Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Updated: The curious case of the coat hanger

This has been a weird year, to be sure. Without getting into details, I have faced a fair bit of adversity, which will culminate in a court hearing where I will attempt to secure a peace bond next week against someone harassing my family. There have been other fairly serious incidents I have found myself dealing with this year. I count about four major challenges, including this latest incident. So any and all pleasant surprises mean that much more to me.

Through all of the adversity, I am proud to say I have managed to maintain this blog at a rate of about three posts per month, which has been a great source of pride for me and a relief, to be honest. My passion for railways is almost a form of meditation. I find that I can sit trackside, or on a station platform, and just let the sound of the wind and the nearby buzz of life clear my mind. It's my happy place, no matter where the station is or what's happening around me.

Here's one small surprise that has capped off my year. I came across this hanger at a nearby church a few weeks ago, which was a cool surprise. It got me to thinking.

When was there ever a time when a railway made its own coat hangers? I thought of a few possibilities. I thought possibly CN had them at its stations, for first class travellers. Maybe they were in place at CN offices? Eric Gagnon of Trackside Treasure suggested as well that they could very well have been in place in sleeping compartments on long distance trains, which also makes sense. Here's a view below from a postcard, which shows both CN and CP westbounds in 1971 at the new Ottawa Union Station. Possibly some of these hangers were on this type of train, if it was a long distance train. If it was in corridor service, likely not. Note the Alco/MLW unit on point on the CN train.

Eric also recalled that Via Rail had its own hangers that were brown, with the yellow Via logo standing out in raised plastic. 

Ed. Note: Originally, I thought this hanger may have been from the Chateau Laurier, Ottawa's classiest hotel and a former CN Hotel property. In my distraction this week while putting together the post, I somehow forgot to add in this original theory of mine. Thanks to Kevin for reminding me!

It made me nostalgic for a time when railways were businesses that were all encompassing operations, from the station, to the rail yard, to the intermodal truck trailers, to the seats on a passenger coach to a ship, to an airplane. There was a time when railways did it all. Who remembers the old orange CP Air planes? I do. 

Needless to say, I took a hanger from home and swapped it out with the CN hanger so I could have a small piece of railway history in my house. I did wonder how these hangers managed to make it into this church. CN was once a thriving operation in Ottawa, but it has not had a major presence here in some time, especially on the passenger side. I am guessing that someone must have worked for this railway locally and taken the hangers to the church before they were thrown out. Just a guess. The hanger is mostly made of wood with a strong steel underframe. They were clearly built to last.

As we approach Christmas, I had one more image to share. Recently, I was in Waterloo with my family. During my time there, I was able to visit St. Jacobs and the Waterloo Central Railway yard in town. I will have lots of images to share of this yard next year, but there is one image I did want to share of WCR's Christmas caboose. 

Even the reporting marks (HOHO) are done with great care. Kudos to this railway for its attention to detail. My daughters were with me at the time and they really liked this caboose. They insisted that I take a few pictures of them in front of it. 

When we visited, the WCR had not yet started offering holiday trains for families, but they were clearly getting the consist ready. A few of the old maroon passenger cars in the yard had been equipped with Christmas lights. It made me think of the time I saw the CP Holiday Train, bedecked in lights, in Finch, Ont. in 2016.

The caboose was a nice scene on a chilly November morning. 

I bring up these things just to point out a few bright points and a few surprises from this last year, which has been a challenging one. Here's to a few more brights spots on the horizon.


Kevin from Windsor said...

My guess is that the coat hanger came from an in-room closet at a former CN Hotel, perhaps the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa. (CN's hotels were purchased by CP, and then Fairmont.) For a company that dealt mostly in the business-to-business space, CN was at the top of their game in brand identity. Every station was labelled CN Wherever, even if it was nothing more than a siding. If you crossed under a CN overpass, you knew they were CN tracks. It's nice to have a railroad collectible that had an actual business use, as opposed to something produced as nothing more than mere PR swag.

Eric said...

Congratulations conspiring to reconnect with the cloistered closet and happily haul the hanger home!

No-one will miss it. It probably wasn't feeling appreciated there anyway, Michael.


Spencer Hopping said...

In our cottage we have a selection of wooden coat hangers, including those of CN and I am sure a CP hanger and many memories of staying at various CN & CP hotels across Canada in the 1950's.
These types of hangars were ubiquitous in my youth and I remember a train trip on the Burlington RR in February 1955 on it's California Zephyr route to visit family in San Francisco. We went on the CN overnight through to Chicago. When we proceeded to the platform in Chicago to board I was surprised to see the Americans had silver dome observation coaches just like those I would see on our CP line. And, once on the train to our roomette the porter took our coats and hung them on wood hangers. I wish I had grabbed one.
Hope all goes well in 2024.