Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Trains & Grains - Two New Volumes Now Available!

***TO ORDER - please visit my Trains & Grains book blog
I'm proud to announce the completion of a two-volume set: Trains and Grains. Originally intended to fill only one book, the copious content rapidly overflowed the covers, necessitating two volumes! The two volumes complement each other but there is no overlap of content. Volume 1- Trackside Observations in Manitoba 1976-1986, includes photos, data and text showcasing the observations I made on several trips to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. With Portage being one of the busiest railfanning locations in Canada, there was much CN, CP and of course VIA to observe! Table of contents:
I was proud to include contributions from three experts in the field. Portage modeller Randy O'Brien contributed a fine foreword, while CN engineer Mark Perry shared an interesting article on what it was like to switch grain cars at elevators on the Prairies. Station expert and author Charles W. Bohi contributed an in-depth article on the nexus between trains, stations and the towns they served.  A sample page of observations, listed by date, time, locomotives, cabooses and cars, with accompanying photos. Most of the Volume 1's 450+ photos are black & white.
Interesting freight cars observed and photographed, changes to the grain industry and the railways' involvement over the decades are included. Rosters and information on government cylindrical grain cars plus CN and CP grain boxcars add depth and context to my observations, as does a concise locomotive roster.
At 104 pages, with 70+ colour photos and colour covers, this perfect-bound book will be at home on the bookshelf of any railfan or modeller interested in just what was rolling on the Prairies only a few decades ago. There are eight colour pages showing some of the most colourful scenes, meets, locomotives and rolling stock. 
The second volume Grain Elevators in Manitoba and Saskatchewan 1976-1986 covers grain elevators that were railway-served in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I made a special effort to document the grain elevators that were in use during my visits. At the time, concrete elevators were literally on the horizon, with the brightly-decorated and proudly-owned wooden elevators on borrowed time. For many of the elevators I photographed, time has run out, and regrettably they are no more. 
I was proud to feature contributions in this volume as well - a focused foreword from Winnipeg railfan and photographer Steve Boyko, as well as a second amazing article with accompanying photos from Charles W. Bohi, profiling his photography and many visits to document grain elevators in all three Prairie provinces. Table of contents: 
Most pages in this volume showcase the 250+ black & white photos two per page, although there are some pages with more. Articles on grain elevator construction and the sweeping changes to the Canadian grain-handling industry at the time give depth and context to my observations. Sample pages showing Portage-area elevators:
and an impromptu visit to the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator in Stranraer, including in-service interior photos:
While Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Manitoba Pool Elevators tin looks good enough in black and white, it really takes colour photos to showcase the glowing green and radiant red of the Cargill and Pioneer elevators, among others. Volume 2 also includes an eight-page colour section and colour covers, totalling 70+ colour photos:
Each book is priced at $35, which also includes shipping anywhere in Canada. Payment can be made by cheque, money order or Interac e-transfer. I trust you'll find these books not only full of interesting photos of a bygone era, but with enough supporting data and text to really feel what it was like to be trackside, and in the shadow of these towering titans, over thirty years ago. And a good value for the price. For full ordering information:


Fellow Kingston railfan Paul Hunter picked up his copies already. First stop? Kingston Mills locks on the Rideau Waterway. New chair? Check! Scanner? Check! Coffee? Check! VIA40 P42 on the bridge and Trains & Grains boks in foreground? Check times three! Thanks, Paul!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Now Arriving...Almost

It's been a busy season here. An evening along Kingston's Bath Road revealed signs of the changing season (top photo). All while westbound VIA 6416 appeared in these video captures, including selective colour:
Lounging lakeside, the Goose family welcomed its new arrivals along calm Collins Bay:
Having found this carriage house at 172 West Street during a spring stroll through Sydenham Ward, I'm committed to making an HO scale rendition of it. Fun fact - this building was located just beyond the Frontenac County Courthouse compound walls! So this project may be arriving soon, too. Check out the mix of limestone, brick, bric-a-brac, doors, windows and details:
But the really big news is the impending arrival of my Trains & Grains books. They're being printed now. Order forms, invoices, blog posts and whatever other announcements I'll need are in process and pretty well ready. Now I wait, with that familiar feeling of being an expectant father, waiting to share my 'bouncing baby books' with the world. Or at least ten people in the world. Colour page proof photos below...one from Trains, the other from Grains. You'll know which is which:


But the most important arrival of all has already happened.
James Douglas Gagnon on May 24!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Postscript - Kingston Grain Elevator Ships

My previous post covered Kingston's waterfront grain elevator that was served by CN. But the raison d'etre for the elevator was lakers, and earlier, canallers. During our time in Kingston, the enlarging of the Seaway had led to the end of the canallers. But lakers were still prevalent. Straight-deckers, not self-unloaders. We lounged at a picnic table while Coverdale wintered 1969-1970 (L.C. Gagnon top photos). Ten years later, Hall Corporation's Vandoc was docked in the calm waters on the elevator's east side in November, 1979:
The west side was used for laid-up lakers, such as the Canada Steamship Lines former package freighter French River also photographed in November, 1979:

The following summer, Murray Bay was being unloaded, with Helen McAllister tug at the bow in August, 1980. Fort Henry on the west side and another laker waiting to dock, visible just off the stern:
By 1982, as self-unloaders came on the scene and older, obolete boats like Hochelaga were rafted on the west side of the elevator, awaiting an uncertain future:
 Hochelaga in July, 1982 (above) along with Fort York and Fort Henry:


The plucky Troisdoc is seen docked closest to shore in July, 1982:
Two years later, as winter approached, Hochelaga, now flanked outward by CSL ships Nipigon Bay and T.R. McLagan, with the grey-hulled Metis closest to King Street:
In November, 1984 (left to right) Whitefish Bay, Hochelaga, Nipigon Bay, T R McLagan, with Metis closest to camera:
Note CN switch target designated track KN21 (above). Whitefish Bay is low in the water:

These photos were posted online, showing some unusual ships docked near the elevator. Two Royal Canadian Navy destroyer escorts, with DDE 265, HMCS Annapolis in foreground. We visited HMCS Ottawa docked here in July, 1969. At that time, the Ottawa was docked on the east side, with its bow pointed out into the lake.
a wooden-hulled hulk on a barge:

Running extra...

When Harry Married Meghan. Windsor Castle was the scene of this this morning's wedding.
Up at 4:30 a.m., the coffee was perking and the scones were warming.

An evening of railfanning this past week saw me being treated royally by CN and VIA. Sixteen trains in four hours! CN No 518 ventured east from Belleville with 28 tie gons full of new ties. Safely stashed in Queens, the light power returned west within the hour.
Prairie Branch Line Rehabilitation gons among them (below). Within a few days, I hope to have copies of both Trains & Grains books in hand. They're currently being printed. Profiling the cars, branchlines and the grain elevators they served. How have the mighty fallen (the gons AND the elevators - glad I got there in time)!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kingston's Grain Elevator

Changes to Great Lakes shipping in the 1930's included the construction of the 'fourth' Welland Canal, begun in 1915 and finished in 1932. Originally scheduled for completion in the summer of 1930, the Lake Erie-Lake Ontario waterway boasted dredging to 25-foot depth and a total of eight locks measuring 766x80 feet. Jockeying for location of lower lakes terminals was on! Prescott and Kingston were in the running.
Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) president W.H. Coverdale was keen to bring loads of grain to Kingston in his fleet of 600-foot+ lakers including the Lemoyne, Ashcroft, Gleneagles and Stadacona. Coverdale launched the Kingston elevator project on its own, but it was taken over by CSL as a subsidiary. Possible Kingston locations, many close to the city centre, were: 
  • Tete du Pont barracks
  • Montreal Transportation Co. dock
  • Inner Harbour
  • Kingston Yacht Club
  • Cataraqui (Elevator) Bay
The first four sites were rejected due to location, limitations in size or difficulties in completing a successful transaction. Cataraqui Bay was chosen, with requirements for a breakwater, dredging to a depth of 25 feet, land acquisition completion, rail connection, 1,200-foot turning basin and a 400-foot approach width. 
The elevator project's first of 1,500 piles driven into the floor of the bay on September 7, 1929. As a Depression project, the salaries paid to the 1,000+ workers, even at $1.18/hour were welcome. A dredge barge is on the west side of the elevator in the 1930's (above). The elevator's dimensions were staggering:
  • 2.5 million bushel capacity
  • unloading capacity of 35,000 bushels/day
  • 600-foot dock on west side with room for two canallers and railcar loading
  • 700-foot dock on east side with room for one upper laker
  • 152 silos: 75 exterior, 28 on the ends and 49 star-shaped interior bins
  • 125,000 bags of cement used in construction
  • project cost $4,000,000
The CN spur construction cost $80,000.
The elevator was completed on schedule: September 15, 1930. The first ship to arrive was the CSL laker Kindersley on September 25, 1930 carrying 80,697 bushels of grain loaded at Port Colborne, on Lake Erie 26 hours earlier. The Kindersley would return four days later with another load from Port Colborne. With delays in Welland Canal construction lasting into 1932, the first upper laker entered the lower lakes that fall. CSL's Lemoyne delivered grain to Kingston, which was now CSL's eastern terminus on the lakes. In fact, Lemoyne was so long that she had to be turned and backed in to complete unloading. 

Local men, including my father-in-law, were hired as needed to help unload ships. A simple, low-tech way of getting the last of the load out of the hold was for the men to form a line. Nearly invisible to each other in the dust, they pushed a large wooden scraper towards the unloading leg. With his minimal wages, he purchased an engagement ring for my mother-in-law! Her father also worked in the elevator office for a time. A family heirloom was a chest-of-drawers with large eyelets on its rear surface - used to secure the furniture to the walls of the sailors' accommodation walls onboard!

The Kingston elevator moved up to 25 million bushels per year and employed 50 workers. Unfortunately, Kingston would never rival the Georgian Bay ports of Port McNicoll and Midland, nor lower lake ports like Prescott or even Buffalo. In the late 1950's, the Kingston breakwater led to decreased water flow, weed growth, stagnation and loss of the popular sandy beach along Front Road! More importantly in that same decade, completion of the St Lawrence Seaway meant that lakers could simply bypass Kingston on their way from the Lakehead to seaboard. There was no longer any need to trans-ship to smaller vessels for the grain to reach Montreal. 

In the 1960's, salt-water vessels docked to load Thunder Bay grain for export. Eventually, the elevator was relegated to a storage facility of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was not uncommon for the Kingston Whig-Standard to send a photographer to the elevator to record the work of the elevator, as it did for the Ontadoc in April 1980:
the Black Bay in October, 1981:
and Sir James Dunn in 1988. Docked ships were not resting without incident:
A 1986 aerial view shows stored lakers rafted to the elevator's west side, with King Street visible at top, and the Richardson dock and office at top of photo along the street:
By the late 1980's, the final collapse of Kingston as a port was approaching, with the historically low cost of water transportation now being rivalled by rail and even road. McAllister Towing and Salvage closed its repair and dry-dock operation, shown here in 1950, the former site of the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes:
The last vessel to unload at Elevator Bay was the Algosoo with 11,000 tons of road salt delivered to the Richardson Wharf just east of the elevator, which by now employed a skeleton staff of 20.
The property was sold in December, 1985 to a numbered Ontario company. The elevator was proposed for demolition, to be replaced by 38 townhouses (selling for $250,000-295,000 each) and 343 tower-condominiums by developer Richard Dudar. Demolition began on June 15, 1988 by Laval Demolition and Dominion Metals, both of Montreal.
A 20-man crew, a 125-ton crane with a 7-ton wrecking ball, and the ensuing three months resulted in 25,000 cubic yards of concrete to be hauled away, and 200 tons of salvageable metal. Townhouse construction was underway in summer of 1988 even during demolition. Interestingly, there is continuing interest in building more condos on this narrow pier. The problem with purpose-built infrastructure, such as a former grain elevator's narrow pier is lack of road access and emergency response plans!

CN SERVES THE KINGSTON ELEVATOR
To say that the elevator was a major source of traffic for CN would be an overstatement. Unlike large terminal elevators in Thunder Bay that had a constant supply of inbound western grain for transshipment to lake vessels, Kingston's role as a mostly ship-to-ship transshipment point meant less rail traffic than one might expect. I know of no railcar-unloading equipment at the elevator. Indeed , the only covered portion of the two CN tracks on the pier was at the very end, closest to the lake! Certainly not much room for very many cars to be loaded. A 1981 John Mayell photo shows CNWX covered hoppers at the elevator in winter (above). This 1985 D.J. Gagnon photo shows a view of the CN spurs toward the lake.
A close-up shows a loading spout, beyond the two ship-loaders. The loading spout (top arrow) is complete with positionable pipe section (bottom arrow) likely for filling boxcars equipped with grain doors:
Photos I've seen, and my own experiences, rarely showed more than five cars at a time being set out or lifted from the elevator. In early 1981, new Canadian Wheat Board cars were at the elevator:
Read more about CN's Cataraqui Spur's top half, and its bottom half in these posts from 2009. In the postscript, I've included more photos of lakers docked at the Kingston elevator! Do ships and grain elevators qualify as trackside treasure? You bet they do.

Running extra...

Associated Railroaders of Kingston May monthly meeting speaker was fellow Kingston railfan Paul Hunter on an 11,000-mile Amtrak trip taken with his Dad in 1978. If there were any doubts whether railroading and railfanning are 'better' 'now' than they were 'then', Paul's presentation made the answer 'crystal clear'. L&N unit at Tehachapi? UP DDA40X's and GP30B's? Riding D&RGW and Southern Railway passenger trains?

The Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan is next Saturday, May 19. I will be watching. Apparently, the TV coverage starts at 0430 hours! That is a mean time to start a wedding. Greenwich Mean Time!

Tuesday comes first. TRAINS & GRAINS might be ready for printing on Tuesday. Come on, Tuesday!