Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Silence of the Memes


I am a late adopter of several social media and technologies. Blogging for one. Meme-ing for two. Facebook, third. Memes have been called the highest form of sarcasm. Many people do not appreciate sarcasm.  Oh, sure they don't. Such people do not believe in that old adage about a skin as thick as seven elephants. Or they don't have my sense of humour. Nobody does, that's why it's mine. Anyway, to make a long story longer, in the wake of recent, inevitable online drama about meme-ing, so welcome to the retirement party for this cornucopia of captioned capsules. Let's ruminate on this spiralling helix of model railroad memes. It always was hard to gauge their impact!

I'll let them proceed largely unannounced. They speak for themselves. They will never be seen again*. 

Discarded runner-up titles for this post: 
  • A Meme Too Far
  • The Meme On the River Why
  • The Memes of Mad Is On County
  • One Flew Over the Memer's Best
  • You, Meme and Dupree
  • Monty Python's the Meme-ing of Life
  • Meme Me in St. Louis
  • Meme Kampf

I have a box-of-chocolates approach to Rapido. Sometimes soft-centred and sometimes hard-centred. The above two memes pertain to modellers' constant conjuring of conspiracy theories, and getting rid of Athearns and Inter-Mountains when Rapido announces their version of already-produced locomotives and rolling stock. This one (below) was a tribute to Jason Shron weighing down recently-laid track with a complete socket set!

Thanks for wallowing in nostalgia with me as we mourn these moderately-memorable memes, these dearly-departed diagrams, these indelibly-insolent infographics.

Running extra...

Peaceful transfer of publications! Thanks to everyone who has picked up a copy of my latest book. Fifty copies flew out the door in just over a week. There are lots of folks interested in the waterfront scene of the Limestone City. They live in places like Calgary and Kitchener, Toronto and Victoria! COVID-friendly mail delivery and occasional local front-step mailbox-pickups have spread only enthusiasm (the only thing about us that should be infectious - well, besides our laughs).

Peaceful transfer of power! This does not mean plugging in an extension cord. It means the sharing of the mantle of responsibility for a people in a free and democratic fashion. It's not about recounts, lawsuits and me-first. The new administration has been biding its time but patience has trumped unreasonableness. No longer the Divided States of America. We toast your success with undiluted beer!

Peaceful Transfer of Manhattan! Never have high-hat and crash worked together to provide such cymbalism! Divine instrumentalvention!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

VIA's Lake-Series Club Lounge Buffet Cars

Great Slave Lake, Caribou, Muskoka, Ontario, Lake Couchiching and Lake Makamik (later VIA 573-578, respectively) were built by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1930 for CN, half of a 12-car order of 400-series Bay-class solarium-lounge-buffet cars. They were 78 feet long, weighed 88 tons, with clerestory roofs and six-wheel trucks. They featured a 36-seat lounge seating area, barber shop, small buffet section and restrooms.  The cars were placed in service between Jasper and Prince Rupert.

In 1935, the cars were rebuilt as parlour cars with a seating area for 26 (only 22 for Athabaska and Caribou), a nine-seat smoking parlour (buffet for Athabaska and Caribou), and restrooms, (and one compartment for Lake Couchiching and Lake Makamik). Air conditioning was added in 1936. They were renamed from Bays to Lakes, and renumbered into the 500-series (see renumbering scheme below), seeing service in central Canada. 

During one of these rebuildings, the roofline was altered. The clerestory roof was covered in, resulting in the cars' extra-high roofline - a spotting feature. Rejecting the traditional parlour car two-row rotating seat tradition, in 1966, CN installed two-and-one seating, now club cars with 45 two-and-one seats and a liquor-dispensing area beneath modern drop ceilings. CN placed these 'new' club cars in Corridor (and Rapido) service upon outshopping. The cars were still listed as 'club' in CN passenger car inventory listings in 1971 and 1974, though CN apparently downgraded the cars to coach service around this time, keeping their two-and-one set-up. For the first time in their careers, these cars were saleable revenue seating, not just providing service or recreation.

On the eve of VIA in 1975, the cars were once again reconfigured as club lounge buffet cars, with seating for 27 and installation of lounge space for 19.

  • CN 400 Buckley Bay; 573 Great Slave Lake*; 4891.
  • CN 401 Burlington Bay; 574 Caribou; 4890.
  • CN 404 Cardigan Bay; 575 Muskoka; 4892.
  • CN 405 English Bay; 576 Ontario; 4894.
  • CN 406 Georgian Bay; 577 Lake Couchiching; 4893.
  • CN 407 Glace Bay; 578 Lake Makamik; 4895.
*Interestingly, 573 was originally named Athabaska, renamed Great Slave Lake so as not to conflict with Sceneramic full-length dome car 'Athabasca', acquired from the Milwaukee Road in 1964.


The cars saw VIA service in the Corridor east of Toronto from at least May 1976 to September 1978, often coupled to a Club car. Caribou is at Toronto in 1977 (above - online auction site photo.) All of them were repainted into VIA blue & yellow between mid-1977 and mid-1978. In 1977, Lake Makamik was on the train to Churchill, as well as No 2 at Winnipeg. Brian Schuff reported that Lake Makamik replaced a Sceneramic on VIA No 4 at Edmonton to Toronto, in July 1979! The cars were used in southwestern Ontario from 1979 to 1982, and occasionally east of Toronto as well, such as the 1979-1980 Christmas rush. During this second period of use east of Toronto, in 1980-81, the cars appeared in the middle of the consist as overflow seating.  Imagine boarding one of these in VIA Corridor service and finding yourself in what was essentially a club car at coach prices! Muskoka was on CN No 133 ex Montreal in August, 1980! They really got around.


In 1982, the cars' interiors were reconfigured to 62 coach seats and renumbered into the VIA 489x-series. The cool reason for rebuilding these cars, entering their sixth decade, was their electro-mechanical air conditioning. Newer coaches were being retired at the same time due to their outdated ice-activated systems, while these classics rolled on!

On June 10, 1982 I observed 4891 and 4892 on CN's East Yard coach yard tracks in Winnipeg. Two months earlier, a consist shared by Gary Hadfield shows 4890 and 4893 deadheading ahead of the baggage car to Winnipeg on No 1. On October 15, 1983 VIA 4890, 4891 and 4892 were in the consist of a special trip sponsored by the High Level (AB) Chamber of Commerce! Interestingly, I rode a train with one of them in the consist - on Monday, March 5/84, on VIA No 651 from Kingston to Toronto. The conventional consist was VIA 6787-5652 (my car)-3220-4894! 

These survivors operated with two 6300’s and a baggage car on the summer-months Campers Special from Winnipeg to Farlane, Ontario in summer 1984 such as VIA 4895 at Winnipeg (photo above via Mark Perry). Winnipegers reaching rail-only access points - summer cabins on relaxing lakeside weekends. In winter months, the cars returned to Montreal for overflow service to northern Quebec service to Senneterre and Chicoutimi. In Winnipeg, I observed 4891, 4892 and 4895 at East Yard on June 6, 1986. The survivors again travelled east, in use on Corridor trains in southwestern Ontario in 1986. With more LRC coaches reliably supplying Corridor trains, 1950's-era coaches could now shift to remote services. These moves meant that these 1930's cars were no longer needed by VIA.

STORAGE and SALE 1987 and later

Placed in storage, then retired in March, 1987 four of the coaches - 4891, 4892, 4893 and 4895 - were stored in Winnipeg (top photo by David J. Gagnon - June 1987 at East Yard). Thence moved from storage in Winnipeg  to storage in Ottawa in mid-1988, remaining there into 1989. Already in storage at VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre were 4890 and 4894. In mid-1990 the cars were sold to Drumhead Publishing and moved to Cedars, Quebec where they remained in storage until at least 1997, and where at least one, 4891 was scrapped in October, 2000. In 2001, 4893 made its way to Kamloops, BC! 

  • GREAT SLAVE LAKE: One sighting on the train to Churchill, observed at Portage la Prairie, MB on July 3, 1976; 30 Corridor sightings (all at Kingston, March 1977 - August 1980); and one at Toronto Union Station on August 22, 1981.
  • CARIBOU: 22 Corridor sightings (March, 1980 - December 30/80); one sighting on a 15-car VIA No 72 at Bayview Junction on June 22, 1981; and one sighting at Toronto Union Station with a coach yard switcher on August 22, 1981.
  • MUSKOKA: 25 Corridor sightings (December 24/76 - January, 1980, plus one on June 14, 1981); one sighting at Bayview Junction on June 22, 1981.
  • ONTARIO: 18 Corridor sightings (May 1977 - July 1980, plus one on October 24, 1981).
  • LAKE COUCHICHING: 10 Corridor sightings (August 1976 - December 1979, plus one on August 5, 1981).
  • LAKE MAKAMIK: 11 Corridor sightings (May 1976 - July 1980, plus one on February 15, 1981).
VIA 4892 on VIA train No 73 captioned April 6, 1986 (Online auction site photo):

Here's an obverse side view for modellers, since all photos in this post showed the same side! Redneck-scan of a Morning Sun Books image:

 Running extra...

The John Counter Boulevard overpass is open. The first vehicles to cross were a bicycle and a Kingston Express bus. Like the Division Street overpass, since the existing alignment was left in place during overpass construction, the overpass is slightly curved. No matter - there is a sidewalk on the station side and a bikelane on the east side. I'll get over there one of these days to try out Kingston's newest railfan 'platform'.
I recently, self-aggrandizingaciousmittentively changed my social media handle to 'Renaissance Man in Retirement'. But I have nothing on Steve Martin's rebirth: movies, plays, novel, stand-up comedy, banjo virtuosity, half-century career, short stories, tweets, Broadway musical, and now co-creating a book of cartoons 'A Wealth of Pigeons - a Cartoon Collection'. Steve said the book was a question of proving himself to himself. Steve Martin for President!

Electile dysfunction continues to our south. I remember a CBS 60 Minutes episode some years ago profiling the inauguration celebrations. As the Armed Forces parade was rehearsed, a military officer, in charge of this part of the peaceful transfer of power, being interviewed became rather emotional when his pride showed through his bravado. It IS remarkable. This is NOT some tin-pot dictatorship. This MUST happen as it always has.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Smoke on the Waterfront - My New Book!

When my Dad and my siblings posed so placidly on CPR 1095 in August of Canada's Centennial year, a vacation trip to Kingston was something novel. This 1913 product of Kingston's own Canadian Locomotive Company rose from the erecting shop floor a mere few hundred feet to the west of the stuffed-and-mounted montage it presented to these pre-teen poseurs (top photo by Marjorie Gagnon, slide scanned by David J. Gagnon). 

* * *  READY TO ORDER? Click here to go to my Smoke on the Waterfront blog  * * * 

Our feet were firmly planted in two worlds: one Tennyson, the other Ten-wheeler. Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved Earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. Books were all around us. When our home moved from Montreal to Kingston, trips to Montreal were now the vacation trips. My train-watching here was decidedly main line. The east side of town, the gritty parts of this new city, the fading factories and withering waterfront escaped my attention. Until now.

Spruced-up if not steamed-up. I have progressed providentiality into adulthood 53 years after that top photo. I can still pose with 'The Spirit of John A', while those commemorative hand-painted letters still grace her tender flanks. Refurbished by the city, she remains, made weak by time and fate, but with a seemingly strong will to survive, I now pose near her pilot for my wife, now the photographer. I have transformed treasured archival photos and turns of text into my seventh book: Smoke on the Waterfront - The Trains, Ships and Industries of Kingston Harbour:
Conceived as modelling research, she has been birthed as a deep dive into the story of the berths, smoke-belching beasts and fire-breathing forges that led two miles from Kingston's kiss of Lake Ontario to the mainlines. You can find more information on this limestone-laced literary launch here:

Click here to visit my new Smoke on the Waterfront blog

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Elmer N. Ogden, Engineer 51, Belleville

Within a month of my lifelong journey documenting my trackside observations that began in February, 1976 I found myself at Kingston's new station on Saturday, March 27, 1976. One of the first times we'd gone there just to trainwatch. In later VIA years when a train would stop at Kingston, we would spend our time up around the head-end, after seeing the train come in and stop. In this way, we got to see the train 'all over again' as it departed. On the north platform, this put us immediately adjacent to the power. Most engineers remained in the cab with either a wave or benign indifference to 'buffs'. If the cab window got rolled down with its high gear-ration cranking mechanism, perhaps a 'hello' or few words of conservation would come the way of this half-pint railfan of a mere dozen years.

Rarely, an engineer would descend to the platform from the cab. On this highly impressionable day, the hogger of train 51 (not sure of whether it was officially a VIA train or still a CN train at this point. The units were still in CN colours) came down the steps and talked to us. Being incredibly shy, the engineer broke the ice by asking would I'd like his autograph in my notepad? I must have stammered a yes. Instead of seeing me merely standing beside the train, the engineers likely wondered what I was writing down. (I remember another asking me, "Are ya getting yer train numbers down in yer little green book??") Indeed I was:
My Dad actually transposed the train numbers he added (above). No matter. In creating this post, I returned to my original notes that I took that day, "Today we went to Kingston. Dad, Al and me. Saw 1 train at bus terminal, 3 at the station. Two more [passenger trains] came in. I got near the engines. One guy gave me a timetable, the other an extra flag, his autograph. A nice bunch!"
I still (of course) have that timetable and that flag (above). I looked at what he wrote, and didn't realize for a long time that Elmer Ogden, Engineer 51 did not make him the fifty-first engineer. Rather, that was his name and his job that day - the number of the train he was operating. This autograph bespoke in very few words the impressive importance and his running responsibility for that particular passenger train. And this encounter may very well have taken my lifelong love of being trackside to the next level! And taking notes...that turned into books!
Fast forward to today. That elder Elmer engineer emeritus, who retired in 1981, had a son named David who took up the same craft. David just retired last week, nearly 45 years later in 2020! Here's an overview of this generational social media sandwich upon which I was the pickle on a toothpick:

When I saw the name "Elmer Ogden" in Janie's Facebook post on her brother's last trip (and Elmer Ogden's son) David's retirement, I just about fell over. I immediately knew why that name was so familiar to me. Interestingly, David was fortunate to share his last run with his daughter as his Conductor. The family tradition continues!
(Video captures from video taken by Bill McDonald on the evening of November 6. 
Cab-door photo of Elmer Ogden at his retirement in 1981 kindly shared by Janie Marie Ogden.)

David's final train was CN M369, 9874 feet, on duty 0930, off duty 1920. I'm sure he thought of his father as he stepped down onto the station platform at Belleville that night. And I bet he wasn't dreaming about this rather obscure connection you're reading about! Janie Marie Ogden shared Elmer's CN engineer qualification certificate from 1952 (below) which gives his fireman service date in 1944:
In the early 1990's, a locally-produced periodical entitled Great Canadian Railway Stories included stories from various area railroaders. Seeing Elmer Ogden's name, I'd saved his stories from Volume Two. These stories show that the elder Ogden had a good sense of humour and a deep well of tales to tell! 
(Click for larger versions)

EPILOGUE -  to this multi-generational CN story from your humble blogger railfan - there's one more page. After meeting the engineer of train No 51, I penned a letter that October. My goal was to be his penpal. My letter was addressed to CN Rideau Area offices in Belleville. I sealed it. I never mailed it. It stayed in my files. I've been looking for it but I haven't quite found it yet! When I do, I plan to share it to Janie Ogden. She can have the potential enjoyment of reading it, whatever it says (and it might be pretty hokey!) and reflect on the careers of railroaders in the Ogden family and the connection to those of us who stand trackside!

JULY 2021 UPDATE: I found the letter in a box of...letters! Finally! It was written to CN Rideau Area offices in Belleville, but never mailed. You can read my 12 year-old cursive writing, see the original uncancelled stamp on the envelope and wonder whether meeting Elmer Ogden in March [not May!] would have led to he and I becoming penpals! 

Thanks to CN engineer Steve Lucas for assistance with this post. 
Other railroaders' stories you'll find here on Trackside Treasure:

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Dimensional Load Meet, February 2000

CN No 317 was a weekly Montreal-Toronto freight that routinely handled dimensional loads. Operating on weekends to reduce impact on the fewer VIA trains and fewer roadswitchers, this train and its eastbound counterpart CN No 318 were responsible for successfully planning meets with opposing traffic. Depending on the width of the dimensional loads, requireents for a meet location were tangent track and a stopping place between crossings . The Rail Traffic Controller would inform 317 ahead of time where the approaching train was, and leave the planning within a given block to the two trains.

Such a meet with hot eastbound intermodal CN No 104 took place just east of Mi 180 Kingston Sub, at Collins Bay at 0820 on Monday, February 28, 2000. An overcast and snowless morning, I was able to drive less than a mile from home to witness the meet. To show how little traffic there was to complicate meets, CN No 104 was the first train 317 had met since departing Montreal. Your humble blogger positioned himself along Bath Road to photograph this sitting duck:
The first dimensional load on 317 was a generator heading to the Henday Generating Plant on the Nelson River in northern Manitoba, eight cars deep aboard heavy-duty 12-axle flatcar LNAL 340320. Manufactured in Bristol, UK this would be one of 15 Alstom transformers ordered by Manitoba Hydro over four years. This one measures 35 feet in length, just over 13 feet in width and just over 15 feet in height, weighing in at a whopping 480,600 pounds. (It's from Britain, so we're keeping it in Imperial!)
On IPEX 101 rode an Indeck Power Equipment Co. Keystone O-Series steam generator boiler heading to Wheeling, IL. While Keystone is headquartered in Pennsylvania, these Indeck boilers are manufactured in St Hyacinthe, Quebec. IPEX 101 is a yellow 8-axle depressed-centre flat car with TrailerTrain-like lettering. Today, the car wears red paint.
CN has online tools for classifying dimensional loads. To my untrained eye, the transformer might be designated a D-6, largely based on width. Power on both trains: CN 5250-5355 on No 317, CN 2557 solo on No 104. The crews decided to meet on the tangent track just east of Collins Bay. No 104 approaches, reaching water level at one of the lowest elevations on the Kingston Sub. Lake Ontario is just to the left of this photo.
The crew from 317 walked back from the power to station themselves behind the LNAL car to supervise the meet:
Closer, at walking speed...
The rest of CN No 104 crept by at five or ten m.p.h., accelerating.  Proceeding east toward the IPEX car, about to pass under the Bayridge Drive overpass.
The rest of CN No 317 was 10 CN covered hoppers, Incobrasa covered hoppers BRIX 97123-97039, empty centre beam bulkhead CRLE 21058, two NCIX covered hoppers and CRLE 10452 double-door green hi-cube boxcar. Then it was on its way west, perhaps conducting more orchestrated meets.


Indeck in St Hyacinthe. Four photos from Googlemaps:

Ready to ship at Indeck. Note concrete counterweights welded to car deck due to offset centre-of-gravity of the boiler load: 


Henday Generating Station near Gillam, MB. Henday is named for the intrepid 18th-century explorer Anthony Henday.
Indeck's facility in Wheeling, Illinois:

Running extra...
Election Night Special! By the time you read this, or even the time I finish typing it, the U.S. presidency may have been decided. Or not. I'd rather sacrifice promptness than democracy! Live television brings the unexpected! I've been biden my time on posting that one, but timeliness trumps further delay!

As Remembrance Day approaches, we focus on democracy and those who died to defend it. And only 50% of us go out to vote?! All gave some, some gave all, and some cared little. The 21st Battalion cenotraph in Kingston's City Park shows little of the King-and-Country (now a gospel group!?) lie-about-your-age pre-Greatest Generation who felt just that strongly about serving the Empire and not just tweeting about it.