Walking from home early on a Sunday morning, I'm impressed by how noisy the silence is. With the white noise of traffic hushed, I can finally hear the birds singing. I can hear my own footsteps on the sidewalk. A person's shout, the jangle of the door chimes on the convenience store, and the rush of what few cars do pass take on special significance isolated from the hurly-burly of the city.
I'm walking to the train station because I'm heading into Toronto and the train departs too early for Grand River Transit to serve me. And, also because it's good for me. I used to take longer walks than I do. In high school I lived in downtown Toronto, and I made it a goal to walk from my home to each of the extremities of the subway network. In subsequent walks made it to Lawrence West, Warden and Kipling, all in under four hours. I tried that again ten years later, walking up to Martin Proctor's house in Weston, and by the time I gave up and took the bus, I think I'd actually sprained something.
But the train station is only a thirty minute walk away from my home and it's a cool and quiet Sunday afternoon, and the City Cafe bakery is open and stoking their wood-fired stove. I can stop on the way for coffee and still get to the station early enough to buy a ticket. The train arrives ten minutes late, but I don't mind. I just feel that this is going to be an interesting day.
Riding the Rails
I hadn't realized this until I received the invitation but this year represents the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ontario Electric Railway Historical Association, the owners and operators of the Halton County Radial Railway museum just outside of Rockwood, Ontario. Fifty years ago a group of dedicated railfans purchased TTC streetcars which had been bound for the scrap heap. They proceeded to cut a one-mile line along an abandoned electric railroad right-of-way through rough bush, creating a museum that has entranced me and thousands of kids and adults since it opened to the public in 1971. The Halton County Railway Museum is a remarkable testament to the power of bullheadedness and spit; there is nothing like it in southern Ontario. I'm proud to say that I used to be a member, and was given the opportunity to drive their wonderfully restored streetcars, until time pressures took me away.
Anyway, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary and to raise funds for further celebrations to be held throughout the year at the museum, the OEHRA organized an extra special charter. Not one, not two, but three streetcars would operate in tandem carrying railfans through the streets of Toronto. And not just any streetcars, either: using a twenty-six-year-old CLRV, a fifty-three-year-old PCC and a recently restored eighty-plus-year-old Peter Witt, the charter organizers had obtained a crosssection of the TTC's streetcar history.
I've attended my fair share of charters, and I'm sorry to say that unless you travel to streetcar charters in more than one city, charters can come to seem like the same old, same old. This wasn't. This was one of the few times average railfans like myself could expect to ride a Peter Witt on Toronto's streets (in a convoy, no less). When the invitation arrived, I knew that I'd be there with bells on, and I wasn't disappointed.
The charter was by invitation only, or I would have publicized it in Transit Toronto. Even so, dozens of attendees gathered at Exhibition Loop at 11 am, in the middle of a thunderstorm, as the streetcars arrived. We did travel the city, and we turned a lot of people's heads. The only thing that would have been better is if we had a banner or something to promote the museum's fiftieth anniversary, but this charter was more of a fundraiser than a publicity exercise...
So, consider yourself notified that this is a good year to come up to the Halton County railway museum. A lot of equipment has been lovingly restored to operating condition, there are lots of things to see and do, and it makes for an excellent day trip to anybody who loves railways.
Here are some pictures of the day...
These and other pictures can be seen at a full recap of the charter that I ran in Transit Toronto. You can read more about the charter there.