Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Montreal-Vancouver Round Trip Family, August 1968

Travelling along through time, this is part two of a three-part series on our family's 1968 Montreal-Vancouver round trip aboard CN. The scenic first post doubled as a Canada Day 2016 Trackside Treasure homage, and part three provides some railfan-related information on the trip. This second post features family at various points in the trip. All slides are taken by my father L.C. Gagnon (unless you notice he's in a photo!) and scanned by my brother Dave. Some italicized passages are from a trip account typed by my mother. End of a long day: boarding at Montreal's Central Station Aug 5 (top photo).

"We were allowed to board the train about 45 minutes before it left. The children swarmed into our rooms, excitedly exploring what nooks there were. The two bedrooms had unfortunately not been made up en suite, that is there was still a wall separating the two sets of bunks, so we had to go out into the hall to communicate with each other. By the time the train got on the road, we were sitting with lights out watching familiar places go by the window: Montreal, Lachine, Dorval, Valois. I soon quit and settled down to sleep, though I found it rather warm in spite of the fan and 'air conditioning'."
Capreol stop at 1005 the next morning, where we met CN No 2 the Super Continental. 
"We made a lengthy stop at Capreol and we all got out to stretch our legs. But WE were different. MY train-mad family marched up front to photograph the locomotives! Luckily, we hopped back across the tracks just before a train from the west pulled in on them, or we would have been stuck on the other side of it, because our train pulled out before it. I should remark on ice carts running by with melting ice. The blocks, about 2x2x3 ft. were used for cooling the cars and I suppose in the diner for refrigeration as well."  Greenshields at Capreol:
"When the train pulled out, I wanted to make sure the porter remembered to fold back the door to give us one big room instead of two small ones. The room was much roomier made up en suite and it seemed airier, too. From the window we saw a river about 50 feet across and flowing swiftly. We also saw several toppled boxcars - a recent wreck? We wondered. We broke the monotony by playing cards and hangman - something seen out the window, something in the train, the name of a city, something to wear, an animal etc." Onboard entertainment:
"We checked our baggage in the station in the lockers provided for the purpose. We browsed around the station a bit and discussed how we would spend our few hours there. Our taxi driver was very slow-spoken and so what he had to say by way of commentary was drawn out well over the miles. He stopped first, by request, by an old steam engine, the Countess of Dufferin, exhibited outside the CPR station." Stopover in Winnipeg, August 7 aboard the preserved Countess of Dufferin at the Higgins Street CPR station:
"At Edmonton, there was a 30-minute stop. We used the time to walk the full length of the train. It was hard to count the cars, but we agreed there were 15-20. It was chillly, and we were glad of our sweaters. Back in the room, we listened to our new neighbours, another family of five, Americans who had flown to Edmonton from the States and were noisily commenting on the CN facilities!" Buckley Bay during station stop in Edmonton August 8:
"We were a half-hour late arriving at Jasper where we had arranged to make a day's stopover. It would have made an excellent photo if someone had snapped us struggling over to our motel [the not-really-distant Andrew Motor Lodge] with our numerous bags and suitcases! Puff puff!" Jasper, AB on August 8. Note eight-hatch reefers at left; PRR coach at right!
"We had to check out of our room by noon. On to the icefields. Each snowmobile held about a dozen people, and it took about 45 minutes, but there was quite a large fleet of them in operation - about ten. We were back at Jasper in time to squeeze in supper before train time, which was 2005. We had a drawing room, that is just three beds, on this train." Vancouver, BC on August 10 preserved CPR 374:
"We made a rather late evening of it and we had decided not to go on the Pacific Great Eastern train north of Vancouver because it would have made a very long day for the children. That evening, though, Uncle Eric helped entertain them, he played a hockey game (table type) with each of the children in turn and they had a whale of a time." Table hockey with Uncle Eric:
"This day's outing catered to both tastes: man-made wonders and nature; it was an excursion to a logging museum. Uncle Eric drove us the 40 miles along the road from Victoria to Nanaimo (THE two cities on Vancouver Island) to Duncan's logging museum."
Hillcrest Number 9 at Duncan forestry Museum Aug 15:
"Our trip aboard the ferry couldn't have been nicer. First of course, we had our lunch! And our waiter was the best of the whole trip. He smiles, bowed slightly from the waist, said "sir" and "ma'am" and "very good" and practically clicked his heels! He gave me the impression he had had naval service. We admired the speed and grace of the accompanying flock of seagulls, gazed down at the wide wake, and across at the islands we passed in mid-stream and at two ferries crossing in the opposite direction." Aboard Queen of Esquimalt Aug 17 meeting another ferry:
"We left early for the PNE which had opened Saturday. We passed poor Nancy Green, the skiing star, signing autographs at a rate designed to give her writer's cramp if nothing worse. Our family went on a CPR model train ride." Pacific National Exhibition Kiddieland ride - CPR Canadian August 19:
"You can see we were moving right along on this train. First of all, we were going straight home, with no stopovers; secondly, this was the CN's top train, the Super Continental. We travelled through flat Manitoba and were in Winnipeg by noon. Our arrangements for accommodation required us to change cars." Walking in Winnipeg during our stopover eastbound on Aug 22
"Our day was not over. We were due in the dining car for 1:00 and went down to wait in the lounge car - along with about 50 million others! The new crew took an extra two hours to serve us our meal. I could even manage a smile - I was not the kitchen crew with an endless job on their hands and chaos! The last day was pretty tiring. We were still in Northern Ontario, but were appreciative of the many pretty lakes that passed into view at the window. As we got closer to Montreal, we watched the dark countryside swish by without our lights on, and when we crossed the bridge to Ste. Anne's, the west end of Montreal Island, we gathered up our belongings and stood in the vestibule - except for me; I watched by the corridor window till I saw Valois speed by."

Running extra...

Thanks to Edd Fuller of the crisp blog The Trackside Photographer, Prairie Elegy has been born. A unique album elevating the topic of classic Canadian grain elevators.

I've been sitting here in the blogochair populating the blogosphere for nearly eight years now. Coming soon...Trackside Treasure's eighth anniversary, anniversary contest, and the always-surprising Trackside Treasure prize pack!

I tuned in a convention, then an unconventional tune. Demi Lovato serenades Democrats! Would panelling: David Axelrod? Check! Paul Begala? Check! Now, where is David Gergen to expertly enliven and enlighten the panel of experts with his excellent excerpts. Live Tweeting, that's where!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

NS 85-foot excess-height boxcars

A unique series of Norfolk Southern 85-foot excess-height boxcars was unusual not only for their length and excess height, but also for their two plug doors and ribbed sides. This is not your grandpa's hi-cube auto-parts boxcar:
  • Built by Pullman-Standard in 1965 for Southern Railway
  • Ex-SR 9640-9739
  • 10,000 cu ft capacity
  • 12'6" internal height
Nominally built to carry tobacco, by the 1980s most of the cars were in tire service!
There is an article on modelling these cars in the February 2003 Model Railroading magazine.

(Southern also rostered higher-numbered 'hog's head' boxcars, originally for tobacco but also later used to ship furniture and tires. This series was also re-purposed to haul high-cube out, low-tare out commodities like tires and boogie-board blanks!)

My sightings of these unique cars at Kingston, ON on CN's Kingston Sub
Mar 27/97 NS 484076
May 16/97 NS 484080 - 484075
May 25/97 NS 484089 - 484094
Jun 23/97 NS 484091 loaded, Dest Drummondville QC
Jul 6/97 NS 484091 on CN No 391 Dest Buffalo NS  for interchange
Oct 18/97 NS 484083 on CN No 380
Aug 5/98 NS 484093 on CN No 367
Aug 11/98 NS 484086 on CN No 367
Aug 19/98 NS 484082 on CN No 367
Sep 4/98 NS 484092 on CN No 368 at Belleville, ON (top photo)
Feb 20/99 NS 484076
Mar 27/99 NS 484073 on CN No 301
May 22/99 NS 484078 on CN No 301
Dec 12/99 NS 484091 - 484092 on CN No 318

Running extra...

Check out Steve Lucas' expert analysis of one my Dad's slides. Steve knows a thing or two about right-or-way and track structure. And it shows. And I'm sure my Dad would be proud to have one of his slides so meaningfully interpreted!

And then there's Bernard Kempinski's completed Port of Los Angeles (PoLA - that is not the German HO scale structure manufacturer!) layout hosting a Pacific Harbor Line transfer. I mean, who else builds his own HO scale ship from the keel up? Bernard harbours much talent, as far as I can sea.

Another interesting video - behind the scenes at Rapido Trains Inc.! I highly recommend Jason's soliloquy at the 8:50 mark of the video. Since Steve Boyko has already claimed the term 'Train Geek' it seems train 'nerd' is now T-shirt worthy!

That Eighties show: Julien Boily has a trip down memory lane for you - five videos of CN/CP in Quebec in the 1980's filmed by M. Robert Groleau. Great viewing, especially for those of us who are rolling stock fans! Born in the wrong decade? You'll enjoy the whole series!

This is the first post in the new sidebar item - Classic American Freight Cars, a companion list to Classic Canadian Freight Cars, already in the sidebar. Because Canada can't have ALL the cool freight cars in North America.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kingston and Brockville, June 2016, Diesels and Donuts

One weekend in June provided a couple of unexpected, unconventional and unprecedented railfan opportunities! The first revolved around fast food and trains. A rare opportunity to railfan with my father-in-law at the Country Style donut shop near my in-laws' new apartment building on June 25. Large coffee, fairly large windows, though not a large number of freight trains as might have been expected on a Saturday morning. VIA provided three trains for our viewing pleasure (top photo).
CN No 376 headed east at 1220 behind 2657-8842. All eyes on the rails...now if we could just get some of those large advertising posters out of the window!
CRDX 20433 was one of a large group of salt covered hoppers.
CRDX 20451 similar but different DRA application. Next opportunity, next day. Winnipeg CN engineer Chris de Vries periodically visits his old stomping grounds in Brockville. Such was the case during this week in June. My family and I drove down from Kingston. They went shopping, I went...you know where...Brockville's VIA station. 
At 1410, VIA no 47 was the first train to arrive: 912-3357-3330-3361-3354Ren-3462-917 - one of VIA's 50/50 consists with P42's on each end and cars with forward/backward seating, launched June 1. I'd made previous visits to Brockville in September 2013, and a wintry January 2014.
Chris and I chilled on one of the station benches, talking over a wide range of Canadian rail experiences, memories, technology, practices and other topics as well. At 1456, VIA No 64 arrived with HEP2 cars: 6438-8620-4001-4002-8107-4122-8127:
To clear the nearby crossing, passengers have a multi-car hike east along the platform to reach their cars. This allowed us good views of a classic ex-CPR Budd coach, paddle and all!
Und now, vee maaaarch!
Neither CN nor VIA overwhelmed us with train volume. While I trundled about recording photos and numbers, Chris adopted a holistic railfan approach, watching the passing show and monitoring chatter. Shoe collection!
One of the first observations Chris made was this uniquely-numbered, extended container trailer at the CN yard office: CNBS 295390:
Chris walked east as CN managed a modicum of freight traffic. OK, it was a deadhead locomotive set comprising CN 4134-2174, arriving from Maitland and train 585:
Smoke show. Geep horn.
Wresting a large cut of 39 cars from the north side of the yard before pulling past us and backing into the south side, this was an interesting consist. One of three extant Sclair cars, NCHX 46548 is destined for the nearby Avens plant on CP trackage, Chris noted. Followed by a TILX covered hopper for the Prescott elevator, six tank cars for CP...
 ...four ingot cars for unloading in the yard: HPJX 52225-52240-52247-52264...
 ...three covered hoppers CNLX 7181-CNIS 368060-CNLX 7354 heavily-graffiti'd, according to Chris a frequent flyer in Brockville...
...and the remainder ballast cars, mostly orange CN in the 302-series and 90-series (numbers available upon request) and two ex-BCOL green ones, such as BCOL 2866...
...and three tie cars: WC 451-IC 97411 and CN 91115
Chris was off to a couple of family get-togethers, and my family arrived to head back to Kingston via a delicious haddock and chips dinner from Don's Fish & Chips at the riverfront. This time, there were chips but no ships. We stayed at our perch just for the halibut. Oh, my cod!
At 1653, a VIA westbound behind 904 approached the Brockville station. Renovated but not made into a monster, unlike Belleville, Cobourg and Oshawa. Closer...
...and closer still! It was great to talk to Chris after corresponding online for some time. He'd hoped to pull an all-nighter, the slim prospects for much CN freight traffic changed those plans. Nonetheless, here are the trains Chris managed to observe after I headed west:
  • VIA No 44 at 1737
  • CN No 377 at 1748
  • VIA No 67 at 1816
  • VIA No 647 at 1829
  • VIA No 65 at 1840
  • CN No 306 at 1856
  • VIA No 46 at 1900
  • VIA No 69 at 1931
  • VIA No 646 at 1938
  • CN No 532 south to north at 1943, departing east 2033, returned 0010
  • VIA No 68 at 2009
  • CN No 148 at 2054
  • VIA No 668 at 2059
  • VIA No 669 at 2101
  • VIA No 59 at 2116
  • VIA No 648 exp 2210
  • CN No 372 at 2309
  • CN No 309 at 2318
  • CN No 373 at 0032
  • CN No 310 at 0059
Chris called it a night at 0100 with pending CN No 120 at Grafton and CN No 107 still in Montreal.

Running extra...

Speaking of Brockville, a positively inspirational series of photos posted to Facebook by Pennsylvania's Jeremy Plant has me returning to Brockville...in the 1970's and 1980's, that is! Watch for an upcoming series on VIA's splitting and building of trains at Brockville, plethorically  and pleasantly punctuated with photographs Jeremy took 35 years ago and has graciously shared now. Jeremy, hit me one time!
Book review: Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. Four word review: 
Great book. Read it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

2016 Front Porch Layout - The MMBEBRy: Make My Brown Eyes Blue Railway

For the fourth summer in a row, I've taken model railroading out into the Great Outdoors. Sure the basement is cool in summer, but it's far removed from the summer sun, the chirping birds, the scurrying squirrels, the laughing leaves, the cheek-filled chipmunks and the warm winds that the summer months bring to our doorstep here on the shores of Lake Ontario. So get out there! But with what?

Next up in my booklist is The Donut - A Canadian History by Steve Penfold. Though I've just skimmed the book, it appears there was indeed a thriving donut industry in Canada as far back as the 1930's. Produced centrally by large companies such as the Canadian Doughnut Company, donuts were popular as everyday snacks or for celebrations, even the subject of vintage postcards:
The industry was on a roll, but suffered a cruller fate when highways gained acceptance and shops appeared to have been sprinkled roadside overnight. There was a sense the donut-industrial complex was not doughing that well. Half-baked opportunities were frittered away. Large operations by the dozens no longer had the dough they once did. Canadians' eyes seem to have glazed over and prospects were crumby as the hole business was filled with changes. But back to the front porch we go!
Fellow modeller and Prince Street Terminal blogger Chris Mears and I discussed some inspiration - a car float operation. The few short tracks promoting lots of operation, a cassette/transfer table/sector plate to save space and track, and a small overall footprint were entirely enticing. An example plan (above)
I recycled the same piece of plywood from an earlier layout - 24x49 inches! I started laying out several spurs. The sector plate is located at bottom right, where it is handy for spinning to change tracks, with a capacity of one locomotive plus one car. Massive space saving over turnouts for each track, as well as compressing the horizontal distance most micro-layouts require. A typical shelf layout would be 2x6 or 2x8 feet to gain the required room for turnouts. Space not available when my wife and I share the front porch with our individual interests! The track is almost all screwed down (below) and I still have to figure out the wiring. Would I have room for a runaround track? Or just facing-point spurs (boring). I added a trailing-point spur at top, and a run-around track, second-from-bottom:
I wanted to have a donut bakery as the modelled prototype: inbound ingredients, outbound donuts and sprinkled trackside industries. As I debated, a Kingston Transit Excelsior rolled by on Route 15:
In terms of wiring, since soldering is not my strong suit, there's always Robertson screws to hold the under-layout wires to the rails. Each track had a black wire/white wire pair, as did the sector track. Everything was maretted together under the layout. The sector track is pointed at the track of choice - there are no joiners, just a small gap and if not lined up exactly right, a derailment ensues! Practice!
The final track arrangement (below). Cars arrive on the layout from the interchange track. They are shifted one at a time to the facing-point bakery tracks, or via the runaround track to the trailing-point industry.
Lined up and ready to choose a track:
I taped a short Video of switching. The sector track pivots on a Robertson screw. To prevent lateral movement, a square of styrene holds the track in place. My DC power pack is wired to the top of the layout. Ready to head to the trailing-point industry track:
Now ready to head to the interchange track:
With backdrop and trailing-point industry, which can accommodate various buildings. Here a feed mill/freight house, alternatively a lumber dealer or team track. Scenery is minimal, but lots of telegraph poles help break up the plywood look.
Invasion of the two-bay covered hoppers. I thought these would be the only cars the front porch layout could accommodate, but was pleased to discover that 40-foot cars can be handled easily. All in just 2x3 feet!
To operate the layout, I place some cars on each industry track. A nearby box contains a dozen more cars. The next car up is placed on-line on the interchange track, then set out to replace a similar car on an industry track. The car lifted is in turn moved to the interchange track and taken off-line. Track designation is flexible. The bakery tracks can alternatively be inbound, outbound, power house and hold tracks.
The bakery is the venerable Superior Bakery kit by Revell. The Canadian Doughnut Company covered hopper acquired from Roy Whitman provided much of the inspiration! A bird's eye view of the entire layout with coffee mug at far left, house pillar, bushes, backdrop, trackage including the transformer cleverly hidden behind two Athearn trailers, and sector track at bottom right. All on my front porch right in front of my lawn chair!
For more front porch inspiration, check out my layouts from 2015, 2014 and 2013. In case you haven't got a round to it, the name of the layout is my take on piano intro'd Crystal Gayle's 1978 hit!

Running extra...

Recent reading: Wolfe and Montcalm by Roch Carrier and Wolfe at Quebec by Christopher Hibbert. Perilous times for both England and France as they battled for control of settlements that would become future donut shop locations!