I can see that on Google Maps?

26 Mar

Why yes you can! If you have no idea what I mean, which is probably the case, I’ll explain later. Patience!

So what’s new Dave? Well, I’ll tell ya. As of today, there are only 8 more sleeps until I’m on a plane headed for France. As you can tell, I’m getting pretty excited. Even though there is a bit of nervousness for this experience, the thought of visiting some new places overrides it all. The only big concern I have so far is the flight. We fly from Thunder Bay to Toronto, then catch a quick connecting flight to Montreal and from there to Paris. We only have a 55 minute layover in Toronto, which is tight, but we are flying Air Canada the whole way so the transfers are all in the same terminals. There is also the benefit of flying with other people, as we are travelling to Europe with our sister high school St. Ignatius. In Toronto I’m assuming we’ll meet up with the third group that is on tour with us, a school from St. Catherines.

I guess the biggest concern right now is some of the labour issues ongoing with Air Canada; fingers crossed I’m hoping all will be okay! I know that the kids are getting pretty pumped as well and part of my excitement stems from their enthusiasm. It will be amazing to experience the history we talk about in the classroom. From what I’ve heard, there will be over 150 schools from across Canada converging on Vimy Ridge on April 9th. Representatives of the government will be attendance, as well as His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet the GG!

On the railway front, I finally have finished my half of the Minnesota History article. It only took me two months, but I’m pretty proud of myself. There are still some tweaks that need to be made, but there’s nothing major left to do. The final word count is 3200, which is over my limit, but there is so much to talk about. I’m not sure how things will make it through the revision process, but I guess I will find out. Not having written anything of this nature does make me a bit nervous, as you do worry how people will receive your abilities and writing style. It will probably be fine, but I’ll be very happy when it makes it to print!

So, the Google Maps thing. I happened to be looking on Google Earth and noticed that they updated some of their maps of the area. Google Earth/Maps has been great in the past for helping me locate the railway and plot the data to my GPS, especially along areas like the Whitefish River that have been eroded over the years. I want to hike the area around Hymers this summer, so I thought, “hey, what if I do an overlay and see how they match?” Well, it isn’t the first time that I’ve tinkered around with Google Earth and map overlays, but probably the most successful I’ve been at it. Some of you may be baffled, so I’ll explain.

Map overlay of the Hymers-Sellars area.

Google Earth has a feature that allows you to overlay or superimpose scans of paper maps onto the satellite photos. It does take a bit of work, as you have to line up key geographic features between the two, but once it’s done it yields awesome results, especially if you are doing historical research.

So I took a copy of the 1960 Geological map of the Hymers-Sellars area, scanned it and did the overlay. It is a good quality map and lined up quite easily. I was amazed when I began playing with the transparency of the map and comparing the current topography with the one from 52 years ago…what a difference! The technology certainly gives you an appreciation of the forces of nature and changes it undergoes. The Whitefish River has changed its course significantly and it makes me wonder how things looked when the railway was built in the early 1890’s. When I hiked the railway back in the 90’s I would often lose the grade where it had been eroded by the river; now with this overlay I can mark the data points on my GPS and hopefully track the railway without any complications. I’ll be trying this overlay with other map areas in the future.

The main reason why I was playing with the maps was due to a request I received last week via email. The Municipality of Oliver-Paipoonge is looking into creating some recreational trails within their boundaries and contracted a landscape architecture firm to do some consultations. I was contacted by a gentleman at the firm who saw some of my photos on Google Earth and was looking for more information about the railway and the old grade. I dug up some of my maps of the railway for his research, and that got me looking at them. You know the rest of the story.  I will be attending the open house meeting on the trails that is being held at the Murillo Town Complex (4569 Oliver Rd) tomorrow from 4-8pm as the architects have some questions for me.

Last tracks of the PAD&W Railway, Rosslyn, ON.

Now because of the meeting and the recent mild weather we have been experiencing, I decided to take a little

drive yesterday (though the warm temps seemed to have disappeared). The real motivator however was the 74th anniversary of the last train run on the railway. On March 24, 1938 engineers discovered that several bridges near Hymers had been weakened by high water on the Whitefish River. No passenger trains would ever travel the rails after that day. Faced with increasing competition from buses and trucks, CN had lost $79,000 over the two previous years. The line was probably in poor shape due to years of neglect so the decision was made to abandon it in October. The rails were taken up the next year.

Tracks and switch, Rosslyn, ON.

I drove to Twin City Crossroads, which is just east of the village of Rosslyn. Here can be found the last remaining tracks of the railway. They are not the original steel (dated 1903), as they were replaced when Canadian Northern took over in 1899. However, they are the closest one can come to the old railway. After photographing the tracks, I drove further west, past Rosslyn to the site of the old Brick Plant. More tracks can be found here, along with a switch that allowed rail cars onto the factory spur. From there the rail bed continues west, just south of Rosslyn Road until you reach the intersection of Fraser Rd, at which point the road becomes Harstone Drive and sits directly atop the grade. I went about 2km west, to where there was a spur that ran to the Stanley Ballast Pit. I think I found the spur, but it was too wet and cool to do any real exploration.

Anyway, until next week…

1 Comment

Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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