_Don

Vimy 101

Throwback Thursday is a thing on the webs and social media.

This isn’t.

One hundred and one years ago, on April 9th, 1917, in a small snow storm, the Canadian army acted as one unit, not under British rule, to take Vimy Ridge. A German stronghold that earlier attempts by the British and French were failures.

It was a true Canadian moment, and shows the tenacity that is Canada to this day. When some loser shot and killed an honour guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa and stormed Parliament Hill (and killed by security), I thought, “fuck you. Canadians took Vimy, you can’t do that shit to us”, and went about my day as usual. You don’t mess with Canadians. Yeah, we are super nice and stupidly polite; just don’t push it.

So last year, in 2017, I went to the 100th anniversary of the battle, where the Canadians not only took the ridge, but held it for the rest of the war. Took it with the “fuck you, it’s ours now, you’ve done enough and we will keep it right” kind of attitude. See, most immigrants to Canada, not only left their country to avoid hardship, persecution and look for a better life, they also had to endure the hardships of an untamed wilderness, brutal climate (winters can be rough, even in the 21st century). They put up with all that, so nothing much more can phase them.

Proud Canadian? Yeah.

But I digress. I was there at Vimy for the 100th anniversary. It was the warmest, most clear day of the 10 days I spent in Belgium/France. There were a lot of logistical issues, and problems. But *I* was there. And to look out over the area where the four Canadian divisions came together and made such a monumental success, make me proud.

These are a few shots from the day. I had only my Fuji X100T and teleconverter. I would have liked something more zoomy for the Vimy Flight flypast, but, hey, what are you going to do.

As the 101st anniversary comes, I look at these photos and remember the soldiers who volunteered for a truly worthy cause, the ceremonies and the trip in general.

Still chasing trains

Today at work, I heard the the train heading up to the Nylene plant. I noted the time and determined a return in five hours, putting it back around 4:30. That is around the time I’m done for the day, so I was hoping to catch the train.

As I was heading to the car, I heard the train hitting the level crossings. I hoped to meet up with it along the way. As it happened, as I came to the crossing at Herzberg road, it was slowly approaching. The speed limit is 10 mph, so it’s not exactly zipping along. As I crossed the tracks, I made a quick left hand turn down Bayfield Avenue to meet it at another level crossing.

I stopped just short of Carling at the crossing and waited for the approach and took a few quick shots.

As it went passed, I thought, since it is going slow, I’d try to meet it at Corkstown Road. From my location, it was about seven minutes away. I had a similar meet before (without camera) and figured I could make it. I doubled back to Carling to Herzberg and over to Corkstown Road. No train in sight, I check the tracks. In the flangways at the crossing, there was still snow. If the train had come, it would have been compressed or gone. A moment later, my suspicions were answered as I saw headlights. A second run-by!

I considered a third attempt down the line, but it was not to be. Still, I was happy to see the same train twice.

As an aside, when giving a title to this post, I considered “Chasing Trains”, but a quick search revealed that I had used this title last year, and the photos were only just a little ways down the tracks from the one above. Just to the left in fact. Same camera too – my Fuji X100T

A little Acros

Its been a pretty cold and blustery winter. Since getting my new X-Pro2, I’ve had little opportunity to get outside and take some shots. A little while ago, the weather was (relatively) quite warm, and I took the opportunity to get out and get a quick walk in before it rained. I brought along the new camera, and threw it into the Acros film simulation. I’m not much of a fan of black and white photography, but there has been a lot of good comments on this simulation. Given that this time of year is pretty monochrome, what better time to try it out.

I’m still not convinced that black and white photography is the best, but I had a good time, and the photos here are decent enough. Enough to try again for sure.

Arriving UFO

I gave myself a Christmas present… a Fuji X-Pro2 Graphite edition. It’s an X-Pro2 with a cool look to it. Through some searching and a few other discounts, I got it at a really good deal. I’ve been looking at it for a while and while the weather sealing and wifi were definite draws, the 24 megapixel size was holding me off. It’s just a stupid amount of pixels for what I do with the camera. In the end, the deal/price I came up with was worth it.

So this is one of my first pictures with it. I find I have a tendency to purchase new gear in the winter when it’s too cold, too dark and just not feasible to get out and use the new stuff. Huh. This shot was from my back door in -20 temperatures. The sun was going down and the blue in the sky made for a neat picture. I was shooting other things in silhouette when an airplane was taking off. I grabbed this shot.

Its important to note that this is straight from the camera as shot with an ISO of 3200, not post processing other than a slight crop. The colours and rendering are awesome. Looks like I made a good choice!

Not the Tardis

While visiting my old train watching haunt, I walked up a path and saw an old, abandoned signal box.

Normally, in the summer months I wouldn’t have seen this as it would have been obscured by foliage. But it stood out now. I ventured over to check it out. On approach, it looked kind of like Dr. Who’s Tardis; but of course it wasn’t. It had been well taken over by graffiti and rust. I took a few shots of it to add to my graffiti collection.

Shot with my Fuji X-Pro1.

On the hill

A Christmas tradition of sorts is going to visit family in my home town of Dundas, Ontario a week or so before Christmas. This is a way to visit, do the Christmas thing and avoid the typical bad weather (or try to) that hits around the end of December.

If I can, I like to find time to go up the “hill” to where the main line of the CN Dundas sub runs. When I was younger, on Saturdays I would ride my bike up to this location to watch trains in the morning, returning around noon. There used to be a station there, which by then was a whistle stop, but it has a washroom (if one could call it that) and a place to hide out from the weather if needed. That station is long gone, burned down by vandals in the mid 90s.

Access to the area is now by foot only. A bit of a walk, but no big deal. The line up to Copetown is uphill, so the trains are struggling to make the grade, and you can hear them coming. There is also signal lights to help know if there is something coming. On the opposite direction, you can see the headlights long before the train passes.

So I went up. I stayed for about an hour, and nothing came, even though there was a green light. Still, I wandered and took a few photos with my X-Pro1.

The escarpment is a popular area to hike to, with a great vantage point from up there.

 

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.