Slow To Get Home

Protecting work is a part of my job. But sometimes it can be a long, drawn out process. I was waiting for a train to go back on for 24 hours. I was originally expected to be a conductor in the early morning, but that never happened. In the end, I am heading back with a crew in deadhead service.

This is also in part because the roads are treacherous as well due to a snow fall and strong winds. Getting in a taxi was not the safest choice at this time. So I am glad to be traveling back by train. I am also with an experienced crew who is good at their job. I know they won’t feel intimidated by my appearance there.

Home is just a few hours away. My own bed and a good night’s sleep is well needed. I’m looking forward to my bedroom and the fireplace. The -5°C in Boston Bar is not pleasant.

Back To The Tracks

I mentioned the other day how I have been with CN for 15 years now (Read about it here:15 Years of CN). Over the last few years I have been in management and generally stay in the yard organizing the movements in and out of my territory. It has its challenges and I really enjoy them. Sometimes I’ll go back to my roots and get out in the yard and work with a switching crew.

Today I took a train as a conductor from North Vancouver to Boston Bar. This is because we have been short workers as of late and the workload has felt like it has increased. So out came my old notes from when I first hired on. Pages upon pages of assistance that made my first trip back on the road a smooth sailing.

Now I am in Boston Bar with the other crews in the bunkhouse. It has had a severe upgrade since I last stayed here. Nicer rooms with a Smart TV. So far, everyone I have run into has been jovial and nice. The crews are respectful and I feel that I have been equally respectful towards them over the years. This doesn’t feel like management vs union. More like we are all in this together- working towards a common goal- move the trains safely.

Now comes the part that was always tough- waiting for a call for the train ride to return home. The call may be in a couple of hours, but could be up to half a day wait. Uncertainty is tough. But that’s how the railroad works. For now, I’m going to get some rest and wait to see what happens.

Foamer In Me

I enjoy where I work. Being a railroader is a unique job. You often experience some great moments that are just beautiful. I love taking photos of the world I live in. I’m a bit of a “foamer” but only of the really remarkable aspects. I don’t care for the intricate details about locomotives or cars. If it looks cool- I’ll snap a picture.

Check out: Crossing Tracks for two of my favorite shots of train tracks.

Or take a journey back in time to when I was lucky enough to be a conductor on a Steam Train. My wife still bugs me about how excited I was to get the call that morning.

Recently a rare engine rolled into town. This is only one of three of these locomotives in this paint schemes in all of Canada. I had never seen it before in my almost 13 years at CN Rail. Naturally, I had to take a picture. The grey and blue engine looked right at home with the grey and blue background.

I still find my job fascinating from time to time. It keeps the interest level up. I’ll probably be here for many more years to come. I’m just a bit of a foamer. You kind of have to be to work here for as long as I have.

White Rock Kayaking: Nicomekl River

Day three in a row of my wife and I hitting the water in our kayaks. Today we drove further southwest and put in the water at Ward’s Marina in White Rock. The smell of the fresh sea air was pleasant as we paddled throughout the afternoon.

This spot opens daily at noon. So it is generally not very crowded, even for a Saturday. The weather was cooler than it had been the past couple of days. And with no trees to shade us, today was a perfect day to enjoy this adventure.

Of course, as we paddled from Elgin Park towards Blackie Spit. The route had some tough spots where we had to work more. But the neatest part was going under the BNSF train bridge as the train crossed overhead. The vibration made the water push us away from the location. Making it difficult to stay still in order to get a good photo.

On our way back home, we stopped by the Fraser Valley Cider Company and sampled some of their ciders. There was live music as we sat in the farmer’s field and enjoyed some local beverages and cheeses from other local farms. Stopping at a place like this was a nice way to end the afternoon. Plus it supports local businesses which I wholeheartedly encourage.

Three days off flew by quickly. I enjoyed our kayaking adventures over the last few days. I really enjoy the time I’m spending with my wife as well. We needed the companionship as we relax with time away from our hectic lives. Plus we are getting some good exercise as we go.

Crossing Tracks

Everyday I cross two sets of train tracks near our home. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now. Recently they changed one of the crossings.

They removed the stop sign and installed some lights. Needless to say that many of the local residents are having a difficult time adjusting. Since many have lived here for a long time. Even though I know it has signals and no more stop sign, I still slow down as I approach. Perhaps it’s the railroader in me exercising caution.

At the other crossing I sometimes stop and take a photo. There can be something beautiful about the skyline and the tracks that needs to be immortalized in a picture.

Working in the Rain

Last night was a good night that turned ugly. As much as I could complain about working in the rain, it really wouldn’t be worth it. I kind of enjoyed it actually.

I worked as a train conductor last night, so I got to be out there in the elements with those hard working team members who do it on a regular basis. Note: I started as a switchman over eleven years ago, and I do enjoy going back to it from time to time. Even out in the rain, it’s sometimes nice to get away from being at a desk all the time.

I worked with a great engineer who was easy to get along with. We had an excellent start and delivered traffic quickly to our first destination. After lunch, we were sent off to rescue another train that had stalled. This turned out to be more challenging than expected. The extreme rain warning was in full effect and made it difficult to move our train.

Needless to say, to took longer than expected, but we succeeded by the end of the night. We had some extra help along the way and fantastic communication going on to make it work. My level of respect to those conductors and engineers who deal with troubleshooting on a daily basis keeps on growing. Especially as the winter is coming.

Working in the harsh elements always poses a challenge. I need to remember this when I get frustrated at my desk when trains aren’t moving. There’s more to it than just thinking it’s the human factors.

Back To Basics

Yesterday I got to do something at work I haven’t done in ages. I was able to be the conductor on a train from North Vancouver to Squamish and back again. I don’t usually get asked to help out, so it was a refreshing break from my usual office work.

I was also lucky enough to be with an engineer that was a pleasure to work with. That made the ride more relaxing and enjoyable. Years ago I would work as a conductor taking this train up and down along the west coast. Not every experience was a good one. Especially in the winter.

This route is one of the most scenic routes I know of in North America to take by rail. During the summer months, The Rocky Mountaineer passenger train also takes this trip. For those of you who like trains- the Rocky Mountaineer is like taking a cruise by rail. It also costs about the same. Seeing the beautiful landscape along British Columbia is worth it in my opinion.

My job is pretty amazing at times, that’s for sure. I’m really lucky to be able to have the experiences I do. In the end, it’s all about how you perceive the workload that makes a job worthwhile.

Need To Stick To One Hobby

I find that I like to do a bit of everything. That means I don’t do anything perfectly. Which bothers me because I tend to think of myself as a perfectionist.

I often struggle to take the time to do what I really want. I also rush through my projects just to finish them. Or I give up just before the end goal. Maybe it’s time to stick to one (or two) hobbies.

A few years ago, ok back in 2008- I began a train garden. Ten years later and it’s in severe disrepair. I have zero energy to put into it. That makes me sad. But maybe this summer it will get revived… hahahaha who am I kidding?

A couple of years after that, I built an AT-ST in our backyard. Last year, it collapsed. My wife has given me the go-ahead to rebuild. So I’m thinking of building it out of different material instead of plywood in hopes that it lasts longer. Today I dug out my old plans and began cutting out a cardboard template. Now to buy materials.

Unfortunately, any time I want to get started on something, my brain tells me to take a nap. My body is blocking my ability to be creative. Perhaps sleeping is a hobby…

This blog is the only thing that is consistent at least. My goal to write every day happens every day! At least this is one hobby I enjoy.

Japan Has So Much To Offer

After our trip, here are the things I’d like to bring back with me from Japan:

Manners.

Holy smokes, people in Japan are really courteous. There are so many things I wish North Americans could adopt. Manners would be number 1. Without so much as knowing more than two words in Japanese- Kon’nichiwa and Arigato- I survived with kindness.

Bidet.

This is AMAZING. Even in public washrooms- there are bidets. And sound effects to hide your indiscretions. And seat warming. And butt spraying! And more!!! Best invention ever. My bum hole has never been happier. Seriously. These things are awesome. It may be time to buy one for my home. A cold toilet seat isn’t nice first thing in the morning.

I just avoid the old style toilets in public.

Plastic bag holders.

Why aren’t these available more frequently in North America? These are amazingly handy. I think I could carry 4 bags of 2L colas in one hand using these. Don’t tell anyone, but I may have brought a half-dozen of these home.

Toy Capsules.

We must’ve spent a small fortune on these evil items. At 200¥ – 500¥ each: my family (wife included!) kept buying them. It all started one day at the train station at Akihabara. So many Capsule Machines!!! And the payout is much better than the claw games (or even the junky toys at our local malls). No wonder we couldn’t help ourselves.

Food.

Such tasty food. Rice and noodles and meat and eggs and sweets! Even the pre-packaged food from 7-11 is better than the Twinkies and hot dogs sold here. But wait- there’s more:

Cute Food.

Still talking about food- but oh so cute! It’s almost shameful to eat it. Small quantities of edible goodies that aren’t really mass produced need to be brought here. They’re so much fun and great for those Instagram photos!

Trains.

Ok, I work for a railroad, but the public transportation system in Tokyo is amazing.(Even the trains in Disneyland and DisneySea were awesome.) The train system in Japan was easy to follow along with and use. Only once did we get on the wrong train, but after a couple of stops, just got off and went the right way at no extra cost. Cheap and efficient public transportation. A must have for our province. It runs like clockwork- absolute perfection.

Note: When we returned home, my 20 minute trip from the airport cost me $7.85 to get into Vancouver. While most of our trips were under 310¥ (approx. $3.70). There ran on exact times- not an approximate time. And the trains go everywhere! (I don’t even get bus service near my home.)

Japan has lots to offer. Perhaps some things I can work on bringing home. Perhaps other things will come to fruition over time.

Snow Day?


Last night we found out that the schools would be closed for today.  This extended the children’s weekend by a day.  Not really a big deal for us since my wife works from home and I don’t work until this evening.  We made the children go to bed at a normal time last night.  Then we allowed them to sleep in.  I think they needed it.

They are outside playing in the snow and burning off energy.  I’m guessing it will be an early night because they will be exhausted.  I’m also happy that our oldest enjoys shoveling the driveway.  We pay her $5 every time she does it.  If she asked for more, we’d probably agree to it.  (She really needs to work on her negotiation skills.)  Two feet of snow isn’t easy to shovel…


Unfortunately, I don’t get a “Snow Day” from my work.  Trains still need to keep moving and customers need to be serviced.  I don’t mind.  Keeping products moving is vital to everyone’s way of life.  There are customers relying on those goods to make it where they need to get to.

I first began working for the railroad in winter of 2007.  I experienced firsthand working in the snow and cold overnight.  It never deterred me from doing my job.  Quite the opposite.  It made me appreciate the warm spring and summer months that much more.  

So I’m bundled up and off to work.  A chilly night lays ahead with more snow forecasted.  Perhaps a 2nd Snow Day will occur for the children…  but the trains need to keep moving.