By about five years.
Depending on how you measure things, by the time I finally made it to Windsor to catch a train on the Dominion Atlantic, I had actually missed it by much longer.
I have a few railfanning regrets over lost opportunities trackside and chasing the Dominion Atlantic Railway is pretty high on that list. Equal to that is a similar regret over a similar lack of effort to chase the Windsor & Hantsport Railway (the DAR’s successor). Last week, I finally made it. With operations on hold since 2011 there was absolutely no chance of seeing anything operate but that, in no way, detracted from how great an opportunity it was to finally step into scenes I knew only as photographs. I wanted to take a moment and share a few of the photos I took.
Though history provides so many examples of the DAR’s rich history of classic Canadian railway architecture, a major draw, for me, to the railway is how most of their physical plant was comprised of much more practical designs. Windsor’s station is no less a typical example. A simple steel building that a modeller could easily replicate using any of those Plastruct-style kits that used to be so popular on model railroads. Despite these humble lines, standing on the platform here was such a neat feeling.
On a stub-ended siding at the station is a former CP-van and some track maintenance equipment. The van was once a part of the Windsor & Hantsport’s excursion train and despite its very exposed location was in terrific condition. Sadly too much equipment left outdoors like this soon succumbs to vandalism.
The siding itself continued a bit further to what would have been a beautiful pair of warehouses that I suspect were once used for shipping apples.
On many smaller layouts we stuggle to find a way to distract from the point where our tracks disappear through the sky and into “staging”. In this case, Windsor provides a very prototypical example as the mainline itself actually does just that.
With no train to wait for, no matter how badly I wanted there to be one, it was time to load back into the car and point west to Hantsport. The feeling at Hantsport was peculiar and I still don’t know how to describe it. I’ve spent too much time on abandoned railroads. At Hantsport I was greeted not by an abandoned railroad but one that had simply stopped. Standing at the entry to the yard it took barely any imagination to not expect a train any time now. I know I spent a few minutes quietly listening to the air for the exhaust bark of an oncoming train.
This spring, I’ll be hosting another handlaying a turnout workshop and right here, at the east end of Hantsport yard, was one turnout that everyone should be able to make up from plain rail and ties. Kidding aside, lots of rich detail and texture that beg to be modelled and this project could really showcase some finescale track modelling such as Mike Cougill introduces in his superb Track: Then and Now book. What a story in such as short piece of railroad.
The yard was filled with several blocks of the distinctive hopper cars are used to carry the railroad’s life source: gypsum. It was great to have so many of these cars handy to photograph. I would love to return soon with a tape measure, paper, and permission from the railroad to spend some serious time climbing all over these cars to record as much detail of them as possible with a view to producing a kit of them.
Opposite the hoppers, on a siding long since severed from the main track was a string of boxcars. Though now heavily rusted, there were some terrific examples of cars that should be preserved.
Walking back toward the station it was hard not to notice the terrific hi-rail truck parked just behind the building.
Hantsport’s station is home to the railroad’s headquarters and is a fine looking building in its own right. I’d love to have an opportunity to ask for a tour sometime and learn more about the railroad’s operations until everything was put on hold.
Though I did drive past on the drive from Windsor to Hantsport, I didn’t stop by the railroad’s shops. I didn’t expect to have this opportunity to visit and before next time I’d love to get in touch with railroad to ask permission to visit the shops complex.
When we left the Island for Nova Scotia, Krista had asked if there were any train things I wanted to see while visiting. I had mentioned the DAR and W&H several times before but instead expressed a sentiment of really not needing to spend any more time trackside on a railroad without trains. It’s a sad feeling and I didn’t need any more memories of that to add to those I already hold from the PEIR in its final years or my trip to the Aroostook Valley (one year too late). I’m glad she insisted I go. What’s there was more than worth seeing and everything was still in very good condition. I remarked on how I could have expected a train and that didn’t feel that ambitious a thing to imagine.
Thanks again Krista, for making sure I went to places I needed to go and see things I needed to do.