trainspotting (blog)

Thanks, Ed (and Paul)

I got a bit of a twinge when we drove past Honest Ed’s on Bloor Street earlier today. I didn't think much of it at the time, but now that I've had a chance to look at my notes, it may not have been a coincidence. It turns out that 44 years ago today Paul Cordingley and I were in Honest Ed’s purchasing film for our trip to Montreal later that evening. I picked up a 20-roll brick of processing-paid 36 exposure rolls for less than $100. I seem to recall that Paul got Plus-X. Our purchases complete, we stashed the film in our backpacks and headed downtown to await the departure of our Montreal train, CN No. 58, the overnight Cavalier.

We had plenty of time to kill and spent at least some of it on the Bathurst Street bridge west of Union, which is where I exposed my first photo of our epic expedition. It's a run-of-the-mill image of CN No. 4, the Toronto section of the eastbound Super Continental, passing Cabin D on the home stretch of its transcontinental journey. 

I've never thought much of the photo, but I've been captivated by it since putting it through the scanner a few minutes ago; from No. 4's 20-car consist (complete with express reefer and RPO) to the telltales, the transfer on the left with a wooden van; a second wooden van in the pocket track behind Cabin D, and the switch tender sitting outside his shack, oblivious to the passage of the flagship of the CN passenger fleet. Not to mention Cabin D itself.

There's a bit more to the photo than meets the eye, too. Unbeknownst to Paul and me, the first two units on No. 4, CN FP9 No. 6534 and F9B 6629, were lined up to work No. 58 to Montreal. The boys at Spadina roundhouse would quickly service the pair (including replacing the burned-out headlight on 6534) and kick them out on No. 58 a few short hours later. And better yet, Paul and I would soon climb aboard No. 6534 for a memorable (and foggy) cab ride from Belleville to Kingston. We didn't sleep that night. When we weren't in the cab, we were leaning out the open vestibule doors of our assigned coach on No. 58.

Forty-four years later, just about everything in that view from Bathurst Street is gone or altered beyond recognition. The Bathurst Street bridge — still a fine place for trainspotting  — is a notable exception. And a dozen or so blocks to the north, Honest Ed's survives, having outlived its patriarch by more than a few years. Sadly the signs on the landmark at Bathurst and Bloor note the planned closure of the place in 2016.

Ed's heirs no longer sell Kodachrome, and I wouldn't need it if they did, but the images etched on the 20 rolls he sold me that August afternoon are among my most cherished photographs.

Thanks Ed. And thanks Paul.

A run-of-the-mill view at the time, this image of CN No. 4 passing Cabin D in downtown Toronto is captivating some 44 years later. In no small measure for the switchtender sitting outside his shack in the foreground. Little did Paul and I know that a few hours later, we'd be speeding through the night, Montreal-bound in the cab of CN 6534.

greg mcdonnellComment