What Inspires A Young Mind To Switch A Yard
Mon, 2012-07-02 00:12 — SurvivorSean
Hello, my name is Sean and I was introduced to MRH by Sudbury Division club mates Ted and Jurgen. I've been involved in prototype, model, and virtual railroading for years. It hasn't always been easy, but with despite the information that is out there, nothing beats physically seeing the real thing. This isn't always an easy task, and with security, abandonment of local lines it isn't getting any easier to find it.
This year I passed the big 40, and this past weekend was at a local hot spot in Burlington, Ontario. I am amazed at seeing my son who this month will reach 4.0 name every car type of CN train 434 as it rolled by. I'm thinking to myself, I didn't know that many car types when I was 8. I'm sure he knows more about trains then most adults. He is my only child and though I'm separated now, he is everything to me. He has seen videos I've posted at my club, and he likes to call his Thomas layout his club. I know he's too young to handle the 12 hour day I put in between travel and operating Sudbury Division once a month in Maryhill. But I know how determined he is to get to where I'm already at. How many kids do you know at 4 who actually want to build yards and switch with their Thomas set? Many of you can relate and remember how hard it was to switch knuckle couplers, and facing point switches. My son's Thomas is motorized, and actually requires him to turn off the engine and back into the yard by hand. It has to be a trailing point because couplers are only on one side. After all this is only a toy for a 4 year old, right? He spends more time at his club than he does watching cartoons on my big screen TV.
For me I didn't have the opportunity to grow up with a father who was into trains. He liked to take me fishing, and though I loved the boating, I hated fishing. I tried not to hurt his feelings, but I knew what I loved, and that was trains. Keeping that in mind, I try and let him dictate his involvement in the hobby. My first images of trains were black engines I assume to be NYC going through Niagara Falls on what was the Canada Southern, most recently CP Hamilton Sub. The double track mainline that was there still has 2 tracks today. 1 track is full of storage, and the other leads to the end of the line and the end of an era. Fallsview Casino marked the end of the former mainline and it only serves as access to what also was once a former mainline to Chippawa for the last few industries remaining in the area.
CP mainline train on last few days of service, and post 2002 abandonment
at Mile 2, Hamilton Sub, adjacent to casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario
I wish I had the opportunities my son has now back in the 70's. Some times I wish that I was around before the Welland Canal changed the face of everything in Niagara. But I was born in 1972. To this day I point to him places where tracks used to be even if I, myself didn't get to see very many trains on them. It's hard to say what will be left when he gets older, but I want him to know everything that he wishes to learn from me or others. I've shown him videos of the last days of Canada Southern and you can tell he too is sad. Something he never got to experience. The blue and white of a Conrail engine switching Montrose Yard where I rode my bike and always got booted off the property. Gone are the days were I actually got to ride in those engines. In this age and time will he ever get that chance? The first time I rode in an engine was at the CN Niagara Falls Yard. Still a busy yard even when I was young, this past year the last rails were removed with only the mainline left for passenger service.
CN Niagara Falls Yard both in happier times, and earlier this spring
You can still see the oiled ballast beside the windsock and the crew office still in use to the right
I grew up on the south side of Niagara Falls not too far from Montrose Yard. My first memories were out of my control, but luckily for me I got to see some action at the dismay of my impatient parents in line for the train. When I got my bike and was free to roam it didn't take me long to find the yards, almost as quick as I got booted out more than once.
So with this limited window came the 80's and a move to the north end of town. Funny thing was I was given the choice between two homes. One was no where near a railway line, you could bet which one I wanted. Now I was on the north end of the Falls and though my beloved Conrail was gone, I had new adventures exploring CN. I was minutes from a high speed mainline, a major junction, and a timetable and train order station. Too bad I was so shy not to find out more about what that was like. But I respected the fact that they had a job to do, and all I wanted was to see the trains. I picked up flimsies along the sides of the tracks and brought them home to my mother's dismay. I wish she would of let me keep them, but they're easy enough to find now I suppose.
So with the new house also came something new. I went from a small single level war time house my parents rented to a split level 3 bedroom with a basement. Now I already had my first train set by this time, and I liked to pick up the Model Railroader downtown when my mom did some banking. I had already grown with a passion of some of both the home and club layouts. It was the 1st magazine that I got a subscription for. I remember Utah Belt and of course the Chessie System club layout as my favorites. But what I was really liked the most was track plans, and realistic operation.
So eventually I had my 4 x 8 and about as fast as I put it together I wanted to tear it to pieces. Yes I knew you could have operations in these small layouts, but I also knew with a bit more real estate you could do so much more. I began getting books from a friend of my dad's who was in the hobby and had left. How To Operate A Model Railroad became the ultimate, and I also took a liking to Electronic Circuits For Model Railroads. All About Signals satisfied my interest in signals which I also always had a thing for. But with all this I just wanted more.
As I progressed into my adult life computers and my education started to become my primary focus. I thought by having my own home, that would be the way to my ultimate layout. The internet was starting to take off , and through that I became friends with Paul Duncan at www.NiagaraRails.com
Paul didn't drive, but he can drive you crazy. I can say that because he is my friend, and he knew how to get to know people in the industry as photography and railroads was his passion. I for one just liked watching, but together I would drive us anywhere he wanted to go provided he bought me lunch. Now I was able to teach him about the history of some things in Niagara Falls, but ultimately it was his current knowledge that gave me a new insight into something I wish I knew about so much sooner.
The point of all this is many kids get exposed to the hobby in the form of an HO train set. But if you know kids like I've learned in 4 years with mine, you'll know that they get very bored easily playing with toys. I often ask myself though without the exposure to trains by chance in my childhood that fascinated me, would that experience ever provide me a lifetime of hobbies? If it was years later and the Hamilton Sub through Niagara Falls was nothing more than a bike path would I have found my passion? Would reading books, magazines, and the internet on trains be of any interest to me if the rails were simply not there?
In the steam era there was plenty of ways to find passion, because there were plenty of railroads. There was also less legal issues with exposing someone to the insides of an engine, or office while people worked the railroad. Perhaps I'm lucky the technology curve and internet age was here, or maybe I would of lost that passion. But despite technology leading me to the information I seek, so does progress in the business of railroads. Today many lines are being ripped up, and just as many people are unaware of what used to be there.
Special thanks to Paul Duncan for permission to share these photos of past and present http://www.niagararails.com
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