Wednesday, March 31, 2021

CNR 6060 Stops in Sydenham, 1977

On Saturday, October 15, 1977 we were at Sydenham, ON to await CNR 6060 as it led the St. Lawrence Valley Steam Association's fall foliage excursion. The excursion was operating from Montreal to Toronto via Ottawa, here on CN's Smiths Falls Subdivision, part of an ambitious 14-hour trip itinerary. There were 325 passengers aboard six cars, and tickets were $75 each. Photos in this post by my Dad, L.C. Gagnon. He took a distant photo of an earlier excursion through Sydenham on October 26, 1973 just over one month after 6060's debut. As was his practice at the time, he captured the scene photographically with black & white print and colour slide formats.
Refuelling stops (and/or watering stops) were scheduled at Alexandria, Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Sydenham, Belleville and Port Hope. Things were so much easier when the railways maintained water and coaling towers! At least 6060 was an oil-burner. Now it fell to volunteer fire departments with hydrants, or in the case of Sydenham, a nearby lake that gave up 11,000 gallons! Hoses ran about 100 yards along George Street, to the CN level crossing (above) from Sydenham Lake (below): 
There were three steam-qualified engineers working the trip. This was less than two decades since steam ruled the rails, remember! Excitement, boredom, distraction or a low-flying seagull above your humble blogger:
Many villagers turned out for this one-time event. Not only the passage of a steam-powered train, but the train stopping right in town. It didn't hurt that this major road crossing north out of Sydenham was blocked, although workarounds/drive-arounds were available.
As the train was preparing to leave Sydenham, we drove along the road linking the Church Street and Boundary Road crossings, stopping at this spot between crossings with the tracks in a left-hand curve. Here we awaited the excursion as it made its way west to Napanee thence Toronto, photographing and recording it on cassette tape as it thundered up the grade towards Harrowsmith. 
Sunset was at 6:30 p.m. on this autumn evening. The excursion was operating two hours late, scheduled to arrive at Sydenham at 3:45 p.m. Remember that expression - late trains get later? Watch for an upcoming post on CNR 6060's busy few years after its 1973 restoration and debut fantrip.
Sam McLauchlan kindly shared his photo of the excursion crossing the Rideau Canal bridge at Smiths Falls earlier in the afternoon. Thanks, Sam!

Running extra...

A running gag became the '0909 Button'. This was a pin-back button  on sale during or after fantrips celebrating the newly-restored Mountain-type. If the pin, shaped like a number-plate, was unknowingly pinned upside down by an unsuspecting fan on their regalia, it looked as if they were celebrating renowned excursion locomotive 0909!

The popularity of vaccine-shopping in Canada right now is amazing. During this pandemic, folks have not only become informed, they've become experts! First, everyone was a Respiratory Therapist, knowing which ventilation would help COVID patients in ICU. Then, everyone was an Epidemiologist, knowing best how to prevent transmission. Now, everyone is a Vaccinologist, knowing which vaccine works best. What's next? Drug store flyers with weekly vaccine specials and coupons to clip?

Speaking of line-ups, I have named this structure backdrop phenomenon 'The Walthers Row' and it is often seen on model railway layouts. This arrangement is a creative one, yet so many layouts tick all the boxes on the 'buy one of each' list of Walthers structures!

For sale: the late home of noted Canadian rail enthusiast James A. Brown

Sunday, March 28, 2021

CN's GMD-1 Heritage Fleet!

          CN has leaked news that they hurriedly retired ALL remaining CN 1400-series GMD-1's in March. The reason? Two words...paint shop! CN is building on the success of their recent IPO25 Heritage Fleet of assimilated American and predecessor units like IC, WC, EJ&E, and even GTW and BC Rail because railfans absolutely LOVED them. Ardent rail enthusiasts started Facebook groups, circulated fantasy schemes for the entire 25-unit fleet (there were actually only a handful painted) and CN absolutely REVELLED in the attention that the rail enthusiasts were giving to the struggling transcontinental, tri-national shortline otherwise known as CN.

It's not fair to say CN exists to please railfans, but the management team clearly believes that railfans are right up there along with shareholders and shippers when it comes to groups to which CN panders. Leaked CN photos (above and below) are giving us a glimpse into the GMD-1 geneaology we expect to see once the units are restored to optimal operating condition, then receive their all-important heritage paint schemes. Nothing pleases operating crews, shareholders and inhabitants of the corporate suite more than railfan-friendly paint schemes! CN has been able to glean additional photos from social media and photo-sharing sites on which railfans are sharing "My Favourite GMD-1 Photo Ever!" like there is no tomorrow. Because for these units, there truly is no tomorrow! 

Some railfans are lobbying CN, sending tens of emails encouraging CN to do the Northern Alberta Railways scheme, but when the CN corporate types open their emails, they think NAR stands for Never Around Railways and think, hey, what do they know? This grainy image appears to show a GMD-1 in primer with 'NAR' spray-painted on the nose. Could be. 
Several RDC's have just been moved out of VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre. Various theories abound, but it's likely that some of the retired GMD-1's will be brought to the TMC for painting, and storage space was needed. Another theory is that they're going to be moved to China to be pad-printed at one of Rapido Trains' factories there! The image below shows the narrowly-circulated approval process document CN used, largely based on Rapido Trains-produced paint schemes. For obvious reasons, CN WILL be doing the top four schemes, but WILL NOT be doing the  blue Cuba unit, although CN has been strongly hinting that they intend to extend their former Illinois Central mainline beyond Gulf of Mexico ports all the way to Cuba. This just in...there's a really good chance that CN WILL be doing the Cuba unit. Since CP has just announced it will be buying Kansas City Southern to gain access to Mexico, it just makes sense for CN to show that they also have a Latin American connection. 
It seems that CN is poised to make a common error, resulting in yet another fatally flawed heritage project, at least in railfan eyes. They will fail to reach out to railfans to see what THEY want to see, relying instead on corporate types to decide what the GMD-1 Heritage Fleet will look like. Nevertheless, the railfan press is already starting to feel the excitement building, though, as Railfan & Railroad has produced this cover mock-up for its upcoming next issue:

This just in! Grainy cellphone image of one of the early GMD-1 Heritage Fleet repaints surreptitiously taken inside the paint shop. We cannot independently confirm the source of this photo. It seems the lighting in the shop was poor, and when reading the work order, the painter did not have his reading glasses on. He thought it said 'CP'. Then this happened. I pity the fool!
This just in just after that! Fellow railfan and blogger Chris Mears reports that he has seen something on CN in Nova Scotia. We think it might be a TerraTransport or Halifax South Western Railway regional heritage scheme applied to what looks like a tarped GMD-1 down at the harbour. The last GMD-1 operating is as of March 31 is CN 1439.

Running extra...

Thanks for reading to the end of this post. You've just read post #40,000 since this blog began back in the late-forties. At that time, it was just a typewriter, a stack of foolscap, and an empty soup can full of sharpened pencils.
As Trackside Treasure continues to grow in popularity, we expect to be broadcasting to another country next year - the United States of America. They're doing great things now that President Nixon is in the White House!

If you'd like to receive future newsletters, please sign up on the list out in the hall. We will be sending out further messages four times a year once our mimeograph machine comes back from the town tinker!

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Loose-Car Railroading on the Hanley Spur

The concept of  'loose-car railroading' is just about gone. Going miles to lift of set out one car to a shipper or consignee? Can we make money doing that? Well, on my HO scale Hanley Spur layout, it's still happening, albeit in a modelled era being nominally 1970. (Don't bother telling me it's a '73 Ford or a '76 Trans Am. It's nominally 1970, though I include industries and operations just before and just after that date.) This post covers 10 feet, took about 20 minutes, and resulted in 150 digital images. (Are you ready to see all 150? Don't worry, you won't have to. A good photographer doesn't show his bad pictures, and there were...many.). At Wellington Street crossing (top photo), the freight shed lead leaves the Hanley Spur and heads downtown and to Canadian Locomotive Co. We're waiting for our train. The conductor is ready to flag the crossing.
Still waiting, we walk north to River Street, where the CP Kingston Subdivision crosses CN's Hanley Spur under the bridge there. It's a tell-tale location!
The wooden end-cupola CN van pauses between Millard & Lumb and the coal piles at Anglin's (above). Lots of material at M&L to be welded and pounded into shape. The conductor must know the M&L guy! This train was in no rush and I was able to walk along neighbouring streets and the right-of-way. I'm on the limestone ridge at the Imperial Oil warehouse at North Street where CN Geep 4530 lifted Penn Central boxcar 77040:
Just before that, I was at water level where the lift was being made. The trainman ambled back and forth from caboose CN 78257 as they seemed to be deciding how loose this loose-car lift was going to be time-wise. I had time to switch to my other black & white camera:
I clambered up on the car just before it was lifted! The tank car unloading track is at left:
The trainman is on the front of the unit as the unit chants and creaks out of the spur.
I cross over to the CP and got a soaker walking across the poorly-drained low ground! Their spur at right leads to a spur serving four customers.
It was reedy. It was swampy. That's why they call this part of Kingston the Swamp Ward, I guess.
I clambered up on the River Street bridge and two locals were up there to see the goings-on. It looks like CP is down from Smiths Falls, just up ahead by the Woolen Mill on Cataraqui Street. My lucky day!
The train sat there and sat there. I walked over to Rideau Street and got this photo between a couple of garages:
Black and white view while walking down the River Street bridge.
At Cataraqui Street, I was on the east side of the CN, with CP on my left. The local section crew was out shimming some ties:
The caboose toddles by:
Another pause. As CN sits on the Cataraqui Street crossing, I walk up to Rideau Street again, beside the Bailey broom factory. The Woolen Mill is in the distance, with the National Grocers building at right:
View from the back of the broom factory. The trainman appears to be flagging the crossing, letting a VW Bug resembling our '61 cross:
Nope. He was just sitting there. 
The conductor comes down from the cupola to appraise the situation:
The train eventually started to move, beating CP at a walk. And I mean walking speed!
Switching over to black & white for the approaching caboose:
The back of the Whig-Standard warehouse was my perch for the final view of two of the slowest trains on two of Canada's largest railways taking their own sweet time! On to Ontario Street!
Oh, I could roam 'round and round on this layout snapping photos. It's not difficult to add tens of photos to the SD card in no time! One benefit - reviewing the photos away from the layout show some things that can be improved. I'm a little hesitant to post too much of this 'snap'photography, because there are only so many locations where I can get the point-and-shoot camera low enough, and I don't want these to become too 'recognizable'. The wonders of digital photography!

Running extra...

Check out the latest editions of the Platforum podcast on Youtube just released: Episode 14 and Episode 15 "RTC, Over..." with Metrolinx' Joe Zika and RTCDave Parker. Dave has a fulsom Flickr feed! Their discussions reminded me of the wise witticisms of CN RTC T J Ball.

Hard on the heels of the previous post on Sydenham, Rian Manson sent along this long-lost photo of CN 3715 at Sydenham, likely taken near the Old Dairy. 
I wrote in my diary about this week's pandemic dairy modelling - a Wilmots milk truck. I skimmed a tanker cab, military truck box, and wheels from a Tyco trailer to make the whole thing. Just contributing my two percents. Those motorcyclists look like they're rushin'.
Did you know there's a variety of watermelon called 'Cream of Saskatchewan'? I didn't. It's yellow in colour! It was apparently brought to North America by immigrants from Russia. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Harrowsmith, ON Part 5 - The End


My wife, my niece and I visited the Harrowsmith railhead marking the end-of-steel for the CN Smiths Falls Subdivision on April 9, 1989 (top photo). In the past four posts in this series, we 'tracked' the genesis and history of the lines through the village. The line's removal by CANDO Contracting began a week earlier. The remaining CN trackage can be seen at left, with a skeleton car, and the CP, already dismantled, would be about where the bulldozer is sitting, behind two piles of rails. At the time of our visit, a crew was working a mile or two east of Harrowsmith. A bucket loader was at the Page farm, while the rail it was removing was stacked here at Harrowsmith for removal. Equipment in use: 

  • Trackmobile - operable on road or rail.
  • Skeleton cars - basic trucks, collapsible with a central pole attached by drop pins, removable/collapsible for transport. An assembled car, and the ends for another skeleton car are visible in the top photo. 
  • Bulldozer - with forklift attachment for stacking the rails.
  • Bucket loader - to lift rail onto the skeleton cars at end-of-steel.
  • Spike pullers - powered by Honda engines.

The procedure for removing the rail started with removing track bolts with pneumatic wrenches or cutting torches. One bolt was left in place. Spikes were pulled by spike pullers. Rail was lifted onto skeleton cars by the bucket loader. Skeleton cars were pulled to Harrowsmith railhead by Trackmobile. Bulldozer unloaded and stacked the rail for removal.

The foundation of the interlocking tower was still discernible in the brush to the right, ahead at the joint section (above). A few telegraph poles and wires still parallelled the north side of the CN right-of-way. Having walked past the joint section, this view looks west, with CP now at left, CN at right, and the village of Harrowsmith in the distance. Meeks Lumber barn-roof warehouse is visible at centre.

Semaphores at Harrowsmith were dismantled and moved to the Smiths Falls Railway Museum in 1986. My brother and his wife visited the site the same day, this photo taken from near the skeleton car, north of the CN track looking west (below - David J. Gagnon photo):
A Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper article published April 1, 1989 profiled the CANDO Contracting crew lifting the CN Smiths Falls Subdivision between Forfar and Chaffey's Locks. The Brandon, MB firm had submitted the lowest bid. Their work had begun on March 24, and encompassed 46 km of trackage to Harrowsmith. At the time, the Rideau Valley Heritage Railway Association had hoped to have a steam-powered dining train beginning operation in 1991. Their $14 million plan was pared back to $3.5 million and the distance shortened to Smiths Falls to Otter Lake, a distance of 15 kilometres. A June 3, 1989 Whig-Standard article updated the work:
A CANDO Contracting crew of sixteen, mostly newly-hired younger local workers, was overseen by Foreman Victor Rochelle. A backhoe with claw was lifting 900-lb rails (70 lb/yd) onto a flatcar. Removal of ties and hardware was by hand. Quicker progress could have been made, but the trees that had grown up between the ties hampered progress. Local man Doug Knox of Perth Road watched the crew's progress. His father, Henry Knox of Sydenham, had been CN section forman for a crew of three maintaining a 13.7-mile stretch of CN track.
Trackmobile and bulldozer blade (above). The skeleton cars were an interesting design: two basic trucks, attached to each other by a central steel pole secured with drop pins - like those used on farm equipment - removable for transport. U-shaped brackets on the ends were made of old rail. One end of each skeleton car had a knuckle-shaped piece of steel welded on for coupling to the Trackmobile. 
Progress was further hampered by an industrial accident on May 19, 1989. Seventeen year-old Doug Bell was stopping to drink from a trackside spring when a piece of rail fell, according to fellow crew member Robert Gower of Harrowsmith. The incident was two miles east of Maple Road, at 1420 hours. The spring banks actually absorbed much of the rail's descent, though Doug Bell was taken to Kingston General Hospital by ambulance.
Since speed limits were now a thing of the past, I recklessly endangered my 'great with child' wife by perching her on my shoulders with the socket wrench, souvenir-hunting east of the joint section (above). At another location - the Boundary Road grade crossing just west of the village of Sydenham - here are two views of the dismantling stopped for the weekend:
East toward Sydenham with rails intact (above) and west toward Harrowsmith with rails removed (below).
Drainage and maintaining flangeways were a thing of the past. Thanks for accompanying me on this journey through time - from a century in which railways were the next big thing, until their declining relevance and road construction led to their nadir in the ensuing century. A sixth post traces the Canadian Northern line that passed through Harrowsmith.

Running extra...
Thanks to faithful cross-border Trackside Treasure reader Kevin Ingraham for telling me about this stretched cabooooooooooooooooooooose. Doesn't that just look like any ol' run-of-the-mill, plain-jane crummy, hack...NOT. This sticks out like a sore nuclear thumb! Here's the rest of the story!

Who owns RDC's in Canada?
  • VIA Sudbury 6105, 6208, 6217, 6218, 6250, 6251.
  • Rapido Trains/VIA Historical Assn. 6110, 6113, 6133, 6214, 6215.
  • Waterloo Central Railway (new) 6111, 6135, 6138, 6148, 6205.

Bringing up the tail-end of one year since COVID shut so much down. Trainwatching was largely unimpacted, and model railroading experienced a boom. Much was lost, much was learned. Many things delayed, many will make up for lost time. Welcome to the Roaring Twenties of the twenty-first century!

Speaking of The End, good morning to you, too! I make every effort to finish what I start. There are potential authors who accumulate material for projects they may never complete. (This can lead to disillusioned, even angry photo contributors. Not a good way for an author to build a reputation. I endeavour to handle contributors to my books and other successful authors ethically, and most importantly, to respect them.)
To see what Greg Gormick's On Track Strategies has been publishing recently, I tried to access the site but was directed to ED medication and my anti-virus strategy issued a warning. I won't be back!