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Port Credit: broad brush strokes

July 18, 2023

For the past several weeks, I have been working on Steam Through Port Credit, which will be a 192-page hardcover.

Writing is a process, alternating among doing research, compiling background notes, penning drafts, and incessant editing and polishing. Throughout that process, a story always emerges. In Steam Through Port Credit, that story presently resembles an artist’s canvas, with broad brush strokes laying out the scope of the picture. Here and there, your artist (narrator) has teased a little detail into place, offering tiny glimpses of the finished product.

All lifetime writers are chroniclers, and that seems to be how we all begin. As I’ve been creating your Steam Through Port Credit, I have maintained a diary (if you will). This handwritten communication documents for me, and my reader (you), the day-to-day challenges, curiosities and progress of this limited-edition work.

Here, and in subsequent posts, I’ll share excerpts from this chronicle which describes my process of shaping this story into the hardcover book you will hold in your hands. What you’ll read in these installments are glimpses of aspects of the story explored along the way to the finished creation. These passages are written to, and for, the reader—you—as “asides”, peeks into the writing process.

To the reader

We’ll start in the early 1930s, when my father was born. That’s how my fascination for steam locomotives began. Dad was born on April 17, 1931. His home was a small wooden house on Second Street. Practically speaking, he and his parents (my grandparents) lived in the village of Port Credit. Officially, they resided at the southern fringe of Toronto Township.

In our era, Dad’s home is on Second Street, which means it is the second east–west street from the southern boundary of Toronto Township. Dividing the village of Port Credit from Toronto Township is the Canadian National Railways’ Oakville Subdivision. That puts Dad, as a boy, a stone’s throw from the busiest stretch of railway track in the Dominion of Canada.

Widening our scope a bit for orientation, Port Credit lies between the cities of Hamilton (to the west) and Toronto (to the east). These communities are on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. Moving west from Toronto along the waterfront, the small places such as Port Credit are considered the "Lakeshore Communities". In the 1930s, and indeed through the 1940s and 1950s to be covered by our story, Port Credit remains a village scarcely exceeding 2,000 souls. Vast metropolises sit a few miles to either side of our location, but here we remain a quiet village.

For Port Credit, the east–west transportation arteries pulse with trade for the outside world. Great Lakes package freighters, tankers and passenger ships ply the Lake Ontario shore. The first roadway between Toronto and Hamilton (King’s Highway No. 2) is known in Port Credit as the Lake Shore Road. This two-lane highway runs a short distance north of the lake. All the lakeshore communities are threaded by this concrete artery running through their cores.

Along the northern reaches of the towns and villages sits the CNR’s Oakville Subdivision mainline. Water, roadway and railway tie Port Credit to the outside world. In and about this village we will linger and explore the decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, with our prime focus the trains, locomotives and industries associated with the railway operation along the CNR’s Oakville Subdivision.

My dad came of age in the late 1940s, at which time he began recording on film some of the locomotives which traversed the Oakville Subdivision through Port Credit. It is in that late 1940s era that our visual coverage will begin. Along the way, we will cast our eyes back as far as 1931 from time to time. There’s a host of transportation and industrial lore which will colour our tale, to be described in words if not presented visually.

It helps to keep a mental picture of the village of Port Credit in view. From this frame, we’ll understand the relationship between the village and its transportation arteries.

Although Lake Ontario transportation came first, let’s look at the Lake Shore Road corridor which forms the main street of Port Credit. In 1931, this highway hosts a mix of automobile and horse traffic, which shares the right-of-way with radial cars (running between here and Long Branch four miles to the east). From 1931 onward, the horse and radial traffic is in decline (as it has been for several years) and the transition to automobiles, trucks and buses is not a smooth one. Indeed, the clash among the three modes of transportation (horse, radial, powered vehicle), added to pedestrian traffic, is often a fatal mix.

From here in Port Credit eastward to Toronto, the lakeshore communities (which also include Mimico, New Toronto, Long Branch and Lakeview) refer to locations along the Lake Shore Road as “Stops” rather than street addresses. Theses stops are those denoted in the radial car schedules.

More ‘notes to the reader’ will follow over the next weeks and months as I create Steam Through Port Credit for you.

Regarding the timing of pre-orders and publication

We ran the online pre-launch campaign for Steam Through Port Credit in late February/early March. Shortly afterward, the PayPal pre-order buttons at the special price were taken down. The direct mail order campaign followed (and is still in place), with special offers corresponding to those of the online campaign.

Sometime before publication, we’ll probably re-run the online campaign for a few days to enable newer readers (and those who missed out the first time, either online or by direct mail) a chance to reserve their copies at the special price.

As the publication date approaches (forecast for December 2023), we’ll open up online ordering for Steam Through Port Credit at the regular price. This will be a limited-edition collectible hardcover, with very few extra copies produced.

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