Thursday, June 25, 2009

Canada Day: Canada by Train

As homage to our great nation, here are some photos taken from aboard the train and along the line. Each picture is accompanied by a few of the 200,000 words from Pierre Berton's abridged The National Dream and The Last Spike. So grab your hockey stick, your toque, your Molson Export, and your politeness, and let's go.

Road crossing among verdant countryside along CN Kingston Subdivision near Brockville, Ontario.
Canada is deceptively vast. Yet for practical purposes Canada is almost as slender as Chile; traditionally ninety percent of its people have lived within two hundred miles of the United States border. In the eastern half of the nation, the horizontal hiving of the population is due to the presence of the St. Lawrence. Out beyond that sprawl of billion-year-old rock lay an immense frontier. A railway could give them access to that empty empire.

CN equipment including one-of-a-king articulated grain car CN 398000 with Montreal, Quebec skyline, 1992.
The new dominion was not yet a cohesive nation but rather a bundle of isolated village communities connected by tenuous threads. There was scarcely a city worthy of the name 'metropolis'. Montreal with a population of one hundred thousand was really two communities - one French speaking, one English.

Canadian Shield and searchlight signal near Girdwood, Ontario.
It was almost all rock - the old, cracked rock of the Canadian Shield, grey and russet, striped by strata, blurred by pink lichens. From the edges of the dun-coloured lakes that lay in grey hollows there protruded the spiky points of the spruce, jet black against the green clouds of birch and poplar.
Floatplane near Mi 105 CP Ignace Sub, Hawk Lake, Ontario.
As the line moved west, the land changed and began to sparkle. The lakes became more numerous towards the west, the bright sheets of water winding in chains between the broken, tree-covered vertebrae of granite. This lake country would one day become a tourist mecca; but in the 1870's it was a hellhole for the contractors who saw their fortunes sink in the great muskegs.
Sunset at Sovereign, Saskatchewan.
The great ocean itself does not present more infinite variety than does this prairie ocean of which we speak. No ocean of water in the world can vie with its gorgeous sunsets, no solitude can equal the loneliness of a night-shadowed prairie; one feels the stillness and hears the silence.

Storm clouds over ranchland, south of CP mainline eight miles west of Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The track bisected pastures of tall buffalo grass and skirted green hay meadows. As it travelled westward it pushed through a country of memories and old bones - furrowed trails fashioned decades before by thousands of bison, vast fields of withered herbage, dead lakes rimmed with the tell-tale crusts of alkali.

Dusk in Painted Canyon and Thompson River, Mi 93 CN Ashcroft Subdivision.
The flanks of the mountains were grooved by deep canyons. Splintered trees topped the muddy gorge, huge rocks catapulted into the sky, vast chunks of mountainside slid into the river.
Entering the Rocky Mountains on CP Laggan Subdivision, Exshaw, Alberta.
Rugged black precipices stood guard at the entrance. A smudge of timber rose up to blend with sloping meadows. Beyond these spangled pastures were glacial fields of glistening white, tilting upwards to curved ridges which, in turn, led the eye higher to frosted peaks.

Canadian icon: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride at Expo 86, Vancouver, British Columbia.
When the North West Mounted Police were organized in 1873, Sam Steele became the force's first sergeant-major. He had a habit of being present when history was being made: he took part in the thousand-mile march to the Rockies in 1874; now he was presiding at the building of the first transcontinental railway.
Running extra...
The Jackson Five released "A-B-C" in 1970. In 1994 the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway (ABCR) was formed in the Akron, Ohio area. The Alphabet Route was a coalition of many railroads: NYC&StL/W&LE/P&WV/WM/RDG/CNJ/L&HR/NYH&H between Boston and the US Midwest. Gary, Indiana was the location of the Jacksons' home and was on several railroads south of Lake Michigan, such as the South Shore Line and Indiana Harbor Belt
Trackside Treasure blog partner Steve Boyko is relocating to Winnipeg. Even while he's house-hunting, Steve is making time for railfanning in the Winnipeg-Portage areas. I'm looking forward to his western posts on Confessions of a Train Geek.
Algoma Tankers' new tanker Algocanada is on its maiden voyage to the Great Lakes. The ship was constructed in Eregil, Turkey. Until now, the only known connection between Turkey and Canada existed at Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

VIA Roomette Interiors

Ever tried to photograph the inside of a roomette? It's a lot easier to photograph outside, since the VIA roomettes are near the vestibule, making shots like the one above possible. Inside, there's not a lot of room to spare, and even pulling the bed down (or out) requires backing out into the aisle. Here's how a VIA Accommodations folder from 1979 portrayed the interior:

Here is my view of the interior of Roomette 10 in Green Lane in 1980. Check out that shag-a-delic purple and yellow interior!

My luggage is still sitting on the floor, as the train heads north out of Toronto:

In 1981, I rode west in Ernestown, a former CN sleeper and one of 52 E-series cars. Here's an exterior view:

It was quite a coincidence to ride in the car which shared the name of my high school. Inside upper roomette 8, my suitcase is stowed above the toilet, sink, and mirror:

Once the bed was in place, the passenger was admonished by a small metal sign: "Accrocher la bride de surete au declancheur. Hook safety link over bed release handle." A CN blanket, and VIA hand-towel, matchbook and timetable:

A year later, it was still possible to receive a pre-VIA era surprise when turning in for the night - warm CPR and CNR blankets, produced by Ayers Woolen Mill, established in Lachute, Quebec in the late 19th century.

Roomettes were full of interesting doodads and thingamajigs. The ventilation fan had rubber blades in case you accidentally put your head in front of it. The doors could be slid open, and zippered full-length curtains left open or closed. If no-one occupied the roomette across the hall, it was possible to hop across to see passing sights, freight yards and meets. The rooomette number was shown by a small tab-like sign in the aisle, and was also displayed over the window inside the roomette. Sherwood Manor's Roomette 3 had bright-red interior paint:

The roomettes and sections were at the ends of the car, so it was always noisier there. Noises from the trucks, noises from the vestibule, and various annoying squeaks and scrapes from nowhere in particular. Each roomette had a shoe locker. When people used to dress up to take the train, the shoe locker held your shoes overnight. The porter would remove them from a door in the aisle, have them shined and returned to the locker by morning. And how about that safe repository for your used double-edged Wilkinson blades?

As the above sketch of Roomette 11 of Eldorado shows, this compact accommodation could be termed a bathroom with a bed in it. I rode Eldorado in June, 1980 and it was one of the last E-series sleepers on VIA's roster in 1994. Roomettes provide comfortable travel, creatively designed, and making the most of the scant space available.
Running extra...
Rapido Trains recently launched their Green-series sleeper models.
Last Friday's CP derailment in Oshawa meant that CP intermodals detoured over CN's Kingston Sub from Toronto to Brockville. I was able to catch two CP trains on Sunday, only the third time I can remember such detours over CN.
The latest issue of CRM (T16T6-April/May 2009) features my HO Winnipeg Terminals layout on the cover and inside in an article. Trackside Treasure is also mentioned in the Railway Website Reviews section. This charter subscriber would like to say "thanks" Morgan and John for showcasing my modelling efforts in Canada's model railway magazine.