Sunday, February 21, 2021

 The Little Engine That Could

This is my "personal" story of the illustrious member of my railroad's "Black Aces!"

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The story of my 44 tonner mirrors the personal events in my life in many ways. My story begins in childhood.  

 When I was born, my parents were told that I may not make it through the first few months of life, being the tiniest of the two babies to emerge into the world as the second child of the "Hamer twins" born to my wonderful parents who were about to turn forty years of age.

Due to the fact I am writing this piece, you are aware that I proved the medical authorities wrong.

 Spending the first three months of my life in an incubator back in 1958, I finally was given "my release" from hospital and allowed to go home to meet my twin brother who I previously spent nine months with and my older sister!

I was always the smallest child in my grade school classroom.  This presented a number of problems...but I learned at a young age that "Problems are opportunities for solutions!"

Due to my small stature, I was that "last kid picked" for the teams on the school playground.

While initially finding my feelings hurt, I rallied and came up with a plan.  I would practise my skills in the various playground sports on my own at home...devoting many hours to the task!

In no time at all, word spread around the playground that the smaller Hamer lad could really play, and, boy oh boy, due to his size, he could out-maneuver the bigger kids with ease!

It didn't take long for the bigger kids to realize this fact no time at all...I was among the earliest "picked" for the teams on the playground.

When I grew up and became a teacher, "I" made up the team rosters when it came to gym time.  I also promoted cooperation, collaboration and respectful behaviour out on the recess playground where I would not necessarily be in attendance at all times. 

Yes, society is competitive and we must prepare youngsters for this future environment, but at a tender young age, no one deserves to feel neglected.

The 115 pictured above is very much like me.

She is short in stature, small in size...

...but she demonstrates fortitude, determination, enthusiasm and perseverance to get any job asked of her done!

She won't quit until the task is completed!

As a model railroader and a rail enthusiast, I have always appreciated the colour black for diesel locomotives.

Not that I don't appreciate the lovely maroon and gold of the Minute Man scheme or the McGinnis interlaced B&M of the Bluebird scheme.  They are wonderful diesels to admire.

Up here in Canada, in the hockey world (NHL included), there is a group of players known collectively as the "Black Aces".

The NHL, of course, is an acronym for the National Hockey League.

These are the players who are talented enough to make it to the big leagues, but not talented enough to keep a regular spot in the line-up.  They are kept on the roster in case an injury to one of the regulars creates an opening for them.

The "Black Aces" may not see very much "game action" in front of the fans, but they must commit themselves to practise each day throughout the season, just in case! 

Without them, their team falters.  Yes, they may not be utilized all that much, but they are truly team players!

Copy this link into your computer's browser to learn more about this rarely seen group of players!

Indeed, my 44-tonner is a member of the "Black Aces" on my railroad.

She reminds me of me and those hard-working hockey players.

Mostly dedicated to switching service in my city of North Dover, the 115 appreciates the times when she gets called into the line-up to run a local train out of town!

Yes, the viewing public does not get the opportunity to see her too much...

...but she's okay with that!

She's also proud of the fact she shares illustrious company with another group of "Black Aces" from another sport.

In baseball, the "Black Aces" are the group of African-American pitchers who have achieved an amazing feat.

They have at least one major league baseball season under their belt where they had won twenty or more games in a single season.

In order to win twenty games, you must demonstrate the same dedication and commitment to excellence that our diminutive 44-tonner has shown over its years of work on many a railroad...including my Boston and Maine!

To learn more about this incredible group of professional baseball pitchers, copy the link below into your computer's browser.

Hey, this railfan has spotted another member of the "Black Aces" on my model railroad, the 1170, an Alco S1.

We catch the centre cab on a slow order as she passes the station platform in my fictitious town of North Dover.

The red striping on the front along with the Minute Man herald on the cab give it an "upgraded" appearance, shall we say!

She's a four axle diesel electric.

The B&M's sister railroad, the Maine Central also stabled a number of these friendly units.

The 115 was built in 1941.

She was initially delivered in an "all black" scheme...

...and received her striping and herald at a later date.

Indeed, she is a testament to perseverance and a greatly appreciated member of my locomotive roster!

Speaking of perseverance, my little 44-tonner inspires me when I need it the most with a challenging scratch build!

I just retired from 40 years of teaching and now find myself with more time for my hobbies, of which I have many.

A good friend of mine, Doug Matheson, had asked me to build the Sierra West machines in O-Scale for him.

With the machines completed, they begged for a "home".

This scratch building project of the machine shop is now taking up most of my modeling time.

With my layout "complete" I am appreciative of Doug for asking me to undertake this project.  I am not charging any money for the's a favour for a friend.

His favour to me is offering me the opportunity to build the model for him!

I had built the machines over the last couple of years...and now the shop is "materializing" on a "slow order"!  Big grin.

As I was progressing along on the build, Doug and I gave a clinic to our local chapter of the NMRA on the machines. At the point this picture was taken, Doug had built the two machines on the right side of the image and I had finished up the other four leading up to the boiler.  Doug explained the operations of a machine shop and I outlined the steps I had taken to finish the models.  Lots of fun!

Thanks so much for checking in on my blog!
Mike Hamer, "An honorary member of the Black Aces!"
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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