Thursday, June 25, 2009

Canada Day: Canada by Train

As homage to our great nation, here are some photos taken from aboard the train and along the line. Each picture is accompanied by a few of the 200,000 words from Pierre Berton's abridged The National Dream and The Last Spike. So grab your hockey stick, your toque, your Molson Export, and your politeness, and let's go.

Road crossing among verdant countryside along CN Kingston Subdivision near Brockville, Ontario.
Canada is deceptively vast. Yet for practical purposes Canada is almost as slender as Chile; traditionally ninety percent of its people have lived within two hundred miles of the United States border. In the eastern half of the nation, the horizontal hiving of the population is due to the presence of the St. Lawrence. Out beyond that sprawl of billion-year-old rock lay an immense frontier. A railway could give them access to that empty empire.

CN equipment including one-of-a-king articulated grain car CN 398000 with Montreal, Quebec skyline, 1992.
The new dominion was not yet a cohesive nation but rather a bundle of isolated village communities connected by tenuous threads. There was scarcely a city worthy of the name 'metropolis'. Montreal with a population of one hundred thousand was really two communities - one French speaking, one English.

Canadian Shield and searchlight signal near Girdwood, Ontario.
It was almost all rock - the old, cracked rock of the Canadian Shield, grey and russet, striped by strata, blurred by pink lichens. From the edges of the dun-coloured lakes that lay in grey hollows there protruded the spiky points of the spruce, jet black against the green clouds of birch and poplar.
Floatplane near Mi 105 CP Ignace Sub, Hawk Lake, Ontario.
As the line moved west, the land changed and began to sparkle. The lakes became more numerous towards the west, the bright sheets of water winding in chains between the broken, tree-covered vertebrae of granite. This lake country would one day become a tourist mecca; but in the 1870's it was a hellhole for the contractors who saw their fortunes sink in the great muskegs.
Sunset at Sovereign, Saskatchewan.
The great ocean itself does not present more infinite variety than does this prairie ocean of which we speak. No ocean of water in the world can vie with its gorgeous sunsets, no solitude can equal the loneliness of a night-shadowed prairie; one feels the stillness and hears the silence.

Storm clouds over ranchland, south of CP mainline eight miles west of Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The track bisected pastures of tall buffalo grass and skirted green hay meadows. As it travelled westward it pushed through a country of memories and old bones - furrowed trails fashioned decades before by thousands of bison, vast fields of withered herbage, dead lakes rimmed with the tell-tale crusts of alkali.

Dusk in Painted Canyon and Thompson River, Mi 93 CN Ashcroft Subdivision.
The flanks of the mountains were grooved by deep canyons. Splintered trees topped the muddy gorge, huge rocks catapulted into the sky, vast chunks of mountainside slid into the river.
Entering the Rocky Mountains on CP Laggan Subdivision, Exshaw, Alberta.
Rugged black precipices stood guard at the entrance. A smudge of timber rose up to blend with sloping meadows. Beyond these spangled pastures were glacial fields of glistening white, tilting upwards to curved ridges which, in turn, led the eye higher to frosted peaks.

Canadian icon: Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride at Expo 86, Vancouver, British Columbia.
When the North West Mounted Police were organized in 1873, Sam Steele became the force's first sergeant-major. He had a habit of being present when history was being made: he took part in the thousand-mile march to the Rockies in 1874; now he was presiding at the building of the first transcontinental railway.
Running extra...
The Jackson Five released "A-B-C" in 1970. In 1994 the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway (ABCR) was formed in the Akron, Ohio area. The Alphabet Route was a coalition of many railroads: NYC&StL/W&LE/P&WV/WM/RDG/CNJ/L&HR/NYH&H between Boston and the US Midwest. Gary, Indiana was the location of the Jacksons' home and was on several railroads south of Lake Michigan, such as the South Shore Line and Indiana Harbor Belt
Trackside Treasure blog partner Steve Boyko is relocating to Winnipeg. Even while he's house-hunting, Steve is making time for railfanning in the Winnipeg-Portage areas. I'm looking forward to his western posts on Confessions of a Train Geek.
Algoma Tankers' new tanker Algocanada is on its maiden voyage to the Great Lakes. The ship was constructed in Eregil, Turkey. Until now, the only known connection between Turkey and Canada existed at Thanksgiving.


Zartok-35 said...

When I heard that Michael Jackson died, the first thing I thought of was you're 'Running Extra' segments, and how that seemed like something you would include. Low and behold, you did!
Nice descriptive Canadian post you have there!

Eric said...

Hi Elijah, thanks for your kind comments. While I like to highlight politics/pop culture in Running Extra, it almost always relates to the blog post or trains. Don't worry, this will not become the Entertainment Tonight blog or CBC Newsworld blog...trains are what we're interested in!

Canadian Train Geek said...

Hi Eric, I always like reading your posts and this was another good one.

I'm back in NB for a few weeks and then I'll be heading back to Manitoba for the long haul. Hopefully I'll get a few shots of American trains as I pass through the northern states. on the move.

Eric said...

Thanks for the positive feedback, Steve. A post for the patriotic railfans out there (and others). We returned from Portage in 1976 through the states and saw some BN and SOO Geeps at work, and DM&IR trains (hmmm might be a topic for a future post). Good luck and safe travels,