Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A New Operation Mindset & Old Papers

When I decided to model Connors, I knew having mainline run was a pipe dream. However, does it mean your layout isn’t interesting if you can’t run trains? Well, the answer depends your interest, but it certainly has some merit.

As Lance Mindheim, Rick de Candido, British modellers in general and many others proved us, a lot can happen with very little space. However, as ridiculously small and lacking substantial industries, Connors had much more in reserve than you run of the mill old time diorama.

As a matter of fact, the interest in Connors is that you have to prepare a departing train or break off an arriving train, including local switching at the freight house and team track. This is the reason why I decided last year to include the entire engine facilities no because they are cute (which is true) but also because they play a role in the story.

Now, imagine an arriving train set on the main line. You must move forward up to the station for a while until all passengers left the cars and baggages/parcels/etc. have been unloaded. Now, you back the train and place the coach and combine on the passing track so you can start break up the train and spot the freight cars where they should go.

After that, it’s time to visit the engine facilities, dump the ashes, take water, turn the locomotive and store it in the engine shed where some maintenance will be performed before tomorrow’s next assignment.

On the returning trip, similar tasks will be required to be performed including fueling the locomotive and turning some specific passenger cars that must be. Not until the train is backed off at the station for boarding passenger can you call it a day.

What’s behind an era

While looking for information about Temiscouata Railway, I found many official government hearings from the 19th century and newspaper clips from the early 1900s and 1910s. Many interesting bits of knowledge can be acquired there. In that regard, I found out that what CN used to call Connors Subdivision was known back then as the St. Francis Branch. Will I have to change the blog’s title? Maybe.

Also, according to old news articles, Temiscouata’s financial situation greatly improved in the early 1900s after they experienced serious problems in the late 19th century. This is probably why they massively invested in a new fleet of MLW-built locomotives between 1909 and 1911, before National Transcontinental Railway stole the traffic. Temiscouata could have been a major link between Central Canada and the Atlantic at some point and was initially bolstered by Grand Trunk which saw it as an excellent news.

All that historic mumbo jumbo stuff means that Connors wasn't a dead place and a decaying backwood location, but a rather a healthy settlement bolstered by agricultural and lumber trade. The 1894 picture clearly show the team track was almost at full capacity and plenty of other cars were stored on the siding located near the engine house. For the modeller, it means a robust traffic that supports interesting operation.

I also found that government papers often write “Témiscouata” in the French orthography rather than Temiscouata even in English papers. I’m pretty sure the company didn’t use that French orthograph on a regular basis, however it should be noted the company was incorporated in Québec and thus the law, back then, required railways under provincial jurisdiction to have an official name in French. While most companies complied, rarely they used they French names except for a few ones including Chemin de fer de colonisation Montfort and Chemin de fer Québec Montréal Ottawa & Occidental which was own and built by the provincial government and later sold off to Canadian Pacific (now Québec-Gatineau). Readers fluent in both language will find out “Occidental” – the French adjective for West – was an awkward translation of the common moniker “Western”. While “correct”, it sounds quite weird as nobody would use “Occidental” to means that. However, I must admit I would be at lost to find a better replacement word for that one! I guess the 19th century gents hit the same wall I did! But I’ll give it to them they largely compensated by choosing one of the most attractive paint scheme to ever grace a locomotive in the Laurentian Valley!

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