Saturday, April 17, 2021

Train Orders by Mail

Or mail order by train? No, I travelled west from Toronto aboard VIA Rail in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s to visit relatives in Western Canada. I was lucky to see grain trains switching grain cars, ride in RDC’s flashing past grain elevators, and enjoy the view of prairies and mountains from VIA’s dome cars. All in an era when stations were still manned by operators, while first- and second-generation CN and CP diesel locomotives and cabooses ruled the rails. I was able to systematically collect sets of discarded train orders while aboard VIA Rail in 1985. (Also documented in a previously-published two-post series.)

Prior to that, in 1983-84 I decided to send out letters to CN and CP operators at some locations that interested me. Would they have some discarded train orders to augment my collection, all for the asking? Yes!

CP Rail operator Tony Bonogofsky at Gleichen, Alberta responded on May 7, 1984, sending me 60 train orders and 15 clearances, plus 11 stapled sets of C-19’s, putting $1.70 in postage on the envelope (top photo). His note, “As requested, enclosed please find a supply of train orders.” The orders he sent were for CP Rail freights like First 84, Second 84, First 96, Second 96, Nos. 403, 404, 405, 415, 445, 482, First 948, 904 and 940. These trains were led by CP’s ubiquitous, large fleet of SD40-2’s, though GP-9’s were also addressed. VIA Rail’s Canadian, train No 2 is also represented, and I would ride aboard its westward counterpart, VIA No 1 the following year, passing through Gleichen:

CP Rail operator Kathy Todd at Field, British Columbia also sent me orders, on August 20, 1983. In fact, her $1.27 postage on a CP company envelope contained an interesting collection of orders. (below). The clearances were addressed to trains powered by CP’s newest locomotives, like Extra 6003 West and Extra 6033 East. Extra 5835 West received a stack of 17 orders with its clearance. Another clearance was addressed to Pusher Service at Rogers, care of Engineman C.S. Smith. This was the last remote pusher station on CP’s transcontinental punishing mountainous mainline. She wrote an accompanying note, “I hope these orders and clearances are a sufficient addition to your collection. It was good to hear from you. Good luck in your endeavours.”

I enjoy going back to these responses, still in their original envelopes, kindly sent by these operators at their lonely outposts in the mountains and prairies of Canada. This was in an era before e-mail. It was an era in which a letter received was usually responded to as a courtesy. Watch for an upcoming post on letters requesting information sent to railways' headquarters!

Running. Extra.

You didn't read that incorrectly. I've recently become aware of three local advertising slogans using Two Part. Slogans. But they go together. Let me illustrate: Gordon's Downsizing Services - "We Help. You Move On." Bennett's Furniture - "Feel Right. At Home." and they sell mattresses - "Sleep. First Class."

Winnipeg Slide Night by Zoom was this past Tuesday. Presentations by Glenn, Mark the Hoople, Ross, and Brian. Some amazing photography and subject material on display: nocturnal, British, Winnipeg flood of 1950, and interesting freight Loads. And your humble blogger presenting the prototype and model Hanley Spur.

With additional pandemic public health restrictions, I'm proud to announce that sitting on my sofa blogging is, so far, A-OK with our provincial government. It's one thing I can do with people outside my immediate household. And around the world!


Lord Darth McIan said...

Mark The Hoople! If it's in Trackside Treasure, you know it's now Official!

There were some Great Slide Night presentations that night.

Eric said...

I barely know the band, Ian. I do consider it to be under the heading 'Aging Rockers'. But if it's good enough for MAP, that's good enough for Trackside Treasure.

What will I do when COVID is beat and I'm shut out of the Ont-Man border? That's a heck of a commute for slide night. Oh well, I'll live in the moment!

Thanks for your comment,

chris mears said...

That slide night by Zoom sounds kind of interesting. Neat to think of how the global reach of tools like Zoom might make for some interesting content in there and connections from there.

I love your comment about letter writing. The relative ease of email and now instant messenger app's makes it possible to just default to those but the paper and ink technology still exists. I guess what hasn't changed was that detective work of finding out who to write to? So cool to receive that response, in your case, stuffed with so much fascinating paperwork.


Eric said...

Hi Chris,

Zoom is a good, space-spanning option!

My Dad always suggest writing to the 'Public Relations and Advertising' Department at RR HQ's. He was from the 'Mad Men' era when there were rooms full of people using typewriters and dial telephones.

Communication ain't what it used to be, just different.

Thanks for your comment,

Jeffrey said...

I remember those days. A postal letter to a railroad's public relations department would yield all sorts of goodies! I'm looking forward to your post on that.

Eric said...

Just the letterheads that came back, even if they were a little stingy on the goodies, was neat to see.

Thanks for your comment, Jeffrey.

JasonPaulSailer said...

Very cool! I wish sometimes to step back in time, I can think of a few locations I would have liked to have gotten train orders from. How times have changed!

Eric said...

That's like Manyberries, Jason. I was happy to come across CP train orders from that corner of Alberta, and sent some 'home' for display there.

Dictating, writing or typing out those train orders also give us some idea of just how many jobs the railways provided across Canada!

Thanks for your comment, and I will certainly join you in your time machine!