Tag Archives: Railway

Only Child going crazy with little time

One of Only Child's teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

One of Only Child’s teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

My late father was a master with time. His work – railway timekeeper-  probably helped him although it drove Mom crazy sometimes. Dad would get his watch regulated at Birks and always insisted Mom, he and I arrive at Union Station in Toronto an hour and a half early for our train. I’m sure he had other time tricks that he used.

The only time techniques I’ve inherited from Dad (besides the arriving early for trains) are the awareness of how important time is and trying all sorts of ways to fit things into time – regularly and otherwise.

Not working. Not sure if it is today’s complexity – too much information, too much technology and in my case (and many others I’m sure)  too much crap shoved unexpectedly at us. I get this in spades. Sometimes I feel like taking the spade and just smashing the source of the problem. (I’m a gardener so have a spade – a pitchfork, too). But I don’t. So I vent verbally out at the Universe, God  – in many instances for not even hearing me.

That happened twice in the last 24 hours. First, with yesterday’s rainfall when I specifically put it out there that I didn’t want any water getting into the basement – it did – not from the ground but through the window – it poured down from the eavestrough above from one spot there. I suspect the cause has something to do with F., the “repair” guy when he nailed down the netting (to catch the leaves) in the eavestrough a month ago (We didn’t get much rain after that).  So, I had to call F. (that’s his first initial although a four-letter word comes to mind to better describe him) to make a return visit. This rain shower from the eavestrough had happened a few other times since he “fixed” the falling out eavestrough netting. His answer then? Call him when it is actually raining so he can see it when it happens. Newsflash F. – the rain will have stopped by the time you get here. So, yesterday I told him this and to check it out Friday morning. His answer? Take a picture of it? I don’t have a digital camera I told him and it had already stopped. And I can show him exactly where it cascaded down.

Today, it’s the anti-virus program on my laptop. When I first turned it on I did the usual updating the protection and the quick active scan. Well, the latter was quick – it scanned only half the loading-point files – every time I tried it – and I shut down the computer twice and started it up again before trying. Now, it’s doing the full scan, so we’ll shall see how that goes and how that affects (or doesn’t) the active scan. And like not wanting any water getting in from the rain, I also put it out there for all computer programs, etc. to work. The techie is coming tomorrow to see what’s what. Good thing he will take a post-dated cheque into September.

Guess I’m not shouting loud enough.

All this wastes my time and I’m already on a time roller-coaster trying to get things done before I go on holidays in the near future. I will not be cheated from my train trip and visiting my cousins.

Am I shouting loud enough here?

I’ve been trying varying techniques to try to get things done – even the dreaded multi-tasking which I’m against doing (except maybe thinking while riding the subway) Last Friday while on hold for one of the utilities (yet another problem – money-based) I decided to finally fill in the form to update an insurance document. But I needed the original and previous update. Guess what? No time to dig them out, although I know which file they are in.

And I have a “to-do list for what must be done  (besides the obvious, packing) before I travel. Here I’m doing a little of one thing, then a little of another, etc. However, I feel like I’m doing a variation of a Jill-of-all trades and master of none.

I know I have to rein in some of what I do – too much time with business email (forget the personal, only family stuff gets done). Already I’ve removed myself from several lists. (Don’t you like it when they ask why? I just say “no time/email overload). I think the delete button will become my new best friend.

Once I finally drag my weary body onto the train I’ll probably fall asleep looking out the window. That won’t work – I’ll miss my station and my cousin standing outside the train station will wonder what’s going on.

So do I wonder what’s going on. But that is fodder for another post.

Meantime, Dad, if your spirit is out there, please tell me some of your time-mastering tricks. Your daughter is running out of time…literally.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The time challenged

Only Child Writes

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Filed under email overload, Family and Friends, Life demands, Lists, Mom and Dad, Prioritizing, Rain, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management, to do list, Uncategorized

Only Child on passenger railway security

350x247xtrain1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NleuDB37gEI’m a railway brat. My late Dad was a timekeeper for one of the Canadian railways so Mom and I got free passes to travel in Canada and the United States. I begin the chapter “Riding the Rails with Dad” in my memoir…

If you’re going to travel on the train with Albert Langevin, be prepared to get up early and arrive at the station long before the steam engine is fired up, long before the conductor and trainman arrive, and long before anyone else stands in line at Platform 9 for Guelph, Ontario. My Dad has to be first in line at Toronto’s Union Station. His “typical [railway company name]” style dictated our family schedule during the late 1950s and early 1960s when we travelled by train to my Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms.(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That was then when train travel was more freewheeling and you could really talk about the romance of the rails. Until around 1960 there were still a few steam engines pulling trains, and up to the mid-1960s passenger trains actually ran through rural Ontario. Now, the railway company my dad worked for no longer has passenger service. In 1977, the federal government created VIA Rail for passenger service only. I’ve travelled by VIA and up to now some of the romance of riding the rails is still there.

However, it looks like it is going to change and be more like getting on a plane with security. All because of the foiled terrorist plot to derail a VIA Rail train in the Greater Toronto Area recently. Apparently VIA Rail already is doing some extra security – random searches and X-rays of baggage, sniffer dogs at stations and observing people in stations for any suspicious behaviour, plus increased training for their security staff. (See story at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/08/04/via_rail_considers_new_security_checks_for_passengers_in_response_to_alleged_terror_plot.html). At this point I don’t have problems with this setup. So far my biggest problem when travelling by train is to limit my carry-on baggage to their requirements (two bags plus one personal – for example, a purse). However, increasing it to checking everyone against a database and everyone having ID – well, good in principle. But with a common name (Sharon Crawford) that could present problems. So could the ID because I don’t have a passport (I can’t afford one and don’t travel where I need one) and as I don’t drive I don’t have a driver’s licence. I’m hoping I won’t have to get a passport to board a train that is travelling only in Canada. I just might have to get the $35 Ontario personal ID (for non-drivers) which has to be renewed every five years (and probably more money forked over at the time – unlike the provincial health insurance card ID which needs renewing every five years but is free. It also has your photo and birthdate on it – but that one is not usually accepted for security checks). If ID becomes mandatory, there better be a choice of acceptable ID.

And will the one line my Dad rushed to Union Station to get in, now turn into two or three for security purposes and permission to board the train? The big stations in the big cities like Montreal and Toronto can accommodate all this but what about smaller stations such as in Stratford and Kitchener, Ontario, which still have the original small station?

Where do they think we will line up for ID etc. checks? In the parking lot?

Of course if the service cuts VIA Rail did last fall continue, there may be little or no operating train stations except in the big cities. Also these new security measures require more funds. It will be interesting to see what the Canadian Federal Government will do here. It has decreased funds to VIA but does spend on national security.

It is really too bad that travel has turned into a security hassle and time-consuming issue. All becomes of some baddie terrorists. At least VIA Rail is not considering the invasive naked body X-Rays and other than number, the limitation on carry-on (liquids and the like) and my ex-husband’s favourite complaint – shoe removal.

At any rate my dad must be rolling over in his grave. And I don’t think his favourite phrase about the railway company – “typical (railway company name)” would even apply here.

As I’ve said in previous posts – it’s a terrible world we live in no matter where we live.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Canadian National Railway, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Steam engines, Train travel

Only Child on too much research in memoir

Only Child's Dad when he worked for the railway

In last week’s session  in my Crafting the Personal Memoir taught in my home, I covered incorporating research information to the actual memoir without overdoing it. I used an example from my memoir and the old version is a doozie.

Old version beginning of Chapter  Riding the Rails with Dad:

If you’re going to travel on the train with my Dad, be prepared to get up early and arrive at the station long before the steam engine is fired up, long before the conductor and trainman arrive, and long before anyone else stands in line for Platform 7 or 9 for Guelph. Dad had to be first in line at Union Station and that dictated our family schedule during the late 1950s and early 1960s when we travelled by train to my Grandpa’s and Aunt Rita’s farms.

What did I expect when Dad worked as a timekeeper for Canadian National Railways since 1918? Just before the 20th century, Canada had three transcontinental railways: the Canadian Pacific Railway – the one tied in with Confederation, the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway. From 1900, railway lines had increased from 27,000 to 77,760 km (16,777.02 to 48,317.82 miles) but the extra construction and World War I had the latter two railway companies rolling on shaky financial tracks. So, in 1917, the federal government followed a Royal Commission recommendation and joined the Canadian Northern Railway with the Canadian Government Railways. The year my Dad Joined CNR, this amalgamated railway took on the moniker of Canadian National Railways. One year later another railway, the Grand Trunk Pacific jumped tracks to become part of this federal family.[i]

As timekeeper, Dad must’ve had his work cut out for him. Sure, the merger had reduced railway operating expenses, but the equipment to keep the railway running needed a big overhaul. The purchase of 8,450 new cars, 163 locomotives and 200 passenger cars,[ii] required much re-scheduling of train runs, both freight and passenger. Dad didn’t actually stand outside on the platforms and time trains coming in and going out – not like a bus inspector. He worked in the CNR Office on Front St. West, adjacent to Union Station in Toronto. He kept track and analyzed train run times from reports. Railway schedules were based on the Uniform Code of Operating Rules, until 1990 when the Canadian Rail Operations Rules came into effect. Despite “Rules,” train accidents occurred, and in 1907, the year my Mom was born, nearly 600 people, most of them railway employees, died in train accidents. Again, Dad entered the CNR workforce at an ideal time for him, as the total number of railway accidents declined after the Frst World War. [iii] But his clerk’s salary was lower than that of the more skilled engineers or conductors who actually rode the rails as part of their jobs.

(Copyright 2005 Sharon Crawford, excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons earlier version)

Yawn. As you can see it even included footnotes (which I’ve deleted here.) Too much information and while I tried to connect it with my Dad it just doesn’t work. After the feedback from the summer workshop with Ken McGoogan at the University of Toronto in 2005, I made several changes. Below is the version in the manuscript I’m now pitching to agents.

Chapter 7 – Riding the Rails with Dad

If you’re going to travel on the train with Albert Langevin, be prepared to get up early and arrive at the station long before the steam engine is fired up, long before the conductor and trainman arrive, and long before anyone else stands in line at Platform 9 for Guelph, Ontario. My Dad has to be first in line at Toronto’s Union Station. His “typical CNR” style dictated our family schedule during the late 1950s and early 1960s when we travelled by train to my Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms.

On the way to Union Station, Dad sits in the front seat of the taxi, the better to play navigator. Mom and I, with my doll Darlene, sit in the back. 

“The best way to get to Union Station,” Dad says, looking down at his watch, “is to take Broadview down to Eastern Avenue, then take Eastern Avenue to Front Street.” He scowls over at the driver. “We don’t want to miss our train.”

Not likely. Unless we get stuck in traffic on this pre-Don Valley Parkway day in the late 1950s, we will arrive an hour and a half early at Union Station.

The driver makes a right turn and Dad jumps into attack mode.

“I said to take Broadview to Eastern. We’re on Gerrard St. now. Turn left at Parliament and go down Parliament to Front Street.” Dad removes his watch and is practically shaking it at the driver.

(Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford, excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons).

As you can see I deleted all the railway history here – some of the other history is still in the chapter later on but in narrative as I saw it back then, not as my research now stated it. The watch was incorporated as narrative in this version and more on the watch and Dad as timekeeper is incorporated into narrative in Chapter 1. The rest is as they say, history.

The idea is not only to connect the history to you but to do it in a way that is more in story-telling mode than lecture-mode. Also make sure that the history you are including is really relevant and necessary to your story. For example, does the reader really care how many railway accidents occurred when my Dad started working for the (then) CNR?

I welcome any comments on this and how others deal with research in their memoir or have difficulty dealing with the research. I call too much research “researchitis.”

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes



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Filed under Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course, Only child, Only child memoir, Railways, Research memoir writing, Sharon Crawford, Union Station Toronto, Vacations