On March 4, 1994 I was back at the 1916-built Matheson station, off the Ontario Northland bus and waiting for No 698: 1808-203-609-702-612-604. Interestingly, many decades of waiting passengers had scratched their names onto the station's bricks, including World War 2 servicemen. At Jardine, we held the main but lined the siding switch for Englehart-Kapuskasing Extra 1801 North: 1801-1800-CN, CR and CV boxcars, ONR and CN bulkhead flats:
Vestibule view of end-cupola caboose 110 in the Ontario's Development Road oval scheme bringing up the tail end in snow flurries. We were now running 30 minutes late. All along the line, foremen and sectionmen in hi-rail pickups or boom trucks were seen regularly, inspecting our train as we rolled by.
At Englehart, two ONR freights were ready to go north, headed by 1802-1807-1809 and 1732. Englehart yard contained cabooses in the chevron and oval schemes, 106-107:
Older scheme 40-foot boxcars and a plow:
And the OCS chevron scheme on MoW Dining Cars and Sleeping Cars:
Handsome smoke deflector-equipped Temiscaming & Northern Ontario Pacific 701 sat stuffed and mounted near Englehart station in the anomalous Clay Belt, an island of fertile land in the middle of northern Ontario's boreal forest.
At South River, we held the main, and lined the siding switch for No 697 to pass through thte siding: 1803-204-602-703-600-611. We were now 45 minutes late. Apparently, it was a local crew pastime to slightly misrepresent their location, perhaps just idling out of sight around the next curve, so that the other, earlier-arriving train crew would have to leave the nice, warm cab to throw the switch for the impending meet!
Other freights we met or passed included southbound CN 9303-9635-9xxx at Gravenhurst, northbound CN 2-unit in the siding at Washago, and a southbound CN at Brechin: 9631-5189-60 cars. We met two more northbound trains at Beaverton and near Richmond Hill. There was a decided lack of online CN customers.
Arrival at Union Station was 70 minutes off the adverised, meaning my return to Kingston became a redeye bus instead of VIA Rail home. Regardless, it was a fine trip, confirming that it really is different A Way Up North.
A 1977 brochure features ONR TEE and F-unit motive power and passenger schedule. The ONR sales office in Toronto Union Station always included a showcase display of an ONR model layout, with Christmas decorations in season, as well as ONR souvenir items for sale.
Oddly, the Clay Belt around Englehart is an anomalous but fertile deposit of glacial lake drainage spawned 10,000 years ago. Sure the soil was fertile and the topography flat, but the deceptively short growing season choked out any hope of the area producing much other than forage crops for the area's cattle. Who knew there were cows in northern Ontario? I remember seeing a whole scene of Holstein during my trip.
And who knew there was a group called Clay Jackson and Interlude? They have a song called 'Take the Clay Train'. No doubt a takeoff on the jazz standard 'Take the A-Train'. There is definitely as strong a connection spawned between trains and jazz music as there is between trains and food, especially fast food that tastes bad but is really bad for you. Switching media, I'm working on a version of Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railway Trilogy for my Youtube channel. Don't refer to me as a renaissance man though. I prefer the LRC.
Speaking of trilogies, (though I'm loath to use the term in this context, I'll use it anyway), my second VIA book has spawned a third. I've come to believe that train consists don't spark much interest in railfan circles, and the subsequent splitting and possibly palpable potential of this alliteratively-titled book will prove or disprove that theory. Read the latest on my book blog here.