So this morning when I woke up, I was startled by what I saw on the thermometer; the number staring back at me was 25C. I had to take a second look and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. No wonder I had a terrible sleep! That is a very unusual temperature for this time of the year, especially given that the projected low on Wednesday morning is supposed to be 4C. I guess I shouldn’t complain though, since on more than one occasion I’ve bemoaned the cold weather we often get here.
The only unfortunate part of this whole scenario is that these warm temperatures have a very adverse effect on my workplace. Though it has seen many additions over the years, the oldest part of our school is more than 70 years old. The ventilation isn’t that great and our climate doesn’t warrant the installation of air conditioning. That all equals a very (very) stuffy classroom! By 1 o’clock the sweat was rolling down my forehead as I attempted to finish my lesson for that period. Thankfully there are only eight teachings days left before exams, so hopefully I won’t succumb to heat exhaustion before then.
On the railway front, things have been progressing in fits and starts as usual.
This past week I received some much anticipated mail from Library and Archives Canada. Back around Christmas time I was contacted by local artist Brian Nieminen regarding the railway. Brian has had a long history with the railway; in 1993 to mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the line, he created a painting of the railway entitled “The Greeting…the Old Pee Dee.” Since then Brian has wanted to paint an image of the most famous locomotive on the line, the Black Auntie.
The Black Auntie was the first locomotive purchased by the railway, and it was a small wood-burning 0-4-0 tender (for those of you who are interested in that stuff). She was nicknamed the “Black Auntie” as apparently there was an image of a black (can I use that, or is African-Canadian more appropriate?) madame from Port Arthur carved on her firebox door. There is currently only one known image of Black Auntie, taken while carrying passengers on an excursion during construction in 1891.
In our conversations, Brian explained that he has held off on the painting for so long because he wanted to make sure it was done as accurately as possible. In particular he was curious to know if the image was on the front of the boiler, or on the cab firebox. My response was that I only knew of the one image, but that in the course of my research I came across an image at the archives that was titled “Port Arthur, Duluth & Western Ry. #1 at Port Arthur nicknamed Black Aunty.” Several weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and send in a request for a digital copy of that photograph.
What arrived last Thursday was an image of a PAD&W locomotive alright, but not the Black Auntie. Immediately I recognized that this engine was a type 4-4-0, which would make it engine number 2 or 3. After reading through the specifications (I’m no train expert), I would have to say it is probably number 3, the “Lady Walton.” I immediately emailed Brian to tell him the disappointing news; I would love to see his vision of a painting of the Black Auntie crossing the bridge into Minnesota!
This past week wasn’t all disappointment however. With the warmer temperatures, the bush has dried out somewhat and that gave me an opportunity to do a bit of hiking on Saturday. I decided since the ground is still wet and the rivers and creeks a bit high, that I would go to Whitefish Lake since it is a fairly dry area. I had not really hiked this area a lot over the years, primarily because the railway runs right beside the road and there is generally not much to see. However, in my quest to gather GPS data on the whole line, I did want to mark a very prominent feature, which was a turning wye just east of Mackies.
For this adventure I was going to be joined by an old buddy, Terry, who had hiked the railway with me many moons ago. The only unfortunate part of the day was the fact that it had rained the night before, making the journey a rather wet one. We started near the Mackies Trestle (which burned in 1923) and headed east. The going was very difficult as it was more heavily grown in than I anticipated, made worse as everything was wet and slippery.
After slugging along for about 1600 metres, I decided that we would forgo the remaining 800 metres. I had wanted to investigate the remains of a bridge over a small creek, but we were thoroughly soaked and tired from climbing over the deadfall on the rail bed. On our way back, I wanted to follow the legs of the “wye.” Resembling an inverted Y, the purpose of this track was to allow the trains to turn around. This wye had probably been installed after the Mackies trestle had burned in 1923, and the trains could no longer travel to North Lake
and use the turn wye there. The total length of the wye was about 500 metres, and unfortunately it was just as overgrown as the rest of the section.
As we made our way back to our starting point, we took a few minutes to examine a rare find on the line, a telegraph pole. The insulators were probably long gone, though Terry did find a shard of an insulator nearby.
That essentially ended the hike, but before wrapping things up, I showed Terry the remains of the east abutment of the Mackies trestle. I am very anxious to re-visit this section, as I
know there are some vehicles hiding in the brush nearby. These trucks were used the McKechnie Logging Company to transport logs from Round Lake to Mackies after the trestle burned. I think I’ll save this hike for the fall when the leaves are down and more things will be visible.
My last comments for this week offer some potentially positive news. A few weeks ago I wrote about the pending development at Gunflint Lake. Today at work I received a phone call from MPP Michael Gravelle’s office. My email did not fall on deaf ears and the Minister of Natural Resources’ office is looking into the matter. Hopefully I will receive more information in the coming weeks.
Anyway, enough for now; I need to do a few things before I call it a day. I’ll be back with more ramblings next week. Until then…