In the corner of some foreign field

In my previous post, I mentioned the corner of a French cemetery housed soldiers from the first world war, and our tour group was able to locate a relative from the group.

The Commonwealth Graves Commission has done a fabulous job on maintaining the small bit of land here.

On the way back to our transports, I noticed a selection of headstones off to one side of the cemetery, with the same type of headstone and attention to detail on the landscaping. Upon closer inspection, I saw they were Hindu soldiers from the Indian army. There were nine.

A song from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut came to mind. The song, A Gunner’s Dream, is a WWII theme of a gunner from a bomber that has been shot down. As the gunner falls (or floats on a parachute depending on interpretation), he thinks of how life could be without conflict. Specifically the lines:

In the corner of some foreign field
The gunner sleeps tonight.
What’s done is done.
We cannot just write off his final scene.
Take heed of his dream.
Take heed.

I thought of how these soldiers came half way across the world to fight for King and Country, to end here; and wondered how many, if any, of their families and friends would ever make the journey to this corner of a foreign cemetery to visit their final resting place.

Lost and Found

When I went to Belgium and France in April for the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, I went with a small group. In that group were a brother and sister of an older age that had a grandfather that fought at Vimy. He died of his wounds and never returned home. They were on a tour a few years back and the tour company/bus, did not manage (or maybe want, I don’t recall) to find the location of the grave of the grandfather. The tour was going to Vimy. So close.

This time around, our group was small enough, and the tour guide compassionate enough to make the effort to find the grave. We were headed to Vimy for the anniversary ceremony, so we planned the small diversion.

The grave was in a small village near Vimy of which I cannot recall. But we had to drive around a few times to find it. It was in a small cemetery that was very out of the way. No wonder the bus driver before didn’t want to get there. The streets were very narrow.

Long story short, we found the location, which, as I mentioned, was in a French local cemetery. We needed to walk to the back corner to find the location. It was incredible. The Commonwealth Graves Commission had kept this small section in pristine condition to that of the major cemeteries.

We took a moment to have a small ceremony of remembrance, which I’m proud to say, my son read that was prepared by the brother and sister. It was very emotional and they were extremely happy to see the burial location. Below are a few photos.

 

Canadian soldiers that never came home.

 

A moment of remembrance.

 

 

Private Leonard Thomas Godwin. We will remember them.

 

Canadian soldiers.

 

French soldiers are also in this cemetery.

Painted Lady

This year, in an effort to help boost the insect and bee population, we planted a number of flowers that would attract butterflies and various bees. Not much has been around, but over the weekend, we had a visitor. A butterfly appeared and was feeding from the flowers. We had the sprinkler on to water the garden, and it seemed liked it was playing in the water.

When it appeared, I grabbed my camera – Fuji X-T1 with the 59-140mm telephoto to try and get a picture of it. Its not that easy to do. They don’t stay in one spot too long. But I did manage a few shots.

We thought it was a type of Monarch butterfly, but thanks to Google and its photo search feature, I discovered it is actually a variant of the Painted Lady butterfly.

The best laid plans

This weekend I planned to catch a train. Typically, there is a train on Sunday that delivers cars to a couple of industries. It’s an out-and-back move so there is always a chance of seeing it twice. It is an unscheduled train, so catching it is always hit-and-miss, mostly miss.

I figured on this Sunday, I would endevour to try to get the train and photographic not once, but at least twice.

The Plan

In the morning, there are a three VIA trains before noon. One at 7:30, 9:35 and 11:00. I know this because my house is right across the street from the tracks. Any freight movement usually happens between those train times. On this Sunday, I planned to head to Fallowfield station, catch the 9:35 come in and go, and hopefully catch the freight train. The station is a mere seven minutes from my house and has the benefits of signals to know when something is coming.

My plan was to get to the station around 9:15 or so, watch the VIA train, then wait on the local. It would come by soon afterwards (it has in the past). Once the local went by the station (and photographed), I would drive out to the rail bridge to catch it on its return to Walkley yard. I checked the batteries in the camera. I have a battery grip which gives me two batteries, twice the charge. The grip battery is gone so I set it to charge. The other, at 3/4 charge, should be good for a short hour of potential shots.

The Reality

As I enjoy my breakfast, I opened some windows to hear if anything went by. The local freight doesn’t blow it’s horn, and is quieter than the VIA trains. Sure enough, at 8:45, I hear a train go by (30+ years of watching trains means I have a keen ear to them coming).

EARLY! Run upstairs, get dressed, grab the camera and head to Fallowfield station. Other moves to Kott Lumber have meant a turn of only 20 minutes. Time is of the essence!

I get to the station and wait. During that time,  I grab a picture down the line heading east to show off the not-level right-of-way.

I wait long enough that the VIA passenger train is due. Okay, no big deal. The local has gone up to Richmond and waited at the passing siding for the via train.

A few minutes late, the VIA train arrives. Being on a platform, I get low and get this shot:

I’m quite happy with this. It’s what I had in mind. I’m also glad its a FP40 rather than the newer P-42s, which are just ugly.

I always question my thought patterns, and I wonder if I heard the train going back to the yard vs. going to the switching work. But as the VIA train approached, the signals turned from red, to flashing yellow (caution) to green. That tells me that something was on the tracks ahead and the VIA train should be careful, to the line is clear.

The VIA train leaves. I wait. And I wait. I wait for what should be the time it takes to return. So after 20 minutes waiting, I wander over to a memorial to people killed in a bus/train collision three years ago, then head to the car. The signals are still red.

I decide to drive over to Kott lumber and the other feed industry to see if anything was done and I misheard the train that went by the house. Its about 10:30. Next VIA train due at 11:00. On the approach to the crossing, the gates and lights are activated. What? The VIA train is coming from Ottawa – the other direction. I get to the crossing in time to see the local returning with its tow of cars. Argh!!! No photo for me!!

Another miss. So close.

CP 150 Train

Over the last few weeks, Canadian Pacific railway has been touring the CP150 train across Canada. Consisting of vintage locomotives from the 50s/60s and old-school passenger cars (CP closed down passenger service, as did CN in the 70s, with the creation of the current passenger rail system, VIA rail).

I’ve seen great photos and stories of the train and the events surrounding it, including concerts and, well, the cool vintage locomotives!

The last stop was in Ottawa, so I was keen to see it. The week before it was in Montreal. Through my network of railfans, I learned it was laying over in Smiths Falls, a CP Rail yard about 45 minutes (by car) from Ottawa. I further learned when it would be coming into town, so I planned to find a spot to photograph it inbound. There are a few locations near the house where I could have caught it, but decided on a side road to give the best sight lines and hopefully less people.

My intel said the train would leave Smiths Falls around 10:30, 10:45. I knew there was a Toronto bound VIA train coming through at 9:30 and 11:00am, so I figured it may try to sneak in between those trains. The run time from Ottawa to Smiths Falls is about 30 minutes.

So I got to my locale at 10:30. Best be there early, scope it out and if changes are needed, there’s time. As it turns out, the 11:00am train came first which gave me opportunity to check angles and exposure.

Toronto-bound VIA.

By my calculations, then, the CP150 wouldn’t be by until about 12:30 (from this train, half hour to Smiths Falls on single track, then CP150 coming east). So I hunkered down for a wait. No one else was around until a little after noon when some guys from Albany NY showed up, frantic that they hadn’t missed the train. No worries, lots of time. They stayed for a bit and went further down the line to check out a trestle a little further down.

I had a medium-telephoto lens on my Fuji X-T1. With extra time, I figured I would put on the longer telephoto lens to get shots down the tracks. I had a bit of time, and there are other level crossings further on, that I would hear the train coming. My position was a bit aways from the car. I considered bringing the whole camera bag with the lens change, but decided against it. I have time (you see where this is going, right?).

I took some shots. Then I took this one.

Down the line east towards Ottawa, showing the not-so-flat right of way.

A second later, I hear the train horn as it crosses the bridge where the Albany guys went, about a kilometre away at about 12:20. Damn. Not enough time to get to the car, change lenses and get to my position.

In bound CP150. Snuck up on me.

Adopt, adapt, improve. I’m going with the telephoto 70-200 equivalent.

It worked out fine in the end. The adrenaline fired up, and I’m sure the image stabilization in the lens helped to obtain the shots.

After it had gone, I was looking forward to the event at the Ottawa train station. It started at 3pm. I got there at 3:30, so see people leaving. Already? When I got there I could see why. A bunch of tents were set up in the parking lot and three coaches were on display. One was the stage and two others. No locomotives. When approaching the coaches, most of it was blocked off for CP employee VIP section. So no once could get close to the coaches, really. No visiting the inside of the vintage coaches and not locomotives. So the best anybody not a CP employee could do was see the coaches from a distance and maybe the show.

My partner complained quite a bit to others listening on the sad event planning. Turns out the locomotives were at the station, but behind the coaches. Of course wouldn’t want to showcase them. The track the visible stuff was on was quite short, but could easily have accommodated at least one locomotive for photo ops and please the kids (and railfans).

There were a lot of unhappy people, and reading the Facebook posts on the event page made it clear; it was a shitty event. We drove around to the other side of the station and found a gravel parking lot to at least get a picture of the engines. I brought a wide-angle lens for some close ups of the train, so this is the best I could manage:

Hiding the star of the day from public view, even though advertised as a feature.

I had to stand on the hood of the car to get the picture. Very disappointing.

I had read of a great event in Winnipeg from railroad blogger Steve Boyko. Check it out. Great shots and coverage.

To end on a positive note, I did get to see the full train, got some fine shots and, as always, fun to watch trains, even in Ottawa where they are as sparse as they are.

All shots taken with the Fuji X-T1 with the 15-55 f2.8 (VIA), 50-170 f2.8 (inbound CP train) and 10-24 f4 (hidden locomotives).