Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Ride on the Prairie Dog Central, July 1976

About five years ago, I posted some of my Dad's black & white photos from our family trip to visit relatives in the railfan mecca of Portage la Prairie, MB (Portage) in July, 1976. I recently published this postscript which included additional photos from that trip. So now it's 47 years later and in this post, I'm publishing even more photos from that trip - an excursion on Winnipeg's Prairie Dog Central (PDC) on the exact day of the U.S. Bicentennial, July 4. All photos in this post by L.C. Gagnon unless otherwise noted.

In 1976, the PDC operated over the CN Oak Point Subdivision from St James station, located 2.4 miles from St James Junction. The line ran through Moore, Lilyfield, Gordon to Grosse Isle, where PDC 4-4-0 engine 3 was wyed for the return trip to the city. Between 1970 and 1974, the PDC had operated on 7.5 miles of the CN Cabot Subdivision between Charleswood and Headingley, so our first ride was at the beginning of only the second season operating from CN's St James station. Engine 3 was built in Scotland by Dubs & Co in 1882 for the CP, operating between Fort William and Kenora numbered 22, before its purchase by the City of Winnipeg Hydro in 1918. Used between Lac du Bonnet and Pointe du Bois, MB the long-lived locomotive was initially retired in 1962, prior to its subsequent restoration at CN Transcona Shops as a Canadian Centennial project.
Like an actor melodramatically taking the stage, the PDC train made a noisy, impressive entrance around a curve approaching the St James station. At the time, my Dad was using two cameras: colour slides and black & white prints, both in Instamatic 126-format. Many of these photos show the use of both cameras, seconds apart for each scene!

The engine crew paused by the cab before climbing in and receiving the OK from the 'station agent' to depart. I have a feeling the same man used to give the same OK to VIA trains at the Winnipeg depot. "Your train is O - K !!!"

Ticket to ride:
The little teakettle posed patiently in the morning sunshine as it took on passengers.

Two photos taken on our excursion by my uncle, Wilf Schellenberg. My Aunt Rosemary, parents and sister have the windows wide open - below:
Black smoke biliously billows from the stack as engine 3 pastorally prepares, now turned, to pilot the consist back to Winnipeg at Grosse Isle. Seemingly tiptoeing through the long grass while doing so.

Back at St James, passengers disembark at the station built by the Canadian Northern in 1910. The building was moved in 1999 to Inkster Boulevard by the Vintage Locomotive Society to prevent its demolition.
The Prairie Dog Central was a perennial favourite for visitors like us - low-key and leisurely, not too long and not too short - truly a trip back to a simpler time. 

Running extra...

The 'Aerodrome of Democracy'. During World War II, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan planned and built the plethora of new air bases built across Canada for the training of Commonwealth pilots and aircrew. Kingston itself was home to 31 Service Flying Training School which chiefly trained Fleet Air Arm (Navy) pilots. On July 23, a Tiger Moth was operating out of Kingston airport, Tiger Moth C-FDGC "4830" apparently owned by the Williams family since 1969, based in Dunnville, ON:
The same day, my blog partner and brother David (who, like me, is interested in both trains and training) was setting his sights on Canada's National Air Force Museum at 8 Wing Trenton (Quinte West, ON). With its expanded exhibit space, shots like this fine down-on view of the museum's restored Avro Anson, with a Harvard above, are possible:

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Summertime at the Station, July 2023

As I stood on the grass beside the north platform at Kingston station earlier this month, two thoughts crossed my mind. Thought One: Wow it is really hot today. Thought Two, slightly more profound: Just think of the cornucopia of VIA book customers, VIAphiles and uberVIAphiles I have met at this concrete conference-centre as they crisscrossed the Corridor and contemporaneously this fair country of ours: Tom Box, Terry Brennan, Chris Diddy, Mark Fidelak, Tim Hayman, Jordan 'Hollywood' McCallum, Mark '001' Sampson, Jason 'Spadina' Shron, Matt Soknacki, 'Manitoba' Matt Vancouver's Terry Muirhead was the latest to contact me to let me know he'd be riding the rails through Kingston. I should add that Terry has been a faithful Trackside Treasure reader and information source for well over a decade. It was the least I could do to try and meet Terry. So, on July 4, I went to meet his train VIA No 62 from Toronto. This turned out to be a practice session.

VIA No 643 arrived first at 1042: 6436L(ove the Way)-3452-3351F(uture)-3329F-3325 (top photo) with  VIA No 62/52 arriving at 1106: 6401-3458-3469-3301R(enaissance scheme)-3312R-3318-4117-6406-4005 D(&H scheme)-4113D-4102-4118-8100D.
Fortunately, our meet-up not only got me out to the station three times, it also became one of my Summertime at the Station posts now in their tenth year, and thirdly, it was a blogging challenge for me. Inspired by The Beachburg Sub blog partner Michael Hammond and his campaign to make 2023 The Year of Different, I tried to do something different during these visits. You can see the photographic results in this post. Adding people to the standard wedge shot (above - photobombed by a family, should I have yelled out "Form a photo line!"? I realized they were paying passengers and I was not!) and working in some trackside treasure (below - vintage baggage cart in fresh blue paint) beside 62's J-trained head-end.
So on July 11, I went to meet Terry's REAL VIA No 62. I was still thinking about Michael's 2023: The Year of Different and whether I was too locked-in to wedge shots. Hmmm, let's see, due to natural perspective, a train hoving into view naturally forms a wedge. As a documenter of consists and photographs, I feel the need to be close enough to record locomotive and car numbers. So, drone and beyond-ballast photography is a no-go for me. But I would try my darnedest to do something to mark this year!
How about starting with a trainless shot? I wandered down to the mileboard at Mile 176 of the CN Kingston Sub, just west of the John Counter Boulevard overpass - completed in November, 2020. Noticing that both sets of crossing timbers had been removed, I also noticed that the bells and gates still worked and that trains still whistled. Once an important access route for the south track platform checked baggage, I wondered about the crossing's future and that of checked baggage. Terry's train soon arrived, part of J-trained Nos 62/52: 6432-3461-3455-3362R-3354R-3345R-4100 and 52's consist behind 6406 the same as the week before.
With no Business Class passengers on or off at Kingston, our meet-and-greet became a wave-and-go! The Business Class attendants were more concerned with getting the head-end crew's coffee orders correct and delivered, then promptly closing the door, even though Economy passengers were still alighting and boarding farther back in the train! That blue step-section sure is Different!
The train was soon heading east - trailing 62's two Business Class cars 3461-3455 behind the engine:
After a recent detour disruption west of Toronto, Corridor consist rotations were rent slightly asunder, with many having a stainless-steel coach, such as 4100, inserted into an otherwise-LRC consist:
May I present The Year of Different? Reminiscent of a Turbo:
VIA No 643's consist was exactly the same as the week before (well that's not Different!) though its timekeeping was off by 30 minutes, arriving after No 62/52 had departed, instead of before.
Returning to my van, I heard the keening kall of the killdeer! Hopping up to a parking lot median was an adult killdeer and its kid killdeer:
Fortunately, we had a third chance to summarize our summer stationside summit on July 15. Terry was returning from Dorval to Toronto aboard VIA No 63, again in Business Class. This arrival became a 'romeo-foxtrot' for everyone waiting for VIA No 63, me included! After noticing two westward-facing redboards at down the track at Queens West after a westbound freight, I wondered if No 63 must be operating on the south track. But no, inside the station, the list of arrivals of trains clearly said Track 1 for No 63, and passengers were not being directed to Track 2. Obediently, I waited. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Was this The Year of Different having its revenge??
After the westbound that looked like CN No 147 (2862-5743) toted sea cans and empty autoracks west on the north track (above), there was still the matter of the impending arrival of No 63. Sure enough, it arrived on the opposite track! I knew at once because Terry had told me the two locomotive numbers of this double-header. This threw the VIA station staff, "They didn't tell us it was on Track 2 - I'm gonna need help in the tunnel!" as well as the now-huffy passengers into a tizzy, including a non-functioning 'up' escalator at the far end of the tunnel. And here I was thinking, third time unlucky!
But a train without passengers is not much use, so its departure would have to wait at least until we all got over to the south track! I found Terry beside his ride, at the second Business Class car vestibule - probably thinking, third time unlucky(?)  We had a good chat, the engine crew had a good smoke, and all seemed jovial to be getting underway.
Your humble blogger and last few passengers (Terry Muirhead photo - above)
Heading west around 1210: 6448-910-3458-3469-3301R-3312R-3318-4117 (same consist at July 4's No 63!) with the two Business Class cars (above and below):
And another mismatched stainless-steel car to boot, 4117:
As Terry's train receded, moving ever closer toward the Left Coast, my good wife and I dispatched ourselves slightly west to Mary Brown's Fried Chicken - fun fact founded in St Jahhhn's, b'y! - for our Batter's Box and then east for the afternoon at the intermodal node known as Kingston Mills Locks on the Rideau Waterway. From this beyond-the-ballast vantage point, I used the iPhone camera to document times and whatever numbers it could discern:
Six VIA trains and two CN freights - including Moncton-Toronto CN No 305 denoted by its Irving lumber loads (below) would clatter over the bridge in the next three-and-a-half hours. I made my way through Hal Carstens' lifetime of photography as Carstens Publications' publisher, digesting both his photography and the fried chicken simultaneously!

1257 EB: VIA 6404 with stainless steel consist
1353 WB: VIA 6424
1400 WB: VIA 6410 (above)
1430 WB: CN No 305 (3292-2802-DPU 3927 ex-Citirail)
1442 WB: VIA 901 with stainless steel consist
1458 EB: VIA 6437L
1506 WB: CN No 149 (2312-2xxx)
1520 EB: VIA 903

Stainless Steel scenes
Heaving my chicken-fuelled bulk out of my comfortable lawnchair, I ventured a few feet east and slightly upgraded my vantage point up the grade to the upper lock, framing this westbound with our sheltering maple tree for a Different angle:
The turning basin is in foreground. When the lock above is emptying, the water fills to within about 6 inches of the retaining wall. When the three lower flight locks are filling, water level is down about 18 inches. The four locks bring boats up or down 45 feet here, passing beneath the circa 1929 CN bridge.

CN No 149 (above) and the last VIA at 1520 (below). The umbrellas are for the seven lock staffers who slowly open and close the lock gates and sluices using 19th-century technology.
It was good to meet Terry, who by this time, was in Toronto and ready to wing his way westerly to the Wet Coast! We made our way home to the A/C, having enjoyed an afternoon of fast food, fast trains, and slow boats!

Running extra...

How to enter the next lock: one of three American cabin-cruisers, accompanied by a lone kayaker who would rather paddle than walk (above). How not to enter a lock: we wondered why two nylon ropes were being deployed across the top of the lock gates --then used to tow this motorless one (below).
I'm always conscious of containing 'mission-creep' on Trackside Treasure. While it would be easy to float a post on cabin-cruisers of the Rideau Waterway, or even Colonel By's malaria-infested workplace, I'm trying to stay on track here! That's just the way I've been trained.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Postscript: First Visit to Portage, July 1976

About five years ago, I posted some of my Dad's black & white photos from our family trip to visit relatives in the railfan mecca of Portage la Prairie, MB (Portage) in July, 1976. The Fullness of Time is really just that here at Trackside Treasure - sometimes it takes 42 years to get these photos posted and launched into railfan cyberspace. So now it's 47 years later and in this postscript, I'm publishing some additional photos from that trip, both black & white prints as well as boxed slides I scanned. The trip notably included an excursion on Winnipeg's Prairie Dog Central (PDC) on the exact day of the U.S. Bicentennial, July 4! 
My Dad had given me many of the black & white 126-format prints for an album I made on lined paper in a binder. He mounted the others in a family photo album. Now, consolidated. Prior to his discontinuing colour slide photography in 1978, this was a major trip that was preserved for posterity in both formats, with examples of each sometimes captured seconds apart as he changed cameras.
On our first day 'down at the tracks' on July 3, CP 5518-3002 are dropping four cars - two of farm equipment and two insulated boxcars from the head-end of their train into CP's Portage yard at 1000 (top three photos). Your humble blogger posed for photographer L.C. Gagnon at the east end of CP's Portage station (below). The photos show the station train order signal still in use, albeit with different indications showing.
CP 8653-8489-4231-4210 power a priority train eastward also on our first morning. Candy-stripes!
As profiled in the original post and the first volume of my two-book set Trains & Grains, we spent July 3 to 7 in Portage and Winnipeg after travelling from Kingston in our 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. This visit was more than enough to whet my appetite for more trips there over the next ten years! These two 5200's sat across from the CN station idling, providing ample opportunities for a plethora of photo angles:

The train from Churchill, double-exposure effect notwithstanding: CN 9152-9154-15491-633112-11119-11064-222626-8063-9642-3030-5467-5587-5595-1338-Great Slave Lake-Edwardsville-Thunder Bay-Terra Nova River-Greenridge- Bedford (in VIA blue & yellow):
At 1905 on July 4, CN 1074-1068 with 116 cars and caboose 79831 were stopped east of the CN station:

CP switcher 6569 pauses at the station at midday:
From this vantage point in the cool of the Skyline Bridge, various types of CN covered hopper cars are being loaded by United Grain Growers. Their other Portage plant is just visible in the distance at right. Clever composition!
CN 5213-5141 lead lumber east at 1608. Look sharp to see that the second aluminum covered hopper has been loaded in the interim, and rolled down to couple onto its fleetmate:
On July 5, CN 5144 led a westbound at 1500, with orders hooped up to the head-end and tail-end crew aboard caboose 79585:

On our last afternoon in Portage before heading south through Duluth, at 1432 on July 6, eastbound CP 5633-5756 lead a train of prairie grain for Thunder Bay.
Ditch lights on, it's time to get out of town!
Heading south toward the U.S. border on July 7, we parallelled this CN freight powered by two SW1200RS's - the second is 1353:
In the 1976 world of cash and traveller's cheques (remember those?), my Dad's budget for this trip revealed grocery money budgeted for breakfasts and lunches on the road, matching my Mom's grocery list of tuna, bread and peanut butter and more. Each travel day, $20 was budgeted for supper for four and another $20 planned for each night's motel stop: Iron Bridge and Thunder Bay west; Duluth, MI and Roscommon, MI east. A pragmatic $500 was budgeted for car repairs, and $150 for gas. We crossed several Burlington Northern and Soo Line branches on our way from Manitoba to Michigan. Watch for an upcoming Trackside Treasure post on these granger ganders.

Running extra...

Model railroading is fun. Or at least it's supposed to be. So why do so many of us make it into a job, or even worse, dreaded drudgery? The irrepressible Mike Downie's visit to this 1/8th scale, 37-mile, 2200-acre outdoor layout is most definitely fun. They even have 'sectionmen' to rake the twigs and pine cones off the tracks! Welcome to Train Mountain Railroad Museum!

Rio Tinto SW1200MG locomotives 526, 525 and 524 rebuilt in Brookville, PA head east on CN No 306 on July 10. The unique power is headed to the Carol Lake Mine Automatic Train Operation of the Iron Ore Company of Canada in Labrador. (IOC is 58% owned and operated by Rio Tinto.) There, they travel a 13-km line between the main extraction site and the crusher plant, completely crewless, ore, something  about which I was completely clueless!

Walter Reid (not of hospital fame) snapped and shared this photo from the Islington Avenue bridge showing the site of the groundbreaking ceremony this past Monday at VIA's Toronto Maintenance Centre. Siemens Venture Set 4 was in the background, having ventured from Montreal west to Toronto the previous day: