Thursday, March 16, 2023

Looking Back down the Track at the Pandemic

This week marked the nexus, at least for your humble blogger, of the pandemic receding down the track and a new post-pandemic era on the track ahead. Although we can all recall the uncertainty, isolation and turmoil the pandemic caused, this past week has allowed me to look back in a rail-based retrospective at where we're going and where we've been in the past three years.

As the year 2020 began, I posted my usual New Year's greeting (top photo), unaware of what it would pandemically portend. Perhaps as a prescient premonition, I'd self-proclaimed 2020 as the year to 'Model and Railfan Local'. Little did I know that January that truer words were never spoken!
In mid-March we were secreted at a cabin north of Kingston, perhaps sentiently sequestered, slowly watching the world wind down. I was ensconced with warm and cold drinks (above), and not enough railroad reading to do.
As we returned home that week, we were all asked to stay home. We learned that certain activities were safe. Walking, staying at home, and train-watching. A CN Cataraqui Spur derailment with No 518's cars rolling off a rolled rail at Bath Road (above) comprised one railfan outing (above) Anything that one didn't have at home was difficult to get. Fortunately, my wife and I have many interests and hobbies and seemingly adequate supplies, This enabled me to continue model railroading and even more more model railroading. And blogging was completely safe, though I did indulge in some philosophical distillation in some posts.

For the model railroader/railfan, there were changes. VIA reduced its Corridor service to sad little shuttle trains, and the Canadian's service was truncated. There were to be no more train shows. In fact, the March 14-15, 2020 Kingston Rail-O-Rama was the first thing that got cancelled therefore despite my anticipation, I could not attend. Hobby shops temporarily closed. Like many other retailers that the pandemic affected, shops that did not have an online presence suffered. Those that did flourished. Train clubs like the Associated Railroaders of Kingston (ARK) went to Zoom meetings. Actually, I was able to attend Zoom presentation across Canada - only available pre-pandemic by attending in person. I also published two books, making deliveries or porch pick-ups. ARK Zoom attendees - May, 2020:

Restaurants were hard hit, of course. We have been to exactly one restaurant, four times, in three years. Drive-thrus were safe enough. Oh, we also went to one patio one time one summer. Hallowe'en (below), birthdays and Christmas celebrations were all distanced or remote. A family wedding was held, albeit with much-reduced attendance, as was a family funeral. My very last visit with my Mom on the day we returned from the cabin. Two hours later, her long-term care locked down. Both of our kids' jobs are in healthcare, and we can only imagine the stress and uncertainty. Politics somehow got mixed in with healthcare, and those two fields should have remained separate. But this post is about trains, not about politics or the wider societal effects of the pandemic.
This past week, I went to the Napanee Train Sale. I wore my mask. It felt safe and was well-attended. My birthday also falls this time of year, so my wife had given me enough birthday money to buy a couple of bags of goodies. And I did, finding lots of kitbashing and scratchbuilding stock. No magazines, no books. Only three little hopper cars. Never enough hopper cars of coal on my Hanley Spur layout!
In the same week, I had an email from ARK member Grant LeDrew, suggesting that a visit to my layout would provide him with some modelling inspiration. Grant has built several modules incorporating local history: the Kingston Shipyards, Kingston Mills locks and now Portsmouth harbour. I had a good visit with Grant, and he took a few photos of scenes he liked.
Another ARK member, Paul Hunter was holding a home layout open house. Fellow attendees were three generations of Paul's family, neighbours, and fellow ARK members including Grant. Paul arranged a screening of the Rocky Mountain Express IMAX video featuring CPR 2816, aoo in the same common room! I also took a few photos of Paul's tidy layout:
I haven't been to ARK meetings because they are held in a restaurant, and as I mentioned earlier, we haven't been frequenting restaurants. Speaking of Zoom meetings, I've had four invitations to contribute presentations on my Kingston's Hanley Spur layout, books and related topics. At least two of the groups are operating in hybrid format: Zoom and live. One of these hybrid meetings is scheduled for June in Ottawa, and I think that might feel safe to attend in person. Also last week, The CRHA Toronto & York Division just held their first hybrid format meeting:

We've been slowly emerging from the pandemic. I would be happy in the next year(s) to never hear about the pandemic again. We experience it, we survived it, I trust that in various ways we grew from it, and learned from it. The experts tell us there will be further pandemics. Until then, life goes on. Trackside and in the layout room, online and at club meetings, we'll continue to look down the track to the future!

I must add - my wife and I have come to enjoy our time together, albeit completely unsensational and not Instagram-friendly. We are not zip-lining in Belize, touring the grottoes of Spain, not 'living our best life'. But we believe we are living our best life. For real. The pandemic has slowed all this down for us and brought it into sharper focus. We often comment to each other that this is one positive thing that has emerged from our pandemic experience.

Running extra...

The Oscars - I watched the Red Carpet, which was actually champagne-coloured, and the ceremony, which was actually viewable. The high-angle camera angle in front of the podium added immediacy. Everything was Everywhere and All at Once! 

Sir Brian May - We will, we will, dub you1! Seventy-five year-old Queen guitarist Brian May always appears level-headed, engaging and intelligent in any interview. Speaking of red carpet, the King just knighted him. "King Charles the Third has a Knightship Set Aside for You.....for You....for Yooooouuuuu!"

CP+KC - everyone's on the bandwagon chipping in on the CP+KC end-to-end merger. Needless to say, when I hear about this, all I can think of is incorporating Kansas City and the band of steel linking Canada to the Gulf of Mexico with its warmth and sunshine. I want to call it KC and the Sunshine Band. "That's the way I like it!"


Michael said...

Like you, I have mixed feelings about the pandemic. I feel sad that so much discord has emerged as a result of the mixture of politics and health policy, as you mentioned. I think there is an ever-present sadness in many people's hearts that is fuelled by modern society's somewhat empty promises and that sadness is filled with much distraction. When the options were taken away, the anger and uncertainty had no place to go. I stepped away from railfanning in 2020, for reasons I can't even comprehend now, but I have slowly returned to my passion. I am more grateful and thoughtful about it now. I think that makes for better insight, better blogging and better understanding of the world around me. I try to focus my life's activities around the simple concept of gratitude. I have so much, so it seems pretty pointless to let anger take over when there is so much more to instill happiness.

Eric said...

Hi Michael,

I know that the pandemic made you more insightful and appreciative. The worth and necessity of family was definitely a highlight of the pandemic.

We are alive. When someone would ask how we were doing during the heights of the pandemic, I'd reply, "Well, we're still alive." I call that managing expectations. That among the American Republican-based death cult that saw 1 million die - I'm sure that number could have been cut in half with vaccination. The same party that brought its members guns, and paradoxically perhaps, pro-life.

We'll be thinking about this for a long time, but life goes on, thankfully!
Thanks for your comment,

JasonPaulSailer said...

This a nice writeup, similar thoughts to our experiences over the last two years.

Yes, the mixing of politics and health has been terrible and at times almost unbearable. Mix in misinformation and fake news and we were off to the races! What a roller coaster ride it has been.

We are still dealing with it in Alberta – provincially with our fumbling government and ever-changing rules. One day this way, the next week that way… Keep kids at home, but don’t let them go out on the playgrounds! Don’t visit others in their homes, but politicians can fly to Hawaii with no problem at all…It was hard to keep up with everything. Luckily we never had to apply for CERB, though we did get COVID at least once (in early 2021)…

It is hard to avoid some people who are “anti-vax” or “anti-government”, people who feel that their freedoms have been lost. They don’t see the big picture – they could have died!
Luckily the trains kept running and my passion for railfanning was kept busy chasing trains across the prairies into southeastern British Columbia. At first early in the pandemic if I went out with others we kept to our separate vehicles, but by the fall of 2020, we started to share rides again. It was nice to visit with other fans trackside (socially distant) and try to make sense of the ever-changing scene.

Some things (or some people’s perspectives) we can’t change but for the things within my control I will “hold the course”. Cut off the negative people (in real life and social media) and keep the good people close by!

Eric said...

We are sharing the same brain, Jason! I just thought it was time to set some of my thoughts down and look back. I'm also looking forward to railfanning as you are. Nobody ever banned it! Yahoo!! And sharing online was also safe. Thank goodness for Zoom!

Stay healthy and happy with your family!
Thanks for your thoughtful comments,

JasonPaulSailer said...

No problem Eric!

Stay healthy and happy with your family as well!