I’m constantly impressed by the camera on my iPhone. Even, as I’ve just learned, when it tries to help and does something spontaneously right and wrong, taking the picture it wants instead of the one I thought I was taking.
In the above photo, I’m looking straight into the setting sun while these two GP’s make up tonight’s 509 – the Dartmouth to Autoport train.
In the instant that I pressed the button to take this photo the camera instantly changed the light levels. The sky is washed out. In doing so, look at all that cool detail in the engine’s paint. The way the paint is fading, door by door.
My photo would have been overexposed. My photo is… The camera took a different photo. Together we’ve created something neat.
And in doing so, reminded me of what it was like to be shooting on film, in a time before digital cameras, and still only learning how to take a photo.
I know, my affection for photographing and sharing pictures taken near Alderney Landing here in Dartmouth is obvious.
I am so drawn to the complimentary lines in views like the above. I find places that offer patterns like these attractive and even calming. I don’t know why, I just do. Perhaps it’s that I see a strong architectural relevance here in the way that all the man-made elements repeat a parallel line that converges almost as if to a common focal point. Further that while everything man put here agrees to this pattern, the natural elements do not. There’s a contradiction that to me feels fundamental and standing here feels powerful. And good.
And the train passes through here so often that it’s easy to practice photographing in this location to test it.
Scrolling through the many photos I’ve taken at or near this particular location I noticed something that distinguishes time trackside from the hobby of model railroading: When I’m trackside I don’t get to choose between things like the best way to interpret the scene as a miniature. I just have to be present and enjoy it. That’s a quality I find attractive in the minimalist approaches to model railways.
I wonder what the minimum number of decisions a modeller could make and still complete a layout is or what they are?
I wonder how that completed work would compare to our current, decision-heavy, approach in terms of the experience for the creator.
Is there really a link between the work and the satisfaction?
Just before Christmas a friend telephoned to ask if I might be able to help fix a broken turnout. The piece of track was a brand new Shinohara double-crossover.
Above is the “before” photo showing the issue: simply that the solder joint that bonds that missing point to its throwbar had failed and the point fell out. The point itself was still in great shape so the repair was certainly easy enough.
Just one tiny solder joint later and this second photo shows the completed repair. Like any job, I feel like I spent most of the time practising the setup for the work and the actual soldering took about three seconds time. Since I opted to “repair in place” I was rather proud of not melting any of the plastic parts. Just a bit of minor surface work softening directly under the work which I cleaned up and the scribed the molded grain lines.
I’m really honoured to have been asked to help out. Immediately this helps a fellow modeller but while packing up my tools I couldn’t ignore how satisfying the work was. Helping out is just something I want to do but doing so actually reminded me that I do still enjoy the hobby. That last bit has a value beyond words. I’ve been doubting my future with the hobby quite seriously lately so it was nice to have such a well-timed reminder that there might still be something here for me.
Sure. Yeah. Take selfie down at the Dartmouth yard and use that as the Christmas photo for Prince Street.
I mean, it sounded like a good idea at the time.
Thank you for reading this far, listening when I needed to vent, and encouraging when I needed that sense of community. Thank you for being my long distance pen pals and making this place feel like a part of home.
I remember reading my copy of Eric Gagnon’s first book on VIA Rail in a hotel room in the early morning hours of the day in the company of a friendly mug of hotel coffee, quietly as the sun rose and privately while the city considered how it might start its day. The book had arrived just in time to tag along on a road trip and I remember vividly how exciting it was to leaf through page-after-page of train consist data. I love exploring data. Any data. On the surface “the data” can sound like such a dry and uninteresting commodity yet it comes alive once you spend some time getting to know it. The more patiently you listen, the more passionate that once emotionless voice becomes as it rises to tell its story like the breathe that effortlessly becomes a opera. I remember how exciting it was to pick a particular car number and then search through the book to see how often it would appear on that particular train or if it ever appeared on another service. With each reading and then re-reading, I’d discover some new treasure like the many special consists Eric included – who knew that tucked neatly into the pages of a book dedicated to VIA Rail trains I’d find consists belonging to commuter train consists from Montreal or Toronto?!
In the years since that first book was released Eric has continued to tell this story. Where the first book was dedicated entirely to sharing Eric’s listings of train consists the follow-up books have so beautifully built on each preceding volume’s work and each time, contributing once more voice telling the story of VIA Rail’s operations through the eyes of the railfan. And it’s not just Eric, it’s amazing how the books have become a party attended by all the cool kids from the VIA Rail(fan) community.
This spring and purely by chance I found myself in a familiar place. The room changed but the hotel and the city? All old friends together again. With another mug of Cambridge Suites’ finest hotel room coffee in hand I was ready to attend the first pages of Eric’s most recent book. These books work so very well together and many times I find myself pausing so I can excitedly cross-reference an observation from one against a line from the other book. Just as Eric’s inclusion of the commuter train consists felt like a personal treat, this latest book’s chapter on VIA Rail yard operations feels especially special – thank you.
The books represent a truly rich collection of information published on the railway and I consider owning copies, a fortunate privilege. Just as the joy of travel by train is often described as one experienced as much in the destination as in the experience of the travel itself, these books are not simply something to own and have read but to read, to study, and to indulge in.
Thank you for investing in these Eric and making them available for us to enjoy. Like watching a trip unfold through the windows of a train car, I’m looking ahead hoping to catch a glimpse of what’s to come.
Eric maintains a blog dedicated to his books. I’m such a goofball that I can’t imagine you’re reading this and haven’t heard of it. If you find you haven’t you can remedy this by clicking on this link: newviarailbook.blogspot.ca
When you’re there, find the time to check out Eric’s latest blog post on his main blog: tracksidetreasure.blogspot.ca
Wait! No trip is complete without a visit to Tim Hayman’s blog to check out his latest travels. He’s a superb modeller of all things Canadian passenger rail and a fellow fan of the Canadian commuter rail scene: timstraintravels.blogspot.ca
Living so close to the railroad in Dartmouth provides a great chance to see it regularly. A privilege I really haven’t had since the 1980’s. While I have no plans to interpret what I see in any literal form, in miniature at home, it does me a chance to explore questions I’ve had.
Starting in July I started photographing the track. Different locations, angles, and other perspectives. Not so much of the specific details like tie plates, rail weights, or ballast profile but to help me understand how track relates to the landscape.
Last winter I was playing around with several tests of colours on some lengths of track I had. I was questioning the base colour I’ve been considered my “go to”. Yet, looking at sections like the above I can’t help but see a familiar cast of browns. Maybe because it’s what’s there and maybe just because that’s what I want to see.