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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Premier, New ONTC Dialogue

Kathleen Wynne has only been in Ontario's top job for a few days, but already concerned groups and individuals from northern Ontario are lining up to make their case for a new direction for the ONTC and for the north of the province in general.

North Bay mayor Al McDonald is hopeful that Wynne will listen to concerns from northern Ontario.  His sentiment is echoed by the ONTC unions and FONOM. 

On the other hand, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli isn't so optomistic, suggesting that the first two days have resembled McGuinty's premiership.  Fedeli has requested a meeting with Wynne to push his plan to move the ONTC to the Ministry of Transport.

Parliament resumes on February 19 and it is expected to be a busy session as Wynne deals with new issues as well as addressing concerns about her predecessor's policies.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New leader, new direction?

The leadership convention to choose Dalton McGuinty's successor is now only a few weeks away.  With such a major shift in the Ontario Liberal Party, it is likely that some current policies will be revised.  What does this mean for the ONTC?  Two recent meetings suggest that there are two clear directions.

At a recent meeting of the North Eastern Ontario Municipal Association in Cochrane, there was concern that a new leader would simply mean the status quo, especially given the minority government and the NDP's original decision to abstain from the budget vote, a sharp criticism that MPP John Vanthof had to deflect during the meeting.

A more optimistic feeling followed a January 16th meeting between the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities and the Liberal leadership candidates.  After the meeting, FONOM felt that the decision to divest the ONTC was by no means universally accepted and that issues affecting northern Ontario would be reviewed by the new leader.

Whichever view proves to be more accurate will be shown in time.  Given the challenging economy and the pressures of government, there is a strong chance that the north will fall through the cracks again, but maybe the politicians will surprise us.

Friday, January 18, 2013

North Bay Chamber hears ONTC optimism

According to Roy Hains, the future of the ONTC looks bright and the government is slowing down the divestment process.
North Bay Chamber hears ONTC optimism | Your online newspaper for North Bay, Ontario

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coal Train

Weather in the UK has turned very cold, at least for UK standards.  However, in such a damp climate, the real problem is moisture freezing to every surface, turning the country into one big skating rink.  Before this sudden shift in climate, I was able to take some photos on a sunny afternoon last week.

66739 at York

No prizes for guessing the location: it is hard to grow tired of the iconic design of the York station roof.  Even for a Saturday afternoon, the platforms were eerily quiet.  Although there is a double-track freight avoiding line to the south of the station, freight trains frequently pass through the station during a lull in passenger traffic.  Most freight traffic in the York area is the MGR (or merry-go-round) coal trains serving various coal-fired power stations in Yorkshire.  In this shot, a Canadian-built class 66 locomotive is seen rolling through York platform 3 with a southbound coal working.  66739 began life with Freightliner as locomotive 66579, but is now used by GBRF.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Of arrogance, condescension and scrivenings

I am now working through the fifth draft of Call of the Northland.  While progress is going well, I am starting to wonder if the publication date of September 2013 is perhaps a little optimistic.  The content of the book is much more important than the deadline and I will push the release date back if I need to. 

The book is currently going through a major restructuring, which I hope will make it more engaging and a more coherent entity.  I haven't started looking at which photographs of my trip I might include, but I am leaning towards not using that many, allowing the text to carry the journey.  This decision is, of course, a long way down the line (no pun intended) as there needs to be a text completed in order for there to be a book.

One of the most difficult parts of editing is deciding if the tone is arrogant, or more likely, condescending towards northern Ontario.  Have a painted an unrealistic, quaint, image?  Did what I see really represent what life in northern Ontario is like?  It is very hard to write about somewhere with only a superficial understanding of what it is actually like to live there.  As an outsider, you are likely to project how you feel about things onto the reality of where you are.  Given that the book covers such an emotional issue, I am working very hard to get this right.  In Cochrane, I felt part of the community and I felt welcome.  I hope my observations and writing can convey this.

To help me with my editing, I am using a very handy piece of software called Scrivener.  It claims to be a word processor designed for authors, offering all sorts of handy ways of moving text around, organising thoughts and putting together large projects.  I was a little sceptical at first, but after using the free trial, I am very impressed as it lets me work with small portions of text and lets me keep track of what I still need to do.  It isn't the cheapest writing software, but I will definitely be buying a copy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Waiting on a business plan

According to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, they have yet to see a business plan to support the port authority proposal for the ONTC.  Despite the popularity of the proposal, it appears that the government have chosen to structure the divestment in such as way as to prevent one group from being able to take over the entire ONTC, meaning that the port authority scheme may be impossible.
Waiting on a business plan

The push for a new Northern Ontario deal grows

The proponents of the New Deal for Northern Ontario remain optimistic about their plan, saying it will boost economic development and allow for increased passenger rail in the north.
The push for a new Northern Ontario deal grows – Daily Commercial News

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Thornhill train lover builds life-sized VIA coach in his basement

A lot of people have been waiting to see the progress on Jason Shron's basement projects.  Recently, he launched and posted a video of the progress.  Quite simply, it is a work of art.
Thornhill train lover builds life-sized VIA coach in his basement -

Saturday, January 05, 2013

First for 2013

I am in the UK.  No snow here and much warmer than in Canada, albeit damp.

I visited the National Railway Museum in York to see if anything had changed since I was last there a year ago.  Overall, the collection is the same but some pieces have been moved.  The Station Hall is being filled with little details that help to illustrate the non-rolling stock part of railway history.  Over in The Works, Flying Scotsman is still being restored and Dwight D. Eisenhower is also there after its trip from Wisconsin.

While I am still thinking of railways in North American scales, here is a photo of the largest locomotive in the NRM's collection, Chinese Government Railways KF Class No. 7.  It is truly immense, even when you are used to autoracks and double-stack trains!

Final Thought:
There is an interesting photograph on page 10 of the February 2013 Railway Magazine, I'm sure I've heard of the photographer somewhere before...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Last of 2012

And so 2012 comes to a close... with snow!

For the first time in several winters, the GTA has an actual snowfall on the ground.  While the accumulation is nothing compared to snowfall in Quebec and the Maritimes, it is enough for some interesting railway shots.

Here is J-Train VIA 54 & 56 racing through Whitby as the snow flies - literally - on 29 December.

This will be the last shot from Canada for a while as I am currently in the UK, where it is warm and rainy.  Hopefully, I will be able to take some interesting shots while I am here in the birthplace of the railways.