Saturday, December 22, 2018

Farewell to Jim Hediger's Ohio Southern

Jim Hediger’s Ohio Southern is no more.

As was reported in the December 2018 issue of Model Railroader, Jim tore down the layout after selling his house.

Jim’s layout now joins the many other layouts that have been influential to me over the years—and that are now also gone. (See Of Tibetan Sand Mandalas and Model Railroading.)

Started in 1979, the Ohio Southern was the very first double-deck layout. It was the inspiration for my own double-deck Manitoba & Minnesota Sub. Articles about it in MR helped me build my layout. 

I’ve written about Jim’s layout and operating philosophy a few times, such as when it marked its 35th anniversary.

Reading Jim’s farewell article in MR about his layout, I was struck by his matter-of-fact tone. The truth is that layouts, like their owners, don’t last forever.

Very few survive after their owners move or die.

(The only one I am aware of that outlived its owner intact is Harry Calrk’s Indian Creek Valley, which was transported in an outbuilding to a new location.)

One thing that also struck me, reading the farewell article, is that Jim didn’t appear to have ballasted his track (even after all those years). That would certainly make it easier to take apart!

I was also happy to see that, right to the end, the Ohio Southern was DC—just like the M & M Sub.!

View videos of Jim talking about the creation of the Ohio Southern here and also here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

New Book By Steve Boyko Celebrates a Half-Century With Trains (and Mountains!)

My friend Steve Boyko—owner of the long-running blog—has a new book out.

Called Passing a Half Century: A 50th birthday trip through Alberta and British Columbia, Steve wrote it to mark his passing the half-century mark.

With 143 pages and over 200 photos, the book takes readers on a trip through those two provinces, including visits to the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, the Revelstoke Railway Museum and the Three Valley Gap rail museum.

I’m always impressed when someone writes and publishes a book, so I sent Steve some questions. Plus, he interviewed me back in 2015—now it was my turn to interview him!

Why did you write the book?

I originally shared the story as a series of blog posts. I thought some people might prefer to read it as a single, longer story, and I also felt I might reach a different and wider audience if I put it on Amazon. The jury is still out on that!

In a larger sense, I wrote the original blog series because I like to tell stories and share my photography.

Why Alberta and B.C.?

There were a few reasons why I chose Alberta and British Columbia. My wife and I both love the Banff- Lake Louise area and the Rockies in general. I love photographing trains in the mountains. I had never been through the Crowsnest Pass.

The most important driver, though, was to visit the Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, BC. My father visited that years ago and recommended it to me. I had always intended to go, and this was my chance.

Did anything surprise or jump out at you from the visit?

The most surprising thing, to me, is how well the trip went. Except for the wildfires spoiling our chance to visit Waterton Park, everything went pretty much according to plan.

I was surprised at how much CP traffic there was between Cranbrook and Golden. I hadn’t expected much. Given how little CP traffic there is around Winnipeg, I am often surprised by the traffic that goes between Vancouver and Calgary.

What was your favourite railfan spot?

The Crowsnest Pass. There are a lot of great locations with a lot of variety. My favourite photograph of the whole trip was made at Sentinel.

I assume you visited some locations for the second or more times. What changes did you see? 

I’ve been on the section between Calgary and Pincher Creek before. I didn’t see any changes there, but I went out of my way to photograph three grain elevators I hadn’t seen before (De Winton, Azure, and Raley).

I’ve also been on the section between Field, B.C. and Calgary several times. One change was that I couldn’t visit Morant’s Curve this time, because the highway next to it was being rebuilt. I understand it is much better and safer now. Unfortunately, Parks Canada didn’t chop down any trees, so the view is still not as good as years past.

The Spiral Tunnels were more overgrown than I remembered from my previous visits, too.

What do you hope the reader comes away with from the book?

I hope readers gain an appreciation for how beautiful Alberta and British Columbia are, especially the mountainous areas. I never get tired of visiting there.

How did you become interested in trains in the first place?

I visited the Salem and Hillsborough Railroad in New Brunswick in 1998. That really provided the spark that ignited my interest in trains that has become an obsession. I think it was something that had laid dormant in me for a long time and just needed a little push to come to the surface.

Over time I’ve become “better” at railfanning—finding trains and better locations to photograph them in – but the interest hasn’t faded.

Any general observations from a half-century (or thereabouts) from chasing trains?

You can spend a lifetime observing and chasing trains and never learn everything about trains and the people that run them. There is so much variety in the locomotives, the cars, the track, the signals, the roadbed, the people, the railway companies. It’s a vast hobby with room for everyone of all interests.

Also, trains are cool.

Anything else to add?

Stay safe out there. I love making photographs, but a great picture is not worth risking your life for.

Also, it feels a little weird to be answering the questions instead of asking them! Thanks for the opportunity.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

VIA Rail Selects Manufacturer for New Trainsets

VIA Rail has made its choice, and that choice is Siemens.
The German company has been awarded a $989m contract to build a fleet of 32 push-pull inter-city trainsets to enter service on the Québec City - Montréal - Toronto - Windsor corridor.
The trainsets are expected to arrive in 2022.
Each trainset will consist of one locomotive and five coaches, and a non-powered cab unit at the end.
The coaches will feature LED lighting, USB ports, wi-fi, wide seats, quiet zones, cycle storage, flexible luggage space and 'the latest in food service equipment'.
Accessibility features are to include multiple spaces for wheelchairs and mobility devices, braille seat numbering, companion seating, at-seat emergency call buttons, large accessible toilets and integrated lifts for mobility devices.
The trainsets will be manufactured at the Siemens facility in Sacramento, CA.
The trainsets will be maintain in VIA Rail facilities in Montréal and Toronto. They are expected to have a 30-year service life.
VIA Rail intends to withdraw some of its life-expired existing stock starting next year.