Canadian Corner: “End of the Line”

This month’s Canadian Corner post is a documentation video describing the end of steam operations in Canada.  This video features interviews with railroad personnel reflecting on the change from steam to diesel and how it impacted their jobs:

Video courtesy of NFB via YouTube.

Rock on Trains © 2021, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

My Train Recollections: Richard Leonard

Thank you for sharing your fond memories with us, Richard!


My Railfan Story Richard C. Leonard, Ph.D.

I was born to be a railroad fan. My grandfather, Don M. Leonard, was an official of the Boston & Albany in the early twentieth century, and my father, Richard D. Leonard, grew up with a regular exposure to trains and railroads. It was inevitable that he should pass the interest along to me and my younger brother, David. While other dads took their sons camping, or to baseball games, our dad took us trackside to watch trains. I will never forget, for example, watching beside the busy New York Central main line west of Toledo and seeing the stream of high-speed limiteds hauled by the Central’s famous Hudsons – whistle wailing, rods flailing, smoke trailing as they rushed by our vantage point. Of course the New York Central, which leased the Boston & Albany, was my father’s favorite railroad. (He despised the rival Pennsylvania!)

But until I became a teenager, I was dependent on my father to take us to places where we could observe the world of railroading — for example, to the Michigan Central’s shops in Jackson, Michigan, where I had my first cab ride in a steam locomotive, the NYC’s class H-10 2-8-2 No. 2345. That changed in 1951, when my father transitioned from college teaching at Adrian, Michigan, to become pastor of the Methodist church in the small town of Bellevue, just northeast of Battle Creek on the Grand Trunk Western main line — at that time all steam-powered except for some EMD F7 “A” units on manifest freights. Dad had never been a regular photographer of rail subjects, but seizing the opportunity to record the passage of steam power through our village I borrowed his old Kodak folding cartridge camera that used size 116 film and spent many an hour at trackside. Other ventures through Michigan and environs permitted photography of GTW steam at Durand or Battle Creek, or of NYC locomotives in Detroit or elsewhere.

When Dad became a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in 1954, our move brought exposure to the trains and facilities of other railroads. At first the Illinois Central was still steam-powered in the area, but when that faded away I was reduced to “fanning” the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio’s all-diesel operations in Bloomington, which featured an important terminal and shop. One trip to the Chicago area took us to the Nickel Plate’s Calumet Yard in Chicago during the last months of the NKP’s famous Berkshires. A family trip to New England via Canada yielded views of Canadian Pacific steam, while a visit to Galesburg with railfan friends permitted photography of some late Burlington Route steam. In 1957 a family trip to Colorado and Wyoming allowed us to see and photograph steam on the Colorado & Southern in Denver and the Union Pacific at Laramie, where we captured views of the earlier gas turbines and the famous “Big Boy” 4-8-8-4s. Returning to Illinois along the UP’s main line we photographed 4-6-6-4 Challengers and a few 4-8-4s as well. By that time I was using a 35mm camera for both black-and-white film and color transparencies, and my brother had a good-quality camera using larger film.

As you might guess, steam was my dominant interest. With the passing of steam my railfan activities waned, supplanted by the responsibilities of graduate study at Boston University (Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, 1972) followed by episodes of college teaching, theological writing, and serving various pastorates, along with a twenty-year career as a transportation data analyst with Rand McNally. I didn’t entirely drop rail photography, but it lacked the urgency of my efforts during the steam era. For almost four decades railfanning, for me, was generally on the “back burner,” although my rail background was put to good use at Rand McNally when I headed a group of analysts coding the entire U.S. rail network into the computer for a product called “Railroad MileMaker.” After a few years Rand McNally, not well positioned to market to the rail industry, leased the product to another firm and returned me to the highway side of transportation.

The rise of the Internet brought me back to serious railfan activities. In 1998, realizing there was an online interest in rail photography, I built the Steam Locomotive Archive web site based on the photos I had taken back in the 1950s, with pages for all the railroads mentioned above. This became the “flagship” site of “Richard Leonard’s Rail Archive” (www.railarchive.net), which eventually incorporated separate sections for my “New York Central Collection,” “GM&O Gallery,” “Random Steam Photo Collection,” “Vintage Diesel Miscellany,” and much more. The Rail Archive now includes photos contributed by many others, especially the work of my late brother David V. Leonard (some of his Canada images, and mine, are in the “Canadian Corner” section of this blog). But many others, including Tom Rock, have happily loaned images from their collections to the Rail Archive, for which I am thoroughly grateful. The Rail Archive now includes twenty-one sections comprising more than 1800 individual pages containing photos and commentary, or reproducing pages from vintage publications.

Today, in retirement, I am a director of the Keokuk Union Depot Foundation, which is restoring this historic 1891 structure. I maintain the Depot’s web site (www.keokukuniondepot.org) and Facebook page. And some years ago, fulfilling a desire to “own” a railroad, I purchased stock in Pioneer Railcorp, parent company of the Keokuk Junction Railway that operates through our town of Hamilton, Illinois.

As a final note, it’s striking how many steam locomotives I photographed in the 1950s still exist in various museums or displays, or even in operable condition. These include my very first steam photo, GTW Pacific 5030, but also GTW 0-8-0 8380, 2-8-2 3734 (renumbered to 4070), 4-8-4s 6323 and 6325; CPR 2-8-2 5361; CB&Q 4-6-4 4000; NKP 2-8-4 765; IC 2-8-2 1518; Rahway Valley 2-8-0 15; CNR 2-6-0 911; UP 4-8-4 814, 4-8-8-4 4023, and, amazingly, 4-6-6-4 (Challenger) 3985! (I also photographed the famous GTW Pacific 5629 and CB&Q 4-8-4 5632, which had careers in the post-steam era but were later scrapped.) If I really wanted to, I could take digital photos today of around fourteen steam locomotives I photographed in the 1950s on size 116 or 35mm film (and have done so in a few cases)!

Richard Leonard’s Rail Archivewww.railarchive.net Hamilton, Illinois – 800-440-4043


Rock on Trains © 2021, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Canadian Corner: CPR & VIA

A Historical Irony of the Early Canadian Pacific by Bob Mitchell

“I’ve always enjoyed observing and reading about ironies in life. Shakespeare, among many others, was a master at writing them. We’ve all experienced ironies in our own lives – some humorous, others more solemn – tragic even. In railroad history there are ironies also. The early history of the Canadian Pacific was no exception. Here’s one that’s worth relating here.


Canadian-born James Jerome Hill was born near Guelph in what is now the province of Ontario. After having moved as a young man to St. Paul, Minnesota, he established himself in, among other things, railroad building. He joined forces with George Stephen of the Bank of Montreal in the building of the St. Paul. Minneapolis & Manitoba Railway north to the Canadian border. He joined a syndicate of businessmen – George Stephen, Duncan McIntyre, Richard B. Angus, and Donald A. Smith – that was assigned in 1880 by the Canadian government of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald to begin the construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. They were on a time limit of ten years as it was a condition of the joining of British Columbia in 1871 into the Confederation that was the new and emerging Dominion of Canada.


A clash of interests took place. Macdonald wanted the route to be all-Canadian, necessitating it to be built through the “unproductive” country of rock and lakes that was northern Ontario. Hill, on the other hand, required that the line be partially built through the United States from Sault Ste. Marie to join his line into Manitoba from St. Paul. To promote this idea, he hired William Cornelius Van Horne, general superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (Milwaukee Road), to be general manager of the Canadian Pacific. Hill believed that Van Horne would support his need for a partial route through the United States.

 
Born on a farm in Illinois, W.C. Van Horne had numerous interests as a child – even throughout his entire life. One of these was as a rock hound – an amateur geologist. I surmise that Van Horne recognized the rich potential of the rugged north in the value of its hidden metallic resources – copper, silver, nickel, and gold. He shrugged aside any thoughts of the future difficulty of heavy construction and supported Macdonald in his quest for an all-Canadian line. James Hill subsequently resigned from the Canadian Pacific, returned to the United States, and built the Great Northern Railway south of the Canadian border. Van Horne proceeded to complete the Canadian Pacific westward through northern Ontario, the Canadian prairies, and the dangerous Rocky and Selkirk Mountains to what is now the city and port of Vancouver.

 
James Hill died an American in San Francisco in 1916, the year following the death of William C. Van Horne, a Canadian, in Montreal.”

Video courtesy of rapidotrains via YouTube.


Rock on Trains © 2021, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Canadian Corner: Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Steam Locomotives

Featured subjects on January’s Canadian Corner post are Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway steam locomotives in various Ontario locations:

All photos courtesy of Mr. Bill Thomson, Railpictures.ca.


Rock on Trains © 2021, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.

Canadian Corner: Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Steam Locomotives

canadian-flag-smallFeatured subjects this month are Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway steam locomotives in various Quebec and Ontario locations:

All photos courtesy of Ron Wright Railroad Photography.


Rock on Trains © 2020, Tom Rock + T.D.R. Productions. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Tom Rock is strictly prohibited.