My friend David Othen passed away in September 2016 after a short battle with lung cancer. He and his wife Pat were very kind to me when we were all volunteering at the Salem and Hillsborough Railroad, and David and I corresponded over the years with exchanges of information and photos.
For your information, there was no obituary nor memorial service for David at his explicit request. This isn’t intended to be an obituary.
David’s Web Site Disappears
David maintained a web site for many years, “Canadian Train Photographs”, that featured photos and videos that he and Pat took on their travels across North America and in their many visits to the United Kingdom. Recently that web site disappeared from the Internet as internet provider Eastlink ceased hosting services in the fall of 2019. David’s was one of less than 50 remaining on their service.
I had always intended on moving the site over to my own site, as Pat had given her permission and it was always David’s wish that his photos and videos continue to be enjoyed by railfans and used for reference. More on that later.
I made a start of it, but as with many projects of this magnitude, I got distracted and never got back to it. When Taylor Main emailed me and another Maritime railfan to tell us that David’s site was down, it was time for action.
Fire Up the Wayback Machine
Fortunately, there is an invaluable resource at archive.org called the “Wayback Machine”. This is a service that takes snapshots of web sites and makes them available for review. This is done automatically and many, many web sites are archived there. You can see my site from April 2014, for example, or even my very first web site on GeoCities. It doesn’t claim to archive everything, and often the images are missing or the “deep” pages aren’t archived, but it’s better than nothing.
David’s site was fairly well archived. You can see a version from 2018 here, after his death. Some of the images are missing but the text is all there, which is what I really wanted to recover. His photos are available elsewhere but his words were invaluable.
I had a few decisions to make. If you’d ever visited David’s site, you know it had a certain look and feel to it. The photos were fairly low resolution, no doubt because of the hosting space available and also the technology of the time.
The biggest “look and feel” about David’s site was the colours he used. He designed his site with a lot of bright coloured boxes and I thought about trying to reproduce that, but it was going to be a lot of work and I didn’t feel it was really necessary to exactly reproduce the look of his site. The content was the important part.
To date I have restored most of the content from archive.org onto my site. You can start here to view it.
I still have some work to do on the steam engine section and the video page. It’s time consuming to download the images from archive.org then reupload them to my site, plus I have to copy / paste each paragraph separately. I’m getting there.
A lot of images are missing. Fortunately, we have a database of David’s images available.
I have a copy of the database containing his scanned images and I will try to restore other images for his web site from that database. It will take some time.
David and Pat had a railway video business, OBE Video (Othen Business Enterprises, I believe) and produced a number of VHS tapes and DVDs for sale. I purchased a few over the years, and I enjoyed the professional production quality.
Pat asked me to manage David’s YouTube channel after his death, and I continue to do that today. There isn’t a lot of work involved other than to answer comments if necessary – most I just leave unanswered.
I did do some work at the beginning by uploading his DVDs to YouTube, on Pat’s request. I believe a copy of his physical videos are with the Canadian Railroad Historical Association but I think Pat retains copyright. They are definitely not in the public domain.
David wrote several railway photo books and made them available through Blurb. These books are still online and available for purchase. Again, they are not in the public domain.
Wrapping It Up
Here’s my only photo of David. My son Nick and I were on the eastbound VIA Rail Ocean passing through Rogersville, NB and David happened to be there, recording the train on video as usual.
Just One More Thing
Please head on over to David’s restored site to see David’s photos, videos and books.
If you’d like to support the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine, you can donate here, as I did in gratitude for their work preserving David’s words.