Tuesday Train #123

HelpingHandsForFallingSands.jpgSomething different for today, the above picture is not mine, but is taken from the Severn Valley Railway’s twitter feed.  For those who know me, by virtue of most of my family being in the UK, but me being born and raised and living in Canada, I have a foot in the railfan community on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  As such, I’m an active volunteer with the Toronto Railway Historical Association/Toronto Railway Museum, and a financial contributor to groups in the United Kingdom including the Severn Valley Railway and the 6880 Betton Grange Society.

So back to the image, the Falling Sands Viaduct shown in the picture was constructed in 1877, it connects the southern terminus of the SVR at Kidderminster with the next main station at Bewdley.  The viaduct is reaching the point of being life expired, and significant investment is required to restore it and ensure that it can stand for another 141 years.  Without the bridge, the railway would be severed, and its future operations put at risk.  With that in mind, the SVR has successfully obtained the first stage financing from the UK’s “Heritage Lottery Fund”, which enables them to fund raise the required contributing share from the railway to receive the balance of the funding from the lottery for the needed repairs. They are doing this through the “Helping Hands for Falling Sands” campaign during 2018.

I’ve been to the SVR three times for the Autumn Steam Gala, an event which is unparalleled in my mind in terms of the quality of the operations, and the rare opportunity to ride behind steam all night long as the now four day long (Thursday-Sunday) annual even sees trains running non-stop from around 8am Friday morning to 6pm Sunday night, including a limited overnight service. As someone whose favourite time for photography is in the night and long exposures, steam locomotives in the dark with smoke and steam are a dream to shoot.

I finally made a donation to Helping Hands for Falling Sands on the weekend, as I couldn’t attend the Gala and spend money at the railway to support it as a customer.  One of the few places on the line where there are good photographic opportunities that I haven’t been to is Falling Sands, so I want to do my part to make sure it’s still standing for when I next go there.  I’ve talked for years about trying to organize an Introduction to UK Heritage Railways trips for some railfan friends who’ve never been to the UK with the Severn Valley Fall Gala as a centerpiece of the trip, maybe 2019 will be the year that trip finally occurs.

A Couple of taster shots of what the Severn Valley can offer are below, along with a more on my Flickr account here.  If you like what you see, please consider supporting their appeal to ensure the funds to restore the Falling Sands Viaduct are raised before the end of the year.

Tuesday Train #116.5

A Bonus “Tuesday Train” for a Saturday.  My brain was off on Tuesday or I would have posted this as this weeks post.  Today, August 11th, 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the “End of Steam” on British Railways.  The final British Railways steam hauled service, the ‘Fifteen Guinea Special‘ was operated from Liverpool to Carlisle via Manchester and return.  This train drew thousands into the countryside along the line to capture the moment in photo and video, as at the time, only one locomotive, ‘Flying Scotsman” had special permission to continue to operate on the mainline, and prospects seemed dim for ever seeing steam locomotives running at full speed on the mainline as opposed to 25mph on private heritage railways.  Happily, that would all change and today people in the UK are fortunate to have regularly scheduled steam services in Scotland, and numerous tour operators operating “regular itineraries” and special one-off excursions.

2886611208_45e1dd1b14_o.jpg“The Last”, Ex-British Railways Black 5 No. 45110 which hauled the first and last legs of the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea Special at the end of steam in the UK.  Seen here in rest in Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway shortly after her boiler certificate expired in 2008.

The tour was a special train, the last regularly scheduled train had run several days before on August 3rd.  The locomotives were kept for the special train, and afterwards, were sold and sent off to their new private homes.  I have seen two of the locomotives in my travels to the UK, 45110 above, and 44871 seen below.  The locomotives which hauled the trip and the portion they hauled are below:

  • Black 5 No. 45110 – Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria
  • Britannia Class No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell – Manchester Victoria to Carlisle
  • Black 5 No. 44871 and Black 5 No. 44781 – Carlisle to Manchester Victoria
  • Black 5 No. 45110, – Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street

Only No. 44781 was not preserved, the other four remain with “Oliver Cromwell” and 44871 in steam and regularly seen out hauling trains on the railway network.

15699310642_b6eefa22ca_o.jpgA second survivor of the last day. Black 5 No.44871 at Fort William in Scotland working the Jacobite main line daily scheduled steam service from Fort William to Mallaig in 2014. Back doing what it was thought it would never do again 50 years ago.

Because of the nature of the UK Railfan community, the run down of steam has become something of a legendary event there with commemorations every year, unlike Canada where steam faded away and isn’t nearly commemorated in the same way (I couldn’t tell you when the last CN or CP steam services ran!).  Its a shame, as I wish we had legends like they do in the UK regarding the run down of steam, but there isn’t a culture of railfanning that has the same broad societal awareness here.

The Era of the Railroad Steamer – S.S. Keewatin may move again

7436492726_96e9821a3d_oThe S.S. Keewatin returns “Home” to Port McNicoll Ontario on June 23, 2012.

I’m putting this post up as something came across my radar from one of the many railfan message boards I peruse, the last of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Great Lakes Steamers, the S.S. Keewatin, which was returned to her home port of Port McNicoll in 2012 and has been under restoration as a museum ever since is about to become homeless as the developer which paid to bring her back from Michigan has sold the land they were attempting to develop around her, and the new owner doesn’t want to include her in their plans.  I was able to be in attendance for what at the time was thought to be her last voyage returning to Ontario, but it appears a move may be in the cards again, with potential destinations of Midland, Owen Sound and Collingwood being considered.

Why is this railroad related? One, she is a Canadian Pacific Railway steamship. Two, she provided a link across the lakes between Port McNicoll and Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay) for the railroad, hauling passengers and freight. And three, the Toronto Railway Museum received the coach Nova Scotia through the generosity of Skyline Investments, the same firm that brought the Keewatin home and purchased the railcars from the Ossawippi express for the development including the Keewatin.

The article from the Owen Sound Sun Times is at the link below for those who want more information: http://www.owensoundsuntimes.com/2018/01/17/ss-keewatin-needs-a-new-home-operators-would-consider-a-pitch-to-owen-sound-if-midland-doesnt-want-it

Hopefully this important piece of Canada’s Rail/Maritime Heritage will quickly find a new home and the group restoring her and operating her as a museum can continue to do so. More pictures I took of the day she returned home can be found on my Flickr.

7436492392_ae23f590ef_o
The S.S. Keewatin is swung around to her berth in Port McNicoll on June 23, 2012. At the time this was thought to be her last voyage returning to her home port to be turned into a museum.

Research Research Research

Model Railroading is a hobby of research as much as it is of doing.  At least it is if you area “Prototype Modeller” who wants to ensure their models are as accurate a representation of what we are modelling as can be achieved in a scale model.  I spend a lot of time in libraries, archives, scouring online for information and pictures about models that I’m working on.  This is OK, as I love research and gaining knowledge.  It keeps me inspired to do better at my modelling by having as much information as possible before I start a project.

This means that modellers tend to have a lot of books and photographs around, as we are constantly looking for information and references for what we are building.  Last week while I was out to dinner with a group of modellers, a potential simultaneous build project to modify a ready-to-run steam locomotive to be more accurate to its Canadian National prototype came up.  With motivation, I finally went out and bought a book that I should have bought when it came out in 2013, “Canadian National Steam”, a book which provides as complete a history as likely will ever be possible of every steam locomotive owned by Canadian National Railways.

IMG_4436.JPGCanadian National Steam published by Railfare DC Books.  This is Volume 1, an overview and details on different aspects.  Volumes 2-8 are detailed rosters of different wheel arrangements, with lots of pictures and details of when major modifications to the locomotives were made.

Budget considerations dictated that for the moment, I bought Volume 1 and one roster book, though I should have at least 6 of the 7 roster books eventually.  I’m not sure I need Volume 2 on oddballs and Newfoundland.

Like most modellers I know, the last thing I need is another project to be added to my pile, and I’ve written about my stack of projects in the past.  Despite that, this would be a different project, a chance to collaborate with a friend on something I’ve wanted to do for a while with the locomotive I already own.  I only need to settle on which specific locomotive I am going to model, then find the appropriate detail parts to update and improve the model.  As part of this project, it will give me the opportunity to work on my electronic skills as well, as the headlight LED in the locomotive is a sickly shade of green light, and I’ll be installing DCC and sound, once I make sense of the non-standard 9 Pin plug on the locomotive and how to re-wire it for an ESU Loksound decoder!

IMG_4435Fergie “helping” with my research in one of the Roster volumes of Canadian National Steam. I think she felt it was bedtime and I should stop reading and start providing a place for her to cuddle in the night.

The good news is that I am contemplating this project the weekend before one of the larger train shows in the area, the Hamilton & Ancaster Model Train Show (formerly the TH&B Society Flea Market).  This show happens twice a year, in January and November.  The next two are Sunday November 12, 2017 and Sunday January 28, 2018.  I try to go to both, but winter roads can make the January one iffy, so whenever possible I go to the November Show.  I went with friends last year and hopefully will do so again.  The show is a good chance for me to start searching for detail parts and supplies for new and ongoing projects, as the show tends to have lots of these available.  I’ll post somewhere in the future about the specifics of the locomotive project I’m going to be working on.  For now its just the research phase!!

Toronto Railway Museum at the Brampton Model Railway Show (Sept 30-Oct 1 2017)

This coming weekend, Saturday September 30th and Sunday October 1st 2017, I will be at the Brampton Model Railway Show with the Toronto Railway Museum/Toronto Railway Historical Association.  I will be there with the Museum and Volunteer Association to help promote our association and the museum.  A big part of the display will be my models of the TRM Collection in HO Scale.  I will also have the first print of a new model there with me to show off to those who want to see it!

IMGP6241RawConvLook for our big banners and drumhead sign at the Show this weekend and come up and say hi! (Picture from the 2017 Barrie-Allandale Train Show)

The show is the largest Model Railway show in the Greater Toronto Area, featuring vendors, manufacturers, operating layouts and historical societies.  On top of this, the show offers a range of clinics on different aspects of the hobby to help newcomers get into modelling, and experienced modellers learn new skills.

Both the Stall 15-16 (left) and Railway Village (right) Models will be on display at the show.  This is the first time both dioramas will have had an outing together (and yes, I’m nervous about having both these major projects out, but promoting the museum and letting people see them is a big part of why I built them in the first place!).

This will be the first time that the TRM/TRHA has attended the show, we will have our full display with information on visiting the museum, volunteering at the museum, and models of the equipment you can see at the TRM.  Our friends at Rapido Trains (most of whom are TRHA Volunteers) will have their restored GM New Look Bus inside the show venue for you to explore as well.

imgp6475rawconvOur crazy friends at Rapido Trains are bringing their full sized bus to the show.  Wonder if we can convince them to bring their full sized RDC in the future!

Show Details:
Brampton Model Railway Show
Brampton Fair Grounds (Pavilion Building)
12942 Heart Lake Road (at Old School Road)
Brampton Ontario

The show is open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday September 30th and Sunday October 1st, 2017.

If you are coming from most locations, take Highway 410 north from Highway 401 to the Mayfield Road Exit, turn left at the lights at the end of the ramp.  Turn right at Heart Lake Road (2nd set of Lights), the Brampton Fairgrounds are about 5 minutes up the road on the left and is well signposted.

A $1 off coupon for adult admission is provided, and your admission on Saturday includes admission on Sunday if you want to attend both days of the show.  Admission prices are reasonable anyways:

Adults $7 NMRA member $6
Seniors and Teens $5 Children (6-12) $3
Children under 6 free

2017 BMRS couponPrint out and bring with you to get $1.00 off your admission

Please come by and say Hi! We’d love to talk with you about everything that is going on at the Roundhouse and invite you down to visit us in person!

Model Railroading in 1:1 Scale…aka Volunteering at the Toronto Railway Museum

I know what you’re thinking, is it really modelling if you are doing it in full scale?  Maybe not, but this post is a bit of a push for many like me who spent a long time going to museums and preserved railroads, and never doing anything to help create those places for others to go and enjoy.  You don’t need any railroad skills (or any skills really), there are opportunities for all sorts, even model makers!!!  You don’t even need to commit a lot of time to be really helpful to making something happen either, just a few hours when you have them spare can make the difference between a small museum staying open or closing.

P1050595.jpgMe working the TRHA/TRM Booth at the Barrie-Allandale Train Show, a chance to meet the public and introduce them to the museum.  No skills other than being personable required!!  An example of the range of tasks that a volunteer can be a part of.

I had never been a part of any preservation group or museum prior to me joining the Toronto Railway Historical Association in 2009.  The TRHA is the volunteer group that has constructed and operates the Toronto Railway Museum in the former Canadian Pacific Railway John Street Roundhouse in Roundhouse Park, Downtown Toronto.  I had visited the roundhouse at Doors Open, and seen the TRHA at train shows, and truthfully didn’t pay them much attention until June 2009 when I saw that they were having Canadian National 6213 moved from its long time home at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds to Roundhouse Park.  After this, I took a look at what they were doing, and said hey, these folks are right in my backyard and actually getting things done, I should get up of my rear end and do something to be helpful!  I had alsways wanted to be a part of a museum/restoration group.  I was always very jealous of my friends in the United Kingdom who have a wealth of preserved railways and museums for people to pick and choose from.  Here, there are several good museums and groups around the GTA, but most for me mean hour long drives each way to get there, which limited my motivation to be active.

3613951306_3a56bffb4e_oCN 6213 loaded up at the CNE Grounds, and starting the overnight move to her new home at the Toronto Railway Museum, just under the CN Tower in the distance.

When I started volunteering at the roundhouse with the TRHA, I met some fantastic people who were volunteers, who I am now friends with and see both at and away from the museum.  When I started, my first tasks included scraping rust off two big air tanks and painting them aluminum, and getting right at it in the cab of 6213 and repairing the wiring that had been cut when the locomotive was moved from the CNE.  Trust me, no skills were required to scrape off the rust with a metal wire brush or slap on aluminum paint on the tanks.  It was must definitely grunt work!!  When I started, the museum was in the “Construction Phase”, restoring buildings, preparing our three stalls, and building the 7.5” Gauge Miniature Railway in the park.  It wasn’t open to the public, and the historic railway vehicles in the collection were all tarped over for their protection.

A picture from my first weekend at the TRM, cleaning and painting the air reservoir tanks from the Machine Shop.  Me working in the cab of CNR 6213 to repair the wiring, and a Goal Achieved, making the first runs on the complete loop of the Miniature Railway on New Years Eve 2009.

After the museum opened in May 2010, I did some work operating the miniature railway, but focused on getting involved in restoring historic vehicles, as that was where most of my fellow volunteers attention went after the big push for construction.  Our first project was a four year long restoration of Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo Railway caboose No.70.  I also worked regularly on restoring the interior of the cab of Canadian National Railway F7A 9159 (only the cab remains of this locomotive). I am neither an expert woodworker or metal worker, or any other kind of handyman, but I can work with all these materials under supervision, and take direction to be helpful to those who have the serious skills.  I can definitely say that the skilled people who make up the regular Thursday/Saturday volunteer restoration team at the museum are friendly and willing to help new volunteers learn how to safely use the tools and learn the skills to help with restoration of historic vehicles if that is your interest.  Similarly, if your interest is in dealing with people and operating the miniature railway, there are opportunities for that as well.  It all starts with coming out and volunteering to help however you can, and building trust to get given the opportunities to do the things you want to do!!

Me working on the Cab of CN 9159 on the left, and drilling a part for something (I have no recollection of what I was working on) on the right.

As time went on, I found I was having less time to get down regularly, and work on restoration, but the museum had continued to grow, and following a production of The Railway Children play in the park in 2013, the museum was able to convert space that had been rented by the show into our initial display of historic artifacts.  This space which takes up about half of Stall 17 and a third of Stall 16 is our initial museum, until a future project to fund raise and build a permanent building is launched.  After several years, the initial displays in the Stalls were getting a bit tired, and left opportunities to improve our visitor experience by working on new displays.  As I was having less time to go get dirty on restoration/maintenance, and the Museum Manager and executive knew I had interests in display, I wound up getting involved in the ongoing process to create new displays and update older ones.  This worked as it also allowed me to leverage skills I have from my day job in designing displays and graphic materials for the museum space.

Partially installed exhibit on The Canadian on the left, and updated board on the CPR 3100 Northern Locomotives on the right.  Both new/updated exhibits now on display in the Toronto Railway Museum.

While I know not everyone has the desire to go out and volunteer, if you have even a tiny bit of interest, go out and meet your local museum or historical society.  If they are anything like any museum or group I’ve ever met, they always need willing and motivated people, and any organization worth being a part of will work with you to find out what you are interested/able to do, and help to get you involved in that part of their operations if they can.  I can speak from experience that you will meet plenty of good people in doing so.  The past 8 plus years have been very rewarding (though not without their challenges as with anything else in life), and I am definitely proud of  whatever small contribution I have made to preserving and protecting Toronto’s railway heritage for future generations.