Train Tracks are not a Shortcut

I am, a little bit devastated by the news last night/this morning in Toronto. A 4 year old girl was killed after being struck by a GO Train in Mississauga, they were using the tracks as a short cut with their family. Sadly, people being struck by trains are all too common, but it is something that is also entirely preventable by not using the railroad as a path or shortcut. Trains can appear at any time, and for as big as they are, can be surprisingly quiet sometimes.

As someone who spends a lot of time around the tracks photographing trains, I am hyper vigilant about where I am in relation to the tracks, and about not trespassing on railroad property or putting myself into positions where I am at risk of being hit. I am very careful to not trespass, and not stand on the tracks to get a picture, its not worth the risk, and in theory, as I am actually out there looking for trains and often listening to the radio to know when they are coming, I am aware of their presence. Despite being knowledgeable and familiar with working on full size equipment and moves from my volunteering at the Toronto Railway Museum, trains still scare me and I give them the healthy respect they deserve when I am out around them.

Scenes of people walking past lowered gates, or getting that “instragram gold” shot…that might get you killed for your likes. Also, typical signage at crossings, obey the do not enter signs, it could save your life.

Some resources to help with Rail Safety Knowledge:

Operation Lifesaver Canada
Operation Lifesaver USA
Canadian National Rail Safety Week
Canadian Pacific Railway RailSense
Ontario Mental Health Association – Suicide Prevention Resources

New Year, New (& Improved) Canadian Trackside Guide

So one of the most useful tools if you are a railfan in Canada and spend any time out chasing/waiting/watching trains, the Canadian Trackside Guide. This annual publication, now in its 39th year is both an incredible tool, and an incredible record of the changes in the railways of Canada. I use it as a source of information for where I am out looking to know where I should hear automatic radio equipment communicating, for what trains I might expect to come by and what their numbers are, and for “ticking”, or marking which locomotives or other equipment I have seen in any given period. I say period, as ordinarily I have bought one about every 5 years, and for some reason, I got rid of my older ones. I currently have a 2015, 2020 and a brand new 2021. With 2020 bringing a year where about the only thing I could do to get out of the house was go railfanning (nice easy social distancing activity), my 2020 guide got a workout, and so I did buy a 2021 version, and I’m glad I did.

Brand new 2021 Trackside Guide and my 2020 edition. The 2021 hasn’t been flagged yet with stickies to easily find the most frequently used pages.

The format and appearance of the guide hasn’t really changed that much over the years, at least not before the 2021 guide. I opened it up and quite literally went “wow” out loud. This years guide, has had some subtle, but really nice improvements made to it. The font is slightly larger and clearer, and in the roster guide sections, there is shading blocks to help break up listings and make it easier to use. These for me are small, but really nice formatting improvements that will help me see and find things as I am out railfanning in 2021 and into the future. I don’t know if I will buy the guide again in 2022, that’s a future decision,

A couple of samples of the 2020 vs the 2021 guide, the slightly larger clearer font and shading are really appreciated by me.

The Canadian Trackside Guide is published by the Bytown Railway Society in Ottawa. As of the date of my posting this, they still have copies left, but if you are in Canada, your local model railroad store probably has some, and I know a lot of museums do. The Toronto Railway Museum has both 2020 and 2021 versions available through the museum store.

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!!