More Book Progress

As of June 12, 2006, the 52,000-word manuscript for Steam in Northern Ontario has been completed. Photo selections have been made. I have been producing track maps and laying out the book. It appears as if this volume will have eight more pages than previous titles. Page layout has been completed for six of the twelve chapters. We are still on target for the book being turned over to the printer at the end of July for a Labour Day release.

Book progress

As of today, May 16, 2006, I have finished the 52,000-word manuscript for Steam in Northern Ontario. Photo selections have been made. Producing track maps began yesterday; this will take three weeks. Then it’s book layout & design, followed by writing about 8,000 words of captions. We’re still on track to turn the book over to the printer in July for a Labour Day release.

Scratchbuilding, anyone?

During the 1930s and 1940s, the CNR replaced most antiquated coaling plants on the Northern Ontario District mainline with reinforced concrete structures of a standard design. With capacities ranging from 100 to 200 tons, the new coaling plants appeared at Washago, South River, Bayswater, Foleyet (shown above), Fire River and Hornepayne. At least three of these are still standing, including one 15 minutes from my home.

I have copies of plans for these structures, and plan to scratchbuild one for my HO scale 1:1 diorama depicting Washago. Is anyone else interested in scratchbuilding one of these monuments to the CNR steam era? If so, and with a sufficient number of committed modelers, my thought is that we could do this as a “virtual modeling” exercise.

You’ve got a few weeks to make up your mind, but if you’d like to create one of these structures for your layout, please click on the “Comments” button below and indicate your interest. If four other modelers commit to the project, I will guide us through the exercise by the hand, online. In advance of a start, I will advise as to necessary materials.

Regarding the Northern Ontario District book (through which pages you will see many photographs of these coaling plants), I am wrapping up the Hornepayne chapter this week. Next week I will finish the half-completed Caramat Subdivision chapter. The last two weeks of April will be devoted to writing the Kowkash Subdivision chapter, the last in the book. Then it will be two solid months of producing drawings, choosing and laying out photos, writing 9,000 words of captions, typesetting and book design. The intention will be to finish this work by the end of June, at which time the book would be turned over to the printer. Given the normal summer shutdowns of printer and bindery, we’re looking at a Labour Day release.

See you at Copetown!

I’ve been hard at work on the Capreol chapter this week, which is already up to 2000 words. The draft should come in around 6000 words, somewhat under the 9000+ for the Bala Sub and the 8000+ for the Sudbury Sub.

For what will be likely be my only digital presentation until the autumn, I will be presenting a 45-minute overview of Steam in Northern Ontario this Saturday evening at Copetown. As with the book, the selection of images will cover 1950s era operations along the former CNoR mainline from the Don Valley in Toronto through Washago, South Parry, Capreol, Foleyet, Oba, Hornepayne, Longlac, Jellicoe and Nipigon. Then over the 1924-built cutoff to the old National Transcontinental at Nakina and finally to Armstrong.

The Northern Ontario District mainline was heavy duty railway operations–big power, fast trains, hot freight, and my favourite of all passenger trains, the pre-1955 Continental. Until the diesel deliveries of 1955, that train was pulled by the most modern of CNR steam power, the 6060-class Mountains. They were then displaced to lesser assignments such as secondary passenger runs in Southern Ontario, or sent to the Western Region to lose their cone noses and be converted to oil. That’s why my books are set in June of 1954, and my modeling too.

Anyway, Mary-Jo and I look forward to seeing any of you at Copetown, either during the informal “slide show” on Saturday evening or the show on Sunday. Safe driving.

A new series of publications?

Trevor Marshall’s query in the previous post (sugar beets) has prompted me to informally poll readers of this blog, the website, and the series of hardcover books on CNR operations during the 1950s in Ontario.

As readers of the books realize, the time is growing short for producing volumes such as Steam at Allandale and its successors. In preparing a 192-page book detailing the intricacies of railway operation more than half a century ago, I depend on living memories of the men who worked on the CNR in the specific territory. Each time I put together a book, it becomes more difficult to recreate those wonderful details of operation which are not otherwise recorded anywhere but in human memory banks. In that regard, I am engaging on a hellbent quest to cover as many CNR division points as possible before the sources are gone. When it comes to portraying railway operations I refuse to speculate–so the possibility of accurately describing such details will disappear forever in the near future (read this Topic for more).

My intention with the present series is to cover the rest of the CNR territory in Ontario. Beyond the Northern Ontario book which will emerge later this year, that only leaves the Toronto and Hamilton areas and the Belleville Division (including the Lindsay area and most of the Toronto-Montreal mainline, possibly broken into two books). The Ottawa area (and anything east of Brockville) was technically part of the Montreal District. Whether or not I get that far is unknown, but it is safe to say that any attempt in the present format will likely not prove fruitful for lack of living sources.

With respect to the previous post, Trevor posed a reasonable request: do I have any more information on operations which I would care to share? My answer at the present time is that no, I don’t, beyond what has been published in the books (time and budgetary constraints dictate that I research elements to the degree which is necessary for the publication at hand). However, I would like to do in-depth studies of various industries and traffic patterns over the 1945-59 era in Ontario as they related to CNR, and possibly other resident railway, operations. For that matter, general topics such as railway express services, trucking companies, postwar vehicles, the St. Lawrence Seaway, dieselization and the like may be fair game. As an author and publisher, I enjoy serving an appreciative audience with a successful series of books while supporting my family at the same time. My question to those loyal and prospective readers is this: aside from the current series on CNR operations in Ontario during the 1950s, what would you like to see explored in publication form? Please click on “Comments” at the bottom of this post to offer your input.

Bound for Chatham in late October

In one of the dozens of books which I’ve read to my son Spencer, I came across something an old man said to his young son: “When you get to be my age, you spend a lot of time looking back.” Well, at two score and five I’m not altogether ancient, but I’ve covered an awful lot of ground in short order with the books I’ve written. Working ahead in the far reaches of Northern Ontario, on the division point at Capreol this week, occasionally my mind drifts back over hundreds of miles and several years to some of the quaint Southern Ontario branchlines I’ve explored and shared with readers.

Naturally, being a modeler and a bit of a dreamer, I imagine scenarios of recapturing favourite territory in miniature. That is a funny term, “favourite”, for as I’ve said before, there is simply no CNR steam-era territory which is not interesting. But here’s one I’d like to share with you today, for it’s been in the back of my mind all day.

This is for the modeler who would enjoy recreating the late autumn scene–when the leaves are almost all gone and the skeletons of tree trunks are showing–on a simple branchline. He or she would also have an affection for open top cars of all types. You would only need one or two small steam locomotives. Consider the seasonal sugar beet traffic on one of the Southwestern Ontario branchlines out of London or Stratford. I think what sparked this idea was noticing that Chooch markets sugar beet loads in HO scale. Read all about that fascinating operation in To Stratford Under Steam or Steam Through London.

Recreating Washago interlocking

My pal Jeffrey Smith from Missouri (visit his excellent CNR Ontario railway history site here or click the link in the sidebar any time) visited for a few hours yesterday. Jeff and I graduated as Queen’s University engineers about a year apart. The difference being that as a railway signal engineer, he is still applying his knowledge!

Anyway, said signal engineer Jeff has graciously volunteered to design and build (in HO scale) the manual interlocking plant, both the physical and the logical, which existed at Washago circa June 1954. As covered in Steam at Allandale and to be addressed in greater detail in Steam in Northern Ontario, Washago was a hotshot railway junction which rivalled the Toronto-Montreal mainline in traffic density. Indeed, only that double-tracked route and the Oakville and Dundas Subdivisions topped Washago for action. Essentially, the Northern Ontario District mainline (Bala Subdivision) and secondary mainline (Newmarket-Huntsville Subdivisions, a de facto extension of the Ontario Northland Railway) came together here for about 500 feet over a single track bridge. Guarding that bridge to the north and south were interlocking semaphores.

Throw in a 150-ton concrete coaling plant, a massive wooden water tank, a register station with a bay window for each subdivision, and you have a 1950s train watcher’s dream location. Washago boasted some of the hottest traffic and certainly the best of mainline steam and diesel power, from Northerns, Mountains (semi-streamlined and otherwise) and Mikados to F-7s and GP-7s.

Anyway, I and talented friends such as Jeff are out to recreate the experience at Washago for all of us who were not fortunate enough to have been there in real life. It is a tall order. For the past few years, I have been systematically acquiring and producing a roster of HO scale locomotives and freight cars to accomplish this task. When the snow melts, I will visit the real life site (about 10 minutes drive from my home) and ascertain the nature of the topography. That will be replicated in styrofoam, then hand laid track will go down.

Back to yesterday: Jeff brought along his first creation, the “lever shack” for Washago. We headed for the garage and airbrushed the building (don’t believe you can’t airbrush in sub-zero weather; you can). With final assembly and Jeff’s blessing in a day or two, I’ll post pictures of it in place.

Putting a Proto 2000 URSA 0-6-0 to work

There were a couple of Grand Trunk six-wheeled yard engines at Black Rock, New York (Buffalo), assigned to Fort Erie, Ontario. Regulars were 7528 and 7529. Both were taken out of service September 1956. Over the years, various others in the 7520-series filled in as the regulars were shopped. The whole story, including locomotive assignments, description of operations, maps, time tables and numerous photos, is presented in Steam to the Niagara Frontier.

For the HO scale modeler who loves steam era freight cars, enjoys a variety of railroads, and perhaps doesn’t have a lot of space: consider modeling just the International Bridge between Fort Erie and Black Rock. Staging yard at either end. You could start with either one or two of the Proto 2000 0-6-0s and build plastic and resin freight car kits to your heart’s content. Don’t even worry about cabooses. Virtually any car in interchange service in North America could pass over that bridge (busiest international railroad connection in North America).

If the day comes that you want to do a little more, get a Broadway NYC (orTH&B) Hudson or two for the CPR/TH&B/NYC passenger trains. Or maybe some PRR cab units or road switchers for the two PRR trains each way (per day) which came and went from Fort Erie. Or NYC steam or diesel freight power. Or C&O… or Erie…

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