Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Kingston-Toronto Return Trip, January 2016

We arrived in Toronto a little early on January 22 aboard VIA No 651: 905-4003-4113-4119-4104. Getting permission from the VIA crew to grab a quick photo of the head-end, I made sure to grab a photo of Amtrak's head-end too - on the adjacent track!
At the same time, an eastbound Lakeshore West GO train was inbound, including Metrolinx-scheme bilevels. Oh, old baggage cart, if only you could speak...
Amtrak's Maple Leaf, train No 64 usually departs five minutes before VIA No 651 arrives. Since we arrived early, I had to time to grab a quick head-end photo before the train left on its way to arrival in The Big Apple at 2150. Engine, engine number 9:
VIA HEP2 meet Amtrak I:
A last, lingering look at the signal line-equipped, snow-covered rear door and marker lights showed that the Amtrak crew was aboard and departure was imminent. Gone in 60 seconds!
Since 651's passengers had hurried off the now-reversed escalator to the TTC subway, concourse, Starbucks or wherever, I had to go to the next exit, which was a good, old-fashioned staircase. Some artist's renderings were propped up against the tarnished trainshed supports. Like a translucent plastic takeout container held up by chopsticks:
In the Great Hall, the unfluttering flags were still as gossamer-shrouded glasswork:
Amtrak has departed and slid off the Departures board:
Afraid of heights?
 Street level at Dundas and University: Kit & Ace is technical performance clothing.
Clara Hughes and friends' mental health ALRV:
Not the Flatiron building, but close - the Gooderham building - Church Street at Wellington/Front Streets with the Cathedrals of Capitalism in the background:
I was good. I promised myself I would not photograph any of the 20 GO consists and 4 UP Express trains that entered or left the west end of Union Station between 1600 and 1700. But if a VIA or two entered the scene...VIA 913 is leaving as 915 stays behind:
VIA 913 departs westward as No 83 to London with a 50/50 seating consist: 3472-3464-3371-3304-3367-3305:
Then it was aboard VIA No 48 for return to Kingston: 920-4009-4108-4116-4111. Gotta post this before the next trip, marching ever closer in March! Four-hundredth Trackside Treasure post! Feeling sharp-eyed? Find two "400" 's in this post, email or comment to win a prize! 

Running extra...

Spring is on the way. Some are planning their gardens. Some are wishing the snow would melt. Some are planning the 2016 Front Porch Layout. Me! It involves a 14x28 box, a transfer plate/cassette, my plethoric panoply of two-bay cement hoppers and tons o'fun!

Thanks to brother Dave for scanning some vintage slides taken by my Dad. Transcontinental trip in 1968 began with...can you guess? Head-end photo - I'm the glum no-fun son!
Tonight on Jeopardy...two railway-related clues. Created in 1971, it took over from bankrupt railroads like Penn Central...? Amtrak. This ballistically-named Japanese train...? Bullet train. What is...a one-track mind?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Take a Number - 40 Years' Worth!

Take a number. Actually, take down a lot of numbers. Train numbers! In mid-February, 1976 at the tender age of 12, I started scribbling! Along with school friends Mark and Andrew, we formed an informal group called ACTWA - the Association of Concerned Trainwatchers of Amherstview, or something like that. CN's Kingston Sub was a few hundred feet north of our elementary school, giving us a great view of passing CN and VIA trains, during, before and after school hours. Many Saturday mornings found us 'up at the tracks' often before dawn, either on foot or on bikes. Part of my Grade 7 public speaking notes:
The following school composition was written by me on September 16, 1976: 
Today I have decided to talk about my hobby-profession of trainwatching. The usual equipment is: note pad, binoculars, pencil, radio, engineer's hat, jacket, books to read. Some favourite places are the new [1974] station, the Amherst View sports field, and Napanee. The procedure is:
  • wait for a train
  • if it is a freight, get 10-20 feet from the fence or track. As it comes by, take down engine, caboose numbers and write down types and railways of each car i.e. SF, CN, CP BO, UP HO translated as Santa Fe, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific boxcars, Union pacific covered hopper cars.
  • if it is a passenger train, at the station, stand beside engines, looking at various apparatus, and as the train rolls out, take numbers of locos, baggage, club cars and coaches. If it is anywhere else, get back 20-30 feet and get locomotives, club, baggage car numbers. For Dayliners or Turbos, get 10-20 feet from fence and take numbers.
I'm sure that this will always be my favourite hobby, and I will never lose interest in it.
Don't ask me why. I'm not sure what triggered this compulsion to record numbers. Besides a family interest in trains, plus sharing that interest with friends, I probably didn't realize it would become such an enduring pursuit! In the ensuing years, I was seldom without a notepad and pencil in a pocket, just in case. Even today, I usually have a pen and paper with me, or an even more convenient handheld cassette recorder. Notes from the first three hours spent trackside on February 20. 1976: VIA and CN trains, plus some interesting freight cars:

My Dad, as well as other family members, were often with me trackside, though my Dad would defer to me in number-taking. Part of my success was knowing where to look for the number, then looking for the next one in succession, and most of all, not looking down. Just keep looking up and writing. One thing I've realized in retrospect is the rigour and detail recorded by a tweenager is nowhere near the amount of detail I would record today. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

What to do with these numbers? It was apparent that a notebook (scribbler) would be a handy repository for my collected numbers. I glued Railroad News Photos and hand-lettered railroad logos on a handy notebook.

I divided pages into columns and reserving a page for each locomotive or equipment type:

My favourite section was "Interesting Cars". I developed a systematic order to transcribe railway names, reporting marks and individual numbers of cars that caught my eye: BO, HO, RE, GO, CO, AU, TA, BU, FL, CON, PQ (boxcars, covered hoppers, reefers, gondolas, hoppers, auto racks, tank cars, flat cars, containers and passenger equipment).
All this transcription required each page in the notebook to be dissected and each number sussed out onto a separate page. Seemed like a good idea at the time, and though I assigned an arbitrary number (P1, T1 etc.) to each train as a means of linking locomotives into consists, I more often went back to my original notepads for more context. It should not surprise you that I still have all the notepads and all the scribblers. February 19 was my Dad's 49th birthday, and it seems we spent some of it at the tracks. He snapped CN 5519-5524 heading this eastbound freight as I scribbled my first few numbers:
For the last two years of elementary school, I'd continue to spend spare time trackside, even in summertime, always collecting those numbers. I'd even tally and graph various locomotive types, to see which was most prevalent, plus recording hashmarks in a separate notebook to find THE most popular unit passing by me on the Kingston Sub! The first year of number-scribbling was duly summarized and archived in a typewritten format:
VIA blue & yellow was applied throughout 1976, and CN's GP40-2LW was new and growing. A good mix of MLW and GMDL units were still in use, and once in a great while I'd record a CP number or two while travelling. At the Amherstview sports field in the autumn of 1976, CN passenger paint prevailed on these two westbounds (below) but by December, a 60-degree, slanted yellow nose adorned an eastbound:
Trackside Treasure reader Randy O'Brien contributed this cornucopic graphic in which he nicely ties together with mitten string a photo, a notebook, and yours truly trackside on February 19, 1976. Can you find the three 'Trackside Treasure" in the graphic?
You would not believe the number of times I've heard or read the following sentence: "I rode/saw/photographed lots of trains but it never occurred to me to write any numbers down."

In an upcoming post, I'll describe where the number-writing led over the ensuing 40 years - from note books to creating my own books to new technology to ... even more numbers!

Running extra...

Speaking of trips and trains, here's a well-executed travel blog that combines a mix of interior shots, food shots, scenic shots, but not bar shots. Take a trip on the Canadian!

One of my favourite HO scale kits - Revell's Superior Bakery. Larry has a nice album of his build.

Paul Hunter has created a webpage for March 12/13's Kingston Rail O Rama train show.

This article covered one of my Dad's favourite Montreal-area operations: CP's St Henri switchback leading to Imperial Tobacco!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Trackside Leisure - Car Card Operation in Four Easy Steps

I've used a car card operation system on the last three iterations of my HO scale layout. I'll call it Trackside Leisure (rhymes with Trackside Treasure). Before you read further, I'd like to mention YMMV  (**Your Mileage May Vary - see disclaimer at end of this post). Bear with me, though. I really think you'll find this system can work for you. I'll describe the system as it follows a car through its four easy steps: From Interchange, to yard, to industries, lastly back to Interchange.
A little history - my first introduction to car card systems was through Frank Ellison and his excellent Delta Lines. In Model Railroader magazine articles, Frank stressed the importance of operation at a time when money model railroaders just wanted to 'run trains' . That meant in circles, repeatedly! Boringly unprototypical because it did not emulate the real purpose and function of prototype railways. But for them it was fun. For a while.
Frank assigned a card to each car. Across the top of the card were all the possible locations that car could visit on the layout. A clip was used to indicate this, moved along the top of the card to the next destination. I used this system for awhile. What if the clip came off the card? What if you had more locations than the little card would accommodate?
Then I got away from car cards. I used one sheet of paper on which all the locations were listed, and the cars in the main yard destined those locations were listed under each then crossed out when placed (above). I also kept journals of each train, with train number, locomotives, cars, lading, origins and destinations (below). Lots of writing!
Operation experience led me full circle - back to car cards. Though you may prefer the commercial car card systems with their layout-fascia pockets, turnable waybills, lamination and professional printing; none of that works for me. I simply demand too much flexibility and minimal preparation to get in the way of operation. In four easy, leisurely steps, here's what I do to make Trackside Leisure work well:
Each car has a card. I use Oxford from Staples. These are 4 x 6 index cards of various colours, available at business supply stores for about $5 per hundred. I write reporting marks at top right, blt date and car type if I think it'll help identify the car. To fully use the pack of cards, and make car cards easier to sort, I designate CN family cars Blue, CP family cars Red, and American/private cars green (above). I pulled the piles of cards out for illustration, but normally they are kept in a metal file box.
STEP 1 - FROM INTERCHANGE - I decide first where each car is going as it comes online. Let's follow GTW 101197- a coil car of steel heading to Coast Steel Fabrication in Vancouver's hinterland. This car is received in interchange from BN - symbolled 'BNX' (or CNX or CPX interchangeably for my other offline connections). I pull the card from the box and add it to a clip labelled 'From BNX'. I write 'Steel - Coast' on the card in the next open line, to indicate lading and destination - Coast Steel Fabricators. I can usually fit three columns of destinations on each card.
STEP 2 - TO YARD - As a cut of cars moves from interchange to my main yard which represents CP's 'N' yard on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, these cars' cards go on to a clip labelled YARD. See? Trackside Leisure is really easy.
STEP 3 - TO INDUSTRIES - I run my industrial switching jobs in rotation. I peek at another clip labelled INDUSTRIES and whichever switching area's cards are at the front means that is the area getting switched next. From the YARD clip I pull out whichever cars' cards are going to that area's industries. In this case, it's Coast Steel, Permacon Concrete and Interline Forwarders. Pulling these cars from the yard, the train is assembled and the industries are switched. GTW 101197 is spotted and its card and those of the other cars spotted now go to the back of the INDUSTRIES clip, from which I grab the cards of the cars that I've pulled.
STEP 4 - TO INTERCHANGE OR OTHER INDUSTRIES - I now decide where the cars I lifted from the industries are going next. To interchange? I write the lading and 'BNX' on the card. To another online industry for backhaul loading? I might write 'Dominion Bridge - To Load'. Then the cards go in the TO BNX or back to the YARD clip for further online spotting, respectively.
Once the cars are finally interchanged offline, I place them back in the card box for filing and their next trip.
Sometimes I'm tempted to keep cycling only cars that I really like on to the layout.  To prevent this, I keep the cards for filing upright and unfiled, at the front of the box. I make a point of going through the box and pulling out some cars' cards that haven't been online in awhile before re-filing the cars' cards that have recently gone offline. I hang the clips of cards on cup hooks on my transformer trolley where I can easily grab them.

Some advantages of Trackside Leisure:
  • it's free
  • it's gets you using your imagination. What sort of loads does my industry receive/ship? Just what are these cars doing on my layout anyway?
  • it's been tested over time, in fact over three iterations of my current layout spanning several years
  • a freight car need not cycle repeatedly to a single industry, as is the case with some commercial car card systems
  • a newly-acquired car requires minimal documentation before coming online for the first time
  • there is a minimum of setup - when a car comes online, spend a moment to decide then write where it's going and if you like, what it's carrying
  • you have a permanent record on each card showing where the car has been
  • write in pencil - it's easy to change your mind! 
  • each card will last as long, or longer, than the car!
  • it's scaleable. Instead of YARD and INDUSTRIES, a larger layout could include clips of cards at various locations around the layout
  • like any car card operation system, there is the issue of visually matching a card to a car, especially if unfamiliar with the layout. Printed photos attached to each card could help make this easier.
  • there is less set-up and tear-down before and after operation than other car card systems
  • by placing most recently-placed cars at the back of each clip, the system cycles itself
  • a larger layout with unit trains or blocks of cars could be kept clipped together, or multiple car numbers written on one of the cards only.
My system is based on lots of reading on other modeller's favourite operating systems!

**YMMV - Trackside Leisure may not work for you if:
  • Your layout's too large. 
  • You like a paper list of each operating sessions. 
  • You want to spend more money (!)
  • You want to make things really, really complex. 
  • You like keeping operating sessions stressful, with lots of set-up and take-down time
  • You don't want to use your imagination that much.
  • You'd rather just run trains round and round without considering the enjoyable aspects of realistic operation!
Running extra...

Amtrak remembers the LRC/ je me souviens LRC.

Trackside Treasure reader Malcolm Peakman was out at 0815 hrs on Sunday, February 7 to photograph CN No 371 with ex-IC 6100 in the locomotive consist. Here's a more mundane photo - paper cars on the Grand Trunk bridges on Little Creek Road east of Napanee, ON. Malcolm liked the light, which I do as well, but I really liked the mundane nature of this photo.
Approaching my 40th anniversary of scrawling numbers trackside just over a week away! 
Watch for a masthead change soon!
Welcome aboard Trackside Treasure - 
Trips, Trains and 40 Years Trackside with Canadian Railways. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cars on CN No 376, January 22, 2016

CN No 376 travels between Toronto and Riviere des Prairies, QC on a daily basis. This train is predominantly covered hoppers and tank cars, heading to the chemical hinterland of Montreal with its precariously precious petroleum-based products. Though I christened 2015 The Year of Photographing the Mundane, I'm considering using similar nomenclature for 2016. How does The Year of Photographing the Blisteringly Mundane sound? If this is to be, I've got the perfect subject to lead it off. CN No 376.
It's so mundane that I pulled abeam along Bath Road having missed the power (CN 2889-2873 according to the RTC - thanks, Malcolm!) and indeed the entire first half of the train. Training (no pun intended) my camera on the consist, I was able to photograph the least mundane of the grossly mundane consist. Usually, if I was taking notes - I wasn't even doing that due to the extremely high degree of mundaneness that this train presented - I would simply note these cars as "MOSTLY HO/TA" not even worthy of recording specific reporting marks. But look! A cut of PROCOR propane tank cars reveal three consecutive cars (top three photos): PROX 93642-93641-93640. What are the chances these fairly new cars would stick together? Apparently chances are pretty good!
Next up - two UN1294 Toluene tank cars. And lo and behold (no pun intended - LO is the AAR car type for covered hoppers, though I record it as the more intuitive HO) two more consecutively-numbered cars - TILX 280659-280660. Toluene is highly flammable stuff that we use as a clearing agent when processing human tissue samples!
NATX 280072 is also a toluene-totaller:
 as is the tagged GATX 202107:
Another precinct heard from - the conical, cornucopial constituency of covered hoppers. GACX 011429:
 And two views of PLCX 44184. Wondering if these are plastic pellet cars...
You can decide which angle you like better - the pole-positioned broadside (above - wouldn't touch that one with a ten-foot pole) or the going-away shot:
 Some covered hoppers have their reporting marks outlined, such as UTCX 52321:
And last but not least mundane is GATX 59656 in the regular block of what I term 'red-square' tank cars:

Running extra...

Yet another precinct heard from - the head-end. Facebook friend Curtis Umbelina is the Prince of Pan, the Potentate of Pan-Frying, the Baron of Blur, the Sultan of Speed. And he caught CP 8645 with a friendly conductor screaming along CP's Galt Sub on Goundhog Day. Thanks, Curtis!
Kevin Klettke's Washington Northern is a proto-freelanced Pacific Northwest spare-room layout that packs a ton of operation and a tonne of prototype reality into a modest space. The graphics of the industries on the line are worth seeing! Makes me want to model seawater on my Vancouver Wharves layout!

Best of Brockville - watch for an upcoming post on the splitting of VIA trains in The City of the Thousand Islands! Thanks to Malcolm for this link - didn't see this train but did see a westbound VIA train No 63 the same day, a couple of hours later at Kingston. Ironically, I observed VIA 6542 in 1978 and 1980, but not at all in 1979!