Friday, November 16, 2018

Consider Consists

I must admit - it never struck me that I shouldn't be writing down every car and locomotive number that I could when I started compulsive note-taking back in 1976. Of course, short (but fast) passenger trains were one thing...eighty-car freight consists were another, especially when zooming by at track speed. I was able to note a few consists when in a yard and the train was moving slowly. 

WHAT ARE CONSISTS?
Consists (I pronounce it KAWN-sists) are about order - the order a train is marshalled in. The order of the locomotives and/or cars. These can be just numbers, or we can dress the consist up with other auxiliary but important information:
  • time
  • date
  • place
  • direction of travel
  • reporting marks
  • equipment types
  • other notes/remarks/information
While all this information-taking stayed second-nature to me, it wasn't until I claimed my corner of cyberspace, Trackside Treasure in 2008, that it dawned on me - this information was not only interesting to me, but perhaps others as well. Consists were easily-documented, reformatted and eminently shareable!


SITTING ON CONSISTS

Most consist-takers take notes for their own purposes. Occasionally shared, if a particularly interesting train is concerned, but the majority are seen as interesting just to 'me'. We just sit on them. Mine were in notepads in a shoebox, or transcribed into scribbler notebooks.
But why, you may ask? Rail enthusiasts have a long history of sharing photos and swapping slides. A picture is worth a thousand words, so a consist might be worth a hundred. Consists are a snapshot just as a photo is. But for every hundred photographers, you might find one to five consist-takers! So the opportunities for sharing seem limited.

I'm the most compulsive notetaker that I know. Do you know of any? David Morris is right up there capturing passenger consists in Atlantic Canada back to CPR days. But it wasn't till I started posting Krazy Konsists at Kingston, then consists from all eras of VIA to Trackside Treasure that another consist enthusiast (consisthusiast?) took the bibliophilic bait on my line. 

It was Jakob Mueller of Ottawa, who was working on a specific project - CN and CP to VIA paint transition data and would take all the consists I could get for him, especially where paint scheme was noted. Thus was born Trackside with VIA: The First 35 Years. I included my consists and Jakob was kind enough to share his paint transition data in this, my first book on VIA Rail. One purchaser derisively defined this book of 2,700+ VIA consists from 1976-2011 as 'just a bunch of numbers'. On the same day of that pithy opinion, an enthusiastic fellow sent a supportive postcard that I've kept ever since - to mark the day when the value of consists vanquished that victim of vitriol!

SHARING CONSISTS

So one book of consists led to another book: Trackside with VIA: Cross-Canada Compendium which simply grew too large for all the cross-Canada consists I wanted to include. Thus was born the Consist Companion. And when a third major book on VIA followed five years later, I was proud to include consists that my Dad recorded in separate scribbler notebooks, beginning with the debut of VIA's Corridor Canadians, thirty-seven years ago in November, 1981. My Dad was so fascinated by the ex-CPR Budd-built consists that he tried documenting their passage eastward and westward across Canada, and the changes, additions, subtractions and variations along the way. (This is where we can topple over the consist abyss, entering the world acted by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind!)...
But in printed form?  It wasn't until after the VIA cuts of 1990 that the Bytown Railway Society Branchline newsletter began sharing consists monthly, in the June 1991 issue, which they still do.
So, I've found books to be ideal for sharing consists. But like consist-takers, there are very few consists books. Blogs or webpages can be ideal for sharing platforms. In sharing consists, it's ideal to have a permanent, searchable function to truly translate their tantalizing data into indelible information.

INDELIBLE CONSISTS

When I recently had the pleasure of meeting fellow blogger Chris Mears, my Dartmouth Doppelganger, my Haligonian Half-Brother, my Scotian Soulmate (OK, perhaps putting too fine a point on it, here!) I brought two special documents to our caffeine-fuelled sharing session. One was The Binder, (above) encapsulating all the notes I'd taken from 1976-1981, and the other was my Dad's Canadian Pacific "The Canadian" scribbler #3 (below):
The scribbler included some of the abyss-edging consists my Dad began analyzing. I knew Chris valued consists, like those of David Morris and my Dad, and that he'd enjoy seeing in person the secondary stage of consist data collection. 

CHEQUE, PLEASE! 

Perhaps none of the above is of even the slightest interest to you. Not your cup of tea, you say. So it's time for you to say, "Cheque, please!" Clear the dishes and head for the door. Start the car! So I'll leave you with the following maxims:

THE TRUE VALUE OF CONSISTS IN SIX BULLET POINTS
  • Consists are snapshots. We keep snapshots for decades.
  • Consists are fact-filled. Facts matter and stand the test of time.
  • Consists settle arguments. Objective data. Quarrels quelled.
  • Consists are interesting. Variety of order, time, place.
  • Consists are valuable. Irreplaceable, really.
  • Consists should be shared. Preserve and disseminate all the above.
Consists are still happening. 
As long as there are trains, there will be consists. 
And I don't regret scribbling down a single one!

Running extra...

Next Saturday, it's Kingston's new train show: Rail Fair hosted by the Associated Railroaders of Kingston. More information here.

Not as happy an occasion, November, 1981: last VIA System Timetable issued before cuts (left) and after (right):
Pssst....started new blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Portage 1983, Part 2

In 1983,my Mom and Dad travelled to Portage la Prairie in Part 1 of this series. On August 5, this eastbound CP freight led by four Geeps had the sun at my Dad's back as he photographed. The Canadian was three hours late this day!
CN two-unit eastbound intermodal picking up orders at Portage:
In Winnipeg on a ridealong with my aunt and uncle, CNR 2747 is stuffed and mounted. The first steam locomotive built in Manitoba, specifically at Transcona Shops:
The aforementioned Transcona Shops with CN mechanical reefers:
And no visit to Winnipeg would be complete without a stop at the Symington Yard hump leads. Check out the kaleidoscopic rear-view mirror view as Geep hump set has its portrait taken!
The Big John Green bracketed by bulkheads! Combines two to a car:
The depot when it still wore the wet-noodle. Oh sure, VIA was there in lower-case signage:
On the trip home, my dyed-in-the-wool Dad took a photo of this CPR beaver blanket, no doubt made by Ayers in Lachute, QC! Both mattresses in their bedroom B of Prince Albert Park were topped by them.
Ride the dome home! CN No 2 operated over the Toronto-Montreal Corridor, so their dome car brought them back to Kingston, with my brother recording their arrival. The ex-CN diner, two Chateau cars, three E-series sleepers and Dayniter were removed by CN switcher 8513 while the consist was in Toronto Union Station. A club car and three ex-CN coaches were added.

Running extra...

Tomorrow - the 100th anniversary of the Armistice to end the Great War. The War to End All Wars. Not.
My maternal grandfather, Lieutenant James Scott Parke (above, serving with Royal Artillery in World War I). Postcards home ('me' circled on postcard, top left - below) to his mother and wife. Without his sacrifice and survival into peacetime, there would be no humble blogger and no James Douglas - one who has no concept of war - James' great-great-grandson. May we all be channels of that peace.


Friday, November 2, 2018

Winnipeg Whiplash and Manitoba Mishaps

Rail-vehicle collisions, derailment and fires have made the pages of Winnipeg newspapers over the years.  Being a railway city, it's not surprising to find these images tucked in my files from decades past. I guess you could say these are the genuine article!

I CAUGHT THE 11:05 (top photo) On February 6, 1989 a Honda Civic ecomes a flanger for CN. Pushed 40 metres after crossing Chevrier Boulevard in the train's path. 

SPEED THE PLOW (below) City of Winnipeg grader in plow service crossing crossbuck-equipped Mollard Road between Ritchie and King Edward Streets - cab noise may have drowned out the sound of the approaching CP freight. The grader was a $150,000 writeoff. The locomotive sustained $2,000 damage.
CAT's A TONIC: Undated, for these eight stranded boxcars. The CP switcher switched off the track, so a nearby Caterpillar bucket loader pushed the errant cars across King Edward Street, averting a cat-astrophe!
BUS RIDER: On December 21, 1987, a CN movement on King Edward Street collided with a Winnipeg city bus. The bus may not have come to a complete stop at the crossing before becoming wedged against the transfer van:
SUBURBAN SPRAWL: On February 8, 1986, on the same day as the Hinton, Alberta CN-VIA collision, a much more minor collision occurred, between a CP freight train and a 1982 GMC Suburban on Jefferson Avenue.
SPERRY THE GORY DETAILS: On February 9, 1996 a westbound Fastrax transport truck met a southbound Sperry Rail Service 131 on the Perimeter Highway between St. Anne's Road and Lagimodiere Boulevard.
A BUNCH OF HOSERS: On June 23, 1988 this CN work car aboard flat car CN 665477 was smouldering in CP's Winnipeg Yard north of Henry Avenue, between Arlington and Salter Streets. A CP Police constable covers the Company's assets. The aged car was likely heading for scrapping, its numbers removed.
MESSIER AND MESSIER: CN road-rail crane lifts one of two derailed boxcars that left the track at 1305 at a crossing between Messier and Archibald Streets after leaving Maple Leaf Mills.
HADASH SMASH: Greater Winnipeg Water District's Mack railbus was struck by a transport truck hauling canola down Highway 11 near Hadashville:
BOXCAR HERE, BULKHEAD THERE:  CN No 201 derailed eight of 85 cars in Transcona, at Mi. 251.3 of the Redditt Sub on April 26, 2002. Ninety percent of the train's tonnage was behind two empty centre-beam bulkhead flatcars; slack action run-in caused the derailment.
CP TRUCK SMUCK: C:P 5914 hit a transport truck west of Austin. Damage to the locomotive was estimated at $100,000. It was returned to Winnipeg for repairs. The truck and trailer were totally destroyed.

Running extra...

The last week of October was a busy one in Canadian railway history. Thanks to Bill Staiger and his Tortoise Tattler: