Ramblings of a frustrated armchair Railway Modeller

Everyone is entitled to my opinion, so I've decided to enter the blog-o-sphere in order to share them with you.
My focus is the rationale and development of my model railway, but I am likely to wander off topic from time to time.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Frivilous Passtime

This Blog is just a fart in a hurricane, but it's therapeutic to vent my spleen.  I imagine that most people will read a line or two and then move on.

So, why the hell am I a model railroader - anyway?

It's really hard to describe the mixed feelings of joy and frustration that a trainset brought me.

Once upon a childhood I received a trainset for christmas and/or my birthday circa 1974, or there-about.  Hard to say which event since they are less than a month apart which sucks.  If you get toys for christmas then you are pretty much assured that you are getting clothes for your birthday, or vice-versa.

All of those warm and fuzzy bonding stories of father and son  model railroaders don't apply.  My Dad restores antique radios and he taught me some basic soldering skills, but we didn't build any basement empires together and I didn't know any other model railroaders either.

Shortly after receiving the trainset, the circle of track was tacked down to a 4'x5' scrap of plywood that was painted the same turquoise blue as the kitchen.  Scenery was limited to some paper mache that I slopped around and some black tempera paint for a road.

Don't get too excited about my first venture into scenery.  A couple of blobs of unpainted paper mache and a large spill of flour/water paste didn't amount to more than a slick and a couple of knolls:  There were no tunneled mountains.

A long and barren stretch of double track that was a half-mile away from my childhood home was the closest real railway.  With a friend or two, we would walk a mile or two up or down the line and almost never see a train.  Sidings were few and far between and were almost always empty.  I was an adult before I learned that it was the Canadian Pacific MacTier Subdivision originally built by the Toronto Gray & Bruce Railway over a century ago.  Seeing a locomotive rush past is always exciting but watching the rest of the train is monotonous and boring.

All I knew as a kid was that trains ran very rarely and the locomotives didn't really look like my trainset.  My Bachmann Canadian Pacific F9 didn't look like the GP's I saw once in a while.  That first trainset locomotive still runs:  Eight wheel electrical pick-up and power with a center mounted can motor.  Which is unlike a couple of other locomotives I got later that have pancake motors that are ozone emitting pieces of crap that stutter and stall.

I received a pittance of an allowance.  Friday evening I could get some pop and candy and the whole amount was spent.  So the only hobby money was from the annual christmas gift from my Grand-Parents.  Upon receiving my first cheque, I was dragged to the bank and forced to open a savings account and be taught to save money.  It was a complete waste of time!  I didn't learn how to handle money because I was never allowed to handle any money.  At the first opportunity, I'd withdraw all the money and go the hobby shop.  The money never went very far and I'd be lucky to get a couple of pieces of track, a turnout and maybe a piece of rolling stock.  Most locomotives were out of reach, except for those pan-cake motored pieces of junk.  At the hobby shop I looked at the N-Scale trains and wished that I had them because they were half the price of the HO-Scale trains that I had.

The layout graduated to a 4'x8' sheet of plywood with some 1x2 strapping to make it a little more rigid but didn't quite keep it from sagging a little in the middle and four wobbly legs to stand on.  It was kept in the back corner of the unfinished basement under a bare 100 watt bulb.  I cut a hole in the table for a turntable that never got made.

My first steam engine was a Tyco 0-4-0 that had the rods bind up on it.

The couple of manuals that I got, I didn't read except for the picture captions.

I'd let the train run in circles and when I got bored, I'd reverse direction and all the cars with talgo horn/hook couplers would derail through the turnouts.

I went to a model train show down at Harbourfront where everything was literally and figuratively out of reach.  I was especially put off by the guy who was hand laying his track and pontificating that any other way was inferior.

I was introduced to an older boy who lived in the neighbourhood who had a model train layout which was impressive but he was moving-on to R/C planes..  Those .049 airplane motors were beyond my reach too...

The Delaware & Rutland Railroad Club was impressive but aside from the annual open house, joining wasn't an option for me.

One friend got a trainset and tacked it to a piece of plywood that was hinged to the back of his bedroom door.  It wasn't much better than my layout except that he had a couple of animated bits, like operating crossing gates and a car with a horn.

If I only had the skill, knowledge and resources:  I just didn't know how to get beyond the plywood plain in front of me.  Paralyzed, I would just watch the locomotives do laps around the loop of track and feel a great sense of frustration.

After a couple of years, I gave up on model railroading and packed everything away for over 20 years...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Library "Minority Report"

Finding new efficiencies at the Toronto Public Library will result in staff redeployment and loss of staff hours.

Radio Frequency Identification [RFID] has overtaken bar codes for cataloging and processing library materials.

As the Shipping & Receiving Supervisor, I've been keeping statistics of daily deliveries for many years.

I can confirm that circulation of library materials has increased over the years and I believe that there has also been a change in seasonal circulation.

In past years circulation drops off during the summer months but it remained high this past summer.

The Library books are transferred between branches packed in reusable gray plastic bins.  The Book Returns come at an average of 50 bins per day and the "Holds" average 25 bins per day.

They were being unpacked at an average rate of roughly 45 boxes of returns and 20 boxes of "Holds" per day and a back log would accumulate until there were upwards of 200 boxes of returns and 100 boxes of "Holds" waiting to be unpacked and processed.

At this point, extra staff were required to blitz the back log and catch up.

With the introduction of RFID technology at the Toronto Public Library the back logs have disappeared.

Instead of scanning one bar code at a time, a half dozen books can have their RFID tags scanned at once.

Now, after many years, the Circulation Department has gone from slowly getting buried in work to whizzing through it in record time and new efficiencies have been realized.

The tables have been turned on me: Before; it was a matter of informing the Circulation Department to pick up the pace in order to clear the back log and make room for more delivery: Now the Circulation Department is demanding that the delivery come earlier.

But it doesn't end there!

So, this brings me around to the title 'Library "Minority Report"'.

Exhibit A

The introduction of RFID technology in the Library allows for further automation.

Sorting machines are being introduced that will receive materials on a conveyor belt, scan and sort them into boxes reducing human involvement in the process.

The masking tape on the floor is like the chalk marks outlining the victim at a crime scene.

The "Minority Report" refers to a crime that has not happened yet, but this is the place where it will happen soon.

The sorting machine is outlined by the masking tape and it is the sorting machine that is going to MURDER jobs.

Before the Ford Brothers' Circus came to town, it was understood that staff would be redeployed to other tasks, like getting out and assisting more patrons...
Exhibit B

Additionally; over the past several years the Library Executive and Board have been considering keeping the Library open until Midnight!

This plan would keep the lower seniority, part-time and predominantly Female staff at work until the wee hours instead of closing at 8:30pm.  The staff that are being displaced by machines would be spread thinner to cover more hours of operation.

Now that the Ford Brothers' Circus have come to town, Branch Closures and reduction of hours are being discussed.

According to the report from the Library Executive and Board regarding cutting costs and finding new efficiencies, the new book scanning / sorting machines will eliminate Three Full-Time Equivalent Jobs [FTE].

That's up to SIX Part-Time Jobs Murdered by each Sorting Machine....

End of Minority Report.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Amalgamation Failed and left all the Gravy on top

Let's review history as I recall it, shall we?

The 80's were great! Empires were built. More workers created the need for more managers. Managers hired more workers to build their empires and so the cycle goes.

Through the 90's there was a push for fiscal belt tightening in the Public Sector.

Many front line workers in the public sector were phased out through attrition and early retirement.

With the labour force cut to the bone an imbalance was tilted towards the bloated middle management. There were too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

The Rae Government recognized that the herd of front line workers were thinned to the point that they couldn't take any more culling.

Taking time off without pay was a hardship, but at least there weren't any layoffs.

As a side effect, middle management was pushed into a position of having to get their hands dirty by picking up the slack and possibly justifying their own existence.

It was a temporary solution.

Along came the Harris Regime and Amalgamation.

Labour is politicized by nature. It was surprising to see Management become politicized.

My manager dialed the Premier's Office and handed me his personal cell phone so that I could protest the amalgamation of the city. We couldn't use the company phone for fear that the call could be traced back to a Civil Service and not a private citizen.

I had my own personal fears of what the amalgamation would do to the city but I didn't realize at the time that the manager was fighting to save his own job.

Whatever else the Harris Regime did to the city and social services, amalgamation was supposed to skim the fat off the top of government agencies.

To thin out the middle and upper management while leaving the front line more or less intact.

The reality didn't pan out the way it was supposed to and very few managers were cut.

Several managers that were on the verge of retirement were retained in a consultants capacity in order to advise the ones that were being permanently retained.

The redundant managers were being nursed through the first couple of transition years until they could retire with full pensions. In the meantime they were allegedly supporting their counterparts to bring them up to speed on how to run unfamiliar territories.

Once the dust of amalgamation settled, the redundant managers were retained. They stayed beyond the time that they could retire with full pension and were able to top up their pensions. The redundant managers argued that the amalgamated city was too large for the designated managers to handle and the manager work load had to be broken down and shared with the redundant managers.

Ten years after amalgamation, many of the redundant managers have finally retired: Only to be replaced with new hires!

Several supervisory positions have been undermined by middle management. For example, I used to do the departmental scheduling and fill in the time sheets for payroll. This is now done by the admin assistant. The manager spends most of his time in his ivory tower while the redundant junior manager does the leg-work.

Don't bother wearing a starched shirt to work: With the micro-management breathing down your neck, the fabric will be puckered and wrinkled within minutes.

Now we're in Ford Nation. The Ford Brothers' Circus has come to town and there's smoke and mirrors and a lot of uncertainty.

Change is scary.

You'll find the Gravy on top of the Civil Service meat and potatoes
It has been suggested that Ford Nation is here to finish what the Harris Regime started.

There is no Gravy Train as far as the front line workers are concerned, but there's still plenty of fat that can be trimmed from management.

So when the smoke clears and the mirrors have been carted away, my hope is that the grand finale will be the disappearance of the micro-managers. Unfortunately they won't go quietly and they'll take as many workers with them as they can...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Capitalist Plot!

We are all pawns in this big game of life and we are being played by the Right Wing agenda.

If you have the time, go visit the Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey website and bring yourself up to speed on the current economic crisis.

It helps to see the big picture.

Now narrow your focus on the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and Mayor Rob Ford.

He is creating a crisis in order to push forward a Right Wing Agenda with threats of closing down or selling of City facilities and services.

Toronto's libraries are under threat of privatization. Tell city council to keep them public now.

Let's clear away the smoke and remove the mirrors to reveal what is really going on behind the scenes...

Doug Ford and his cronies want to reduce corporate tax rates. The corporations have been complaining for years that they carry more than their fair share of the tax burden in the city compared to hard working home owners.

There's no way that the Right Wing can arbitrarily lower corporate tax rates and shift the burden to home owners, so a plot is hatched...

Doug Ford became popular by attacking the workers who provide city services and facilities by villanizing them as lazy, greedy slobs riding the "Gravy Train". He's an every-man's hero by eliminating some nickel and dime fees like the Vehicle registry. However, this is only a drop in the bucket of the billions of dollars in the city budget.

Not to mention the selling off of some city assets which is a short sighted stop-gap because you can only sell something once and then it is gone, which also cuts off a small revenue stream because you can no longer rent out what is no longer yours.

The cuts to city revenue sources are overlooked while a crisis is created by fear mongering over the potential budget shortfall.

In the meantime, the corporate sector gets some of these assets at a bargain price and can then turn them over for profit.

So a half-baked investigation at arm’s length to investigate potential savings is being conducted.

The consulting firm can tell you what any moron can figure out for themselves.

Cuts to city services and facilities will save money. Well, D'uh!

If your only criteria are to cut costs, this is a no-brainer.

The hard part is determining which to cut and which to save? A snip here and a slash there in order to meet the short-fall are really destructive to the overall fabric of the city.

To paraphrase: A capitalist knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

So, if you weigh the value of the services and facilities against mindless cost cutting, you won't get very far.

By creating a budget crisis and attacking the service providers, the Right Wingers can distract everyone to their real agenda.

People are starting to see the value of the services and facilities they have and a message is forming: People are saying that they'd be willing to pay a little more on their property taxes to preserve the services and facilities they have.

The Right Wingers have everyone eating out of the palm their hand! People are going to volunteer to pay more property tax.

“Please, raise my taxes! I don't want to lose any public services and facilities!”

The Right Wingers are trying to manipulate us into voluntarily paying more property tax and shifting the burden off of their Corporate Cronies!

All of the gaffs regarding Libraries and Tim Horton Franchises and the disrespect for Canadian Icon Margaret Atwood, not to mention the recent "Fuddle-Duddle" is all smoke and mirrors to distract everyone from what is going on behind the scenes.

This is a strong case for having Coulrophobia.

The brothers Ford are Evil Clowns and they should be feared because behind their buffoonery there is an evil plot.

As a public employee, I've been through this type of process before.
Bob Rae asked everyone to find ways to save money and we all scrambled to find savings, but in the end, the government did what they were planning to do all along. Save money in a way that they could control by having "Rae Days". A better alternative to layoffs, but it basically boiled down to the government creating a crisis and then doing what they wanted to do all along.

Bob Rae soured the relationship between the NDP and Labour and it has taken years for the rift to heal. In hind-sight, Bob Rae wasn't a socialist at all: Only a political opportunist.

A change in government lead to the Harris regime and another round of scrambling to find savings; which in the end was realized through amalgamation and financial downloading.

Now, here we go again with another kick at the cost-savings can in order to stop the alleged Gravy Train.

To flaunt my Edge-u-my-cation and stuff that I get from Liberries and the Inter-web I'll stroll out the following gem.

"Those who forget History are doomed to repeat it"

As the scars of previous cuts start to fade, we are attacked again.

Capitalism desires the privatization of public property and services for corporate profit and gain.
Recently I saw Rob Ford depicted as Benito Mussolini and I thought that it was very apropos when you consider that "Fascism is capitalism in decay". I guess that I could have done the same thing, but it is so much easier to draw a Hitler mustache on him. Although, that distinction should probably go to Stephen Harper.

From the nation’s capital on down, the Center has fallen out and society is being polarized between the Capitalist Right Wing in power and the Socialist Left in opposition.

I'll cast my lot with the Left Wing to close down the Ford Brothers' Circus.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Le Tin Goat et Morte!

It took me a while to get around to digging out the Project "The Tin Goat" and re-examining it.

A good blogger would insert a picture here of the box of parts that would one day form "The Tin Goat", but no such luck. Just imagine a small carton with a pair of black plastic EMD F7 shells that have front porches taken from black plastic GP7's. The roofs have had details removed and a couple of GP7 fans added with space for Winterization Hatches.
I was getting psyched up t get back at this project when I realized that it just isn't something I want.

There's the big empty space for the Dynamic Brake Fan that has to be relocated and the other fans would have to be moved further forward.

What-ever else is wrong with this project, it's just the wrong era.

The only thing that could save it would be a total rebuild to bring it up to date.

My interest has shifted to to Ultra-Modern Hybrids and Multi-Gen-Sets: In Narrow Gauge.

I'll give a nod to the EMD E-Unit as being a "Multi-Gen-Set" but it's not what I want. Even though this project was leaning in the direction of a double-cabbed and articulated E-Unit with porches.

The idea of having an articulated cab-unit is just too far from reality and just plain silly. I just can't save it. It defies logic.

Hypothetically, I could make a pair of short F-Units with porches and maybe even "Draper Tapers". Pretend that they've been remotored with pairs of CAT or Cummins Diesels to modernize them.

But, no...

The other half of this project is to go Narrow Gauge. 16.5mm down to 12mm gauge for HOm / HOn3.5 / HOn42. It's just not working for me...

The Tin Goat is Dead!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Sixth Annual Ontario Narrow Gauge Show

Hello Narrow Gauge Fans,
The Sixth Annual Ontario Narrow Gauge Show has come and gone.
As a member of the Narrow Gauge Madness Gang, I am one of the organizers for the show. The show remains successful but attendance is down for a second year in a row.

Blame it on the lousy weather that we had on the day of the show - two years running - as well as the price of gas.

This is an exclusively Narrow Gauge Rail focused show. You won't find any Thomas the Tank Engine or Underground Ernie here unless they have been kit-bashed into Gn15 critters or On30 Locos.

The location of the show is in Schomberg, Ontario, Canada which is a quaint and modelgenic little town just a short drive north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

We had a little excitement midday when the smoke from the BBQ situated just outside the front door set of the fire alarm.

We persevered.

After a little navel gazing, we've decided to start planning the Seventh Annual Ontario Narrow Gauge Show! This time we are hitting it harder than ever.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cut off from civilization

Hey sports fans!

I'm the Shipping & Receiving Supervisor at a major urban Public Library and I get to spend my days two floors underground heaving books around.

In between deliveries I spend my time on the interweb.

I started my blog with a few fast ones to put some content on the interweb.

Now recently I haven't had as much computer time as I'm used to...

My computer is a flood victim because a fire sprinkler on the floor above froze and the water leaked through onto my desk.

This was at the end of January...

After inquiring as to the delay in replacing the drowned unit I received the following reply from 'Jerry' in IT.
Unfortunately we won't be able to replace this PC right away. We have 33 spare PCs and work orders requiring 57 replacement PCs. The failures are happening with the old black IBM Thinkcentre PCs and they seem to all be failing very quickly.

Yesterday I sent a plan to 'Bif' and 'Bob' [Not their real names] that outlines the sequence we will be using to replace all of the broken PCs. I haven't heard back as of yet but NYCL is not in the first phase of the replacement plan. I expect it may be three to four weeks before we can have more PCs in stock so that we can replace CLPCS633 and the 19 other failed PCs in NYCL.
The Shipping & Receiving Department computer is not a priority.

So my computer time is cut back to evenings and weekends.

On the plus side, I've been reading more.

[Imagine that?! Reading in a Library...]

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Tin Goat

Back in 2000 or there abouts I re-entered the Hobby after a twenty-odd-year hiatus. At the time I was ill with Hyper Thyroid [Graves' Disease] and the Doctor told me that I needed to relax and take up a hobby; so I dug out my old HO train set and started to tinker. Getting on the internet I wanted to restore my Bachmann EMD F9. So I went to the Bachmann Forum "Ask the Bach-Man"

Two things happened.

First, I was told that in order to protect my identity and ward off Spamers and Flamers I needed to use a Pseudonym: So I became Tin Goat.

Second, I got drawn in to the world of On30.

The Second thing is a tangent that I will explore further in a future post, but it is the first thing "The Tin Goat" that I'm talking about now...

The Tin Goat

I entered the realm of Kit-Bashing and took a couple of F7's and started imagineering. It is a little project that I call the Tin Goat or the GMD BL - E9 "A - A" Unit. I am bashing together a pair of F-7 units to form a push-me/pull-you configuration.

I started the project with a couple of F-7 shells and a GP-7 shell. So far, I put the Geep porches on the F-7's and re-arranged the fans on the roofs.

That was a few years ago: The project got moth-balled while I ventured into On30 and now I'm headed to HOm / HOn42... So now I'm going to take the Tin Goat out of moth-balls and try again.

So, the original plan was to have the Tin Goat articulated in the middle as you can see in the drawings. Now, I'm not sure, although there are examples of articulated electrics, I haven't seen any articulated diesels.

Changing from Standard to Narrow Gauge raises some questions for the wheel arrangement too... At least six axles... Maybe as many as nine... There are prototypical concerns for axle loading as well as power distribution and I'm not a fan of Trailing Axles.

Bo-Bo-Bo, Bo-Co-Bo, Co-Co, Co-Co-Co or Bo-Bo+Bo-Bo...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bite off more than I can chew.

I work at a large urban public library as the Shipping & Receiving Supervisor. It's not as glamorous as it sounds, but it pays the bills.
A couple of years ago I was approached by someone in the Children's Department and asked to do a model railroading program for the kids. I obliged and put together an elaborate slide show about real and model trains. The program went well enough, I guess, but it wasn't great. The presentation only filled the first 15 minutes of the hour. Worse, it went above the heads of many of the kids. I was aiming for 8-to-12-year-olds and most of my audience were much younger than that... [Picture a sea of strollers and you might get the idea.]
After I was done pontificating there was arts and crafts and a couple of loops of track that the kids could run some trains on; so not all was lost.
Fast forward a couple of years and I figured that the dust had settled. I expunged any evidence of the the slide show. Curmudgeonly, I have no interest in indoctrinating todays youth to model railroading.
Then, I got a phone call: "Hi Ron, are you still doing model railroading?"...
"Uh, yeah." I replied.
"Are you available to do a program for the Children's Department?"
"Sure." I said dumbly, and I was committed. Or should be committed, if you know what I mean.
I stipulated that my target audience is 8-to-12-year-olds and instead of addressing a whole auditorium, I wanted a smaller group... 30 kids perhaps...
So, what am I going to do? Why the hell did I say yes?! I was caught in a moment of weakness and now I'm bashing my head against my desk...
Alright, I can do this. Fake it 'til I make it. As long as I can get though the program without any tears or blood loss it will work out.
What to do???
Grandiose plans of having the kids scratch-build some rolling stock...
Scale that back a bit and have them build some card-stock kits...
So, how much do I need to pre-build and how much can they handle on their own?
Will they enjoy a challenging project or will they be frustrated and bored to tears?
What to do? What to do? What to do?
Well, the wheel-sets alone would have put me over budget and the weather is not conducive to setting up the table saw outside and running enough lumber to make the frames for 30 to 40 cardstock boxcar kits. Too much sawdust would be produced to do the job indoors in my Condo.
In the end, I bought up a pile of arts and craft supplies.
I set up a loop of track to let a train run and invited the kids to come up and make up another loop of track. It was all very hands on. Put the track together and pull it apart again. A paper-mache "mountain" and a good dash of potting soil.
Over the controlled chaos, I told the kids about different aspects of model railroading and how they could learn cool stuff about History, Geography and Science in a fun and creative way.
At the end, I gave them all the fold-up Box Car model to take home and build.
Half my HO rolling stock is trashed and mucked up with paste, but there wasn't any tears or blood loss...
So, by that measure it was a success...
As an end-note, the fold-up Box Car model started life as a Drawing on the Trainiax Website: Canadian National NSC 50-Foot 5092 Cubic Foot Box Car
Printed at 81 percent, it is more or less HO scale.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To CARM or not to CARM

Lex Parker sent me a link to an article by Charles Cooper.

Re: Interesting summary on CARM = CARM at the crossroads - 2011

My response, which holds more questions than answers is as follows, but you really need to read the original article first in order for all of this to make sense:
Hi Lex and Charles,

Interesting article.

As an outsider, I'd like to add my perspective to be taken with a grain of salt, since I do not foresee my joining CARM or NMRA - ever.

The CARM website and Forum is a catch-22: You need to be a CARM member to access most of the website, but there's not enough there to entice membership.

You need to open the Forum to the public in order to engage and recruit more members.

The nature of all forums and/or list-serves is that only a tiny [5%] percent actively participate on a regular basis and the remainder "lurk". Don't worry about how many people are "talking" on the forum. Take a look to see how many people are hanging around to "listen". Are the "lurkers" checking in on a regular basis to keep up to date? Or did they join and then let their forum membership languish?

I've always viewed CARM to be a splinter of the NMRA.

The impetus to form CARM was that the NMRA was not fulfilling the needs of Canadian Members and that the timing of SARS and the Maple Leaf 2003 was the final straw.

Would there be a CARM if SARS had not happened?

Many CARM Members are and/or continue to be NMRA Members.

Why not let bygones be bygones and merge back into the NMRA? Apply CRTC Can-Con rules.

Become the C-NMRA.

Form allegiances, not divisions.

Merge with Canadian Railway Modeller. I think that it would be mutually beneficial to both parties. I see the "forced bundling" may be a concern, but arrangements could be made to opt out of receiving the "new and improved" newsletter.

Is Canadian Railway Modeller offering a discounted subscription to CARM Members?

Will it?

Who approached whom first?

Who's more likely to gain from this allegiance?

Lastly, but foremost in my mind: Merge with the Toronto Christmas Train Show. It is perceived to be in decline and needs to be refurbished. They've already got the Convention Center for the Public Show and there is a lot of space left in the hall for extra "Members Only" areas. For Clinics, Contests etc... It's on the airport strip with lots of available accommodations and Meeting / Clinic / Contest space.

I hope that you've found my ruminations useful.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Route of the Voyageur et Courier des Bois

A while ago I went searching the internet for a picture of a "Voyageur" and/or "Courier des Bois" portaging a canoe. I wanted to use the picture on which to base the Logo for the Humber Valley & Simcoe Railway.

The Humber River flows South from a point about halfway between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe.

Flowing North from that midway point is the Holland River into Cooks Bay on Lake Simcoe.

It's an ancient waterway with a portage that now passes through a Golf Course at the midpoint.

I found just the right picture of a Statue in Mattice, Ontario, Canada which is considerably further North than where the HV&S will run.

The rest is/was/will-be history...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Narrow Gauge Through the Bush

I love this book and you have an opportunity to buy it for half of what I paid!
Deadline: January 31, 2011

Posted elsewhere by Russ Milland:
Many of you are aware that a local railway history enthusiast, Rod Clarke, published a definitive history of the pioneering Toronto, Grey and Bruce and the Toronto and Nipissing narrow gauge railways which he researched and wrote after several decades of dedicated effort. I created a website to promote and publicize the book which can be found here:


We also did a news item on this book here:


Derek Boles, our historian at the TRHA, wrote a testimonial as follows:

"This is quite simply the most magnificent book ever published on the history of Toronto railways. Rod Clarke is to be commended for his significant contribution to railway scholarship."

Many of us purchased a copy of the book for $65.00 when it was first published, I did and I still consider that price a bargain. However, now that the print run of 1,500 copies has diminished to only several hundred copies being left, the price has been reduced and the current price is $32.50 which is a really good bargain to my mind.

So I have decided to offer the book to anyone who wants to get one before they run out at a cost of $35.00 (with the HST included)..

If you would like a copy of this book, please reply to this message. I will work out how to get your copy to you in due course...

Please note my e-mail below re this excellent book. This book will likely go out of print in the next year or so as there are only a few hundred copies left.

I am accumulating orders for what may be my last purchase of a batch of these. If you are in the southern Ontario area and any of you want a copy I am sure we can arrange a way of getting it to you without paying the $14 postage.  I live in St. Catharines but visit Toronto often. Let me know by January 31st if you or anyone you know wants a copy.

Happy New Year!

Russ Milland <rmilland@cogeco.ca>

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back on December 28, 2005 I was thinking...

About the Humber Valley & Simcoe Railway:

I'm working on a Modern Narrow Gauge railway line that does intermodal and roadrailers like the Swiss RhB, but in Canadian (Southern Ontario) 42" gauge instead of European meter gauge...

Well, I haven't really put a lot of thought into the subject but while I was standing and waiting for a bus the other day, I was counting the number of Transport Trucks that passed on the 401 Hwy. In about 5 minutes, I counted over sixty. Not including smaller Freight in cube vans and the 2-5 ton axle vehicles. There's plenty of traffic that would translate to several trains per hour...

Here's the idea...

Model Railroaders often lament the the decline of the railroads through the 20th century. So many fallen flags and mergers. Service cuts, rails abandoned and torn up. The cars and trucks that run on the roads and highways that take passengers and freight away from the once mighty railroads...

Here in Southern Ontario, in the 1980's and '90's, the trucking industry applied for the right to haul multiple trailers on the highways. Road-trains, like the ones that cross the Australian Outback, in order to realize economies of scale...

At the same time, trucking industry standards were falling, and/or not being maintained. Trucks were falling apart on the Freeways and there were several incidents of flying truck tires and fatalities.

The general populance was pushing for special trucking lanes and/or restrictions to keep trucks off the freeways.

Maintenance Inspections and stiff penalties were introduced... But not much else changed...

As always, the status quo is upheld.

This brings me around to my idea...

The major railroads have to maintain their own ROW's, and therefore, focus on profitable unit trains and shy away from, or charge a premium for LCL's. Passenger service has been abandoned by the Railroads and has been taken over by the Government that has to rent/least trackage rights in order to operate.

The Trucking Industry handles the LCL and Time-Sensitive deliveries. More freight is handled on the highways than railways. Although the trucking industry is private, it is heavily subsidized by the various levels of government indirectly through the fact that the tax base supports the infrastructure that the trucks run on. Toll routes in Canada are almost unheard of. To my knowledge, there are only two overland toll routes in Canada. Hwy 407 in Southern Ontario, and the Coquihalla in B.C.. The rest of the Freeways are supported by government subsidies.

What I propose is a lane in each direction on the Ontario "400-series" highways be replaced with Narrow Gauge Railway. And all freight would move in containers, road-railers or piggy-back. The initial expense to convert asphalt to rails would bring about long term savings.

It would be a new-ish industry and subject to a whole new set of rules and regulations regarding labour and regulations. Taking the best from the Trucking and Railroad industries.

Adopt a model that is similar to what the Swiss are doing on the RhB for using tolls for heavy trucks and introducing equipment that handles LCL's with small containers and Self unloading intermodal along with traditional Road-Railers, containers and piggy-back.

Here's a list of links for information and inspiration:
Intermodal Association of North America
The Intermodal Container FAQ
Intermodal Transportation Institute
Welcome to Intermodal Transportation Matching
General Electric Intermodal and Rail Equipment and Services
Intermodal Container Page
Piggyback Consolidators
Intermodal 101
RoadRailer® equipment photos
Roadrailer Wiki
Wabash National Roadrailer