Time for a Railway History Data Base
The note in the January Branchline concerning the former NYC station at Pana, Ontario, was particularly important for those of us who are anxious to record and preserve our railway heritage. I know that there are a couple of former NYC stations still in existence but it seems that most of us had not heard of this one. It is a great pity that we had to wait until it was destroyed by fire before we found out about it.
For some while now I have been compiling a listing of those artifacts in the Ottawa area that still exist but which are no longer an active part of the railway scene. This NYC station wasn't on it, unfortunately, and it doesn't qualify anymore.
I think the comment in January's Branchline is very important. Even though you may know about the existence of an artifact, don't assume that everyone else knows. As a case in point, in a casual conversation the other day I learned about a small steam locomotive that was lying in the weeds near the Britannia Yacht Club for many years. It was a chance remark by a close friend whom I have known for many years yet he had never thought to raise the subject. Members of our club are willing to offer information - when they realise that it is required. The real problem is to find out how we can release this information.
I think that we should use the pages of Branchline to disseminate this information. Individual members may only have part of the story yet, if we pool our knowledge, we may be able to build up a complete picture. As an example, the information on some of the industrial locomotives in the Trackside Guide has been built up from input from as many as eight correspondents from as far afield as Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Washington, and Ohio. I believe that Branchline should encourage this process in other areas of railway heritage.
In this way we can build up a railway history data base. In the long run, this information could then be brought together and published in a logical format either as an article in Branchline or a separate book. I intend to do this for my listing of railway artifacts.
One word of caution. Don't wait to have 100% of the information before you publish. It is unlikely that you will get it! It is also possible that somebody else has the information but doesn't know that you need it. This is a chicken and egg situation but I believe that the answer is to publish in the hope that the act of publication will draw out further information. This means that a revision is necessary but at least the information has been placed in the public domain.
Space is always at a premium in the pages of Branchline, but I hope that the editors will be prepared to devote some space to developing our understanding of our railway history. As a start, I would like to pose three questions:
1) What happened to the locomotive that was lying in the weeds near the Britannia Yacht Club? Who built it? Who used it and what for? Is it still there?I look forward to hearing the answers to these intriguing questions.
Bytown Railway Society, Branchline, March 1987.