Yesterday, Jeffrey Smith visited. Those who know the name will appreciate that I was very excited about this.
Jeff runs the CNRy in Ontario website – an amazing source of information for railway historians and modellers. Jeff is a transplanted Canadian – he lives in Missouri right now but still has family in southern Ontario. He got in touch to say he’d be doing a bit of research at the University of Toronto – which is just a few minutes from my house – so we arranged to meet up for the afternoon.
Jeff and I started with a typical operating session – working a freight extra to Port Rowan and back. As is typical of recent sessions, we used the TouchCab application and an iPod Touch as a throttle, and put the Sergent Engineering couplers through their paces.
Overall, things went well and continue to trend in the right direction – although I still need to do more work before I’m happy with the couplers. (I have an idea about that…)
As it was his first time at my place, I was keen to get Jeff’s impressions. He noted that he’s seen the whole layout on this blog so it was pretty much as he expected, but it was still nice to see everything in person – and to hear the ambient audio. The bird calls seem just right for setting the season and place, and quickly fade into the background as the train starts to roll.
After our session, we retired to Harbord House for club sandwiches and pints of Conductor’s Craft. Jeff and I discussed many things, but the subject that sticks most with me this morning is the role that prototype modellers play as railway historians.
It’s not just what we do with the material we find – but the fact that we go looking for it and then organize and share what we find with others. I think of the information that’s in the heads of the people I know in this hobby – and how easily it can disappear. I know this first-hand, as I’ve witnessed great researchers – friends – who have passed on and I appreciate how much of their knowledge has been lost to us.
Unfortunately, many non-rail historical societies are not that interested in aspects of history that extend beyond genealogy. The good news is that the Internet has given us an excellent distribution channel – one that Jeff is putting to great use with his website.
For my part, I need to do more to share the information I have that’s publicly available, but perhaps hard to find. Jeff has given me some great information over the past couple of years – much of it from public sources like Library and Archives Canada.
A mountain of info is available – it just needs someone (or to be more accurate, “many, many someones”) to dig through it, catalogue it and share it. If we can figure out ways to co-ordinate our research so that we don’t spend as much time reinventing the wheel, so much the better.
To that end, Jeff gave me copies of a few documents from the archives about my branch. I’ll share that information via this blog once I figure out how best to do that.
A great discussion and a great visit, Jeff – I look forward to the next time we get together!