A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘railroad

[CAT] On Nitama, Tama, and the Kinokawa railway station

In April 2010, I reported the the story of Tama, a cat who had become master of a railway station in the Japanese city in Kinokawa.

Station-Master Tama

In June of this year mentioned that Tama had died at the ripe old age of 16. Happily, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Tama has been officially replaced by deputy Nitama.

A Japanese railway station famous for its stationmaster cat has appointed another feline as its replacement.

The station’s previous cat, Tama, was mourned at a lavish funeral after she died from heart failure in June having patrolled Kishi station, south-west of Osaka, for eight years.

Tama quietly patrolled the station dressed in a custom-made cap and uniform and became a popular mascot who attracted tourists from across Japan.

The new cat — reportedly named Nitama — will take over where its much-loved predecessor left off.

The station hopes the new cat will continue to bring more visitors to the struggling local railway.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 30, 2015 at 3:57 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • James Bow mourns the loss of the Northlander train route connecting northern Ontario with the south.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a Saudi Arabian announcement that it will be boosting military spending by 20%.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World blog notes growing Brazilian confidence in the outcome of the World Cup.
  • At A Fistful of Euros, Alex Harrowell notes the complexities of governance and procedure in the European Parliament.
  • Language Hat notes the long and changing history of ethnic identity in the Crimean peninsula.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair notes from first-hand experience the complex language and script situation in Macau and Hong Kong.
  • The New APPS Blog features suggestions for institutional reform in the European Union.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that, to ingratiate itself with the European Union, Albania won’t accept transit fees for the impending Trans-Adriatic pipeline.
  • Spacing Toronto remembers the time when Toronto’s subway network was the best in North America.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs notes how a steamship disaster helped erase the Manhattan neighbourhood of Little Germany from the map of New York City.
  • Torontoist fact-checks an Olivia Chow speech, finding it boringly accurate and unambitious.
  • Towleroad notes how a Dutch town proposed setting up a gay ghetto to call out local homophobia.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how Ukrainian Orthodox Christian leaders are rejecting the Russian church’s authority, and observes that the Ukrainian government is now demanding that ethnic Ukrainians in Russia receive good treatment as an ethnic minority.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster visits depictions of Europa in classic science fiction.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper claiming that whether a planet of Earth’s mass becomes Earth-like or a mini-Neptune depends not so much on the planet as on the characteristics of its nebula.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes archeological analyses which suggest that Neanderthals were just as technologically capable of Homo sapiens.
  • Joe. My. God. quotes from ex-ex-gay John Paulk, who describes the factors that led him to flirt with the ex-gay movement.
  • Language Log’s Victor Mair doesn’t think Putonghua will become a world language because of its script. (Me, I think that’s decidedly secondary.)
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money starts a discussion on nuclear waste that’s a bit too panicky for my liking.
  • The Power and the Money notes that southern Brazil, like Argentina and Uruguay experienced sharp relative economic decline in the 20th century. This regional decline got missed in national statistics.
  • Strange Maps’ Frank Jacobs wonders why so many towns in the American South–especially Georgia–seem to be circular.
  • Towleroad notes that prominent Russian homophobe and politician Vitaly Milonov is calling on Russia to abandon Eurovision on account of its queer associations.
  • Transit Toronto notes a proposal to connect Toronto to London and Kitchener-Waterloo via high-speed train.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that the Russian private sector is being undermined and notes that Russians don’t travel all that much.

[URBAN NOTE] “Crude awakening”

NOW Toronto‘s Cynthia McQueen writes about how the stretch of railroad in midtown Toronto–a stretch that roughly parallels Dupont Street and runs just behind my home, actually–is being used to transport processed oil. The potential for catastrophe is obvious, although I can say that going through my neighbourhood the trains move slowly, at least.

Ken Brown has lived near the Canadian Pacific stretch of tracks between Avenue and Yonge for 42 years.

Since the 72-railcar explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people last summer, he’s noticed something unnerving: an increase in DOT-111 tankers carrying oil through the neighbourhood. In fact, those railcars that derailed in Lac-Mégantic, carrying highly volatile Bakken oil from North Dakota, came through Toronto en route to that disaster.

Brown has counted at least two trainloads of oil with 100 cars each passing through Toronto every day.

[. . .]

Keith Stewart, a climate and energy specialist with Greenpeace, sees security concerns as “largely manufactured to decrease transparency.”

The difficulty with rail, he says, is that constitutionally it was “granted all these extraordinary powers because at that time building the rail lines was about constructing the country, and so right now they’re still almost completely impervious to outside regulation apart from the federal government.”

Stewart, too, has noticed an increase in DOT-111 tanker traffic on the CP tracks running through his Dupont-and-Dufferin neighbourhood in the last five years.

“There’s been a huge increase, and that’s been done with no oversight,” he says. “All you have to do is watch the train tracks. If you see the cars are DOT-111 tankers, you know they’re filled with oil.”

For 20 years, the TSB has commented on the vulnerability of DOT-111s because of their thin hulls, among other things. But a phase-out plan currently under way means they’ll be in use for another 10 years.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 3, 2014 at 1:11 am

[PHOTO] Charlottetown CNR Station

Charlottetown CNR Station (1)

The Charlottetown Canadian National Railroad station at 14 Weymouth Street, a Romanesque building built with Prince Edward Island sandstone, was once the hub of the Prince Edward Island Railway.

The original Charlottetown Railway Station was a wooden building located close to where the current station now stands. The wooden structure was one of six terminal stations across Prince Edward Island. These terminal stations had covered platforms, which created not only a fire hazard, but a great deal of smoke within the building each time an engine passed through the engine shed. The Station was 25 by 40 feet with a covered track and a 200-foot long platform.

By 1900, there was a need to construct a new railway station. A great deal of controversy ensued as a new site for the Station was being selected. According to newspapers of the day, city residents favored a site at the foot of Great George Street but ultimately it was decided to build the new building near the original wooden Station, in the east bog, on the edge of town. A pond had to be filled in before construction could begin on the new building. Controversy continued as the building was constructed. Allegations of political corruption and poor workmanship were reported. Finally, when the building was completed, project costs had exceeded 13 000 dollars.

Despite the problems with the project, the beautiful, Island sandstone building was opened on 8 July 1907. The contractor was EA Wallberg of Montreal and the Engineer who supervised the site was W. Frank Boggis. The building was Richardsonian Romanesque influenced, with its heavy Island sandstone construction, Nova Scotia Freestone trim and large, arched, deeply set windows. The building had three floors with the first containing a ticket sales area, as well as general and separate waiting rooms. The second floor housed offices and the third floor was dedicated to union meetings and storage.

The railway played an integral role in the transportation needs of Islanders throughout the 19th and a large portion of the 20th century. It was also one of the largest employers on the Island. However, due to declining passenger traffic in the 1960’s, the railway passenger service ceased, with only the freight service remaining. The railway’s freight service was finally terminated on 31 December 1989. Soon after, all railway tracks were removed and the land was turned over to the Province. The rail beds were eventually converted to a large trail system running throughout the entire Province known as the Confederation Trail. The former Charlottetown CNR Station is unique in Prince Edward Island and stands as a reminder of a bygone era. The building is a landmark and supports the Weymouth Street and Water Street streetscape.

Renovated in the 1990s, the building now houses the province’s Workers Compensation Board.

Charlottetown CNR Station (2)

On the Weymouth Street side of the building, neat iron arches support the overhang.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 27, 2014 at 3:04 pm

[LINK] Four links on the al-Qaeda VIA Rail plot in Toronto

Hamutal Dotan’s Torontoist post outlines today’s events.

At a press conference this afternoon RCMP officials announced that two men have been arrested and face charges in conjunction with an attack they were allegedly planning against a particular VIA rail route (though the RCMP would not confirm which one). Chiheb Esseghaier (30, Montreal) and Raed Jaser (35, Toronto) face multiple charges for “activities related to terrorism”—including “conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group”—and will appear at Old City Hall for a bail hearing tomorrow.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia emphasized that there was no imminent threat to the public, and that the significance of today’s arrest lies in the support the suspects received “from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran.”

The investigation, dubbed Project SMOOTH, began in August 2012 and was led by the RCMP. Multiple other agencies participated in the investigation, including the FBI, the Toronto Police Service, York and Peel region services, and the OPP. Officials today declined to comment on whether further arrests were expected, or on the details of the planned attack, as their investigation is ongoing. They did say that the support Al Qaeda provided “was in the form of direction and guidance” (rather than material support like the provision of money).

The National Post reported from Montréal.

Chiheb Esseghaier, the younger of two men charged in the al Qaeda train plot, is a Tunisian-born PhD student at a Université du Québec nanotechnology lab who was threatened with expulsion for his disruptive behaviour and strict religious views that alienated his colleagues.

One colleague at Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Varennes, Que., described Mr. Esseghaier, 30, as “a brainwashed person, basically,” who tore down posters he did not approve of, and pestered the administration to install a prayer room.

“He had very strict religious behaviour that made many people frustrated,” said the colleague, who asked that his name be withheld. “He had problems with the administration.”

His co-accused, Raed Jaser, 35, is a Palestinian with citizenship in the United Arab Emirates, who has permanent resident status in Canada. Search warrants were being executed Monday at his home in a Toronto suburb, where neighbours said they have seen a group of young men in traditional Muslim garb weightlifting.

‘‘If I was outside, or getting into my car, he wouldn’t even say hello. He was a very reserved guy. They kept entirely to themselves,’’ said Sanjay Chaudhary, 47, who lives next door.

CBC Toronto reported from Scarborough.

The two accused — Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal and Raed Jaser, 35, of Toronto — face charges that the RCMP say include conspiring to carry out an attack against, and conspiring to murder persons unknown for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group.

Tomorrow, the men are due to appear in a Toronto court for a bail hearing.

The RCMP gave few details about the accused, though they indicated that neither man was a Canadian citizen.

During the Monday afternoon press conference, the RCMP said that while they believed the accused had “the intent and capacity” to carry out attacks, the public did not face any imminent risks in advance of the men’s arrest.

When asked what search warrants had revealed to police, Chief Supt. Jennifer Strachan said that information was not available because the searches were still ongoing.

Hours later, RCMP officers could be seen in an eastern Toronto neighbourhood, near Victoria Park Avenue and Finch Avenue East, where two homes were taped off and a large RCMP truck was parked nearby.

The CBC, meanwhile, commented on the Iranian connection.

[Security expert Seth] Jones argues that “Iran is likely holding al-Qaeda leaders on its territory first as an act of defence. So long as Tehran has several leaders under its control, the group will likely refrain from attacking Iran,” which is a Shia Muslim country, while al-Qaeda is Sunni Islamist group which has often targeted Shias.

On the other hand, should the U.S. or Israel attack Iran, “Tehran could employ al-Qaeda in a response,” Jones has said.

If the Iranian government should be convinced that al-Qaeda in Iran was secretly involved in supporting a plot in Canada, Jones expects Tehran will detain or expel some of the individuals responsible. “I cannot imagine the Iranian government would be happy with al-Qaeda plotting from its soil,” he told CBC News.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 23, 2013 at 3:00 am

[LINK] “Bring back the trains, St. Marys musician pleads to Via Rail”

The Toronto Star today carried Tess Kalinowski’s article chronicling the contribution made by Canadian singer-songwriter Emm Gryner to the campaign to restore passenger train service to the small southwestern Ontario town of St. Mary.

The problem with the campaign, as noted in the article’s comments and elsewhere, is that there really is very little passenger traffic on a daily basis to and from St. Mary’s. The town is home to six thousand people, and the number of people regularly commuting into Toronto on the Via passenger service is suggested as being quite low. The once-daily service sounds like as much as can reasonably be hoped for.

Trains to many southwestern Ontario locations were cut last year in what Via called “right-sizing” of its service. But communities who depended on passenger trains say they haven’t given up on having those trips restored.

Gryner has lent her voice and her video from an upcoming album called Music for Scholars to the fight that continues months after cuts to Stratford, Sarnia and Niagara service as well as some national Via runs.

[. . .]

“The St. Marys rail station is very picturesque. So are those tracks and the huge train bridge. It’s something I really love, living in a town with the train. I thought of the video as writing a letter to these trains, as though they are lost loves,” she said.

Gryner, 37, who moved to St. Marys from Montreal about 10 years ago, lives with her partner and children, ages 3 and 9 months. She travels regularly to Toronto to work and perform, and she likes to take the kids with her since the performances occupy a brief interval in many of those trips.

[. . .]

“Before they cut the trains, there were two morning trains and two in the evening coming back. To be honest, it’s a huge selling point of why we moved here, to have that convenience,” she said.

“Everyone’s pretty much afraid they’re just going to phase it right out,” said Gryner.

The remaining train trip doesn’t leave until after 8 a.m. and arrives in Toronto too late for early morning meetings, she said.

The return trip doesn’t leave Toronto until 8:36 p.m.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 22, 2013 at 7:34 pm

[LINK] “Locomotif: A short survey of trains, music & experiments”

3 Quarks Daily’s Gautam Pemmaraju has a wonderful essay exploring the influence of trains on popular music, starting–of course–with Kraftwerk and their Trans-Europe Express.

The influential electronic music artists Kraftwerk, saw their 1977 concept album Trans-Europe Express as a symbol of a unified Europe, a “sonic poem” enabling a moving away from the troubled legacy of the war, and particularly, of Nazi Germany. The spectre of the Reich and their militaristic high speed road construction was often linked to the band’s fourth studio album Autobahn, although the band saw it, in part, as a “European rejoinder to American ‘keep on trucking’” songs. The French journalist and friend to the band, Paul Alessandrini, had apparently suggested the idea of the train as a thematic base (See the wikipedia entry): “With the kind of music you do, which is kind of like an electronic blues, railway stations and trains are very important in your universe, you should do a song about the Trans-Europe Express”. Described as embodying “a new sense of European identity”, the album was destined to become a seminal work of the band, not just in fusing a qausi-utopian political idea with their sonic aura, at once popular, idiosyncratic and profoundly influential, but also in ‘reclaiming the train’, which chugs across “borders that had been fought over”. In response to Kraftwerk’s espousal of European integration, band member Karl Batos says here,

We were much more interested in it at that time than being Germans because we had been confronted by this German identity so much in the States, with everyone greeting us with the ‘heil Hitler’ salutes. They were just making fun and jokes and not being very serious but we’d had enough of this idea.

The chugging beat, “ripe with unlikely hooks, and hypnotic, minimalist arrangements” is in ways an ideological amplification of the idea of Autobahn, referencing the transport networks of Germany, and seeking in its “propulsive proto electro groove…a high speed velocity transit away from the horrors of Nazism and World War II”. There was, however, as Pascal Bussy writes in Kraftwerk: Man, Machine, Music (1993), a formidable nationalism underlying their somewhat nebulous politics. Kraftwerk believed, as Hütter is quoted saying to the American journalist Lester Bangs in 1975, that they were unlike other contemporary German bands which tended to be Anglo-American; they wanted instead to be known as German since the “the German mentality, which is more advanced, will always be part of our behaviour”.

Drawing quite a bit of inspiration from pioneering avant-garde artists such as Karl Heinz Stockhausen, the Italian composer Russolo & the Fluxus Group (which included La Monte Young, Jon Hassel & Tony Conrad), it was actually the Frenchman Pierre Schaeffer that they were directly indebted to, in some manner, with regard to their electronic transport music. As Karl Batos reveals in the aforementioned interview, they were ‘following his path’, since it was the Schaeffer’s Musique Concrète piece using only train sounds that they were referencing.

Musique Concrète was a Schaeffer’s way of ‘turning his back on music’. It was a method of empirically gathering environmental sounds and creating sonic envelopes using these sources. In doing so it was in “an opposition with the way musical work usually goes”, Schaeffer believed, and the process of collecting sounds, ‘concrete sounds’, whatever their origin be, was “to abstract the musical values they were potentially containing”. It was a way of ‘freeing’ composition from its formalist shackles and reformulating the process of composition, ‘a new mental framework’, which saw the shaping of music as a more ‘plastic’ process. In a 1986 interview (read here), the broadcast engineer who worked for the radio station ORTF, says that having successfully driven out the German invasion in the years after the war, music was still ‘under an occupying power’ – Austrian, 12 tone music of the Vienna School. It was this that he wished to reject and seek instead, “…salvation, liberation if possible”. He along with Pierre Henry, in contrast to purely electronic music, developed pioneering modes and techniques of electroacoustic improvisation, wherein naturally occurring and other environmental sounds, ‘any and all sounds’, were recorded and then manipulated to create musical compositions.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2012 at 11:50 pm

[LINK] “Locomotif: A short survey of trains, music & experiments”

3 Quarks Daily’s Gautam Pemmaraju has a wonderful essay exploring the influence of trains on popular music, starting–of course–with Kraftwerk and their Trans-Europe Express.

The influential electronic music artists Kraftwerk, saw their 1977 concept album Trans-Europe Express as a symbol of a unified Europe, a “sonic poem” enabling a moving away from the troubled legacy of the war, and particularly, of Nazi Germany. The spectre of the Reich and their militaristic high speed road construction was often linked to the band’s fourth studio album Autobahn, although the band saw it, in part, as a “European rejoinder to American ‘keep on trucking’” songs. The French journalist and friend to the band, Paul Alessandrini, had apparently suggested the idea of the train as a thematic base (See the wikipedia entry): “With the kind of music you do, which is kind of like an electronic blues, railway stations and trains are very important in your universe, you should do a song about the Trans-Europe Express”. Described as embodying “a new sense of European identity”, the album was destined to become a seminal work of the band, not just in fusing a qausi-utopian political idea with their sonic aura, at once popular, idiosyncratic and profoundly influential, but also in ‘reclaiming the train’, which chugs across “borders that had been fought over”. In response to Kraftwerk’s espousal of European integration, band member Karl Batos says here,

We were much more interested in it at that time than being Germans because we had been confronted by this German identity so much in the States, with everyone greeting us with the ‘heil Hitler’ salutes. They were just making fun and jokes and not being very serious but we’d had enough of this idea.

The chugging beat, “ripe with unlikely hooks, and hypnotic, minimalist arrangements” is in ways an ideological amplification of the idea of Autobahn, referencing the transport networks of Germany, and seeking in its “propulsive proto electro groove…a high speed velocity transit away from the horrors of Nazism and World War II”. There was, however, as Pascal Bussy writes in Kraftwerk: Man, Machine, Music (1993), a formidable nationalism underlying their somewhat nebulous politics. Kraftwerk believed, as Hütter is quoted saying to the American journalist Lester Bangs in 1975, that they were unlike other contemporary German bands which tended to be Anglo-American; they wanted instead to be known as German since the “the German mentality, which is more advanced, will always be part of our behaviour”.

Drawing quite a bit of inspiration from pioneering avant-garde artists such as Karl Heinz Stockhausen, the Italian composer Russolo & the Fluxus Group (which included La Monte Young, Jon Hassel & Tony Conrad), it was actually the Frenchman Pierre Schaeffer that they were directly indebted to, in some manner, with regard to their electronic transport music. As Karl Batos reveals in the aforementioned interview, they were ‘following his path’, since it was the Schaeffer’s Musique Concrète piece using only train sounds that they were referencing.

Musique Concrète was a Schaeffer’s way of ‘turning his back on music’. It was a method of empirically gathering environmental sounds and creating sonic envelopes using these sources. In doing so it was in “an opposition with the way musical work usually goes”, Schaeffer believed, and the process of collecting sounds, ‘concrete sounds’, whatever their origin be, was “to abstract the musical values they were potentially containing”. It was a way of ‘freeing’ composition from its formalist shackles and reformulating the process of composition, ‘a new mental framework’, which saw the shaping of music as a more ‘plastic’ process. In a 1986 interview (read here), the broadcast engineer who worked for the radio station ORTF, says that having successfully driven out the German invasion in the years after the war, music was still ‘under an occupying power’ – Austrian, 12 tone music of the Vienna School. It was this that he wished to reject and seek instead, “…salvation, liberation if possible”. He along with Pierre Henry, in contrast to purely electronic music, developed pioneering modes and techniques of electroacoustic improvisation, wherein naturally occurring and other environmental sounds, ‘any and all sounds’, were recorded and then manipulated to create musical compositions.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2012 at 7:49 pm

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[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Burgh Diaspora’s Jim Russell takes issue with an American conservative’s criticism of an anti-fracking film as state propaganda for the United Arab Emirates. No, the oil/natural gas market doesn’t work that way.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin wonders why Matthew Yglesias sees state repression–state policies, more broadly–as key to the problems of independent unions in China but not so in the United States.
  • pauldrye‘s False Steps examines the abortive British effort in the late 1950s to build its own space launch vehicle.
  • GNXP’s Razib Khan argues, in commenting on free speech laws outside of the United States, in that the repression of speech on grounds of potential harm to the community isn’t done from a consistent philosophical position. Thoughts?
  • James Bow recounts his experience on the last trip of the Northlander train into northern Ontario. It does sound like it had a lot of potential for tourism and whatnot that went unexploited.
  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money shares links to commentary on China’s launch of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
  • Maximos discusses Australia’s seasonal, El Nino-dependent, Lake George.
  • Estonia as a Nordic nation, not that different from Sweden is the theme of the latest Itching for Eestimaa post.
  • Eugene Volokh notes rioting in Bangladesh inspired by a Facebook image of a desecrated Koran that led to attacks on that country’s Buddhist minority.