Thursday, May 30, 2019

On Sabbatical

I learned something today...that 'sabbatical' dates back to the Old Testament book of Leviticus, and is derived from the Hebrew 'shmita', relating to agriculture, as told to Moses. More easily-apprehended defining bullet -points of knowledge:
  • An extended absence.
  • A field left fallow (this may be where The Fallowfield Effect came from?) 
  • Leaving the land in the seventh year and withdrawing from it.
  • Used in a sentence, "I'm taking a month off to get my shmita together!"
  • In modern usage, an absence in the career of an individual to fulfil a goal. 

Now, I'm not sure how one needs an absence when my new career is retirement! Doesn't matter. Trackside Treasure is about to enter its eleventh year. I'm not very good at math, but that's like, gotta be at least two years more than the seventh year. Did I mention I'm not very good at math? (I've learned there are three kinds of people in this world - those who can count, and those who can't.) It's time for a sabbatical.

Of course the next question is, how shall I sagely spend my sabbatical month? The correct answer would include one of the following:
  • travel, preferably to a mountaintop, preferably one that hosts momentous mountaintop moments, or yurt-ing with yellow-haired yaks on the Mongolian steppe
  • scholarly research, ideally in bibliotherapeutic Byzantine book-room, pierced by shafts of light illuminating the floating dust of a bygone era (note to self: sign up for creative writing course.)
  • deep reflection (I have a room full of mirrors where I sometimes go to just reflect)
  • immersing myself in nature in order to humbly absorb Mother Earth's intrinsic pulse, something like that. (My guess is sitting on the front porch, dozing with can of beer in hand, hat pulled down over eyes, something like that.) 
Now, time for some positive affirmations:
  • I will let you know how it turns out. You'll be the first to know.
  • I will recharge my batteries - if the acid has not all leached out of them. 
  • I will return on Canada Day, prolifically posting a prophetic post profiling this magnificent nation.
  • I will stop making positive affirmations. Now.

Legal Disclaimer:
Do not fear. This is not the end of my quiet corner of cyberspace, the alliteratively-named and somewhat catchy Trackside Treasure. To paraphrase Old Winnie, this is neither the beginning of the end, nor is it the end of the beginning. You will never hear me type the phrase (I type loudly!), "Haven't posted in awhile". You think it's easy keeping up to this torrid pace of posting once a week? Because it is! Will I be walking the median at a local intersection, sign in hand reading - lots of money, ample food, need ideas though - all while holding a thought bubble above my head? Well, no. Not legal in the state of Alaska. Professional driver on closed course. If interest in this blog lasts longer than one hour, see your doctor. Your mileage may vary. May result in the condition known as 'hot-dog fingers'.

(see above)
-Eric

Friday, May 24, 2019

CNA Port Hawkesbury boxcars

A series of boxcars for the Port Hawkesbury (Point Tupper), Nova Scotia paper mill entered service in 1998. Spiffy when new! CNA 406280-406499, were 220 6241 cubic-foot, 50-foot hi-cube single-door cars built by Trenton Works in 1998. These cars handled calendarized paper from the efficient mill to US printers. The cars were notable due to their unique 'Canadian/Canadien National' and reporting marks utilizing a rather large font, as well as a low, centred CN logo on the opposite end of the car:
GTW 406383 on CN No 369 September 19, 2015 (top photo) and a GTW 406434 with its CN logo and Canadian National lettering painted out, at Kingston on CN No 307 on June 17, 2002:
GTW 406418 is still running around with CN multimark and lettering. On CN No 376 at Belleville, ON on November 25, 2016:
GTW 406476 on CN No 376 at Kingston on Nov. 3, 2018:
My observations: Date, car number, CN train on. When noting observations, I note them as 'CNA Ports BO'. Between 2001 and 2006, the CNA reporting marks were patched-over with GTW, as they remain to this day:

First observation: Apr 3/98 CNA 406317 and three others Dest Port Hawkesbury NS No 308
Aug 1/98 CNA 406356 Dest. Port Hawkesbury NS No 368
Mar 19/99 CNA 406450 Dest. Port Hawkesbury NS No 308
Mar 27/99 CNA 406299 Dest. Port Hawkesbury NS No 308
Jun 24/99 CNA 406438-403349-406295-406470-406436 No 305
Jul 18/99 CNA 406349-406391 No 305
Apr 26/02 GTW 406417 No 308
Jun 17/02 GTW 406434 
Aug 30/02 GTW 406421-CNA 406446 No 307
Oct 1/02 CNA 406421-406448 No 307
Sep 6/03 GTW 406378 No 308
Nov 22/03 CNA 406347-406337
Nov 25/04 CNA 406351-GTW 406445 No 308
Mar 17/05 CNA 406421-GTW 406370 
May 22/06 CNA 406462-GTW 406398 (last non-GTW?)
Sep 9/06 GTW 406341 on No 369
May 8/07 GTW 406348
.....
May 24/15 GTW 406421 WB
Oct 21/15 GTW 406416 WB
Feb 2/17 GTW 406496 WB

Lots o' links:
Aerial photo of the paper plant. Note loading spur with boxcars:

Running extra...

Four of CN's business cars headed through Kingston on May 20 on a late-running CN No 120 and meeting CN No 305. Power car Pacific Spirit, dome American Spirit, entertainment car Tawaw and theatre car Sir Sandford Fleming. Thanks to Malcolm Peakman for the heads-up! Video captures:

Looks like Alejandro Aranda will continue making music his own way, with the opportunistic Laine Hardy taking the American Idol competition, unlike my previous prediction. A star-studded finale including Checotah, Oklahoma's own Carrie Underwood!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Springtime in Belleville, May 2019

If you like a cool, wet spring, well, this is the one for you! No matter, when there are trains to watch and time to kill, power windows and parking in the leeward direction are your best friends. Having paced this train all the way from Mi 178 Kingston Sub, then Mi 180, then Mi 184, it was only right to see it yet again as it approached Belleville Yard. BCOL 4653-CN 2572 are westbound at 0927 (top photo).
Lots of auto racks, but this one stood out: CMO 800057 Union Pacific Bi-Max. In the yard, HTTX 93863 with tarped LAVIII APC's for Saudi Arabia:
At 1005, VIA No 61 with two engines, 6424-6453 lead four LRC cars into Belleville:
These are video captures.
Flooded tracks north from Belleville yard, the former Campbellford Sub. to Corbyville. City of Belleville crews were working on a blocked culvert just to the west. The track goes only a little farther north:
After VIA headed west, I could hear the distinct, though faint, chug of GE's. I was not getting skunked, as happened on my last visit. To the Batvan! CP never seems to go particularly fast, and I knew no CN trains would be around, based on signal indications. Nothing to lose! Headed south on Mitchell Road: CP 9737 approaches eastward, leading 30 assorted cars at 1015...
...then it's intermodal, with 8945 mid-train DPU...
...fishing lures, tires, travel mugs and weedwhacker line...
...and things we don't see on CN intermodals...
 ...under the watchful eye of a foreman out of his hi-rail pickup for the inspection on the south side, and tail-end DPU 9668 plodding toward Smiths Falls:
Next up, back on The Other Railway was CN No 149 at 1040. Watch the video here
A very creative hostler produced this locomotive consist. CN 2113 with the 15th anniversary 'flaming unit' privatization logo - bleu-blanc-rouge BCOL 4608- and the double-oh-seven 8007. The latter has a cabside numbering job that only my limited modelling skills have heretofore produced:
CN eastbound intermodal with solo engine CN 2853 emerges from the yard at 1048 and meets the still-oncoming 149. Watch the video here.
...clothesline, motor oil, T-shirts and hockey pucks:
At a farm crossing near Shannonville Road, it's telephoto time. Looking east toward the CP crossing over CN. Interesting track profile, eh?
L-U-L-L at the farm crossing then VIA No 51 with engine 900 and six LRC cars at 1125. Watch the video here
Sampling some more video captures:
I'd seen this Signals & Communications building many times, just west of Belleville station, but for the life of me, I'd never noticed that retro Canadian National lettering thereon!
Some things do change in Belleville, though. I was surprised to find myself on this new road which bypasses the Stella-Jones creosoting plant and the former CN yard office/dispatching centre which has had many uses, including its current recycling usage. Not necessarily helpful for railfanning, as it seems to end in some of the new subdivisions in Belleville's north end.
Heading home, this eastbound rolled into the east end of Belleville yard (note taxi) for a crew change:

Running extra...
If you're watching American Idol, (Katy Perry was speechless) you may have enjoyed the musical talents of Alejandro Aranda and his original songs from his audition. Dude has guitar, piano and vocals in his musical quiver. For sheer woohoo content, Katharine McPhee's Black Horse has no rival. Both are standouts from Idol finales. Watch Sunday at 8 for the Alejandro Show.
On my HO scale Hanley Spur layout, this week I decided to replace my rock-cut surface with a proper limestone treatment. Read more about the process here. Also on my layout is CN 4530, an Athearn GP-9. This week I found a suitably grimy online auction site image of the same unit (below). Soon, a new MLW stablemate will join it on my Hanley Spur layout!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Travelling in VIA Business Class

VIA's Business Class is marketed as a step up from economy class. Boosting productivity and encouraging relaxation. There's at-seat meal and alcoholic beverage service,  access to Business Class lounges at larger stations with non-alcoholic hot and cold beverage choices and complimentary newspapers and magazines - perks for this extra-fare class of service. Not all Business Class passengers would appreciate the louder whistling that having the Business Class car directly behind the locomotive provides, but I do.

Having the opportunity to travel by Business Class between Kingston and Toronto on several occasions over the last few years, I've enjoyed the perks that this level of service offers. Especially with VIA's conversion of Business Class cars to 2+1 seating and refurbishing of the cars that began in late-2013. The change from 2+2 to 2+1 seating provided a roomier, more comfortable atmosphere.
Many passengers use the seat-tray tables for work (above - April 2018), laptop use or a convenient place to put their stuff (in my case, notepad, camera, railway-related reading material!) but VIA received feedback that the unhurried at-seat meal service was impinging on passengers' use of tables.  As a result, VIA reduced the numbers of steps in the meal service, thereby keeping the aisle clear of trolleys for more of the trip. On a couple of eastbound trips, I made note of the multiple steps in the meal service sequence.
In September 2014, aboard VIA No 48 (6413-3475-3332-3365-3336) I was in single-seat 5S of 3475 (seen newly-refurbished at Brockville in August, 2013 - above). At Oshawa, the drink cart finally reached me, having started at the back of the car. A cold Canadian was accompanied by a hot towel. The most popular alcoholic drink choice is always the Caesar! I did try this once and though it comes in a large plastic glass, like beer, I haven't tried it since. Previously larger and thicker and wrapped in a knotted plastic bag, the hot towel was smaller, thinner and in a tearable crinkly plastic pouch. Still a nice touch. Also provided was a small snack mix pouch.

Also previously, a crew member would have made a separate trip down the aisle with a tray of two different varieties of snack mix, often for waiting for indecisive passengers to try to choose one. This discriminatingly decisive passenger would simply take one of each - one for me and one for my wife, later. At Clarke, refuse from tray tables was collected. At Port Hope, meal service started from the front of the car. The meal choices were announced over the car's public address system. Previously, this was done by distributing several detailed paper copies of the menu, then noting passengers' choices on a notepad when tickets were collected. Now, most passengers don't hear the unusually inaudible bilingual choices, ask questions and are still indecisive. 

Some regular passengers with Preference Premier status have their choices guaranteed and have their meal choices taken early. Often, though not as often as before, meal choices evaporate by the time the cart reaches the middle of the car. Hope you like pasta! Choices are usually threefold: meat/fish/meatless. In September 2014, the beef was gone (always popular), with seafood brochette and pasta choices still remaining. Canadian red and white wine is served with dinner. Another round of wine and coffee was served at Trenton Junction. Previously, a cold appetizer was served with choice of bread. The appetizer and dessert all appeared on the tray together, again saving a trip down the aisle and compressing the service schedule significantly. Closer to Kingston, a digestif was offered - brandy, cognac or Irish cream were popular choices.

November 2015: In the absence of a warm fish dish (cold tuna just didn't cut it) the pork medallions, potatoes, vegetable and salad with white roll and maple bar, plus white wine was a close second!
In November 2016, also aboard VIA No 48 (916-3469-3304-3307-3369-3369-909) the consist was now 50/50. That is, a P42 at each end, and all the cars including 3469 in which I occupied seat 10S, bidirectional with almost all seats within a car facing centre. Ironically, this is the same seating pattern that the LRC coaches had been delivered with! Tickets (more accurately, passenger-printed emails with a QR code or simply a quick scan of the email displayed on a passenger's electronic device) were 'taken' upon departure. Bar service started at Guildwood, along with snacks. Pickering saw the distribution of warm towels. The entree/appetizer/dessert tray was served from the trolley at Port Hope. On this trip, the choices were beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes (the French announcement put it as 'puree de pommes de terre' which of course sounds much nicer than 'mashed potatoes', pan-fried cod with broccoli (not sure where the pan was kept or used) or lasagna with zucchini. 

More wine and coffee were offered east of Cobourg. At Trenton, a tray of pre-packaged chocolates of two varieties was brought around, and glasses of water offered at Belleville. Previously, the chocolates were not wrapped, arranged on a tray, allowing for yet more passenger indecision. If lucky, or passenger load being light, a trip back down the aisle rewarded lucky passengers with a second round of chocolates! The liqueur cart trip must have come east of Kingston this night. A votre sante - a bientot!

In April 2019, I revelled in one last Business Class junket. With the early morning-departure, late-evening return of VIA Nos 651/650, it's now possible to have breakfast in Business Class. Perhaps an omelette or breakfast wrap, cold cheese tray and that amazing Business Class coffee. The fish selection is also always amazing - a big portion and nicely-spiced. The olive bread is my pain-preference. My next Corridor travel will be in Economy, but I will gaze longingly through the vertical, slit-shaped LRC end-door toward the well-irrigated Business Class junketeers!

Running extra...

Just off the train and hot off the press - an enjoyable read here on Tim's Train Travels blog by Tim Hayman. I had the pleasure of meeting Tim in person in August 2017. He was headed west on a VIA trip and picked up his copy of Trackside with VIA - Research and Recollections.

Train orders, retirement, Kerrobert and the TH&B. Confused?

Cynthia Garneau is VIA's new CEO. Check out this farewell video from outgoing CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. Kingston platform at 3:00 and 3:38 marks in the video!
I've seen a lot of questionable military loads on model railways, but the Russian military had a really eclectic trophy train to publicize their Syrian campaign (above). CBC's Chris Brown filed an interesting news report on the whats, hows and whys of this interesting train.
This week's book purchases:
Sous-vide cookbook. (That's French for under-empty)*
Mini-pot cookbook. (That's legal now)*
Rather Outspoken - My Life in the News by Dan Rather
Dig WW2 - Rediscovering the Great Wartime Battles
*for the spousal bookshelf

Friday, May 3, 2019

Miscellaneous Slides 1969-1976

I hope you've enjoyed some of my Dad's slides from the early 1970's, such as Amherst View and Valois and Kingston. My brother Dave kindly scanned and shared boxes of these slides. Not all of the slides lend themselves to stand-alone posts. This post contains some miscellaneous slides, many from family vacations taken by L.C. Gagnon. Two examples: along a Cape Breton highway heading for the PEI ferry August 1971 (top photo) and switcher at Borden, PEI:
On an August 1970 trip to Ottawa, we stopped along the way, possibly Bells Corners per Jakob Mueller, and this CP switcher-led train of hoppers scuttled by:
Of course, vistas for viewing are much different now. This June 1969 view from Kingston's Hilltop Motel towards the Princess Street overpass over CN includes an eastbound passenger train. Jakob Mueller suggested that there's a 600-series stainless steel diner in the consist. This was a frequent home-away-from-home during trips to Kingston. Taylor-Kidd Boulevard now slices across these former farm fields:
A summer of 1972 visit to Toronto included a highway-side stop at CN's MacMillan Yard:
The number of railway-owned, forty-foot box cars is remarkable, as is at least one big dimensional load (above) and here's another string of forty-footers arriving at the yard. Compare with a current view here.
I'm likely thinking, "Gee, this would look great as an HO scale layout at home!" as I survey the yard from the shoulder of Highway 7. Compare with a current view here
During a CNR 6218 fantrip in Montreal on May 31, 1969, my siblings and I posed with vintage electric maintenance cars at Gohier, QC:

In Toronto, this photo of a CP switcher was taken during a summer 1971 visit, maybe near the Canadian National Exhibition grounds:
Back home, it's the spring of 1976 and my Dad turned his Instamatic to capture the Turbos at Kingston with an avid future blogger. Interestingly, on April 29 we observed VIA 125-153 westbound at 1043; on May 5 we observed 126-151 eastbound at 1007; but on May 8 we observed morning Turbos 125-153 and 126-151. Though no direction of travel was noted for the latter, I believe these photos were taken on May 8.
In CN colours (above) and fresh VIA/CN (below). VIA 125-153 was painted in VIA colours for publicity photos and entered service in early April, the same month it set a Kingston Sub speed record. Those same kids-on-bikes are on the platform in both photos!
The US Bicentennial date July 4, 1976 found us enjoying GMD-1's in the CN yard at Portage la Prairie, MB:
Newly-constructed CNWX aluminum grain cars:
At dusk on a September evening in 1976 , this westbound VIA passenger train arrives at Kingston:
Some photo editing brought the light levels up:
 Into the setting sun....blast-off!
Photographic technology has progressed considerably from the Instamatic era into in-camera digital photo editing and video capability. I'm glad we have these slide images taken by my Dad to enjoy, 40 years on.

Running extra...
In case you thought my Dad was a hard-core train photographer, you'll find many, many candid shots among these boxes of slides from the early 1970's. Flippin' the stacks of wax through the household intercom (above) and a future non-NHLer (below):