Saturday, June 25, 2011

Canada Day: Canada by Train III

Happy Canada Day! To highlight how inextricably woven Canada and her railways are, I've quoted sections of an editorial entitled "Can't you hear the whistle blowin'?" by J. Keith Fraser, written for the Dec. 1989/Jan. 1990 Canadian Geographic, during the last year of his tenure as executive director of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. As we all know, railways are geography. Accompanying the passages are photographs I've taken aboard the train and along the line, presented as a tribute to our great, lone land.

"For the first 60 years or so after 1867, the railway was the principal mode of transportation. Beginning as a major instrument of national policy, the magnificent engineering enterprise of the Canadian Pacific Railway was designed to promote the growth and indeed ensure the survival of the young Dominion of Canada. In these aims the railway succeeded. In the two decades following the arrival of the first train at Vancouver, the consequences of a transcontinental railway, in tandem with the telegraph and express services, were felt on immigration, western settlement, and on the movement of the products of agriculture, mining and forestry."

CPR 4-4-0 374 arrived in Vancouver on May 23, 1887 with the first transcontinental train. Pictured (top) on the former Drake Street roundhouse turntable, with piped-in steam, at Expo 86. Royal Hudson 2860 participates in the Parade of Steam on CP's Burrard Inlet trackage days earlier (above) where many products of agriculture, mining and forestry were sent to distant markets. A CP crew 's handcar trailer loaded with track tools and hardware at Sovereign, Saskatchewan:

"The saga of the CPR has been told and retold in our history texts and in popularized accounts. After the impetuous flurry of immigrants settling the Canadian West, virtually all travellers making trips of any appreciable distance went by rail until the highway system evolved in response to the advent of the automobile."

A vestibule view of VIA's westbound Canadian behind three F's joining the Trans-Canada Highway through the narrow mountain pass west of the Spiral Tunnels near Field, British Columbia as the sun sets, in 1985:

"Nevertheless, the pre-eminent influence of the railways on the nation was the carrying of freight, not people."

CP Centuries 4709-4705 hustle an eastbound freight past the Canadian's Skyline dome at dawn, near Mi 48 of the Heron Bay Sub at dawn in 1986:
"Travel on the transcontinental routes offered me a matchless insight into the vastness and variety of Canadian landscapes."

Elevator track leading to the historic but forlorn Shonts elevator, taken from the vestibule aboard eastbound VIA train 4 on the prairie east of Edmonton, Alberta in 1986:

"I remember the long, deep-throated engine whistles of the steam era, my first delightful encounter with Winnipeg goldeye, followed by railway coffee, surpassing strong. I recall our family in Ottawa walking up the street in April 1955 to watch the maiden run of the Canadian, CPR's streamlined, stainless steel passenger train, complete with dome cars."

The tail end of train 2 at rounds the curve at Jackfish, Ontario curve in 1982 taken through a roomette window, and then leaning way out of the vestibule with the setting sun, approaching Toronto:
"As I was writing this page, the government announced an immense cut in passenger rail service: half the routes, half the trains, half the length of VIA Rail's network. The reactions were predictable. We have had a long romance with rail and we have cherished it, even though only about three percent of all intercity trips in Canada were made by train. The building of the CPR was determined by reasons of geography, this massive dismemberment of VIA Rail by economics."

Fraser's editorial was written at a pivotal point in VIA's history, and he goes on to predict future directions for rail transportation in Canada. There is light at the end of the tunnel, er terminal, as the sun's rays illuminate the 250 foot-long Great Hall of Toronto Union Station in 1984. Passengers arrive, buy tickets and await their trains under the provincial flags and Union Jack in the ageless ritual of travelling across Canada's vast expanses.
To further immerse yourself in beaver-lovin', overtaxed and underarmed, unfailingly polite Canadiana along the rails , check out Canada by Train I and Canada by Train II (deux, duh)

Running extra...

Finished listening to Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O'Brian. A rollicking tale of voyages aboard HMS Surprise, a hydrographic sailing vessel that is actually a man-o'-war. The terms kedge, larboard and other arcane nautical terms kept coming up from the depths of the book's chapters as the Surprisers travelled to Chile.

Rod Desborough has released a book entitled Grand Old Lady a personal tribute that tells the story of CSS Acadia, a hydrographic survey ship and naval vessel. Moored next to HMCS Sackville in Halifax, both ships can still be visited. Rod and I are both enjoying the benefits of the self-publishing movement, in my case with the release of my new VIA book.

The Man O' War was a Central of Georgia streamlined passenger train. C of G became part of the Southern Railway System in 1963.


Unknown said...

Thanks for a little history and the great photos .

Canadian Train Geek said...

I was a big fan of Patrick O'Brian. I can't remember if I read that one or not... and I've been on the Acadia and the Sackville. Good ships to tour.

Zartok-35 said...

Nice pictures.

Eric said...

Thanks powmill, Steve and Elijah for your kind comments.

Patrick O'Brian's writing took a little while to get out of port, but then it took off with a tailwind.

I just read this in a Montreal Gazette article entitled 'Canada's Ukrainian Heartland' written appropriately by Bryan Demchinsky:

"Because we live in such a big country and mostly in cities, a lot of Canada is as unfamiliar to us as somewhere on the other side of the world. But if you look closely into out-of-the-way corners, there's so much to see."

This resonated with me as aptly describing travelling across Canada by train. Happy Canada Day, all!

Zartok-35 said...

Now that the day is actually here, let me say this:
Happy Canada Day, Mr. Gagnon.

Eric said...

Same to you, Elijah. Some Canada Day vignettes: Watching family kayakers while dipping my feet in Lake Ontario seated in a red & white lawn chair, noticing a parked red pickup truck with a hockey net in the box, and watching Canada Day coverage on CBC and CPAC complete with visiting royalty.