Monday, August 26, 2019

What's This? An Editorial?

Are you concerned about the future of blogging as a viable social medium? While entering Trackside Treasure's 12th year, I read this rather dismayed (but not defeated) post on Chris and Connie's Facebook page this week. Chris and Connie do a lot, see a lot, share a lot. They're committed. Their post is lightly-edited, with my thoughts at the end:

We're a touch worried...

We can't shake that feeling that this here Facebook page, and our HQ on the web, has run its course.

And it comes down to one reason really: engagement. It's fallen and continues to drop. We get scads of traffic between those two sites but in return the response tells us we've lost our audience. For example a recent week at had us greeting four thousand unique visitors, who on average read three separate articles (of the 1200+ there) and spent some ten to twelve minutes each browsing in total. That's 12k pages views and 666 person hours in those seven days. And from that came a single comment and one social share. And it's not like doing either is made difficult there. 

We operate these sites for fun (I don't how in some minds they think we make money off it – I wish) and with the hopes that other people will enjoy the experience too. But lately it's been the sound of crickets and of course that always present background noise from haters and the (fill in the blank) police. They always let us know they're around. If the positive vibes flow they can be drowned out though.

We really should be getting better results than we do. Not that we don't appreciate those who have been cheering us on and doing their part – we love you guys muchly. Please join them! We put a lot of time and resources – we're volunteers here people - to bring you these articles.

Plain and simple, if we're not hearing from you, via comments, here and especially at, by likes, shares or any other interactions the numbers tell us there's little reason to continue. Let's make this comparison...we're a band, a pretty good one too...exhausted but knowing we've done something great, the crowd gets up, turns and leaves without a sound. No ovation, no applause, no calls for an encore. Just deafening silence. That's the state of it. And it's been getting progressively worse for many, many months.

I also came across this post on Mike McNamara's interesting Northeast Kingdom blog. What I would normally call the 'death of a blog' admission (haven't posted here in a while) but notice the pivot to Facebook posting:

The illustrious Kingston Sub modeller Jason Shron also marked the pivot to Facebook:

Now, I've consistently stated that anything I do, online or in a book, is really for my own use and enjoyment. That sounds self-serving, and it is. But I'm not doing it then hiding it nor putting it up on a shelf in my office. I'm sharing it. If you or someone else gets something out of it, so much the better. But I catalogue my memories, some photos and observations this way. A quick glance at my Blogger statistics shows that my comments-per-post are pretty consistent: 0, 4, 2, 0, 3, etc. Can't really judge pageviews because of those weirdos in the Ukraine and India using my post to sell cars and shoes. Don't care.

Blogging is not the future. Facebook is not the future. Likes and shares is definitely not the future. Dollar signs are not the future. If engagement is the future, then engagement happens in a continuum. Years from now, I will send my Trackside Treasure posts to you in a single thought via some plasma channel or other StarWarsy hologram thingie. Whaaaa?

To help me with my quandary, I reached out to three fellow rail enthusiasts who are making excellent and varied use of social media: Dartmouth's Chris Mears plus Mark Perry and Steve Boyko, both in Winnipeg...

I asked fellow blogger Chris Mears about the blog/Facebook issue:
"I’m trying to create a balance. I get so excited by these things I like and the compulsion to share them can be hard to suppress, and I’m not sure it should be. I’d hate to think I was burdening my friends or a group with these outbursts so I created the blog and the Facebook page to act as outlets. I like the ease of posting content to Facebook from my cell phone and it feels like maintaining a sketch book of ideas. 

As the Prince Street Facebook page matures I think it plays well to exercise ideas that could mature into posts on the blog, which remains the heart of my creative output. In those two domains I have a place where I determine what is suitable content. As well, Facebook is becoming my primary cloud storage platform for my current railfanning photos. I’m willing to regard Facebook style of cost for that of other storage. The ease of Facebook seems to encourage it."

Winnipegger and TRAINS magazine contributor Mark Perry is posting almost daily to Facebook. What does he like about it?
"I pretty much only put my photos on FB, not much into writing magazine articles anymore nor do I want to post pics on sites like Flickr so that thieves like B**** can steal them. I like a story with every photo, and I try to shoot photos with a story behind every one of them.  Lets face it, I've had enough of 3/4 wedge grade crossing shots to last a life time. I like FB!"

Fellow blogger Steve Boyko puts it this way,
"My issue with FB is that we don't own the platform. FB controls everything, including if and when it decides to show our posts in feeds. I prefer to host the majority of my content on my own site where I control everything. If nobody comes, well, that's my fault for not writing something that people want to read, but at least I control that."

Sure Facebook and other social media are easier to post to. But they're not as 'permanent' or 'searchable' and that is really paying a compliment to blogs, which are known for being not all that searchable and who knows about permanent? We gravitate to what's easy. What's fast. It's tough investing time in a project if we feel no-one is giving us any return on our investment.

Not sitting here looking at charts and graphs of which of the social media are on the rise, and which are in decline. The next big thing for the young people? Myspace, facebook, blogs, email, portable cell phones, colour TV, talkie movies, sitting around the ol' Victrola? They come, they go, some stay.

While I enjoy the immediacy of Facebook, and the neat things I've learned and been part of there, I don't see myself gravitating that way for anything other than immediate things. I also don't see myself duplicating Trackside Treasure in Facebook form. But I do feel the pull of Facebook, and acknowledge that it's already pulled me away from Yahoogroups. Yet the strongest pull is the resiliency and depth that blogging offers me.

It's been said that writers desperately want to be heard. As a blogger, I'm a writer and photographer. I suppose photographers desperately want to be seen. I can do both these things on various social media. Blogging forces me to formalize, focus, format and forge posts that can be all about the past,  in the now, and updated in the future. [Ed. note - an effective editorial always concludes with a strong call to action. Cue the call to action!]

                                         It's time I stopped navel-gazing and get to work. 
To the ramparts! To the bookshelves! 
To the photo albums and notebooks! 
To seek, to strive, to share, to blog, and never stop!

Running extra...

Thanks to Chris, Connie, Mike, Mark, Steve and Chris Mears for their valued input and doing the work online, sharing what is nearest and dearest to them. Don't ever stop.

Congratulations to Winnipeg's Ian Lisakowski for being the first to note all five differences in Trackside Treasure's eleventh anniversary Lego Swap contest! The oft-coveted Trackside Treasure prize pack will be winging its way westward! Honourable mention to TLC's Railfan Sisters' Allison Gagnon for her studiously collaborative entry. Here are the substituted 'F-units' that were to be found! Good F-F-F-F-Fun!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Summertime at the Station, August 2019

Each summer, a free evening with concurrent comfortable conditions gives me an opportunity to grab a coffee and a baked good or two, and catch the evening's VIA action at the Kingston station. This summer was no different, so on July 31 and August 14 it was time to tiptoe trackside! Tims in hand (top photo - upon arrival before the first train), the first of four VIA's on July 31 was an eastbound non-stop No 646: 6418-3453-3343F-3341-3303R (F=Future wrap, R=Renaissance paint scheme, and soon L for Love/La Voie will join the nomenclature!). The first westbound arrived at 1903, basking in the golden-hour glow - VIA No 69: 907F-3460-3329F-3310R-3356F:
The next train was also westbound, 15 minutes later, putting VIA's new Love the Way/La Voie Qu'On Aime front and centre for this Corridor camera-bug!
1918 WB 906Love-4005-4109-4122-4120.
Loving this new way - work on the street that serves the station -  this view of new single access-point (under the bulldozer) that will form a loop from John Counter Boulevard (under the red Jeep), replacing the two current entrances: 
On August 14, the first of the evening's six VIA trains waits. And waits. VIA No 46 waits at station from 1837-1857. The consist is 918F-4009-4106-8117-4116. Soon, this red ball wrap of fortuitous fortiness will disappear in favour of the Love/La Voie lettering. But until then...
A large, system tie gang moved slowly up the CN Kingston Sub as it did last summer. Under CN Foreman Mike Miron, the gang comprised over 50 track machines and associated road vehicles, replacing ties on both tracks. At one time, single-tracked from Kings to Ernestown (over 25 miles!), the gang operated 24 hours a day with two shifts, but delayed VIA and CN trains that were waiting at interlockings at either end of the long work block. A hi-rail pickup stopped at three former CN intermodal trailers parked at the west end of the VIA station property to pick up bottled water and other supplies for the gang during my visit:
Tie gang ahead! VIA No 46 during its 20 minute wait at a red signal...
...which gave this stainless steel-seeking shutterbug more time than usual to leisurely lens some unusual images:
During VIA's nabbed nap time, CN westbound freight 377 steadily slogged by, led by CN 2943. Right on time, as part of Precision Scheduled Railroading, this mix of paper and chemical traffic included this ghostly image of somebody on a Huron Central boxcar door:
Mid-way through was Distributed Power Unit CN 3109, unusually tailed by 50 auto racks - fill tonnage:
VIA No 46 was finally able to deservingly descend the deciduous defillade out of Kingston:
The next eastbound also met a red-board. Normally non-stop, VIA No 646 was detentionally dinged for five minutes in Kingston: 1902-1907. The consist was led by another Forty/Future unit - 909F-3477-3366F-3345R-3312R:
The lighting was perfect and I don't think I'd ever get tired of this Forty/Future wrap. Although soon, I'm sure the future will be removed in favour of the Love. Love always wins. Heck, it makes the world go round! VIA 3366F:
Trying to get creative for the next one-unit, four-car consist, I zoomed 'through' the Princess Street overpass to get the next non-stop, VIA No 68 missing one ditchlight at 1920 - 914F-3471-3352F-3307F-3311R:
Forty minutes later, VIA No 69 continued westbound after stopping, at 1959 - 907F-3473-3329F-3310-3356F:
Darkness was drearily draping itself over the station swampland as VIA No 647 departed Kingston at 2009:  906L-4005-4129-4122-4121, ditchlights blazing!
I see a full moon a-risin'. I see love upon the way. (There, I paraphrased CCR beside the CNR!)
VIA No 54 slyly slid in under cover of darkness at 2040: 6454-3468-3316F-3332R-3340-3363R-911L.
With the above final lamppost-leaning lens work done, I departed with coffee cup and camera battery both drained. Summertime, and the living (and lensing) is easy!

Still basking in the afterglow of Trackside Treasure eleventh anniversary, stay tuned for anniversary contest winner results and an editorial, coming soon!

Running extra...

Standing Still - an intriguing series of articles on VIA's Canadian and its on-time performance, by the MJ students of the University of King's College School of Journalism, Halifax. You'll see references to fellow VIAphiles Chris Greenlaw and Tim Hayman (but also perpetual VIA critic Greg Gormick). Thanks to Trackside Treasure reader Bill Staiger for the link.

Also from Bill, (thanks again!) this LA Times article Return to the Older is about travelling on the Canadian in May. (At first I thought it said LATE times.) The writer is concerned about vegan vs. vegetarian and uses interesting vocabulary. Watch for CORUSCATING! But a good, representative article nonetheless.

If you like CN operations in the 1980's and later, check out Rymal Station in HO Scale. With five posts so far this year, this interesting blog makes Trackside Treasure's weekly posting schedule look absolutely frenetic! Though I don't see the blogger's name, I believe it's P. and Keith MacCauley from Hamilton. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Trackside Treasure's Eleventh Anniversary

The future is on board, and also online! The impact of the internet increases! Only a few years ago, Skip the Dishes meant TV dinners for supper. Amazon was still just a river in South America. Hashtags were how we labelled containers of hash. Without the internet, it's obvious that there would be no Trackside Treasure. But here we are, at Trackside Treasure's 11th anniversary! Woot!

This is exactly the 600th post that's been published here. There are a further 35 posts in Draft format, so Blogger tells me. I also have a 'Rolodex' of ideas that are not even that far advanced, but for which I have reference material. All a mix of retro/today, freight/passenger, CN/CP, prototype/model and a fair bit of miscellaneousness that defies categorization. Just the way I like it! To get an idea where my areas of interest and experience lie, look at the labels widget in my sidebar that I use to categorize most posts:
Fun Fact: According to my Blogger statistics, 25% of Google searches for Trackside Treasure are actually for Trackside Treasures!

I noticed that some bloggers have made excellent use of Facebook. Much more responsive and real-time, I realize that dialogue is much easier there than there historic and somewhat cumbersome 'Comment' communication mode of blogs. I have yet to take Trackside Treasure to Facebook - perhaps in future.

Blogging is the best way of cataloguing my interests, modelling and railfanning for future use, short of a straight-up webpage. If anyone else finds it remotely useful, that's gravy! Some recent difficulties with our ISP made it painfully obvious how much we now take the internet for granted, perhaps even more than when Trackside Treasure started. It has worked its way into our everyday life in a plethora of ways we don't even recognize anymore. But as this Jack and the Beanstalk effect weaves the internet into our corporate existence, it also guarantees the future of Trackside Treasure, rooted firmly in some anonymous Blogger server somewhere.

Each anniversary is my annual opportunity and obligation to thank my blog readers, contributors and commenters. Trackside Treasure reader and book contributor Randy O'Brien kindly created this celebratory graphic. Thanks, Randy!
I continue to enjoy the prolific and professional output of my fellow bloggers, whose blogs are featured in my sidebar: Edd, Steve, John, Dave, Chris, George, Bernard, Matthieu, Marc et Michael. It's great to be in the company of others who believe in the blogosphere.

A recent study of psalms revealed this paraphrase - loosely (and I use the term loosely, loosely!) based on the 23rd. Seemed to fit this auspicious auccasion:

A Blogger's Psalm

Blogging is my hobby, I shall not be bored.
It maketh me do research in far places;
It causeth me to correspond with odd people;
It keepeth my mind agile;
It leadeth me down paths of understanding for curiosity's sake.
Yea, though I live through a winter of inclement weather,
I will fear no boredom if my laptop and scanner are near me.
As I wallow in nostalgia, it comforts me.
Blogging provideth me a means of escaping the tensions of my responsibilities;
It filleth my desk with books and files.
My cash runneth lower.
Surely interest and knowledge shall follow me all the days of my life,
And my posts will live on in the blogsphere forever.

-adapted from A Philatelist's Psalm by Erma V. Berkley, as discovered by Steven McLachlan.

Time for Trackside Treasure's 11th anniversary contest. The first two correct responses received via email or via a comment on this post will win the coveted Trackside Treasure 11th Anniversary Prize Pack. Below are two images of Lego trains. I've substituted a number of locomotives in the second photo. Find them all and you win. Simply refer to the substitutions by row or location in photo, colour of locomotive or some other creative way of showing you found 'em! As always, click on photo for a larger image. Answers and winners to be announced in the 601st post! Some conditions apply. Enjoy!

(At this point, you may be asking yourself, "WTF - What the F-unit??")

Thanks for showing up, for reading, for participating,
and for being part of Trackside Treasure!

Friday, August 9, 2019

NAHX ex-Illinois Terminal Covered Hoppers

In the early 1990's, Illinois Terminal Pullman-Standard 4750-cu.ft.covered hoppers were transferred to North American Car Corporation ownership (now General Electric Railcar Services) and had their IT reporting marks painted out. Originally in the IT 2000-series, the patched reporting marks were NAHX 490xxx-series. Did this represent one of the earliest patched rolling stock schemes - a now common practice? Maybe so, because at the time they seemed pretty remarkable to me. The yellow patch extended one panel beyond IT's compact reporting marks. With only four digits in their car numbers, it's easy to see why four letters/six numbers just wouldn't fit!

IT prided itself on being "The Road of Personalized Service". Covered hoppers, boxcars and more received the eye-catching yellow scheme with the bright green lettering. Patched cars in two Tim Reid photos (NAHX 490327-  top and NAHX 4902xx on CP - below)
If you'd like to compare, here's a clean view of ITC 2142 (online auction site photo) showing that highlighted lettering and red underbody:
My observations at Kingston (below). Note that these would have patched reporting marks but included the full IT lettering. On current cars, I believe the other lettering has also been patched out.  Some cars have gone to KYLE with the same numbers. Sometimes ex-Milwaukee Road cars look similar. The key is the diagonal motto patch! Date and reporting marks:
Nov 9/91 NAHX 490325, 490326
Nov 10/91 NAHX 490331, 490251, 490216
Nov 12/91 NAHX 490264
Jul 21/92 NAHX 490275
Jan 21/98 NAHX 490229

March 31, 2021 UPDATE: NAHX 490206 with IT lettering visible through patch paint, likely lifted at Trenton's Agromart, on CN No 517 (image courtesy Railstream, LLC):

Athearn blue box kit with Herald King decals. In retrospect, the reporting marks patch is too big and the CDS Lettering was too thick. I'll also re-visit those red-painted trucks. Re-do pending!

Lots o' links:
Running extra...
Kingston's VIA station is getting a new entrance. As part of the John Counter Boulevard overpass project, this stretch of the street is being re-aligned. As a result, the cumbersome two-entrance access to the station is being revised to a single access road to JCB, lining up with the Purdy Mill apartment buildings opposite (above). 

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Erie 149th Street Harlem Station operation in New York City's Bronx. And, by the same blogger, all about New York City waterfront operations (scroll for main index at bottom). Good work, Philip M. Goldstein!

Just a few more sleeps and it's Trackside Treasure's eleventh anniversary! And the 600th post! What's 11 + 600 equal? A whole lot of anniversarial anticipation! Thanks for being along for the ride.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Walthers' Red Wing Milling Co. in HO Scale

Walther's Red Wing Milling Company kit was first released as a kit = a flour mill named for Red Wing, Minnesota. Waltbers adapted the kit to a Centennial Mills structural flat, and it's now sold as the Cornerstone series Flour Mill, retailing for $35-45. At 11x10x8 inches in HO scale, it's a compact kit that can be built as a flour mill or factory. But why stop there? Long intrigued by this kit, and still not the owner of one, I've saved many imaginative images showing how fellow modellers have adapted this kit to their layouts, using their own scratchbuilding skills and modelling chops. This post includes some of my favourites. The original, unassuming box that served as a portal for modellers to show so much creativity:
I did built a rather large model of Winnipeg's Five Roses flour mill in Winnipeg. That sprawling facility included 19th century elements with more modern ones and a neat curving track arrangement. This one can also be integrated with silos, other Red Wing kits....well, you get the idea. Read on to see how limitless the possibilities are. Interestingly, it appears many modellers don't use the kit's smokestack! Each photo (only one of which is mine - that of Bob Ascah's opened-up version) is captioned with the information made available by the modeller.
Two kits in one structure on this Conrail layout by Ken  McCurry
Eric Brooman's 'iconic' Utah Belt hosts one 
Grant's Grain
Ron Copher's Lake Erie & Southern - video capture - creative kitbash
Two from one for $23.99 - a bargain for Michael Walker
London & District Layout Tour
In France!
Tucker's Treats
A long one - Whyte Paper Co.
Contagiously fictitious GERN Industries
Des Moines Transfer Railway
Steve Mallery's PRR Buffalo Line
A long-john long-shot! Stanfields Woollens by Steve Vallis
Dick's Layout from Larry's Flickr 
BNSF Fall River Division
Bob Ascah's Lafarge backdrop - Kingston Rail-O-Rama 2018
Railview Historical Society - video capture from a Rapido Trains Inc. video
Another big one - on the waterfront - NOUPT layout
PJ's Train Shack weathering highlights the rarely-seen side of the kit
Nicely scenicked on the Bonavista Railroad
Saving the best until last - John Pacheco's imaginative use of brick exterior:

Running extra...

I've admired the ubiquity of the Red Wing Milling kit for awhile. I appreciate these modellers' tacet use of their modelling efforts in photo form. There's not a suitable application for a flour mill, even if I did obtain one of these kits at a trainshow, on my Kingston Hanley Spur HO layout. However, these is the Davis Tannery! Hmmmm....'
"He/she is speaking his/her truth." I hear this often on television. As in - someone making us believe their version of events, spoken no matter how earnestly, somehow explains their background and the contextual events surrounding their story. What ever happened to speaking THE truth? Doesn't that make everyone's version of events fit reality? Existential exigency!

It took a few days, but I finally photographed one of VIA's new 'Love the Way' word-wraps. Predictably, enthusiasts are divided on the aesthetics and relevance of any new paint scheme variation. I guess they're just speaking their truth! Though it is not very railroady at all, it is bold and modern. Here's VIA 906 at Kingston. The engineer's side features the French version: