Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Canada Day 2015

The Skeena River at Mi 28 CN Skeena Sub
Wandering through the hillside town, hewn out of solid rock on Kaien Island, I thought of the great city some people had wanted to see built here. It was a pleasant seaside town, supported by some canneries, a fishing fleet, and the small port. The train left Prince Rupert three times a week. The settlement of 14,000 already had its back up against a steep, hard slope. Looking down the hill at the little passenger train waiting in the station, I wondered how many years would pass before it would run only once or twice a week, and then perhaps not at all.

On vacation, I read Whistle Stop a Journey Across Canada, by George Galt, published in 1987. George travels across Canada by train, visiting various Canadian arts community mavens. At times depressing, at times raunchy or slightly irrelevant to today, I enjoyed the snapshot in VIA time that this book presents. A note inside the cover from my aunt to my Dad: "Don't know if you have seen this. Maritime coverage poor but he does appreciate the Prairies, Windsor Station and even has a mention of Lachute on p.192." Cover photo shows VIA engine 6423 and five Dayniters - most likely VIA's Canadian Rockies by Daylight which began operating in mid-1988, eventually becoming Rocky Mountaineer's pricey land cruise. (See book cover photo at bottom.)

Last year for my annual Canada Day post, I connected the RCMP with Canada's railways. My 2013 Canada Day post includes links to each previous Canada Day post if you'd care to reminisce and wallow in Canadiana! This year's hommage features excerpts from George's book, loosely matched to some photos I've taken across Canada. Perhaps unconventionally, we travel west to east, like the return leg of Buster Keaton's journey in the 1965 NFB film The Railrodder!
From the steps of the BC Legislature in Victoria, 1980.
Through the ties grass was sprouting. The rain forest around the tracks stood thick and tall. We stopped at Nanaimo, climbed up to Wellington, and coasted down to Nanoose Bay. Then there were fields of cut forest, acres and acres of stumps and slash. "Used to be a lot of logs on this railway," the conductor said, standing in the doorway to the Dayliner's cab. "Not any more."
Vestibule View of VIA No 1 near Exshaw, AB.
I boarded the westbound transcontinental in Calgary. Today it arrived on time. We rolled over the bald foothills. The tracks followed the Bow River Valley into Banff and on to Lake Louise. As we rose, the river took on the milky-jade hue of glacial water. The mountain sun made the dome section an oven. By late afternoon all the seats had emptied. I moved to the dining car and sat by the window until there was no more light. We stopped at Golden, went through Calamity Tunnel, passed under snowsheds, and crossed narrow bridges high above alpine creeks. Little patches of snow clung to the mountainsides, but the trees were breaking into leaf. Green rushed into view at every turn.
Maple Creek, SK from the Park car of VIA No 1, 1985.
Maple Creek - the train was late. At four-thirty I boarded the coach. Through the black night I could make out a long barn by the tracks, in between the Pioneer and Saskatchewan Pool elevators. At Calgary, I changed trains and rode the Dayliner to Edmonton.  Isolated farmsteads, spring calves wobbling on the short glass, flat wheatlands, the sky divided into black and blue. We charged into the shadow, leaving the blue behind.
Carseland, AB United Grain Growers from VIA No 1.
The elevators did not dominate their landscape. Like lighthouses, they survived and performed a task, but any sense of control they conveyed was illusory. The elevators stood against the wind and rain and snow, separating man from nature while making an accommodation between the two. An announcement that the far-reaching emptiness was populated. I found as much visual pleasure in their simple lines and graceful proportions as inany hand-carved Quebec barn or gingerbread Ontario farmhouse.
CN Watrous, SK elevator track
Indian Head - on Grand Avenue, the Rainbow Cafe, the Chinese restaurant had a 1930s interior of dark red stools along a wooden diner counter and two rows of booths. Away from the buildings you could feel strong gusts of cooked air hurling bits of dust.The elevators defined any notion of height here. Everything else looked flat, the prairie and the town. Only the hotel and a couple of commercial buildings rose to three levels - most of Grand Avenue was one-story high and flat-roofed.
CP's Brandon, MB yard in 1984.
We passed Brandon, with its symmetrical yellow brick station and MCKENZIE SEEDS painted on a tall warehouse; the old stone station at Virden; and the tiny red frame station at Moosomin, all settlements created by the railway just over a hundred years before. At Moosomin, you could see the main street from where the train stopped. The grain elevator, the hotel, the government liquor store, the Lyric Theatre. At Broadview, the rigorously plain World Cafe stood across the road from the station.
Sunrise near Wolseley, SK from the window of VIA's Sherwood Manor, 1986
At the first sitting for dinner I was alone, one pair of eyes in a railway car crossing a limitless expanse of flat terrain. Occasionally some sign of life would tumble into the vacuum, a solitary farmer running a machine over his vast acreage, or a few ducks, or a lone grain elevator. Where there was grass, it was palpably green. We passed some spring calves scampering from the train. It was ten o'clock. The bush was higher and thicker. Between the trees and on the stubbled fields were occasional patches of snow. A few minutes later, a bull moose stared impassively at the train from a marshy window.
VIA 6923 leads an LRC consist through snowy Napanee, ON
Up to Quebec City I had taken the slow ride. Going back I booked a seat on the express, but it was a private journey. Food came to us at our seats, as on a plane. The new LRC cars ("light, rapid and comfortable" being the claim made for them) offered no public lounge areas. I watched the landscape pass. Winter was beginning to feel less like an inconvenience and more like a terrible Biblical prophecy. Last year's bleached corn stalks were visible, poking up out of the dead fields. Snow still lay in the furrows.
A quiet Windsor Station in Montreal, March 1992.
I went into the cavernous concourse of Windsor Station, largely empty now. The two brass clocks were still hanging from arched girders high over the floor, still keeping time. The schedule boards that once were changed by men with long sticks were gone. Remaining were the immoveables: the spearhead prongs in rows, crowning the black iron fence between the lobby and the platforms, through them you entered the infinitely mobile world of railwaydom. Above it all, the long translucent roof, giving an unusual, light-headed effect to a building otherwise preoccupied with iron and steel.
VIA No 10 heads south from Sudbury in October, 1985.
The Canadian was the last word in luxury train travel, and the eulogy too, though we did not know that at the time. The hand-tooled bar with two linoleum ducks depicted in flight and other interior surfaces merged fantasy and reality, an endless succession of mobile rooms with improbable floor plant, with pockets for hiding things and a panel of switches for the lights and the fan. The end of the train was for people who had enough money, the comfortably middle-class, or those who had saved for a holiday. I went down the narrow stairway from the dome section to the lounge, where people were reading the magazines in plastic folders.
Kouchibouguac Park's Bog Trail, New Brunswick
Two self-propelled cars from Moncton rolled in punctually and were disconnected. Eight people boarded the single car that was going on to Fredericton. Every passenger had at least two seats. Some had swivelled around the next pair of chairs to give themselves space for four. It was pleasant to be able to stretch and lounge. The Dayliners in the Maritimes had been crowdy and noisy. This one felt more like a limousine on rails than a mobile tavern. At Moncton I used my rail pass to board a bus to Cape Tormentine. There were no passenger trains on Prince Edward Island.
Our kids at the former CN station in Kensington, PEI in August, 2002.
We skirted the Bedford Basin and birds fluttered up as the train passed. I went back to the one of the Park cars as CPR used to call them. This had the name Evangeline Park. We continued on through more trees and snow to Amherst, with narrow frame houses painted pale colours, and  a red sandstone station, and then into New Brunswick. 
Picturesque Peggy's Cove, NS

I had seen from the train window in Nova Scotia - Maritimers often stopped on a rise by the tracks and watched the train roll by. Somewhere between Annapolis and Halifax we passed an old county couple standing by the line with their arms raised. They had the look of people who were not only acknowleding the daily train, but waving good-bye to an era.

In the past twenty years trains had been removed from the schedule in every part of Canada, branch lines ripped up ,stations closed and demolished. The remaining passenger routes were probably running out of time.

"Tell me," the permanent tourist said, wanting to continue, "what's the difference between CN and CP?" "CN is the government railway," I said. "Why don't you tell him the truth?" interjected a young VIA Rail employee, out of uniform and travelling for pleasure. "One is run by a bunch of bureaucrats, and the other by a bunch of shareholders and crooks."

You heard it everywhere in the country, "Eh?" It went together with the disconcerting habit many Canadians had acquired of turning assertions into questions. This verbal tic acted as a kind of insurance. You wanted to say something, but you did not want to face the odds of being challenged or denied. "Eh?" was a way of asking whether anyone of listening, perhaps not a surprising tactic of discourse in a country with one of the lowest population densities on Earth.
Happy Canada Day to Trackside Treasure readers everywhere.
 I hope you share my all-encompassing appreciation and affection for this country.
Canadianism - CF-101 at CFB Trenton air show, 1984.

Alberta's Jason Paul Sailer kindly shared his photos of a CP southbound at Wilson siding taken on June 21, 2015. CP SD40-2s 5865, 5989, 5876. Notice anything? All three are wearing CP small multimarks. Not being a 'diesel fanatic', I believe this to be a pretty rare occurrence. Thanks, Jason!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Morningstar Road moments

August 2002
CPR's dispatcher phone box stood trackside
for years
Contents conveying messages up and down 
for years

Now it is silent 
eerily empty
unhinged unforgotten
world-weary wooden

Weathered worn 
here, it still stands - a shell
where, what it once was - vital
there, if needed - when needed

In cinders and smoke 
and each new year, if only just.
Surrounded by now-new sumac, 
poplars winking in the day's late light

we, lucky enough to spend time here
qui vive
alert to its presence
 qui vive 

 we, standing together, transcribing trains
 roaring past
 it still stands trackside
for years
June 2015
February 2017

February 2017 with door

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

OVAR Presentation, June 2015

Back in January, I was contacted by the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders. The group hosts monthly dinner meetings (and as you may know, I think food and trains make a great combination). Peter Jackson's email included the following sentence: We get together for a dinner meeting monthly for camaraderie, good food and the exchange of information on all things railway. Sounded great! Rail enthusiast organizations require a constant source of guest speakers, but me? 
Needless to say, I accepted the gracious invitation. My presentation was a 90-slide, 200+ photo narrated show entitled Kingston Platform Scenes. It covered historic and current Kingston stations, railfanning at the current VIA station, my trip arrivals and departures, and the genesis of my books on VIA Rail - for instance, a CN hogger asking from the cab of an MLW FPA4 "Gettin' all yer train numbers down in yer little green book?" On the drive to Ottawa, a CP tie train was at Perth. Red CP 42824x and black 428145 were on the west end (above).
CP 428246 and less-graffiti'd 428284 were broadside to my side-of-the-road shoulder stop spot:
Can't tell the colour of this SOO gon - perhaps it was white or a Railgon. Hmmm. SOO 63537:
My first opportunity to see one of CP's crew transporters. It caught my eye as I originally rounded the bend. Both 'Canadian Pacific' and 'CP 420990' are gone.
Jimbo tie crane was riding CP 347399:
The end of the cut included CP 427073-346183 and a Brandt RoadRailer truck:
In case you wondered what the OVAR actually is, the banner says it all. Part-model, part-prototype. This was the third group I'd spoken to...the first was a prototype-based group in Toronto, the second a model group in Morrisburg. So it made sense this would be a hybrid group with wide interests.
Ottawa singin' modeller Mike Hamer was photographing the display cars during the social hour before dinner. The fellow at left is the catering boss at the St Anthony's Soccer Hall Italia, where the meeting is held and the bar is open. A nice venue tucked away in Little Italy hard by the Queensway.                  
One-half of the display cars. Each month, a theme is published in the OVAR's fine newsletter. the Interchange. This month was the McEwen cars and end-of-train. I brought a few modest additions at bottom: one of my Dad's Cataraqui Northern Strombecker cardboard-on-wood cabooses, my Manitoba Mining car No 10 'Louise', an undecalled LORAM rail grinding-train caboose, and a Delaware & Hudson wooden one.
I had to find Earl Roberts, one of the editors of the Bytown Railway Society Canadian Trackside Guide. Not surprisingly, he was at the Bytown table. Neighbour to uberVIAphile Jakob Mueller's mother-in-law and former Lachine resident, like me, it was a pleasure to meet Earl and chat amiably before the dinner bell rang. During the evening, I also had the chance to meet Mark Walton, Ian McCord and Ray Farand. A great group!
Being at the 'head table' we got to storm the buffet first, before each strategically-named table was called in turn. Hot and cold buffet. Huge 'wow' factor in my book. This is just part of the cold table:
Peter was a genial host. Knowing of my X2F xenophobia, he generously brought a pair of horn-hooks along, and more than one attendee mentioned my horn-hook history!
A room view, showing only some of the attendees. Seated at centre is Chris Lyon. My sincere thanks again to Peter and the organization for the hospitality, generosity and kindness! Also with me at the head table, Bud. As in Bud Wiser.
Then followed the post-dinner presentation by some trackside transient from Kingston. It went well - the PowerPoint cooperated and my Jeopardy clues at the end of the presentation led to some spirited answer shouting (sometime properly in the form of a question)  which Peter diplomatically quelled while distributing the 'prizes'.
There was some transit-watching the next day, as well as buffet lunch for two at Tucker's and a visit to the well-stocked Hobby House. Two words: book bargains! Buses articulated (above) and STO from across the river (below):

Roaring up Rideau, OC Transpo (above) and tourbus To Prince Edward Island, 1965 by Alex Colville (below):
3 Can Div PPCLI members march off, having been relieved as part of 2015 National Sentry Program Roto 3 at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, National War Memorial. Ottawa's Union Station broods in the background.

Running extra...

Speaking of travelling, in an upcoming episode of my fictitious but entirely possible (and probably a ratings bonanza for the otherwise Duggar-besieged network) TLC program Railfan Sisters, my sister travelled to Germany and sent an allgemeine selection of trackside photos. From top to bottom: IC Zug in Frankfurt, freight at Koblenz and platform view, Leipzig trainshed, model layout and steamer. Danke!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Later Life of CN 15767

CN 15767 was built in 1926 by the J G Brill Co of Philadelphia, as a 50-foot baggage-coach combination car (railcar combine trailer) for the Central Vermont, numbered 151. Used in branchline service, then sold to CN in 1941 and converted to a passenger-postal trailer, the car was assigned to various Atlantic Region oil-electric cars and given its present number. In 1957, overhauled at Montreal and transferred to CN's Central Region for service out of Lindsay then Hamilton, she was removed from service in 1959 and stored at Lindsay until purchased by the Lakeshore Model Railroaders in Toronto. The following four photos was recently posted on Ebay, and led to a brief online discussion about this car. This photo mount was stamped FEB 61, but unless that car had a good heater, it looks like summer wear on those ambitious seat-stripping model railroaders:
The next two mounts are stamped APR 63. Did somebody say directional smokejack?
Check out the now-retro Lakeshore Model Railroad Club sign hung on car end. Note trackside heating fuel tanks. Did somebody say strategically-placed stepbox?
This going-brown slide has been rescued from sliding into obscurity, revealing black & olive paint, and maple leaf heralds. Did somebody say soaring stovepipe?
John Brown kindly shared some of his experiences as a member of the Lakeshore club:

"Winter nights were cold in the old car until we added plywood around the sides, and of course someone would go in before the meeting and turn the propane heat on. I must admit I can't remember if it was an oil furnace or propane, but by the time 7 pm came the car was comfortable. Good times and fun were always there. We had three meetings a month in the car, always a Thursday I think. The first was a business meeting, the second was a clinic from members or guests, the third was a visit to a member's home to run their layout od to a local club in the Toronto area. the fourth was a movie night or slide night. I was editor of the monthly magazine that I printed on a Gestener machine. Looking back I now think that was the beginning of me being an author. LMRA never had a layout - the members always said a layout will cause the club to disperse.  And yes, once the rail car was gone the club moved to a basement and had a layout, and then the club started to fall apart. LMRA survived a couple of disagreement like all clubs, is still active and before COVID ran a flea market twice a year."

Jim Parker kindly shared two Bill Grandin photos of the car. One door has been covered:

CN 15767 was donated to the CRHA in 1978, when CN asked the club to vacate the car's on-track site at their Willowbrook yard. CN shipped the car to the Canadian Railway Historical Association museum at Delson by flat car, with its trucks on an accompanying car. Little did I know that I would photograph this car, not knowing what it represented, nor why and where it was travelling (top photo). On October 22, 1978 at 1632, an eastbound freight led by CN locomotives 9648-3225-1306 passed through Kingston, and I photographed it at Mi 182 Kingston Sub. It was marshalled just ahead of caboose 79585, and the adjacent gondola car may have contained its trucks. Interestingly, this is my one-and-only photo of a CN C-424!
Interestingly, on October 11, 1987 I found myself aboard 15767 at the Canadian Railway Museum at Delson (now known as Exporail at St-Constant, QC). She was suitably adorned with marker lamps and a backup air whistle.
At the time, she was being pushed around the museum loop by ex-Port of Montreal S-3 1002. The car still resides at Exporail, recently having its roof repaired.

Running extra...

I just flew in from Ottawa - boy, are my arms tired! Seriously (and I use the term "seriously" loosely) (heck, I use the term "loosely" loosely) I had a great time presenting "Kingston Platform Scenes" before a packed house at the June meeting of the Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders. Watch for an upcoming post. Four words: Hot and cold buffet! Yum.
While browsing through the Byward Market this morning, I was intrigued to find mounted poster-sized photos of Barack Obama buying souvenirs there during his visit in...2009. Can the Secret Service lend him 20 bucks? Yes, they can!