Tributes

This is a page to salute members who have contributed significantly to the success of the society.

Ross Robinson at RMEO
Ross Robinson at RMEO. Photo courtesy of N. Kummer.

 

The Bytown Railway Society’s “Dirty Hands Club” lost a valued and irreplaceable member with the untimely passing of Ross Robinson on the evening of October 9, 2020 following a brief illness. 

Ross was an incredible person. He was born in Ottawa on May 23, 1936 during the Great Depression, growing up in the Glebe neighbourhood, not far from what were then Canadian National’s main freight yards which is now the route of Highway 417 (“Queensway”) across Ottawa. 

Following high school, Ross attended Ryerson Polytechnic School and began his full-time working career with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. 

Ross was a mechanical genius, as well as being an outstanding craftsman with an uncanny ability and knowledge of a variety of disciplines. This knowledge helped him to understand complex devices, regardless of their age, shape or form. Whether he was fixing a clock, tuning a piano, restoring a pipe organ or preserving railway artifacts, Ross was equally comfortable. 

Subsequent to working at AECL, he was employed in building management with Carleton University and went on from there to become self-employed in the building construction and renovation business. 

Ross was a keen railway enthusiast with an appreciation for music, primarily theatre organ music and for many years was a key participant in the former Ottawa Valley Theatre Organ Society. 

With respect to railways, Ross was able to apply his numerous skills on a number of restoration projects in both Canada and the United States. In the latter instance, Ross and his late wife Gee made it a habit to spend winters in San Diego, California, where Ross became an active member of the Pacific South West Railway Museum, involved in both equipment restoration and operation. 

Ross spent many years with what is now the Railway Museum of Eastern Ontario in Smiths Fall. On the grounds of the museum can be found a number of examples of his tireless restoration efforts including the former Canadian Northern passenger station which was on the verge of collapse until he came on the scene, a former duplex section dwelling, a restored flag stop from the tiny community of Nolans, located between Smiths Falls and Ottawa on VIA Rail’s Smiths Falls Subdivision, to name just a few examples of his work there. He even found the time to restore ex-Grand Trunk Western Van No. 77137, now on display at the Elgin County Railway Museum in St. Thomas, Ontario. 

Ross was most recently an active member of the BRS’s “Dirty Hands Club.” He was both a craftsman, a coach, a mentor and, as some would have it, the ultimate “Jedi Master”. He was as equally comfortable with a Mig Welder as he was with a table saw or router. He led the charge on the restoration of Bytown’s ex-Canadian National First Class Coach No. 4977; was involved in a number of outshoppings of Bytown’s ex-Canadian Pacific Van No. 436436 including the fabrication of its end ladders and roof walk as well as the production of new windows. He played a key role in the current work on the van which has led to the installation new insulation, siding and a roofing membrane applied to. He was also involved in the restoration of the cab of ex-Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson No. 2858, making up a variety of patterns in his basement workshop for missing castings as well as coming up with an ingenious, geometry-defying, method of fabricating a new sheet metal housing for the locomotive’s brake stand. He was built the cab windows used in the cosmetic restoration of ex-Canadian National 4-8-4 No. 6200 in addition to cab windows for the cosmetic restoration of several steam locomotives in the United States. The majority of this work took place in the confines of his small basement workshop in old Ottawa South.

I first met Ross many years ago during a special work bee in Smiths Falls where we spent the day laying track for a couple of short sidings and I was certainly impressed. Our paths did not cross that much until about 15-years ago when my wife and I became “empty nesters” and there was a little more time to spend with groups like the “Dirty Hands Club.” 

Although I have a modicum of technical knowledge, it really improved under Ross’ guidance and mentorship. His ability to teach, to demonstrate and his ability to help one break a complex procedure into simple steps was amazing. His level of technical knowledge and his recall of events and facts was incredible. 

With the onset of my retirement, he had me involved with several of his “capers”, primarily the dispersal of the assets of the Ottawa Valley Theatre Organ Society, a project that involved among other things, the dismantling and removal of a theatre organ located in the historic O’Brien Theatre in the upper Ottawa Valley community of Renfrew. Ross brought me in to help him measure up the components so that he could build shipping crates in his basement work shop. That job led to myself and several DHC members being “conscripted” to help dismantle the organ into several truck loads which were destined for a yet to be built music museum in western Ontario. Throughout this whole endeavour, I was amazed at what effort it had taken Ross to install the organ in the theatre in the first place and then by his encyclopedic knowledge of each and every part, including the amazing circuitry that is in such devices. 

A lot of people in the railway preservation and restoration world have been touched by Ross over the years and he has left us with a heavy responsibility: to carry on his legacy and his work. Rest in peace. 

Salut Ross; may you and Gee have happiness in eternity. 

Philip Jago


Link to Ross' formal obituary published in the Ottawa Citizen, October 17th, 2020

Innovation and technology can empower women and girls. Unfortunately, women are (still) underrepresented in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This year's theme for International Women’s Day, #InnovateForChange, is a call to action, asking everyone to harness the power of technology to create a more equal world. By removing the barriers facing women in STEM, the hope is to unleash new ideas and solutions that will transform societies and strengthen economies.

We would like to take this opportunity to celebrate our Bytown Railway Society Women, Minda Bojin, Felicity Harrison and (in memory) Helen Tucker


Minda Bojin

Minda Bojin

Minda has been a member of the society since the 1970s.  Minda has been involved with our public railway excursions in years past. Your best chance to meet Minda these days is at our monthly Program Nights setting up our refreshment services. Minda also is very active as the Steering Committee Coordinator and Newsletter Editor.with the Disability Advocacy of Eastern Ontario (DANEO). Minda professional career included being a Project Leader and Technical Advisor for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. and most recently as a Founding Partner for the Cahill Community Living Partnership.

Minda says "When I moved to Ottawa from Toronto in the early 70s BRS helped me a lot. I had been a member of UCRS and was thrilled to find like minded enthusiasts in Ottawa. Some members of BRS are my oldest and dearest friends."

 

  


Felicity Harrison

Felicity Harrison

Felicity joined the society approximately ten years ago.  Felicity is a stalwart member of the society's Dirty Hands Club which is a group of volunteers responsible for railway equipment restoration. Felicity held a director position on our board in the past, and took the BRS training course leading to TSSA certification to operate the Shay steam locomotive.   If you attend our monthly Program Nights, you will be greeted by Felicity, rain, shine, sleet or hail (well maybe not hail) outside the museum's main entrance. Felicity's day job is as a Human and Organizational Factors Specialist for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Other volunteer interests include helping out at the Aviation Museum and Agriculture Museum on an as-needed basis.

Felicity tells us "I love learning about railway history from the extremely knowledgeable members of BRS, and appreciating this method of transportation that has had such an impact on the development of many countries around the world."

 

 

 


Helen at Lemon Creek Bridge in BC.

Helen Tucker (Memorial Tribute)

Helen was the Dirty Hands Club Founder and also held the Secretary position on the Society's board. Her work in an organizational role at the shop is remembered for she, as a professional engineer, was organized, methodical and analytical, as well as practical. She is also remembered for her equipment drawings and sketches and her accurate estimates of the material required fro complete a job. Helen had the ability to exchange quip for quip with the best of us. She was a real hit with the CP and Canadian Atlantic Railway officials and crews alike who were taken back at BRS's lady "fireperson" in the cab of 1201, and in CP's and CAR's bunk houses. Helen's professional career was as an Engineer with the Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). At the NRC, Helen was a co-inventor of a Valve, a Flowmeter and a Viscometer. Helen held three patents with her colleagues. Helen worked in diverse areas as Maglev systems, control systems for dynamometers, wheelchair stability experiments, and a major wheel and brake testing facility.

Bert CanningBert Canning, long-time CP engineer out of Ottawa, passes on at age 87 on August 1st, 2012. As per Colin Churcher, Bert was one of the "stalwart engineers" of CP 1201 trips to Wakefield, Quebec.

Photo courtesy of Colin Churcher.

CANNING, Bertram Thomas

Peacefully on Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at age 87. Beloved husband of Corrine Selleck Canning (nee Drummond), and predeceased by his first wife Berdetta Canning (nee Selleck). Loving stepfather of Harry Selleck (Lori) and Lorie Pitt (Ritchie) and their children Brandon, Colton, Ashton, Joshua and Jarrett. Predeceased by sisters Phyllis Grant (Ray) and Sylvia Kenney (Hillard) and by brother Cecil (Alma). Bert will be lovingly remembered by many nieces and nephews. Friends are invited to visit at the Brown Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 805 Prescott Street, Kemptville on Monday, August 6 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Funeral Service in the Chapel on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Contributions to the Heckston United Church or the Kemptville District Hospital Foundation.

Published in The Ottawa Citizen on Aug. 4, 2012.

 

Bert Canning

My good friend Dennis Peters died on 14 April after a very short bout of cancer. He was in his 69th year.

Many years ago Dennis said to me, “I fly under the radar.” By flying under the radar, few realized the full extent of Dennis’ activities in the Ottawa and national railfan community. However, he was a force to be reckoned with and was involved in many activities. He grew up in Lowertown and experienced the changeover from steam to diesel. He was a founding member of the Bytown Railway Society and, even before that, was involved in the unsuccessful attempt to save the Grand Trunk Railway station on Lebreton Flats. But Dennis’ railway enthusiasm was firmly founded from being employed by Canadian Pacific as a brakeman in this area working at both Ottawa West and later at Walkley Yard. Later he was with Omer Lavallee in CP Bygones before moving to Ottawa with Parks Canada and Canadian Heritage.

Dennis enjoyed rail travel both in Canada and elsewhere. We had a great trip to Moosonee and explored a little of the Ottawa Valley.

Dennis’ collection of employee timetables, railway plans and other memorabilia is legendary and he was quick to share this, especially as a member of the Ottawa Railway History Circle. After retirement he became involved with the C. Robert Craig Memorial Library and had just become President. With the recent changes to the publication of Branchline Dennis had become one of the editors where he was able to exercise one of his many skills – the art of writing good English.

I wrote above that Dennis was a good friend. He was more than a friend. He was a mentor. He was my idea of a true senator. Ask him a question and he would respond thoughtfully, not necessarily with the answer you were looking for but with sober second thought.

Dennis Peters’ knowledge and experience is irreplaceable and his passing has left a great gap. He will be missed. - Colin Churcher

PETERS, Dennis James

Parks Canada / Canadian Heritage

Peacefully at home in Ottawa on Thursday, April 14, 2016 in his 69th year, after a brief but courageous battle with cancer. Beloved son of the late Joseph John Peters and Annette Marguerite Benoit and husband of the late Dawn Carol Walker. He will be sadly missed by his children, Shannon Peters, Christine Peters (Steve Montroy), Jacqueline Peters (Julie Barton), Tara Nye (Wise), Lisa (Nye) Labonté; Christine Nye (Corey Mask), and Rebecca Hammond; their grandchildren, Thomas-Joseph, Teagan, Peter, Brienna, Owen, Nathan, Émilie, Connor, Téah and Ben. Dennis will also be missed by his many friends and work colleagues at Parks Canada, Canadian Heritage and the Canada 150 team. His greatest passions were his gift for putting thought to paper as well as an extensive interest in all things railway related, including travel, history and operations. Friends are invited to visit at the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair & McGarry, 315 McLeod Street (at O'Connor)F on Wednesday, April 20 from 1:30 p.m. until Dennis' Celebration of Life in the Chapel at 3 p.m. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Ronald McDonald House of Ottawa, in memory of Dennis Peters. 

Published in The Gazette from Apr. 16 to Apr. 18, 2016

 

 

 

Helen at Lemon Creek Bridge in BC. Photo of Helen Tucker at Lemon Creek Bridge in BC courtesy of Doug Wilson.

The following memorial  appeared in the April 1993 issue of Branchline.

In Memoriam. Helen Grace Tucker, P.Eng. (BRS Director)

"It is with the greatest regret that we inform the membership of the untimely death of Helen Tucker on February 12, 1993, after a lengthy and horrible battle with cancer.

Helen was an active member of the Society who will be sorely missed. Her work in an organizational role at the shop will be remembered for she, as a professional engineer, was organized, methodical and analytical, as well as practical.  She will remembered for her equipment drawings and sketches and her accurate estimates of the material required fro complete a job.  She will be remembered for her sense of humour, and her ability to exchange quip for quip with the best of us.  Her absolutely filthy coveralls, which the guys threatened to steam clean, with Helen in them of course, are legend.  She will be remembered for her procurement of tools and equipment with diligently collected Canadian Tire coupons.

Helen's ability to become "one of the boys" on our famous trip with steam locomotive 1201 from Ottawa to Saint John, N.B. in June 1989 will long be remembered by the other nine of us who were honoured to have her as a fellow crew member. She was a real hit with the CP and Canadian Atlantic Railway officials and crews alike who were taken back at BRS's lady "fireperson" in the cab of 1201, and in CP's and CAR's bunk houses.

At age 49, Helen has been taken away from us. She may gone she'll not be forgotten." (Duncan du Fresne).

Helen was the Dirty Hands Club Founder and also held the Secretary position on the Society's board.

Helen's professional career was as an Engineer with the Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC).

At the NRC, Helen was a co-inventor of a Valve, a Flowmeter and a Viscometer. Below is a listing of the three patents she held with her colleagues.

Helen worked in diverse areas as Maglev systems, control systems for dynamometers, wheelchair stability experiments, and a major wheel and brake testing facility. (reference: Branchline July-August 1987)

Patents held by Helen G. Tucker
Number   Title/Abstract
US3952577   Apparatus for measuring the flow rate and/or viscous characteristics of fluids Helen G. Tucker, John W. Tanney, William F. Hayes. An apparatus for measuring the flow rate and/or viscous characteristics of a fluid comprising a casing having a fluid passage, a fluid inlet cavity and a fluid outlet cavity, fluid pressure detecting means preferably at spaced positions along the passage, and fluid pressure indicating means for indicating the or each characteristic to be measured....  
US4003405   Apparatus for regulating the flow rate of a fluid William F. Hayes, John W. Tanney, Helen G. Tucker An apparatus for regulating the flow rate of a fluid, comprising a casing having an annular or cone-shaped fluid passage, for radial flow (inwardly or outwardly) between an inlet and outlet which are spaced radially and form unobstructed flow paths....
US4118973   Apparatus for measuring the flow rate and/or viscosity of a fluid Helen G. Tucker, John W. Tanney, William F. Hayes. An apparatus for measuring the flow rate and/or viscous characteristics of a fluid comprises a casing, having a fluid passage which is elongated in cross-section with two parallel, opposed sides and has a flared entry portion leading to a portion of constant cross-section....
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