Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Kingston Civic Directories

In the process of searching through the Queen's University Archives, there is a short waiting period for the day's materials to be retrieved by the very helpful staff. I use that time to do more sleuthing. In this case, a shelf of Kingston Civic Directories often grabs my attention. Being nearby, I page through them for some neat nuggets of information. Here are two very random, but very interesting snippets. If you needed to phone Kingston's CLC plant, the information was therein presented (top photo).

A sample page showing Kingston's CN and CP facilities (below). Throughout the pages of these directories, various formats of listings i.e. by name, also list occupations of Kingston householders. So many were employed by old-time but vital commercial enterprises like railways, the CLC, the woolen mill, oil and coal dealerships and many, many more. A coal mine of information!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

One Year, One Hundred Posts, One Layout

I found myself downtown, at Ground Zero for the Kingston & Pembroke (later, CP) operations into downtown Kingston. Parking in a particularly sun-dappled, memory-soaked, nostalgia-nuanced parking spot, I was directly across from the smokebox and stack of CPR 1095, stuffed and mounted since 1967 (top photo by Notable Travels). The ex-K&P station and City Hall were visually stacked up in a parallel series of tangible tranches of history.

Extrinsically, the nostalgic in me tried to imagine the hoot of vessels' steam whistles in the harbour, the heavy clank of industrial activity, and the hustle and bustle of what would have hundred years ago, give or take a few decades!

Intrinsically, the modeller in me thought back on the genesis of my basement HO scale Hanley Spur layout, our Associated Railroaders of Kingston Hanley Spur portable layout group, and the one-hundredth blog post on this blog, all of which took transpired in the last year alone. Bringing my modelled locale home, after many years away in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Vermont! A real hands-on Hanley spur year!
Our tax dollars well-spent, the City of Kingston rejuvenated, rebuilt and repositioned 'The Spirit of Sir John A.' and now she fairly gleams in the morning sun.
Photo by The Passionate Hiker

Switching the Freight Shed - a Great New Deal!

My switching of the ex-Grand Trunk, CN freight shed at Wellington Street and Place d'Armes used to involve a full change: 4-6 'old' cars pulled, with 4-6 'new' cars spotted. Boring.

So, I decided to try another approach. A new deal! Dealing out the car cards of the old cars, I turn them upside down and shuffle them, drawing out the corresponding number of new cars I'm bringing from the Outer Station yard. In this operating session, they were three in number. I placed the car cards with the old cars for the sake of illustration:
Then, it's a matter of shuffling the cars around the two freight shed tracks, pulling the old cars and adding them to the switcher consist, while placing the new cars along with the remaining, not-pulled old cars:
The only rule in place here is that since cars might be unloaded using portable bridges between tracks, 40-foot and 50-foot cars must be spotted beside each other to ensure access when switching is completed. I use the nearby lead and team tracks (at bottom of photos above) to hold cars during switching.

This new deal makes it much more interesting to pull and spot the freight shed!

Modelling the Davis Drydock

Ever since I'd worked Canadian Dredge & Dock into my list of industries to include on my Hanley Spur layout, I was dogged by the question - What about the dry dock? Besides dredging, vessel construction and repairs were a big chunk of CD&D's business. While vital to the prototype operation, would it be vital to mine? Looking at a 1924 fire insurance map, the then-Davis operation DRY DOCK (centre) was fairly surrounded by railway tracks and spurs: both CN and CP lines to the waterfront, the CP roundhouse, CN freight sheds, later oil tanks and coalyards:
A proposed location (above) which I then marked out with Sharpie (below) and the curved bow end, using an age-old kerosene bottle from some long-forgotten hardware store long before WHMIS regulations:
The prototype dry dock was 200 feet long, around 12 feet deep. I had much less room than that to work with, and the good news that many of the boats I've seen photos of in drydock were much, much shorter. So I got out my Mastercraft multi-tool, hoping to take a bite out of my plywood layout-top, realizing that the structural integrity of same depended on a 2x2 just behind the layout fascia. Marked out and making the cut:
I should have issued a seismic activity warning to the HO scale citizens of the Swamp Ward. Many of them fell over, vehicles moved over one parking spot, but fortunately no freight cars derailed! The resulting U-shaped cavity:
I reused the cut-out piece for the bottom of the drydock. I simply screwed it to the bottom of the 2x2 in foreground. Didn't seem deep enough. Cut and added another 2x2. Too deep? Oh well, I can always review that decision later. To produce the walls of the drydock, I used a piece of corrugated cardboard which was easy to bend over edge of layout to produce the bow-curved end of the drydock:
Not long enough! Got another one. Then I used Robertson screws to screw outwards, the cardboard in to the ground-level plywood, then more to screw inwards, holding the cardboard to the cut-out piece at bottom:
I then placed the end-gate and will cover up that offending 2x2 with a walkway or some fake water! The resulting drydock, so far (below). I placed my plasticene tugboat on makeshift blocks and brought in the cranes that would be used to lift materials in and out. I liked the irregular look of the cardboard just above ground level. More scenicking to follow!
A few prototype photos for inspiration. A Stefan Nybom shot of the scene from atop a dredge:
And his corresponding shot from atop the Esso oil tanks. The curve of the bow section of drydock is plainly visible:
Thirty-nine years ago, my Dad and I were driving around Wellington Street on a cloudy November morning and caught the CD&D tug Bagotville up on blocks. Note to self...add a safety railing so no HO scale dockworkers tumble in!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Billboards for Planting

A few times during my time at the Queen's University Archives, something catches my eye and says 'I'd make a good billboard on your layout!' These are photos or vintage newspaper ads copied to a Word document, printed, then stuck on styrene with uprights added. The small coal signs for my Sowards Coal operation were found on Pinterest and printed.

They'll help to add a sense of place to roadside scenes.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Queen's University Archives Annual Lecture

I was pleased to attend the annual Queen's University Archives lecture, along with other local notables such as Andrew Chisholm, Bill Fitsell, Stuart Crawford and Jennifer McKendry, held in the Alan Green Fireplace Reading Room of Queen's Stauffer Library. (Housed in the round, vaulted rotunda and terrace on the second floor, we were kitty-corner to the Douglas Library, a place where my Dad and I photocopied many documents that he attempted to preserve in his own archival system.) The presentation began with an introduction by Queen's University Archivist Ken Hernden, who noted that the first archival material was donated to the university in 1869, and that Queen's now has 10 linear kilometres of textual records alone, as the primary archival repository for south-east Ontario. The purpose of this annual lecture is to disseminate research carried out using the archives. [In this post, I've summarized some of the presentation using personal notes.] The Archivist introduced lecturer Dr. Laura Murray, creator of the SWIHHP, who received her B.A. from Queen's and her M.A. and Ph.D from Columbia University. She dedicated the lecture to her late colleague Andra McCartney.


The Swamp Ward & Inner Harbour History Project (SWIHHP, pronounced 'sweep') began in 2015 as a means to learn more about Kingston and provide an alternative emphasis on Kingston's usual monolithic branding of wealthy elites, limestone(!), without much discussion of the human stories, other races, women and 20th century history. The SWIHHP would extend the normal pedagogical experience beyond the university, using oral history, cohering individual stories into a complete history. Students were trained in public history, and public walking tours and 56 blog posts have been created. Nearly 80 people were interviewed, providing text summaries that will be time-stamped records that will be housed in the Archives and searchable. Several short sample interview audio clips were played.

Dr. Murray is ready for the SWIHHP to be let loose into the archives. Opportunities still exist for colleagues from different disciplines to augment and enrich the products of the project, exploiting some blind spots like race and ethnic origins.

Nostalgia was once viewed as a sickness, though is now much more marketable! Nostalgia can be viewed with suspicion as it obscures how things happened in the past, introducing sentiment. An example: the Swamp Ward is viewed as 'candy' for real-estate agent(s), including language highlighted in a recent sample real estate listing from the Ward. Though much of the Swamp Ward's housing was from the 19th centry, it has been marked by the 20th century. Nostalgia can be borrowed nostalgia, appropriated nostalgia and even affects gentrification. 

Nostalgia figured in many of the SWIHHP interview themes: relationships between generations, class loyalty, hard work, dynamics of power, socio-economic self-sufficiency, and simply being known. Positive elements were highlighted, and nostalgia was sometimes the historical evidence in itself. Facts in focus can be hard, compared to nostalgia which may be blurrily soft. Nostalgia can be of the restorative or reflective types, the latter type longing for something that can never be...again. 

Nostalgia nurtures relationships with people, building bridges between past and present, and is more about listening than asking. Interviewers were urged to keep looking interested rather than interrupting their subjects. Oral history positions a person in time, among his or her social and economic standing. It is not packaging a story, the narrator need not be seen as a protagonist, and unlike storytelling in a podcast format which can emotionally tinge a story, there is no producer or time limit. Paths or openings into other lives and conditions are provided, and a space is left to explore further. Each interview is an archive, not a story - about the past, but in the present.

Archives are historical documents: a record, place or concept, a theoretical view and a system of knowledge. Necessarily, connections are controlled by an institution, to protect the archives. But what is missing?

A counterarchive is a different place, in which a different standard of importance challenges the primacy of the goal of preservation. What did subjects bring forward - items they had kept - to someone from outside their community? Archives do not hold adequate images or words by ordinary people, which can sometimes only be gleaned by going to places. Placing plaques in the ground does not promote questioning nor collective conversation. A counterarchive is very much the fleeting, temporary, transitional nature of conversations. Those using Queen's Archives are not necessarily from the university commuinity. A challenge: invitations should be issued to potential users, and strict admission requirements like library cards should not be a prerequisite. [Hey, it's free!]


This lecture provided much food for thought and was warmly received by the large audience in attendance. As I'm sure the delicious-looking refreshments brought in during the question period were. But I had a bus to catch!

Though much has been written about Kingston's old stones, both human and built, there has little material readily available on houses north of Princess Street or detailed operations of Swamp Ward industries. I have explored both these for my Hanley Spur layout. I had to traverse Googlemaps to find the 'typical' Swamp Ward house. As a relative outsider, I must say my archives experience so far has been positive. I continue to find much of the mortar material which holds those old stones together. And that is thanks to the Queen's University Archives.

As it pertains to modelling the Hanley Spur in HO scale, my layout is perhaps more nostalgia than counterarchive. I'd like to think it is a fairly accurate three-dimensional scale snapshot of the operations that occurred in that modelled year in the Swamp Ward and just beyond. To me, it is a creative and non-static form of active remembrance. Modellers often model what we railfanned (or wish we had) and I'm slowly building an archive of photos and information to support my modelling efforts. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

National Grocers - Food Wholesaler or Artist Colony?

Camels, dragons, and groceries, oh my!

When this photo appeared in the Kingston Whig-Standard, I couldn't help but think how an area with the longevity of the Hanley Spur would necessarily change its focus through the generations. From gritty industrial era to artist colony, it was bound to happen.

A look inside the NGB colony reveals artists hard at work in a former warehouse. The building remains, its function changes, but it's clearly still serviceable. And visitable. And relatable. And hopefully, modellable!