Friday, July 30, 2010

The Lilies of the Field

Lilacs frame a brace of five MLW's: 4720-4724-4236-4500-4212 as they depart CP's yard in Smiths Falls, Ontario on May 20, 1991.
Foreground. Subject. Background. These are three components of any photograph. Foreshorten the foreground, or block out the background, and the subject is accentuated. Railways are geography and trains operate through a landscape. The landscape is overwhelmingly natural, occasionally urban. 5798-6014 and an eastbound freight with the same lilacs on May 9, 1998:

By submerging oneself in the foreground vegetation, it's like being in a submarine diving to periscope depth. At periscope depth, a ship on the surface is still visible, even if an occasional waves cross the field of vision. It's the same with trains. Once in a while, placing the camera "down in the weeds" yields a different view of the train, with the lilies of the field in the foreground given prominence equal to the subject. On July 24, 1999 CN 5293-9416-5352 lug all of train 301's 130 cars uphill at Mi 183 Kingston Sub:
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?" From the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6 NLV - the inspiration for this post.
Queen Anne's lace, lilacs, goldenrod, milkweed, thistles, chicory, clover and sumac provide interesting foregound fodder. 2010 is a banner year for Queen Anne's lace in our area. Train 366 leaves Belleville behind 5403-GCFX 6062 and 6061 (above)Fall foliage. 9505-2115 with train 307 approaching Mi 180 Kingston Sub at 1400 hours October 5, 1997:
The engine crew may be wondering what that guy's doing in the weeds. Train 308 to Dartmouth with power 5348-9649 heads through Queens East interlocking on August 1, 1998:
Wild prairie grasses. GMD-1's 1067-1012 assemble their train in CN's Portage la Prairie, Manitoba yard on September 18, 1985:
Field crops and orchards. Train 301 heads for Toronto, passing a field of soybeans west of Trenton on August 24, 2000:
Poison ivy, burrs, surprised wildlife, groundhog holes and uncertain footing lurk in the undergrowth, but ah, as the results burst into bloom... VIA engine 907 at Queens East on June 2, 2002:
It can be the same old location, same train, but the angle gives a whole new perspective on what's passing by, adding visual interest, unique framing and a new plane of focus. CN crane 50472 with pile driver heads down the Cataraqui Spur on August 28, 1996:
Parting the grass and flowers like a ship sailing across a vast sea, guided onward by a succession of telegraph pole "lighthouses". Train 307 behind 5369-5133-7305 at the Bath Spur wye on August 17, 1997:
Running extra...

Noted American railroad photographer Wallace Abbey injected life and activity into many of his photos. Often shooting the train from head on, the subject is given prominence, a sense of motion and depth. By manipulating three different elements as foreground, subject and background in many of his photos, each photo is like three pictures in one. Check out some of his famous shots here.

The Flowers of the Forest is played as the official solo pipe lament of the Canadian Forces, written to commemorate the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513.

Hungry for some railway-theme eating? Try The Junction on the main street in Stirling, Ontario - a former CN point. Framed railway prints inside the restaurant, a patio sign showing a diamond-stacked One-Spot, and UP 3985 on the menu cover, make it a fine place to enjoy a cool beverage and a chicken club sandwich with sweet potato fries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Postscript: CN's Craik Subdivision

CN's Craik Subdivision (see this previous post) was often photographed by agricultural news photographers, probably because of its proximity to their newspapers' editorial offices. In April 1994, CN 5500's were spotting empties at Davidson (above). In 1995, cylindrical and newer ACF-type covered hoppers were being loaded at Chamberlain:
In December 1994, Aylesbury's Pool elevator was taken down:
Till the cows come home...Aylesbury's remaining elevator and townscape in January 1998:
Aylesbury's P&H elevator meets the morning sun in 2002:
A reflection of things to come...Craik Pool A was only cleaning, not receiving grain in April 2001:
Craik's three remaining elevators witnessed winter, with sectionmen digging out switchpoints:
Due to rationalization of the elevator network and the ceaseless march of time, of the towns I photographed in 1986, Davidson has two wooden elevators remaining, while Chamberlain and Craik have only one. Dundurn B was taken down October 22, 1998, with some of the structure reclaimed for use in the Mennonite Retreat Centre near Waldheim:
CN still operates the Saskatoon-Davidson, northern portion of the Craik Sub, serving the large elevator terminals at Davidson. From Davidson south to Bethune, near Regina, shortline Last Mountain Rail operates the southern portion. (Any resumption of passenger rail service between Saskatoon and Regina is unlikely, notwithstanding the highway paralleling the tracks.) There's also the complication of condo-owning NIMBY's near Regina, not wanting LMR's initial ex-Santa Fe GE's and recently-arrived ex-WC SD40's passing by with grain drags.
Dave Slater of Regina shared these shots of LMR motive power. Typical LMR operations include Monday and Friday interchange runs to CN at Davidson, with online elevator shuttles on other days. A new bulk terminal at Aylesbury will likely bring LMR more cars to move. Of interest is MobilGrain's 25-car mobile grain cleaning operation, recently set up in Meyronne, comprising some ex-Milwaukee and other covered hopper cars, loading one car per hour into outbound grain cars, here are some photos. MobilGrain is one partner in the new shortline, Saskatchewan's tenth.
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Special thanks to Dave, Mark, Ken and Trevor for their assistance with LMR updates, because Kingston is a long way from Kenaston. To join the Yahoogroup for more up-to-the-minute news from the Land of Living Skies and Friendly Manitoba, click to join the MB-SKrails Yahoogroup in my right sidebar.
Last Wednesday, NBC'sAmerica's Got Talent guest starred Train (it's a group) with their runaway ukulele riff-laced hit, Hey Soul Sister (sample lyrics: I'm so glad you have/a one-track mind like me/you gave my life direction) Ever notice those big X's they give the acts on AGT look like crossbucks? .
CN's ex-UP units that I blogged about in this post are being repainted by CN and entering service, mostly on CN's U.S. lines, although some have made it as far as Mac Yard in Toronto. The repainted units bear a striking resemblance to Little Obie, the CN parade unit from Memphis.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

CN's Craik Subdivision, 1986

CN's Craik Subdivision runs 154 miles between Saskatchewan's two largest cities, Saskatoon and Regina. In 1979, the line hosted Railiners 680/683 and thrice-weekly freights 865/866. From November 1981 to June 1984, the Craik Sub was the CN portion of VIA trains 109/110 between Winnipeg and Saskatoon, profiled in this post from February/09. In May 1986, I took three days in the Saskatoon area to photograph grain elevators. More in this Craik Subdivision postscript.

After a Saturday morning of CP subdivisions, by late afternoon I reached the lower third of the Craik Sub, emerging through some trees at Mi 45 to later find Findlater's elevator track. Two CNWX covered hoppers had been loaded by Sask Pool. New ties had been dropped trackside as part of CN's track renewal program. CN Lines Vol 10 No 1 has a great series of photos taken here during the steam era. For another, helicopter-borne view of Findlater, start at the 40:30 mark of this Helicopter Canada National Film Board film.

Chamberlain's single SWP elevator was the usual nine miles from the next town. A Canadian Forces truck convoy was headed south, likely returning from a training exercise at CFAD Dundurn's ranges. CN's 1993 employee timetable showed a 2.2-mile spur branching off the Craik Sub at Mi 134 to serve Dundurn.

The only semblance of a train on the Craik Sub this day was a string of 40-foot grain boxcars in the siding at Aylesbury, Mi 62. Sask Pool and Parrish & Heimbecker elevators baked in the afternoon sun. A spike's-eye view shows that the agent has left the office windows open to cool it off for Monday morning:

Craik's location at the midpoint of the Craik Sub at Mi 72 rated five elevators: Pool A and C, 2 Cargill and 1 United Grain Growers.
The section crew's speeder shed must've been just out of the picture near the shade of some trees at right:
Girvin's 4710-foot siding was second in length only to Davidson's. SWP and UGG elevators at Mi 80:
Davidson at Mi 89 was my rest stop for the night. A room at the Jubilee Motor Inn set me back $27.00, a dollar less than the Rosetown Motel the next night.
Elevator row was impressive with six installations: seven elevators and eight annexes of various sizes. Two SWP, two UGG, one Cargill, plus Pioneer's massive 8,110-tonne capacity elevator with its two annexes accounted for eleven covered hoppers. A second elevator track was in use at the far end, closest to the station. See below for a 1979 photo at this location, elevators and all!

After checking in, I drove out to Bladworth at Mi 98 as the evening shadows lengthened. Its two SWP and one Pioneer elevator basked in the beams of the setting sun:

Today only the northern portion of the Craik Sub remains in CN hands, with shortline Last Mountain Rail operating the southern portion.  Here's a Keith Bowler photo showing a southbound ex-CN RDC 6350 at Davidson in 1979:

Running extra...

Just saw "Grownups" with Adam Sandler, David Spade et al. Funny scene in which the wives of the group ogle a lifeguard. When he approaches them, he speaks in an annoying, squeaky voice and says he's from Canada, specifically "Saskatchetoon".

Enough with the Saskatchewan jokes, already. Saskatchewaners can't help it if their province is so flat it can all be seen if standing on a chair, plus it's so flat your dog can be seen running away from home for a week. Any others?

A visit to CN's Belleville yard yesterday included DPU train 350 handling an RJ Corman RR boxcar, and two dimensionals: CAT dumptrucks on flatcars. 372 setting out seven cement etys and two of plastic, lifting six. 305 was DPU also, but a long 149 wasn't.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Postscript: VIA's LRC Debut

VIA Marketing publicized its new LRC trains by producing a bilingual illustrated pamphlet: d'un centre'ville a l'autre LRC from heart to heart. Highlighting stability, practicality, comfort and courteous onboard service, publicity photos of 80's-style VIA passengers were taken for use in the pamphlets. Trackside Treasure has some early copy material that was to be used for captions in the pamphlet. The material was rejected for use, and has not been seen until now, for obvious reasons. Photo 5 (above): "Martin, If I place my compact mirror on the tray, and angle it just so, you'll be able to see a reflection of your outrageous, Muppet-like appearance!"
Photo 6: "This is what my life has come to. Here I am reading a damn newspaper. How long until Al Gore finally discovers the Internet and I can get wi-fi on here?" or "I can't believe there's a guy on here selling Turbo books. Jason somebody. I'll pretend to be reading until after he goes by."
Photo 8: "I sure hope this train is Rapid. When we get in to Montreal, I'll have to hail a cab to get to the Cirque de Soleil dress rehearsal with my performing poodles right away, so I'm applying my makeup on the train to save time."
Photo 1: "Good job, Kyle. Unfortunately, we're about to go through some crossovers to get around a freight up ahead, and all your hard work will collapse like the proverbial house of cards. Personally, I'm holdin' on to this seat for dear life."
Photo 2: "We're only at Belleville? I could sure go for a beer. Maybe if I shake this lady's purse, some change will fall out" or "He's very persistent. I ended up buying two of his Turbo books. I'll stash them here in my carry-on."
Photo 3: "No, seriously Claude. I could've sworn I saw it move just then!" or "Just wait, Marie. When they turn off the banking system, the gravy should cover the meat completely."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

VIA's LRC Debut

VIA Rail took delivery of its first LRC's at Montreal's Windsor Station twenty-nine years ago today, on July 7, 1981. By July 27, a trainset was at Spadina coach yard in Toronto for testing, employee training, and public display at Toronto Union Station. Trips to Oshawa were made on August 1, 2, 8 and 9, to Kingston August 12, to London August 15, and Sarnia August 22. On August 28-30, the consist was on display at the Canadian National Exhibition:

The southern Ontario display train comprised locomotive 6901, coaches 3309, 3308, 3306 and locomotive 6904. Parked overnight at Kingston's outer Montreal Street station, the consist returned to Toronto on August 13.

Read more in this related post to the LRC's in service. Conceived by MLW (later Bombardier), Alcan and Dofasco, the bilingually-titled Light-Rapid-Comfortable/Leger-Rapide-Confortable prototype locomotive and coach were built by MLW in 1973. VIA placed orders totalling $93 million in 1980, eventually totalling 30 locomotives and 100 coaches. The wedge-nosed 6900's produced 3700 hp, and the coaches' steps were 10 inches from low-level platforms, compared to 21 inches for conventional coaches. Starting with the fall timetable, the LRC equipment was expected to replace fifty percent of the ex-CN equipment by mid-1982.

The display train made the papers including the Globe & Mail, pictured with VIA Chairman Frank Roberts. Early predictions of LRC trains being used outside the Corridor never materialized.

Historical perspective: A Calgary Herald article for the LRC test train that toured Western Canada years earlier, but never operated there.
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Just spent an enjoyable couple of days in Syracuse, New York. At 1300 Tuesday, CSX AC44CW's 325-458 led an eastbound intermodal near Lake Onondaga with lots of CSX and Schneider National double stacks.

John Schneider, co-founder with Marie Osmond of Children's Miracle Network, took part in PBS' thirtieth anniversary A Capitol Fourth on Sunday night; the first without Maestro Erich Kunzel at the podium. That's three Bo's in Washington: Bo Duke, the Obamas' Portuguese water dog Bo, and vestiges of the Baltimore & Ohio, which featured the capitol dome in its logo.

Results of a recent Trackside Treasure poll: Copious Positivity Revealed for this new blog template, and the importance of steak (content) over sizzle (appearance). Another poll with stakes not so high, showed no obvious favourite for an upcoming post on CN retro motive power. GMD-1's it'll be, then, and I'll see if I can post it on the day at exactly Ten-Hundred.