Friday, January 24, 2014

Trackside with My Dad

 This post is going to get personal. A Trackside Tribute.
Ever photographed a photographer? Not easy. Known for photographing and documenting every major happening, my Dad also documented every minor but still important railfanning occasion. I did a retrospective search of my years of photographs to find some I really liked; photographs of the photographer, to document the documenter.  

Top photo: March, 1980 at a farm crossing near Benjamin's cut, west of Mi 184 Kingston Sub. "Hey Dad, look at this!" CLICK! On July 14, 1982, crouching so as not to interrupt the smooth lines of VIA FPA-4 6793 leading a 7-car westbound with 6612 (above). Posing with blue & yellow coaches while seeing off my sister on one of her perennial peregrinations, departing Kingston's VIA station:
My Dad is reviewing some photos I've just had developed of CN's Rail Change Out unit. With scribblers, used for photo albums nearby, the photos will soon be finding a home for posterity. We had driven down to Kings, site of CN interlocking sidings east of Kingston on one of many excursions trackside, tramped through a field and patiently photographed the whole assemblage.
Also in the spring of 1985, we arrive aboard VIA Rail on a cold Saturday morning to attend the Toronto train show. Before finding our way onto the TTC, we pause on Front Street. My Dad greatly admires the Royal York Hotel, or any railway hotel for that matter, so I suggest I take a photo to capture both their profiles.
After the show, we return to the Royal York for a bite to eat in the cafe before boarding our train back to Kingston. We unabashedly enjoyed the arrival of a couple of limos full of willowy Swissair stewardesses. Coming in from the cold, I snap a quick non-flash photo overlooking the main floor of the lobby, grandly captioning this photo "A Man and His Hotel"!
In the summer of 1986, we are on another train day-trip together, returning to Kingston from Ottawa. Taken from across the aisle, Dad is enjoying a beverage from his tray table aboard an LRC coach. We have visited Hobby House, and a modelling magazine likely concerning one of Dad's favourite modelling subjects - British Flower-class corvettes or military aircraft is in the seat pocket.
February, 1988 finds my brother joining us for a joyous celebration: the driving of the last spike on my HO scale Manitoba Western Railway. Like Dad, I could not live anywhere without even a modest model railway, in this case the apartment my new wife and I shared. It matters little that we'll move to our current house in six months! Applause echoes in the tiny spare bedroom as diginitaries from Manitoba Western Railway, the Happy Valley Railway Management Corporation and Delaware & Hudson mark the auspicious occasion.
My Dad is visiting an area of Quebec he dearly loves, the Argenteuil. Since his mother was born in Lachute, still the site of the historic working family farm, he has made many visits here over many years. Fall of 1988 is another one, and my brother and two cousins stand beside CN tracks at the St Andrew's East station site.
On September 16, 1990 Dad holds his first grandchild, our son who is a mere 11 months old. Is toddler too young, or grandfather too old to be so close to a thumping, hissing steam engine? Noooo, although their faces bespeak a different opinion. An Ottawa-Brockville return fantrip behind CPR 1201 is pausing on CN rails at Brockville, and will soon run around its train to begin its return trip on CP rails to Ottawa.
Waiting for 1201 to head north past us (during the return trip to Ottawa, the steam-qualified CN engineer will develop a sore neck from 1201 pulling the train tender-first) I am taking a photo of my Dad using his 126-format camera. Ready to capture a real CPR whistle and bell on tape, note the CPR switchstand and CN insulated car in the background. Notice how many photos in this post show him camera-in-hand. Except this one - cassette tape recorder in hand. He has humbly and characteristically captioned the photo with the date and the simple words: "Goldenrod, purple asters, Parkedale crossing, Brockville"
That kid is really too big to be picked up and held! But in the interest of keeping him safe from humming VIA 6424, and to make sure he is in the picture, that is what is happening. It's June 16, 1992 we are enjoying an evening of watching trains at Kingston. A 5-car LRC consist is preparing to depart westbound at 1958. As you can see, members of our family spend a lot of time trackside.
Don't worry, several checks of the tracks for approaching trains have undoubtedly been made before this picture was taken at the Lachute CP station, on April 25, 1992. At this time, there is likely only one train each way per day, nocturnal at that. With his grandson perched on the crossing timbers, the familiar smell of creosote in the air, family cars in the distant parking lot and the sun beaming on our faces, he stoops to conquer.
When the Canadian Warplane Heritage Mynarski Memorial Lancaster landed at Kingston airport on August 1, 1992, it was a special occasion for us. My son with his 'chocolate chip' desert-camo hat on, has his grandfather alongside, once an air cadet serving during World War Two at RCAF No 1 Wireless School, Montreal, with his Harvard hat on. The Lanc will soon taxi out and perform a soaring, breath-taking flypast for the assembled crowd before heading westward to Hamilton.
Transit topics: A visit to the Halton County Radial Railway, Rockwood/Milton, ON resulted in a banquet at a nearby Harvey's, with my Dad seemingly ordering one of everything from the menu sign for us. Able to recall, even a few years ago, MTC streetcar routes from photos of the cars used on a particular route. My brother takes this photo with me, my son and my Dad, who has captioned it "TTC 327 (1933) replica of 1893 open car".
For Dad's 68th birthday, my wife baked and iced a birthday cake in the shape of a CPR beaver crest. He's nattily dressed for the occasion. As a retired teacher, he still wears a tie when going out, with blue (and maybe red for occasions that might warrant) pens in his shirt pocket. Having titled this post as 'trackside', I'm not going to get off track and start telling you my Dad's life story. That's another post for another day. Suffice it to say he was recently described as a 'renaissance' man - by definition, a man whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Well-read and well-spoken.
Grandfather and grandson a few years on, pausing with CP 5686-5531-CPRS 5581 waiting on a crew change westbound at Smiths Falls on a bright, sunny spring morning on May 25, 1996.
At Lachute Road farm on a very humid weekend, Dad and I provide a little music, with my daughter close by on the porch on Aug. 1, 1999. It looks like we're both trying to get a tune started...once it got going, his eyes would lock as the notes tumbled from his memory onto the strings, double-bowing and all. Trained classically, Red Wing, Marching through Georgia or the Irish Washerwoman would have warmed a parlour like a roaring fire.
Nearly two years later on February 24, 2001, we're enjoying a winter day at Kingston station, as a westbound LRC recedes to the horizon with 6919 trailing. Whether listening to music or strolling the platform, just being together with my kids was all we needed. Those garden trees at right were the site of many games of hide-and-go-seek between trains in warmer weather! If you'd care to comment on this post, please share some thoughts with me about family members; those who had an influence or made a difference in your rail enthusiast history.
Photographed by my brother but captioned by Dad, simply "Trainwatchers relaxing!" we are enjoying an afternoon between CN and CP mainlines on Aug. 30, 2001 at Morningstar Road, west of Trenton. The Plymouth Voyager blanket-bedecked liftgate shades and shelters the between-train kibbitzing with refreshment and trains galore. Notice how many photos in this post show my Dad smiling broadly!
Time, like an ever-flowing stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten as a dream
dies at the break of day.
The Canadian Pacific built this stone culvert on the former Kingston & Pembroke line just north of Kingston near Sydenham Road in 1927 - the same year in which my Dad was born. The culvert still serves its purpose, though the tracks are no longer there.
Three weeks ago, after nearly four years as a resident of Providence Manor in Kingston,
and a short illness, my dear Dad died on January 3, 2014.  
Not forgotten. Not ever.


Canadian Train Geek said...

So sorry for your loss, Eric. I lost my dad more than seven years ago and I still miss him a lot. My best to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

My most heart felt condolences to you Eric. Losing a father is a bittersweet experience, Fond memories overtake grief in time. It seems you have had a wonderful relationship with your dad. Smiles will replace tears.
All the best,
Sydney, Australia

Eric said...

Thanks, Steve and Andrew. I think it is fair to say that in terms of shared interests, I had more in common with my Dad than anyone else I've ever known. These lent themselves to shared experiences which I've highlighted in this post, and they are indeed fond memories.


Adam said...

So sorry for your loss, Eric. It looks like you two had an amazing history together. Lots of amazing memories to look back on.

Michael said...

Losing one's parent is an experience that no one but that parent's child can properly understand. Having lost a mother far too early, I would say I understand, but the fact is I don't. It's a unique experience for everyone. But, having said that, I am sorry for your loss.

My grandfather took me aboard a CP locomotive in Windsor when I was but three or four years old. I remember him explaining to me, in a thick French Canadian accent, how the engine worked. I also remember his co-workers being very nice to me and immensely respectful to him. It's an early memory, but still vivid after 30 plus years.

I've been a train fan ever since that time. I credit my grandfather for that.

Andy said...

Thank for you sharing your experiences with your Dad. I too shared a train interest with my late father. I realized after he died that I think I was the closest too him in our shared ship & train interests. We spent many times alongside tracks at Brockville, Komoka, Denfield Road bridge, Port Huron/Sarnia, Durand and Ferndale. Doesn't matter what trains we saw, or didn't see at all, it was we spent time together. As a parent now, I understand this desire. Doesn't matter what you do with your child, as long as you're spending time together. Thank you for sharing this personal tribute and I wish the best to your family during this difficult time.

Eric said...

Thank you Adam, Michael and Andy for your kind comments. I'd like to do another post on this topic and include some of your thoughts.

Quite often, my Dad would say, "Oh sure, all the trains come by after we leave 'the tracks'".


Allison said...

Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! I am so thankful that dear brother Eric has researched and documented so sensitively and with his characteristic sense of good humor, ready to share these recollections with us all.
I would rather ride a train than watch one, but as TT readers know I watch them too from time to time..or at least take pictures of them! We all have a rail fan gene, even if not always dominant. And it comes through for me even in things I say without thinking, like "getting up a good head of steam" or "taking the Y" or "riding deadhead" or "clear the tracks for me!" I forget that not everyone talks like this!
(Thanks x 1000), Baby Bro'…xo

Eric said...

Well, that's true, as is 'mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.' I'll let you decide if the railfan gene needs to stay recessive or if it can perhaps become even more expressive!

Thanks for your kind comments on the post, which means to me that its sentiments ring true.

While I'd rather ride a train than watch one, the latter costs a lot less!


BArailsystem said...

I really enjoyed that Eric. Thanks for sharing those photos and stories. It paints a picture of how Trackside Treasure came into fruition.

Again, my condolences to you and your family.

One of my earliest memories with my dad is the trips between our farm and town. I would scan both directions of the CN Assiniboine sub as we approached the crossing. If I saw the faintest set of triangular lights I would demand we stopped at the crossing and waited. A request that he always complied with.


Eric said...

Thanks, Ben. I'm sure that if computers, the internet or Blogger had been around when my Dad was railfanning, we would have some awesome posts to enjoy on Westmount and Glen yard, riding a CP 'hay-rack' observation car through the Rockies, the end of CN steam at Turcot, and maybe even documenting Sunday afternoon walks with his kids, through fields near the CN Kingston Sub and the Turbos, plain-jane SD40s and F-hauled CN passenger consists that were passing through.

All I can offer is my version of the above, here in my ethereal corner of cyberspace called Trackside Treasure. Kind comments like yours let me know that cyberspace is not just a black hole into which bits and bytes vanish without any reaction or dialogue.

We have something more in common - my Dad would have never sped up at a crossing, either. We spent lots of time in poorly-heated, non-air conditioned Volkswagens trackside!


Sir said...

I am sorry to hear that you Dad passed away.

What a great time and memories you and your Father had with the love of trains.


Eric said...

Thanks for your kind words, Warren. You're right - we did share lots of railway-related memories. An upcoming post on our photography of CPR 1201 is a good example.


Gerry said...

Sorry for your loss, Eric. I was introduced to trains by my grandfather who passed away when I was ten in 1980. My father took over...taking me trackside although he never had a 'love' for trains like I did. In some ways, I think that's impressive in itself in that it wasn't a passion for him but he indulged himself for my benefit. Countless hours at the Dundas Ontario station site and Bayview of course...when you could drive right into the wye. Games of cards, sharing of dreams and ideas, reading of comics, model railroader and such with old country music on the old AM radio. Oh, for the chance to go back...even for one day.

Eric said...

Thanks very much for adding your thoughts, Gerry. Your Dad taking you trackside reminds me of hockey parents who go to the rink at 4 a.m., not because they play, but for the sake of their children.

Dundas and Bayview? Watch for an upcoming post on Canada's Most Scenic Trainwatching Spots...those two are definitely in the running! Yes, I made it inside the wye during my sentinel visit to the latter in 1981.

How to pass the time while trackside? All yours certainly qualify. Model Railroader? Though I didn't add it to the initial post about my Dad's influence, I remember one difficult evening at home. My Dad went out to the store, and brought home an issue of MR, probably to make me feel better. I still have that issue, and I still recall that seemingly insignificant gesture from years ago when I look at the cover!

AAA said...

Hi Eric :)

It has been many years but thankfully, Allison and I recently connected again and she pointed me in this direction. What a great blog and amazing tribute to your dad!

As I told her, I have many wonderful memories of visits together at Lachute Road Farm and in Kingston, so I was very sorry to hear of your dad's passing. I feel very blessed though to have known him and been related to such a great man!

Please drop me a line sometime @ - would be nice to re-connect with all of you :)

Cheers - Andrew

Eric said...

Thanks for your kind comments, Andrew. Perhaps you remember my solo visit on VIA Rail in 1981, just after Dave and Susan were married. I planned, designed, constructed and put in place the 'Isaac Newton Memorial Bridge' over the creek behind the barn. It promptly washed away next spring.

We share similar memories of visits with you and your family at the farm, including the photo of all of us at the former St Andrew's East station site. Of course, these visits go back to when you were small enough and young enough to ride in the oat wagon!

Thanks again!