making me feel like I belonged in your family for the past 39 years. Equally big thanks and hugs to my two boys, thanks for putting up with Dad when you needed him the most but I was away at work, sorry but I still love you.

So to the CN crew office in Edmonton, please be advised:


In the spring of 1982, I was working as a CN brakeman in Edson AB, tired of the mountains and homesick for the prairies, I was going through the job bulletin books every day to see if there were any jobs to bid on, much closer to my hometown of Winnipeg. (Train No M291 at the Pas, December 1986 - Mark A. Perry photo - above).

Finally one day there was a job up for bid - brakeman on VIA passenger train Nos 94/95 running between Gillam and Thompson.  Though I wasn’t a VIA employee, I could bid the job because CN manned those trains.  Ten days later I closed the job and was awarded the position.  I packed up my things, loaded up my shiny new Honda Civic and drove east, non-stop back to Winnipeg.  I wasn’t sure where Gillam exactly was in the province. I thought it might be around Brandon or Minnedosa but I got out my old school atlas when I got home to my mother’s house and checked it out.  Hmmm, Gillam was north…wayyyyyy north.

The only two ways into Gillam in those days were taking the train or flying in.  I elected to shell out the big bucks and flew in on a Pacific Western 737.  I reported to the Trainmaster’s office upon arrival at the CN station and the first words out of his mouth were, “So you think you can last all summer on the passenger, eh?”  I wasn’t too sure what he meant by that. I showed up for work in the wee hours of the morning when No 94 pulled in at 0200. We were called a bit early and had to take a CN GP-9 off the shop track and lift some silver 222000-series reefers from the shed tracks, run around them and put them in the team track off the mainline. From there, we could lift them with No 94’s power and put them on the train.  No 94 pulled in and it was quite a sight!  Two 9100-series F7Au’s, a steam generator unit (SGU), a bunch of silver reefers and about ten blue & yellow VIA cars trailing.

Once the train stopped, we traded off with the incoming crew and loaded up the large number of passengers going to Thompson for the day.  We then cut off the power and the SGU and picked up the reefers from the team track and got our train all back together.  On the advertised we closed up the Dutch doors and yelled into the radio “Highball Number 94!” There was quite an assortment of passengers on the train:  towards the tail-end in the sleepers were all the tourists returning from Churchill sound asleep in their rooms, berths and roomettes.  The second and third coaches had a full-house of passengers and were dimly-lit:  these people didn’t want to pay the sleeping car fares.  The first coach behind the baggage car was for locals getting on and off.

First stop leaving Gillam was about one hour and 40 miles later at Ilford.  The station there was an ATCO trailer. There was a CN operator on duty and the train order board was set to green 99% of the time.  There was a silver 40-foot reefer there to be picked up, so we cut off the power again, to go pick up the reefer spotted in the siding.

After picking up the reefer and loading up all the passengers and baggage, away we went.  Next stop: Pit Siding at mile 255 of CN’s Thicket Subdivision - home to three section houses and a wye.  The tail of the wye heads north 13 miles to the Manitoba Hydro power dam at Kelsey, MB.  If aircraft were unable to land at the Kelsey airstrip and employees need to get out, they were hi-railed over to Pit Siding to jump on the train going to Thompson. 

The next stop was at mile 213 of the Thicket Sub - the First Nation community of Pikwitonei.  A large number of passengers board the train here, going to spend the day in Thompson shopping, medical appointments and visits to the local drinking establishments.  Thirteen miles later the train turns west on the wye at Thompson Junction and heads up the Thompson Sub for 30 miles.  For the trainman, one of the more important jobs while running through this isolated region was walking to the tail-end every 20 minutes to check to see if the steam was flowing all the way through the train and coming out of the rear conduit on the last sleeper. 

Arriving at Thompson, the largest city in northern Manitoba where INCO has a large mining and smelting plant, we reached the end of the Thompson Sub.  Before arriving at the station, the train must turned on the wye located just outside of town before backing in.  After spotting the station, our Gillam crew is relieved by a crew from The Pas and they start setting out the reefers and unloading the throngs of passengers.  Our crew heads to the nearby bunkhouse for some sleep and an hour or so later the train departs southward.
(VIA No 94 at Gillam in 1987 - Mark A. Perry photo.)
Around suppertime we are called back to Gillam on train No 95 coming from Winnipeg.  This time The Pas crew backs into the station track and we trade off with them - now it is our turn to work.  The empty reefers set off in the morning have been loaded and are now ready to head north.  Again the power is cut off and we lift the reefers and a CN black & grey baggage car used for mail, behind the SGU.  There was no carman stationed here, so it was up to the crew to connect the steam lines. It’s not a pleasant job doing up rusted and wet steam conduits between the reefers and the baggage car. My immaculate blue VIA suit got pretty dirty after a few minutes’ kneeling on wet and oily tracks underneath.

With the train together, it’s time to load up the passengers. There are lots of them, they’ve been shopping all day and they have a ton of boxes and bags to put on the baggage car.  The three coaches are now packed to the rafters and so is the baggage car!  Job done, it’s time to yell “HIGHBALL” again and away we go, retracing our footsteps back to Gillam where we started out this morning.  Every stop is the same: unload the passengers first,  then head up to the baggage car to help the baggageman unload the mountains and mountains of groceries, bicycles, fish, beer, boats and anything else that can be bought in Thompson.  You name it - it was in that baggage car!

Upon arrival at Gillam at 2200, the train is now pretty empty with only the Churchill passengers left on board.  The train north to Churchill crosses the barren tundra and there are no settlements along that segment except for the odd section building.  At Churchill the reefers are set out and unloaded, and the train sits on the station track for the whole day. 

I spent that whole summer of 1982 working that passenger train and I survived.  I didn’t stay long on that job though - I preferred the north end to Churchill, or the mixed train running between Wabowden and Churchill, Nos 294/295.  This was a regular CN freight train that ran once a week between the aforementioned towns. It had an ancient steel combine tucked in ahead of the caboose.  VIA 7209 was a rebuilt Colonist car with six-axle trucks and was equipped with an electric furnace.  This train was very lightly-patronized and only a few passengers ever sat in the passenger compartment each week - usually locals dropping off at some isolated trapping shack along the track.  Ordered Saturday morning at Gillam at 0800, No 294’s crew made up their train and headed south for Wabowden, doing any necessary line work along the way.  The crew spent the night in Wabowden, ordered back to Gillam for 0800 Sunday morning on No 295. Arrival in Gillam was usually around 1700 and the train was put away for the night.

Monday morning, the same crew was ordered at 0800 to head north to Churchill on No 295, again making up their train and switching it out to prepare it for spotting in Churchill.  Upon arrival in Churchill, the train was turned on the wye located about five miles south of town, then backed into the station track. After the passengers and baggage (if any) were unloaded, the crew would usually spot the numerous fuel cars on the train at the Esso unloading site for furtherance to the North-West Territories.  On Tuesday, the crew spent the day switching the yard in Churchill, lifting the empties and spotting the loads.  On Wednesday morning, the crew was ordered on No 295 at 0700 to head back to Gillam, first gathering any remaining empties and putting the train together to head south to Gillam at 0900.  Upon arrival in Gillam, the crew yarded the train, took the power to the shop track, and then had two days off.
(Mark on VIA No 94 in May, 1985 - above.)
I worked these jobs for the better part of six years until I was able hold a job ‘down south’ and left Gillam for warmer climes.  OmniTRAX, an American company based in Denver, CO took over operation of the trackage between The Pas and Churchill in 1997 and most, if not all, of the former CN employees transferred down south.  A few years later, the mixed-train service between Wabowden and Churchill was quietly dropped. OmniTRAX continues to operate VIA’s passenger service between The Pas and Churchill with HEP-equipped F40’s, ex-CPR stainless steel equipment and trailers on flatcars.


In this day and age of 100-car unit trains being spotted at inland grain terminals, many modern railroaders don't know how the movement of grain took place on the railways out on the Prairies.

The whole grain industry and the movement of crops by the railways started to change in the late 1990's.  Old wooden grain elevators were closed up and demolished or sold off and big new high throughput inland terminals were being built at an alarming rate.  As a result, many of the light rail branchlines were sold to shortline railways or pulled up for scrap.

I spent the majority of the 1980's and the 1990's moving the country's crop to port for export.  Based out of the CN terminal in Dauphin, MB I spent a lot of my career back then spotting and pulling grain cars on the Togo, Cowan, Erwood and Winnipegosis Subdivisions (Subs).  Most of the grain loaded on these Subs went to the ports of Thunder Bay, ON or Churchill, MB.  Some also went west to Vancouver, and when the port at Thunder Bay froze up in the dead of winter, grain was then moved east to Montreal.

The Togo Sub running between Dauphin, MB and Canora, SK had 14 towns or villages that had grain elevators loading cars or a back track that loaded producer cars.  The westbound train that spotted the empty grain boxcars or hopper cars returning from Thunder Bay was numbered G867 by CN.  Ordered out of Symington Yard in Winnipeg in the afternoon, it would reach Dauphin around midnight, and a four-man Dauphin crew would be ordered for the train.  The trains still had a caboose on the tail-end of the 100-car trains, and the conductor would ride there.  The two brakemen would ride on the lead unit along with the engineer.   Both would have spot lists in their possession for the wayfreight, which indicated how many cars were to be spotted at each elevator requiring empty cars for loading.  A quick trade-off in front of the yard office in Dauphin between the incoming Winnipeg crew and the outgoing Dauphin crew, followed by a pull by the carman for a train inspection and the train departed.

It wasn't long before the crew set about the task of spotting the Togo sub, 10 miles later after leaving Dauphin, the first of the wooden elevators appeared in the darkness at the tiny hamlet of Ashville which had two wooden elevators.  The train would stop short of the highway so as not to block vehicle traffic and the required number of cars to be spotted were cut from the train.  Sometimes it was just one car, sometimes a few. Pulling ahead, one brakeman hopped off the cars at the derail in the elevator track, and the other brakeman took the train up to the mainline switch.  The empties and the units would then back into the back track to spot the elevators.

The cars had to spotted the proper way depending on the grade of the elevator track and which way the cars rolled.  Usually the elevator agents would paint a large arrow above the loading spout to indicate which direction the cars rolled.  After determining which way the cars rolled, the first top hatch of a hopper car or the first door of a 40-foot boxcar was spotted at the pipe-like loading spout on the elevator.  A quick handbrake applied to make sure the cars stayed put and the units were cut off the empties and back out to the mainline.  After tying back onto the train sitting on the mainline, the brakes released and it was off to the next town, usually about five to ten miles away. Then the whole process was repeated at every town, for the next eight hours or so.

Covered hopper cars were the much-preferred type of grain car to be spotted or picked up by train crews.  The old 40-foot boxcars had a high handbrake which meant climbing up a side ladder whereas the hopper car handbrakes could be applied or released from the ground.  Grain elevator agents and employees did not like the boxcars either. Boxcars had to be coopered and have cardboard grain doors applied inside the car before they could be loaded.  Hopper cars were much easier. Most of the time, all that was required before loading was to ensure the bottom doors were completely closed.

Finally, the whole Subdivision was spotted after placing the last of the empties at Mikado, SK. The crew would run into Canora, SK caboose hop - just the caboose and the two locomotives. The locomotives were usually SD40's in the 5000-5240 series.  The crew would book rest and go over to the bunkhouse sitting beside the station. If they were lucky enough, they could double back to Dauphin on a lumber train, or some other preferred train.

If luck was not on their side, the crew would rest in the bunkhouse until around 1500 when they would be ordered back to Dauphin on eastbound G868, the Togo pickup.  Coming off the shop track with the same two units and caboose, the orders would be secured, clearance issued and it would be a repeat process all the way back to Dauphin.  Cab hop to Mikado SK, where the crew would now pick up all the empty grain cars that were now loaded with the area's crops.  This schedule was followed in order for the elevators to load their cars in the daytime. (CN No 864 at Mikado, SK in January, 1996 - Mark A. Perry photo.)

Stopping at every town on the way home, the crew would now have to do up the train-line air hoses. The grain elevator guys usually only loaded one car at a time, and would roll it down the elevator track to the derail at the other end. Thus, the air hoses had to be done up between almost every car on a 100-car train!  One brakeman would usually hop off the train at the west end of the elevator track, as the train was pulling into town. Then he would start bucking up all the hoses on the loads. The other brakeman would cut the locomotives off the train, and proceed to take off the derail on the east end of the elevator track before bringing the units in to pick up the cars.

Sometimes a quick air test was done, but usually not. The loaded cars were brought out of the elevator track, tied back onto the train and the derail restored, then it was off to the next town to repeat the process over and over.

Upon leaving the last town at Ashville, it was already around midnight, and a Winnipeg crew was ordered to trade-off with the incoming Dauphin wayfreight crew.  The train would usually slide down the mainline in Dauphin as the incoming crew dropped off and went home. The outgoing Winnipeg crew would hop on the train and take it to Winnipeg, for furtherance to Thunder Bay.  If the Churchill grain rush was in full swing, the process was done in the opposite direction.  A crew would be ordered with the empty returning boxcars around midnight and spotted east to Dauphin.  Another Dauphin crew would be ordered in the afternoon to pick up the loaded boxcars heading back to Churchill, to be loaded into grain ships at the port there.

These days, most grain elevators load unit trains in 100-car spots with their own unit or use the Class 1 units for the day. A 50-car spot is considered small!  Producer cars are pretty much a thing of the past on the Class 1 railways but are still loaded by shortlines that took over the CN or CP branchlines.  Thus most grain trains on the CN and CP are just spotted at one town or elevator. Wayfreighting a branchline, with a stop at a town every five miles, placing one car here, three cars there at various elevators, is now sadly a thing of the past.

(VIA No 95 at Churchill in December, 1986 - Mark A. Perry photo - above)

Friday, August 3, 2018

Canada's First Government Grain Car

As Canada's federal government cylindrical grain car fleet continues to be sold off, it's interesting to look back at the early era of this non-railway grain car fleet. The first cylindrical government grain cars were built in 1972. The cylindrical design was easy to fabricate, with no interior bracing and unloading done by gravity. Hamilton's National Steel Car led production, with Hawker-Siddeley in Trenton, NS and Marine Industries in Sorel, QC also contributing. Each manufacturer's cars differed by only minor design variations. The initial Government of Canada paint scheme was brown overall, with a 15-foot yellow band and two wheat sheaves measuring 7'9" by 5'6". 

So what are we to make of the top photo from an online auction site? Some features in the photo, namely those yellow-and-black boxes and roof overhangs on passenger platforms immediately made me think....Ottawa! Not exactly a place to load, unload, or even set out a grain car! The photo shows what appears to be a new Government of Canada cylindrical grain car being guarded by railway police, and receiving a rooftop inspection by some 'suits'.

Indeed, sharper eyes than mine will find some spotting features that confirm is not actually a government grain car. In fact, it's CN 379024 which would normally be painted in CN's overall grey scheme. CN 379024 was actually built in late 1970, while the government grain car program was not announced, and first cars produced, until mid-1972!
Fresh out of the paint shop, CN 379024 masquerades  as a government grain car in this black-and-white photo (above). Paint scheme? Yes. Reporting marks? No. Closer inspection shows the reporting marks CX 379024 in use! While the government grain cars would be lettered CNWX and CPWX for operation on CN and CP lines, respectively, neither the CX nor the 379-series would be used on the 100000-series CNWX cars and 600000-series CPWX cars! So the above photo represents what I would call a faux builders photo! Here's another view, likely taken at the same time at what looks like CN's Pointe St Charles shops in Montreal:
The single column of capacity data, under the reporting marks looks odd, as does the COTS stencil on the fourth hopper. CRHA's Canadian Rail tells more of the story:
Speaking of Rowatt, SK..during my 1985 grain elevator photography trip to Regina, I returned to the Queen City with Rowatt being my last stop, where two of the later paint scheme Coke can government grain cars were spotted:
So, this one-of-a-kind grain car, this cylindrical charlatan, this Prairie poseur, this wheat-filled wraith has never appeared on the western railway radar. Until now. I'm assuming it was painted over quickly thereafter - at least the reporting marks would have to be solemnized or removed. While it must have been Canada's shortest-lived grain car, it was also apparently Canada's first government grain car!

Thanks to David J. Gagnon for his assistance with this post.

Running extra...

Of course you can read more about the rest of the Canadian grain car fleet in my latest Trains & Grains books (sample colour page below). Rosters, in-service photos and more...tracing the evolution from the pesky grain boxcar to the final Coke can cylindricals. 
Speaking of cans, it's radler season! Apparently these citrusy-beery blends were originated by a European barkeep who had a large group of cyclists arrive and not enough beer on hand. So, beer, meet citrus! Refreshing on a warm afternoon, as during my weathering session of five Green Mountain Lines freight fleet members yesterday. Thanks to Andrew and Riverhead Brewing Co. of Kingston's limited release Grapefruit  Radler for making it happen!

Speaking of rivers, here's some recent Microsoft Word and Paint designed and printed lettering on the Moose River Paper Co. mill on my HO scale Green Mountain Lines: 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

CN Tempos to Moncton

Behold I tell you a mystery...

Norm Shapland posted the above photo of CN 3155 on Facebook. The far-from-home Tempo RS-18m (rebuilt to class MRE-18g from CN MR-18g 3887) is said to be photographed leading the Ocean into Halifax on June 29, 1976. Why? Because the Tempo locomotives were routinely sent to CN's shop in Moncton, NB for heavy maintenance such as rebuilding, major component failure, wreck repair and painting. The units apparently bypassed Toronto's Spadina shops and Montreal's Pointe St Charles shops for this work. After repairs, the Tempo units would be sent on a break-in run to a nearby terminal before heading back to their assigned service out of Toronto.

OK then, I wondered, why had I never seen one passing through Kingston? After all, to get to Montreal, nevermind Moncton, the Tempo units would have to traverse the length of CN's Kingston Sub, where I routinely posted myself trackside, notepad in hand, beginning in February, 1976.

So, off the old dusty archives I flew. Searching my roadswitcher listings (GP-9/RS-18) starting in 1976, I came to September 25, 1976 where I found CN 3155. Now we're talking! And CN 4549. Oh. 

Returning to the original (transcribed from) notepad, I found that at 1431 on September 25, CN 4549 had led 3155 east along with the following Tempo cars: 15300-372-366-364-361-348. And that's not all! I'd noted that CN 3155's own trucks were on a flat car, and that the unit itself was riding on freight car trucks. The Tempo cars were followed by some freight cars and caboose 79241.

Well, that was weird.

Further investigation revealed that 3155 may have even spent some time in Brockville yard on its way east. It was released from Moncton shops on March 2, 1977 after wreck repairs - at least five months after its incident.

Little did I know that former CN Moncton shops employee Wendell Lemon had done what I was unable to - photographed 3155 - just outside Moncton shops on November 28, 1976! It's not a pretty sight...bent frame, equipment missing, long hood telescoped, but at least it's been reunited with its trucks that travelled with it on that flat car! Wendell Lemon photo:
Jeremy MacPherson kindly shared two photos from his collection showing CN 3155 is its diesel-dishevelled state. This one is captured 'Stratford':
No location in caption (below).  Photographer unknown - both.
Perusing patiently, I came upon only one other Tempo temporary toot along the Kingston Sub that I'd witnessed. CN 3155 again - on November 16, 1978. In the company of at least two Centuries, CN 2314-2043, the Tempo unit was eastbound (at an unrecorded time) on a freight train tailed by CN caboose 79707. Since the original notes I'd taken were not in one of my still-existing note pads I no longer have any specifics on the train itself. But I'm guessing it may have been COFC/TOFC.

I'm still searching for more information on the derailment that caused that Tempo consist to be hauled east from Toronto in September, 1976.

Hours after this post was published, Sean Trofin kindly passed along the following update: 

There was a Tempo train derailment outside of Windsor, in Tecumseh on September 6, 1976. The derailment was caused by a tampered switch. The train involved was westbound train No 77 and  the derailment occured at Lesperance Road in Tecumseh. Sean remembers that the Windsor Star newspaper had an article and pictures of the derailment. Sean was a young nine years old at the time, and already a big railfan! 

Thanks, Sean! This will provide a lead to find out more about the Tempo tampering timing!

Most Tempo units arriving in Moncton were dead, only occasionally working. Return west was usually on No 15 or 341. Other reported trips to Moncton by Tempo units after 1976 include:
  • CN 3153 Aug 30, 1976 (having arrived on CN train No 340 - Wendell Lemon photo):
  • CN 3150 Dec. 6, 1978 (very fresh Wendell Lemon photo):
  • CN 3152 Feb. 2, 1980
  • CN 3154 Feb. 29, 1980
  • CN 3153 May 31, 1981
  • CN 3155 Feb. 1982 (at Moncton station for furtherance on VIA No 15 reshopped but definitely not repainted - retirement was months away - Feb. 20 Wendell Lemon photo):
This being the Tempo's fiftieth anniversary (and Trackside Treasure's tenth), it was interesting to find out more about the travels of these unique units. Thanks to Norm Shapland, Chris Mears, Taylor Main, Fred Mills, Jeremy MacPherson and special thanks to Wendell Lemon for assistance with this post.

Lots o' links:
Running extra...

Perhaps you've heard that Rapido Trains Inc. will be producing the...

Coming soon...summertime reading. See what I've been reading. Until I get that written up.....
  • I just finished two books this weekend. Yep, got 'em both coloured in!
  • Can you suggest some other names for 'thesaurus'?
  • I don't read books besides the dictionary. It's got all the other words already in it, anyway.
  • Just plowed through some medical journals. You know, written by Doctor Seuss?
  • Ultimate author putdown, "Oh, once I put your new book down, I couldn't pick it up again."
  • Ultimate reader putdown, "Oh, I'm a fan of your new book." Author: "Oh, you're the one."

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

FP&PS Co. - The Results

While working on a few structure and rolling stock projects outside this summer, it was time to head down to the cool basement and emplace them. The power house is shown here in some earlier views to make sure it would fit the scene. Part of the Moose River Paper Co. complex, the power house sits right up against the fascia, so there's literally no room for error.
Over in St Johnsbury, I placed the Texaco station at the entrance to the town's main street, again at the fascia edge. The details are very visible there!
Same angle, different vehicles. Front end work and a woody (above) and Matchbox dollar-store find with suitcases and canoe (painting/detailing them is a future project - below):
Rene Gagnon farm supplies is repositionable - front or back can parallel track, or freight door end as well! Homemade Bobcat and patient farmer:
Drone view showing proximity to Blue Seal feed mill:
Toward more realistic gon loads. It's not too far gon! This plate steel load is actually the old sides of a plastic reefer:
Also spotted for unloading at Sacco Steel - the pipe load shown in the previous post - now completed. Glued, painted and weathered! Those reused printer-label rolls fit just right inside an Athearn gon. Hey, what's the farmer from the feed mill doing here? He sure gets around!
Gentlemen, start your Dremels! This ex-troop sleeper took a bashing to come out as a Bangor & Aroostook caboose. Just needs lettering! Seen here in the St Johnsbury with some other hacks:

Running extra...

Why don't cows have toenails? Because they lactose. OK, don't have a cow - that was a bad joke. Or, if you're tuning in from the Nile, don't have a dhow. Is an Egyptian harbour called a dhowry? No man is an island. Though some are peninsulas and once in awhile you come across a real isthmus! Or, as Bob Fallowfield would say, "Eric, next time try the decaf." Oh, there we are back to the cow jokes again. De calf? Udderly ridiculous.

Speaking of decals, I need to invest in some New England road decals. Until them, I'm using leftovers and paper logos. Not sure yet how to justify BAR in Vermont. Well, at least it's not Union Pacific or something. Be prepared to see BAR, MEC, CP, B&M, D&H and eventually VTR, Rutland, CN, CV or Green Mountain show up on my HO scale Green Mountain Lines.

Connections - watch for an upcoming post. Imagine finding a fellow musician who not only modelled Toronto and PCC cars in HO, but also worked as a transitman in St Johnsbury, VT early in his career. And it's not Mike from Canmore! Mike said the StJ&LC reminded him of British railways based on their signalling and other idiosyncrasies!
Traffic Jam in Parham, ON as a CP eastbound passes through.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Front Patio & Scrap Box Structure Co. (Est'd 2018)

What's new on the front patio? Well, not a new layout this year. Something different, though. I decided that instead of trying to brainstorm a new micro-layout as in past summers, most of which seemed themed to food and drink and two of which still exist if I feel the need to operate, I would take my modelling outdoors, instead. This year's modelling efforts would rest on our patio's new fire-table. Not too close! We're selling the sizzle, not structures at stake (top photo).
The fires of enthusiasm burned just as bright. Introducing the FP&SBSCo. - the Front Porch & Scrap Box Stucture Company. A low-cost alternative to pricey new structures when I have existing structures to work on!! With feedstock structures, tools and scrap box at the ready, the company's first structure project was a train-show dollar-find power house which I have recycled from a previous location in a previous (Vancouver) layout iteration. Painting (before window treatments - above) with lettering, mortar/weathering and signage (below) form the finished product with added Heljan enginehouse side room and:
The power house was destined to be part of my Moose River Paper Co. mill. Relaxing on the patio and flipping through a book on Roadside America, this diminutive fillin' station caught m'eye:
Richard Longstreth's book Road Trip is what really fuelled my interest in this build. Another train-show dollar-find, it had functioned as a flour mill side building in a previous life. Before - I posed it on the covered fire-table with a gondola-load pipe project. More about that later....
This was a POLA kit. Judging by prototype photos, an awning was needed. So I set about building one with styrene (above) but my supplanted supports seemed suboptimal. So, I found a U-shaped girder piece in the scrap box and added some nicely-bent sprues to connect the uprights and provide a signpost then painted. Those side-doors actually slide:
Pre-weathering (above). I like those sliding doors and will keep them open sometimes on the layout, perhaps bracketing a car with propped-open hood inside for servicing. Added weathering and details (below). I was not tired of the project and it seemed like a good year so far:
Signs available online - printed off and pasted with more details on the other side:
Only after the project was complete did I realize that the original Pola kit also came with an awning, just like the one I'd added! Online auction site photo:
Though I hadn't found a place to put this decades-old POLA freight station on my Green Mountain Lines layout, I'd assembled it as a Co-op feed mill years ago. First step was to paint the brick grey, accompanied by some lemonade in a Railway City glass:
Finished product with signage, again from online sources. I've been mindful of Lance Mindheim's advice to employ a minimal colour palette. This greyish shade matches well with many other buildings on the layout - no one building catches the eye to distract! Doors were weathered darker, and platform supports painted:
Rear views. Before...rear view with previous feed mill Harvestore and other signs which I removed before painting:
After...I dulled down the foundation stones, weathered roof, walls and doors, and added signage:
Signs were a combination of online logos, a feed mill signage page from a June 1972 Model Railroader  and Microsoft Word fonts. To somewhat personalize this structure, I am honouring New Hampshire-born Rene Gagnon, one of the United States Marine Corps flag-raisers from Mount Suribachi in Iwo Jima. One of the more famous sharers of our surname:
Oh, and the occasional rolling-stock project gets done outside, too. In this case, it's a Bangor & Aroostook swap-meet-special ex-troop sleeper caboose. I plated some windows, cut in vestibules, added the bay windows and a few details, here seen painted but awaiting crests and lettering:
This post shows the completed projects in their assumed natural subterranean environment!

Running extra...

With Trackside Treasure's annual outdoor modelling published, it's time to look forward to another Trackside Treasure summertime tradition - the anniversary post. Perhaps there will be tributes and contests as in other years, and the theme will be...connections... of which is my connection with graphics guru Randy O'Brien, fellow HO modeller and Portage la Prairie enthusiast. Whether building a layout or working on modelling projects, Randy's graphic definitely applies (above). We'll keep the home fires and the mosquito repellents burning!