Maybe the Mayans were right…

30 Oct

Dave, surely you jest! End of the world? Come on! Besides, didn’t the Mayan calendar end in December 2012? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time someone was off a bit. Do I seriously believe that the world is coming to an end? No, but the events of the past few days certainly make it seem like it. Earthquakes in BC, mega-hurricane on the US east coast…did I miss anything? Let just hope it’s pure coincidence.

As usual, it has been a very busy week. I am certainly looking forward to the return of a small bit of normalcy shortly. However, I am sure I will find more craziness to fill void.

So last Tuesday I had the parent meeting for the Europe 2014 trip. I mentioned in my previous blog that it was well attended and it appeared that there was some solid interest in this excursion. I could not have imagined how much interest there was; all 21 spots available were filled within 48 hours. We actually have a waiting list! I couldn’t be happier with this development and I can’t wait to see the sights of Europe with this group.

Saturday was the grand finale of another great Tyke football season. It is really something to work with these young kids, even as frustrating and exasperating as it can be. The day was unfortunately about as miserable as could be, with chilly temperatures and even a brief, blizzard-like snowfall. It sadly left a few youngsters freezing and crying on the bench. Despite this, the Argos took the championship 25-0. I am quite proud of the team and of my boys in particular for their growth over the season.

Speaking of football, this Saturday is semi-final day for our Fighting Saints junior team. Hard to believe that the last two months is now down to this. It has been a long season and the team has come a long way, especially with the number of kids we have that never played football. We’re taking on the Churchill Trojans, a team that we beat 30-7 in our first meeting. We’re not taking anything lightly though, as the playoffs are for keeps. Wish us luck!

So all of this excitement has left little time for railway related work, but I hope that will change in the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll actually be able to get back to my article on Leeblain and finally finish it; it’s only been two months! It would be nice to see it in the 2013 edition of the Thunder Bay Museum’s Paper and Records as it will be the 120th anniversary of the founding of the town (that is if they want to publish it). My first published paper would be awesome…then it would be Historian Dave Battistel!

In an interesting development, I did receive an email today from Bonnie McNulty with the Regional Services Office of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. We will be meeting shortly to discuss attempts to preserve portions of the railway and its history. That will in turn lead to some movement regarding the Silver Mountain Historical Society, which will be our vehicle to carry out these preservations.

It has been so many years since the railway stopped operating that many traces of it have long disappeared. Sadly few buildings remain along the line, just a few section houses and the Silver Mountain Station (built in 1907). The identical copy of Silver Mountain, North Lake, which was probably constructed in the same year, was around until the late 1970’s. I wish it was still around as it would have made for a beautiful attraction in such a beautiful location.

North Lake Station, circa 1918.

North Lake Station, 1970’s.

I always wondered about its demise, and after many years of hearing different stories, I finally learned its fate at the founding meeting of the Historical Society. I spent some time in conversation with Gil Erickson, who had some intimate knowledge of the situation. Gil was involved with preservation of the railway when I was still a little kid. In the 1970’s, a group working out of Nolalu called the Localmotive Society attempted to renovate the derelict station to use as the focal point of some planned hiking trails. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was not very cooperative at the time and would not allow any work on the old station (something about being too close to the border?).

The group then decided to build a replica station 3.5km east of the site on Addie Lake. They removed as much material from the original as possible before the MNR burned it down. Utilizing government grants and student labour, over two summers the group constructed a great copy of the station. I first saw this replica in the fall of 1990 and later visited it on many occasions over the next decade. Unfortunately I did not realize how much authentic material had been built into it or I would have spent more time taking in the history.

Replica North Lake Station, 1994.

Sadly the re-built station, sitting in a very remote and isolated area, was a frequent target of vandals. The lack of accessibility to the site also prevented the planned development of trails in the area. In the fall/winter of 2004, with no one willing to take on the maintenance of the structure, the MNR decided to burn it down. Therefore the few skeletal boards of the original station and coal bunker are all that remain of the once magnificent station. A very sad end to a wonderful piece of history; it things like this that drive my desire to preserve what is left.

North Lake Station, 1994.

North Lake Station, May 2010.

North Lake coal bunker, October 2011.

North Lake coal bunker, October 2011.

Anyway, it is probably time to wrap things up for now. As usual, there will be more to say next week (if we make it that far!). Until then…

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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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