Thursday, January 11, 2018

FAQ Focus: The (no-so) curious case of CP Hobson

This is the first in an ongoing series that focuses on questions I sometimes come across in the comments section of the blog. The first question goes back to October 2016. A fellow railfan from Sarnia reminded me that I intended to tackle the question below from that fall post.

Q: What's the significance behind the CN Hobson sign near the eastern portal of the Paul M. Tellier Tunnel?

In October 2016, I was in Sarnia to visit family for Thanksgiving when I stopped by the Sarnia Via Rail station to catch some trains. I caught this westbound train heading toward the tunnel. As I did, I noticed that there was a curiously named control point sign west of where I stood on the station platform. For the most part, most of the control point signs I have seen have fallen into the category of geographic name or historical marker.

In the case of this sign, Hobson, the control point is a little bit of both. But it wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be to find out why CN predecessor Grand Trunk named this CP Hobson.

Here's a closer look at the sign, blown up from the photo above.

In and around Sarnia yard, there are a few control point signs that you can see from public property. There's CP McGregor, which is named after McGregor Side Road, which I assume once crossed the yard. There's CP Blackwell, named after two nearby roads, Blackwell Road and Blackwell Side Road, which intersected at the site of old Blackwell station. The name Blackwell owes itself to Thomas Blackwell, onetime president of the Grand Trunk Railway, which operated the Strathroy Subdivision prior to its absorption into CN. You can read more about this CP here.

Okay, so you get the idea. Usually, a railway will name points along its lines for nearby geography or to pay tribute to its history.

CP Hobson is not named after any neighbourhood or road of the same name in Sarnia. I checked for any Hobson Road and found none. However, when I did a search on Hobson and Street, I found a reference to Joseph Hobson in a report on Sarnia's history.

Hobson, it turns out, was the engineer and architect who designed the St. Clair Tunnel beneath the St. Clair River. He was assigned the task by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1886. The tunnel was opened in 1891 and was considered an engineering marvel at the time, being the longest international underwater rail tunnel in the world at the time. Hobson went on to serve the railway as its chief architect.

I found a few articles about Hobson, but I found the best synopsis of his career was in his Wikipedia profile.

Here's another lesson I learned from this mystery. Always take pictures of the mundane because you never know when they will come in handy. Case in point. Here's a piece of the original bore that was used to drive the tunnel beneath the river. I snapped a photo of this monument as I was waiting for trains on the station platform.

I guess I should have paid some attention to the writing on this plaque when I was organizing my Sarnia photos in my trains images files.

It turns out that Mr. Hobson, in addition to having a control point named after him, also has a small monument devoted to him by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

So, my guess is that milepost 59.2 CP Hobson was probably so named by the Grand Trunk and the name obviously was retained when the line became a CN line.

So CP Hobson is both a tribute to the man who designed the tunnel and likely also named for its close proximity to the old tunnel, which is just a short ride west of the sign.

If you ever have a question when you are reading any of these blog entries, be sure to let me know. I'm glad someone reminded me of this little piece of trivia. Sorry for the delay, but better late than never, I hope!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Random shots and thoughts to start 2018

I had an interesting finish to 2017. I was the only person on my team at work in between Christmas and New Year's Day, so I had some time to relax a bit. When I was scrolling through Twitter one day over lunch, I found something interesting that made me think. This photo, above, is what I saw on Twitter. No, I haven't started a BBS Twitter feed. Someone found an image I took of a Via corridor train near Cedarview Road and used it in their tweet. This shot was taken in January 2016 and was one of my periodic attempts to capture some quality winter shots for my collection.

I'm  pretty fond of that shot, so I was naturally quite surprised to find the image front and centre in an Ottawa Police tweet. I am always flattered when someone notices my work, but I was a little bit disappointed that no mention was made of where the photo originated. I realize there is no room for such courtesies on Twitter, but the discovery left me a little disappointed.

I wasn't all that upset, mind you, because I have always taken a laissez-faire approach to posting photographs online. I don't include any watermarks on my photographs and it hasn't been a problem, for the most part. Only twice have people tried to use my photos with no permission, attribution or credit. I don't mind the police service using this shot to illustrate an important public safety issue.

A little while ago, someone used one of my photos in a forum and seemed to be passing it off as his own. I had to politely tell him that this shot was, in fact, mine.

I understand that the online world can sometimes seem like the Wild West, but most people connected with this blog or other groups that I frequent are quite respectful. I'm wondering what you think of this use of my photo. What's your take on this?

I should mention the fact that the recent cold snap has played havoc with many things in the city, including the Rideau Canal skateway (too cold to skate on, if you can imagine that). The cold has also messed with the crossing signals on the Smiths Falls Subdivision through Barrhaven. This is nothing new in this part of the city, as these signals have had their share of problems over the last several years. I'm surprised with how little reaction there is to these malfunctions now.

The cold has also hampered my efforts to get out and get some shots. A freaky string of ailments and bitter cold has prevented me from getting some shots of late. Just today, I had the chance of getting a nice shot, but I was not able to safely pull over on a snow covered road to get a nice winter shot. Oh well.

I was going through some old shots that have been forwarded to me and decided to share this shot, sent to me by my brother Marc. He caught an unusual display of power on the Point Edward Spur in downtown Sarnia, near Front Street last October. I haven't seen these geeps on this line often, although my experience is admittedly limited. I have seen the old warhorse GP9s and slugs on this spur, but very few of these newer geeps.

I like this shot because the geeps are pulling an interesting covered hopper back from the grain elevator on Sarnia Bay. It's still labelled Conrail but its reporting mark is from the old New York Central (that mark is now a CSX mark). Think about how that reporting mark has changed hands: from NYC to Penn Central to Conrail to CSX.

I also like the limo in the shot. This image has a lot of cool elements.

Here's another shot my brother caught from Waterworks Road, near Bright's Grove, as a westbound CN freight train made its way down the Strathroy Subdivision toward Sarnia Yard last October. This is a cool shot, given that my brother was fairly close to the crossing and the motive power looks pretty dramatic.

Sticking with the random theme, I should mention that the consortium behind Ottawa's new Confederation Line LRT informed the city that the line will not be ready on time in May, as had been previosuly expected. This is not terribly surprising to those who have followed this project. The city has not been discussing the official launch date of the new line for quite some time, which has caused many in the media to speculate that the project will not be ready in time.

I recall early talk about an April 2018 launch of service, but more recent media has noted that city documents have pegged the launch of service as being closer to the end of May. Now, it appears the actual launch of O-Train service is anyone's guess.

One final note. This shot is a little preview of some railfanning I was able to get in on a recent trip to Kitchener-Waterloo. I managed to document a fair bit of action and railway history while in the Waterloo Region recently.

I have also been chipping away at some more rail history posts, including some material about the old Lachute Sub and the old Ottawa & New York Railway. I am hoping that this year will allow me to continue exploring rail history on this blog.