Saturday, March 14, 2020

Reflections on Railway Reading during a Pandemic

This particular post comes at an interesting juncture, junction and juxtaposition of several things:

  • Spare time - six Saturdays and a Sunday every week as I learn to live without work
  • Cabin in the woods - YES. Not the same Cabin for Two that VIA gave us last year.
  • Covid in the woods - NOT. World events and newscasts, but this was not self-isolation.
  • Books - Steve Boyko's By the Book Railfan Edition post certainly brought into focus my bibliophilic byline.
I was not able to emulate Steve's post for various reasons, not the least of which the fact that I don't read a lot of books. This was a problem in school - my attention span meant that I read lots of magazines, history, newspapers and looked at a lot of the pictures. When we had a read-a-thon, it was not my cup of tea. Scholastic book sales helped a little. (Say, I did finish two books last week...I got 'em both coloured!) Our daughter and fiance (or is that fiancee, who can remember, and I'm not even attempting to find the accent key on this keyboard?) kindly sent us packing. To the cabin that they had previously enjoyed earlier in the winter. Everyone needs a break sometime!

I quickly gravitated to a comfortable, pillow-laden recliner mere inches away from the woodstove, with sidetable, lamp, and coaster, with a lapful of Nepal-made Yeti sweaters for extra padding. My wife was mere metres away. Spending a few days at the cabin, I grossly underestimated how much I could read. I have a plethora of books on the reading pile at home, plus train show-find magazines. That's why I'm blogging this right now! I didn't bring nearly enough of them. There were no interruptions, phone calls of the telemarketing or family variety, TV, errands or shopping. And with time to relax, plus occasional walks outside the cabin to watch the transition from winter to spring, my wristwatch was useless. View from the west, and from another century:

Ah, but the time to relax with a beverage and read. In this case, John R. Hardy's excellent trip accounts in Canadian Rail Travel - a Photographic record of passenger train journeys 1964-1991. A grossly under-represented and seldom referred-to book that is very much in the vein of my trip accounts in my Trackside with VIA: Research and Recollections. It was quite purposely the first book thrown into the go-bag. Coffee-coddling the Corridor as the cup got drained:
All the while, my wife was whiling away the day jigsaw-puzzling or card-making, as VIAsions of Hardy's trip photography danced in my head. Snow-bound Sudbury scintillated:
With Hardy's book fully digested, all those trips from various far-flung facets of Canadian railroading made and enjoyed, it was Kalmbach's turn. I think Classic Trains may be my National Geographic of railway magazines. Too good to throw out, but sometimes too engrossing to read. Shaughnessy's snapshots siren-called me back to an earlier century. Taken on a different day, a beverage still beckoned, the flames still flitted and the overcast still overcompensated:
Sunset, as the settlers might have seen it:
Switching to stronger stuff, both publisher and pub-wise. Now it was the turn of White River and Steam Whistle, respectively. While Railfan & Railroad keeps the quality high, I miss the revolutionary approach that the magazine initially took to The Magazine of Railroading. This was by fans, for fans. I guess I'm still a fan.
Moving to the breakfast nook and its view of the shed, I shed decades reading about Burlington Northern's neat renumbering of its inherited Alcos. One of my favourite roads, and outside the window, one of the least busy roads. Where garbage day is still an event!
Now, some placidly pastoral non-VIA vistas:

Running extra COVID-19 Edition...

I never dreamed that my initiative to Model & Railfan Local in 2020 would come up against a worldwide pandemic. My choice was prescient and pre-science. Our worlds of business, travel, collaboration and globalism have led us to a place where getting away nominally means getting more. Local is not less, nonetheless. Initiatives in food, shopping and tourism have enticed us to stay where we are, and to appreciate what is nearby. 

I never could have predicted that one tasty meal of bat or pangolin, consumed halfway across the globe would result in my local train show being cancelled today. How did one person's gastronomic choices (talk about eating local!) result in thousand of deaths and cruise ships bobbing like corks in the surging sea of uncertainty.  Did my choice of dark meat quarter-chicken dinner over white meat, at Swiss Chalet, ever endanger thousands in Thailand, hordes of hungry Hungarians or immunocomromised Indonesians? Surely not. 
I would not have believed that toilet paper would rise in value while oil fell. Stock indexes slipped as canned goods were piled in pantries. Aren't Canadians industrious and pragmatic, like our national symbol, the beaver? Yet we don't have two sheets of Cottonelle to rub together, nor two cans of baked beans in our larder? Costco was the cure we sought? Surely there is hope in our future, but for now, let's close with a haiku...

Toilet tissue
Shelves wiped clean
While ventilators keep vigil, breathing labours
Doctors and nurses
Toil tonight


Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Eric
I had such a laugh at reading your blog. You have gift my friend. The jolt to reality at the end with the haiku was very sobering. Thank you!!

Eric said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Bryan. Such a range of emotions and reactions around the world right now. We will all have time to think and reflect. What is life, why do we do what we do, and why do we value certain things. At least, that's my train of thought.

Thanks for your comment,