I've got a long list of times, dates, and places ready to dial into the Wabac machine once I get the glitches worked out. Until then, I'll have to make do with the next best thing: a few celluloid strips fed into Mr. Epson's time machine.
It's some 40 minutes shy of the witching hour on December 12, 1983, and the four big Alcos on the head end of CP train 928 are pumping air through the 87 piggyback and container cars between them and the van somewhere deep in Obico Yard in Etobicoke, Ontario. I've been watching and waiting for nearly two hours as the crew of the Toronto-Montreal intermodal doubled their train together in the bitter cold.
With nothing but the most primitive photographic tools of the time, I'm playing the odds; hoping that the brake test will be conducted in a spot that is both accessible and blessed with enough ambient light to attempt a time exposure or two. The odds are admittedly long but with Bombardier HR616s 7004 and 7001 bracketing CP M636 4703 and M630 4511 powering the Montreal-bound overnighter, it's worth a gamble.
When train was finally together, the locomotives were spotted about 25 to 30 car lengths east of my stakeout beneath the Kipling Ave. overpass. I had just enough time to sprint to the head end, jam the tripod into the grass at the ballast edge and wind a few frames through the Kodachrome-loaded F2 and a few more through the Plus X-provisioned Nikkormat FT3 before the hogger kicked off the brake and slowly notched out the throttle.
Even if I hadn’t had a camera, the sound of 64 cylinders-worth of Alco 251 power awakening and authoritatively accelerating the 87-car train out of town was worth the long wait, frozen fingers and hours of lost sleep. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And when I get this Wabac thing working (where's Mr. Peabody when we need him?), I will.