Tuesday Train #266

I acknowledge the land I live on is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. I also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.

Above is a land acknowledgement, this is the wording we use in my day job as a planner for our public meetings in the City of Toronto, I also live in the City, so the wording I believe is appropriate to acknowledge the land I live on and post from.

This Thursday, September 30th, 2021 is the first “National Day for Truth and Reconciliation“, a new federal statutory holiday intended to honour the lost children and Survivors of residential schools, as a part of our collective acknowledgement of centuries of wrongs committed against the Indigenous Peoples of these lands since colonization by European people. Sadly, not all provinces have decided to make it a holiday in 2021, so across the country it will be a patchwork of people getting the day and acknowledging. I know my employer has encouraged us to take time to reflect, and participate in events being organized surrounding reconciliation, but we are not closing.

What does this have to do with trains? Well, the Railways are just one of many things which has been used for good and bad in relationships with Indigenous peoples. When the railways were built, whole communities were displaced; traditional ways of life and hunting grounds were disrupted; and, the railways were used to take children away to Residential Schools, some never to return. Others would use the railway in an attempt to return home dying along the way (see the well known story of Chanie Wenjack, who died at 12 years old trying to follow the tracks home from a Residential School).

The famous graffiti on the Garden River First Nation outside of Sault Ste Marie making a point about whose land the Canadian Pacific Railway passed through.

So, to bring it back to railways, I’ve been thinking of this for a while, and we were recently in Northern Ontario for a week, somewhere that the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are much more obvious than in Toronto where I live. The bridge above is outside of Sault Ste Marie over the Garden River in the Garden River Indian Reserve No.14. The Graffiti on the bridge is a visual reminder of the relationship I am talking about, the Railways bisect lands on reservations and on traditional lands without regard for the relationship when the railways were built. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when the railways were built, the “Indians” were a nuisance to be moved out of the way, not a partner and not a group to be worked with.

Good bridges build strong bonds, another railway bridge with a history of both linking and splitting a community is the James Street Swing Bridge in Thunder Bay. This bridge carries both rail and vehicle traffic from Thunder Bay (Fort William) and the Fort William First Nation. In 1906, the Grand Trunk (predecessor of Canadian National) entered into an agreement to maintain the bridge in perpetuity for traffic. After a fire in 2013, the railroad blocked the bridge to all vehicle traffic, effectively cutting off the Fort William First Nation from the direct route to Thunder Bay, and vice versa. This is the very epitome of a bridge being used to be bad neighbours. After a several year long legal fight, the railway was required to make the necessary repairs, and the bridge reopened in late 2019, once again providing a more direct link between the communities.

A bridge which for a long time made bad neighbours between the railway and the Thunder Bay First Nation, and a CN Locomotive showing their “Aboriginal Affairs” logo.

Its somewhat ironic to me that 2013 is also when CN started its Aboriginal Affairs program to try and improve relations between the Railway and the Indigenous communities it passes through. Since then hopefully they have made real steps to build bridges, instead of closing them.

One of my friends from our time volunteering at the Toronto Railway Museum is currently working on his Ph.D studies in History, specifically researching the impacts of the Temiskaming & Northern Ontario (now Ontario Northland Railways) on the indigenous communities of Northern Ontario. He wrote a piece last year on the blockades that occurred in support of the Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline on their lands protests. The trains on these lines are still a bridge between communities, a land bridge, as the train is the only reliable year round connection on land between Moosonee/Moose Factory on the shores of James Bay, and the south. It serves numerous isolated communities along the way, and brings in supplies that then travel even further north on the winter ice roads to places like Fort Albany, Kashechewan and Attawapiskat that have no year round road or rail connection.

The Ontario Northland “Polar Bear” arriving into Cochrane from Moosonee on September 16, 2021.

What can we do? We can acknowledge the past wrongs, we can ask our elected representatives to follow through on the promises they make, and we can pause to remember those whose lives and cultures were taken from them this Thursday, and every September 30th. It may not be much, but it is something we can all do to try and rebuild the relationship between communities and build better bridges.

Edit – Sept 30/2021: On September 30th, the Canadian Pacific Railway has unveiled a locomotive repainted Orange and a partnership with the Orange Shirt Society. The CPR has a complicated history with Indigenous issues, hopefully this is a stepping stone for them in taking steps forward in addressing the past and making Reconciliation a reality

Tuesday Train #265

Metrolinx has added signs with the number for Mental Health Support on all Level Crossings.

It is a bit different this week, it is National Rail Safety Week from September 20-26, 2021. In that vein, as someone who spends a lot of time around trains, and railway tracks as a hobby, I want to point out the importance of doing so safely. It’s not hard, stay off the tracks, and don’t trespassing on railway property. It will keep you alive, and keep those of us who love trains from becoming an unwelcome sight to train crews and railway employees. Trains can come at any time, and as large as they are, they can also be stunningly silent when they approach. It only takes a second for something terrible to happen, don’t ever let your guard down around the tracks.

There is lots of information out there on rail safety. Learn how to be safe, and how to take pictures and watch trains from a safe distance.

Operation Lifesaver Canada

Please be safe out there around trains. As I say when I Tweet about my days out Railfanning, #TrainsAreCool, but they are also dangerous, and for all our sake, learn to be safe around trains and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Progress Painting Buildings

As with my last post, I haven’t made a lot of progress, but its good progress. I have also been working on the structures. Partly, the never ending task of cutting out window openings.. I’m still on the first wall…so that’s going well…but I have made some progress on other parts of the structures for the layout.

Progress on painting buildings. Applying new to me techniques with mortar washes and using PanPastels to very the brick tone. The first two shots of the foundry show some work with PanPastels over paint. The second show Roberts Brick Mortar on the warehouse and boiler house.

For the buildings, I am still in experimenting mode, trying to learn techniques, and improve ones I have used before. I am working to find a look and feel for my buidings that feels real to me, and look like their actual selves. One of the challenges of modelling a real place, is that you can quite literally drive down the street and compare your models with the real thing!

The first product I have been playing around with is Roberts Mortar. It is a paint product designed to be applied to brick, then wiped away to create mortar lines. There are many different ways to achieve this. This product is designed for where you have already painted buildings and need to bring the lines out. An alternative that I will be trying is painting the building white/light grey (primer basically), then dry brushing the brick. Dry brushing is when you take a bit of paint, wipe the brush so almost none is left, then wipe it across the surface That applies a little bit of paint to the top of bricks, but not into the mortar courses. This is a technique I have used, badly, and am working to get better at. With the Roberts, I have found that it leaves a fairly bright mortar course, but that you can remove more even after you think its dried with a damp cloth. I have also found that subsequent weathering with PanPastels helps to tone down the courses.

PanPastels are the second tool I am working on expanding my use of. I have used them for weathering, and for roads, but they are also great for creating brick tone variation and weathering on buildings. I am still figuring out the right way to do it, but thus far, I have learned that its similar to dry brushing, once you’ve got some pastel on the applicator, wipe off most on a piece of paper towel so that you are only applying a little bit to the top surface, you don’t want to fill in the mortar courses with the pastels. Once they are applied and you are satisfied, they do need to be sprayed with a fixative, or clear coat. They will stay in place, but if you might need to handle the buildings, not sealing the pan pastels runs the risks of getting future fingerprints in your work.

Still more to go, and more to try, but the buildings are slowly coming to life as they get some paint and grime and such on them. It isn’t where I want it to be at the end of the day, but I can see the vision coming to life every time I experiment with some more paint or powder, and that is a very good thing.

Slowly making progress

Well, I haven’t written about anything I’ve been working on in over a month. It isn’t because I haven’t made any progress, though truth be told, there hasn’t been a lot of progress. August was a very hot month, which makes my 3rd floor layout room where I am already spending 8 hours a day as my office for my day job a bit of a sauna. As I’ve written about more than once in the past 18 months, some times are better than others have been for mental state and motivation, and I have definitely been at a low ebb through August.

First up, in early August, the first bit of modern rolling stock I have bought in a long time came in. A Scale Trains “Rivet Counter” Gunderson Auto Max auto rack. For a diorama of Canyon Road, one of the main things seen on trains there is Auto Racks, so this was a must have type of car. The other still coming is a container well car, which do run here, but are the other ubiquitous modern rolling stock type out there these days. I still don’t have a modern locomotive (its coming, pre-order and wait is the way things are these days!), but having a modern freight car lets me make sure everything is good spacing wise.

Ooooh, some modern rolling stock finally arrived. One of two options for modern freight equipment I have ordered, confirming that the bridge will clear models.

I haven’t made a lot of progress on the diorama for a little bit, as I was waiting on a freight car to be 100% sure I had my clearances right. Now that I am, I have started puttering along again. I am working on the photo backdrop for the right hand end, that will represent the Niagara Escarpment in the distance when looking down the track, once this is sussed out, I will move on to ground cover and such. Before that, I also have the telegraph poles along the line I am working on. These are good as they are giving me some much needed practice with dry brushing and coming up with a way to give a little pop to the insulators, something I will need for the large number of poles on the main layout.

Testing paint technique on some scrap cross arms, the telegraph poles for the diorama ready to have the insulators painted, and the paints I am using.

For the insulators, I used Rix Products arms, they have nicely molded insulators, but they will look like nothing without some help from paint to make them stand out a bit. For this, I decided to try a two stage approach. First touch the insulators with some aluminum paint (its what I had, really I think it just needs to be a metallic ish metal like Steel or Aluminum. Doesn’t need to be perfect, just a quick swirl around each of the insulators. In a pinch silver would do as I don’t think you’ll notice after the second stage. The second stage is to touch on some Tamiya clear paint. I amusing two, the clear smoke, and clear green. When I do the actual poles, unlike my test ones, I will also use some white paint for white porcelain insulators. The common colours I see of glass insulators are smokey clear and green, so the Tamiya paints are perfect. I haven’t done the ones for the diorama yet, but I had lots of miscut length and spares from making the layout hydro poles, so as you can see above, I played around with them to see how it looks. I think it captures the look, even in a poorly lit cellphone photo.

The effect I am going for, one of the telegraph poles at Canyon Road in Cambpelville.

Tuesday Train #263

Sometimes. good things come to those who wait. 200 Tuesday Trains ago in Tuesday Train #63, I complained about my lack of luck catching the Canadian Pacific Railway under the daystar. CPR traffic was my unicorn, a mythical beast that I couldn’t capture. Since about late 2019, just before our world got turned upside down, thanks to friends I finally got a hang of when things moved on the CPR, and where around Toronto in the daytime, and stopped being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That said, I had not ventured east of the City where there is less traffic generally again until last Friday. Taking a day off work to do a long day east of the City, mostly shooting VIA Rail, but knowing I should get some CPR if I was out early enough. As you can see, I did in fact get CPR Train 113 at Lovekin, one of 3 CPR freights east of the City I would get on the day, among 20 total trains.