Monthly Archives: November 2012

Well, it was inevitable!

Gee, what is it you’re talking about Dave? Could it be that it’s the end of November and winter has finally arrived? Yup, you got me! However I must say that the onset of winter this year was a bit unexpected. Last Thursday the temperature was +10C and it was beautiful outside. By the next day the temperature has dropped to -6C and we had received 20cm of snow. That’s a bit of a 180 if I do say so myself! Buses were cancelled and so it was a rather quiet Friday at school with only a handful of kids in the building.

I must admit that the snow on the ground does add a little colour to what was becoming a rather blah landscape of browns and greys. Christmas (yes, the c word) is less than a month away so it was expected that some snow would fall-hence this week’s title. The forecast does call for the temps to rise back above 0 for the weekend, so we may lose some of the white stuff. I’m okay with all of it though, since at some point the boys and I can start going back up the mountain.

The end of November means that we are rapidly approaching the holiday season, and there are a scant three weeks left to go before the break. Perfect timing, as it’s starting to get to that “I need a rest” point to recharge the ole’ battery! Lots of things to do between now and then though, and I’m sure it will be very appreciated when we get there. Unfortunately due to my bout with the flu last week, I am very much behind in my marking and the next little while will be filled with the sound of shuffling papers.

This past weekend I tried to play catch up on missed projects from the previous week. My wife’s van received its winter tires, albeit a day and a pile of snow late. This weekend I’ll have to get up the outside lights, but thankfully my wife and the boys looked after the trees and decorations inside. Let’s hope those mild temps show up since it’s always a pain getting the lights hooked up when it’s freezing cold out.

It has once again been a very busy few days on the railway front, with my efforts again focussed on the Silver Mountain Historical Society. On Wednesday I had my planned meeting with Bonnie McNulty who is a regional advisor with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. There were no earth-shattering revelations, as Ms. McNulty is just an advisor who offers support and advice to people like me. However it was reassuring to know that our group is headed in the right direction and talking to the right people. Hopefully this will lead to some sort of historic designation for the railway and eventually the planned hiking trails that we are after.

A lot of my time has been taken up in planning the upcoming incorporation meeting on December 9th. I’m really glad there are people around me like Shelley Simon and Ellen McInnis who have been instrumental in getting everything organized and promoted. The agenda is nearing completion and I’ve started planning what the presentation will look like. It is still a week and a half away, but I know that time will quickly fly by. I’m pretty good right now, but I’m sure my anxiety level will go through the roof as the date gets closer. Try to stay calm!

On a related note, I happened to take a look at the Gunflint Lodge website today to see if they had anything about my February presentation. In October I was contacted by Sue Kerfoot to see if I was interested in doing a few talks about the railway for their winter programming. Of course I gladly accepted! So the lodge has created a weekend package around the talks, snowshoeing and skiing. Hopefully I can convince my wife to tag along; she can get a massage while I yap! I really enjoyed my last stay there and the accommodations and hospitality were great. You can check everything out on the Gunflint Lodge website (I’ll have to talk to them about the spelling of Leeblain though).

Gunflint Lodge, May 2011.

Gunflint Lodge cabin, May 2011.

Romantic cabin for one, May 2011.

Gunflint Lake, May 2011.

Anyway, time to wrap things up for now. More to say next week as usual. Until then…

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in History, Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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I had to open my big mouth didn’t I?

Remember last week how I wrote about being so sick I felt like crap? Yup, I had to say to say it and now karma has bitten me in the ass. I have not been this sick in a long, long time. I was actually starting to feel better as the week progressed, but then I got hammered on Saturday. My back was a bit sore all day (for no apparent reason); by the evening I was lying on the couch completely chilled to the bone. Sunday wasn’t too bad, but I woke up on Monday morning at 4 freezing once again. I went to work for the morning, but went home at lunch. My temperature was a lovely 103F!

Needless to say I am feeling marginally better today, but my head is still plugged up and I cannot breathe properly. Talk about the perfect storm of colds…head, chest and fever. I managed to get through the day at work with only a few shivers and sweats. Hopefully I’m feeling better by tomorrow as I’m out of the classroom for an e-Learning workshop.

So Sunday marked the one year anniversary of this blog; where has the time gone? It’s sort of interesting to look back and see what I had to say a year ago. It’s also amazing where this rant has taken me and the topics I’ve written about every week. I’m very thankful for the 4000+ views in the last year and the 49 people who’ve decided to follow me. We’ll see what the next year brings!

Anyway, the railway front has been very busy, mostly regarding the Silver Mountain Historical Society again. Last week I wrote about the launch of the society website, which went public on Friday. Personally, I feel it could be a bit better, but I guess it’s okay for now. Hopefully it will bring more publicity to our efforts and there’s always room for improvements in the future. Be sure to check it out!

On Saturday I “stopped by” the Silver Mountain Station to borrow some old photos so I could scan them (I say “stopped by” in jest as it is a 54km drive along twisty-turny Highway 588 to get there). I did grab the photos I was looking for, but I also had a chance to chat with proprietress and fellow society co-chair Shelley Simon. She was kind enough to give me a tour of the old station, especially the upstairs part which one does not normally see. The station has seen a few additions over the years, but it still retains much of its historic style.

After our walkabout, our conversation turned to the old station on North Lake. Shelley had some great photos of the original station from the 1970’s; it really made me wish I could have seen it.  It made me think of the replica station that was built on Addie Lake which I did have a chance to visit on many occasions. I kinda miss that building…it made me go digging through my old videos to find some footage that I had of it from 1997. Unfortunately it’s not a lot of footage, but I decided to post it to YouTube anyway.

North Lake Station, 1970’s.

North Lake Station, 1970’s.

North Lake Station, 1970’s.

North Lake Station, circa 1970’s.

Tomorrow I have my meeting with the Regional Advisor from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. I think I’m ready for this, but I have no idea where the discussion will take us and what will come of it. I am trying to be positive though, as any little thing will be a step in the right direction. I’ll report all the news next week.

Anyway, time to wrap things up as I’m still not 100%, but you know that already. Hopefully I’ll be back to snuff by next week. Until then…

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Here we go again…

Yep, I am officially sick again. I feel like a big pile of poop! Who came up with that analogy by the way? Did someone do a scientific study comparing the feeling you have when you’re sick and fecal matter? Gee, too bad I wasn’t part of that! All kidding aside though, I do feel quite lousy, but I did suck it up and dragged my butt into work. Hopefully I get better soon as I hate this feeling.

Now one of the reasons I’m praying for a quick recovery is that I’m going to have to play a bit of football on Thursday. Since both the junior and senior teams are done for the season, it is time for our annual wrap-up. This means that we’ll be playing a little two-hand touch football and eating some pizza. It’s bad enough that I’m out of shape, but it will kill me when I’m less than one hundred percent. Let’s hope I don’t break anything important!

So this week I did have a bit more time to devote to railway matters, but certainly less than I hoped. I had wanted to at least get in a bit of writing on the Leeblain article, but things just didn’t pan out that way. Maybe this week?

On Saturday I took some time to tidy up my office and file a lot of information that had piled over the summer and fall. While I was at it, I decided to convert the last segments of old video that I had of my railway field work. This particular footage was shot in the summer of 1997, and was taken around Nolalu, Wolfe Siding and Mackies. I put the first video on YouTube on Sunday, and I hope to get the others up in the next few weeks.

The subject of this video is the area between Leeper (mile 31) and Nolalu (mile 34), which is one of the most unique from a historical perspective. It contains many telegraph poles and the remains of four bridges over the Whitefish River.  The most amazing of all is the third crossing, as it is the only bridge on the entire railway which has concrete abutments. Why this was done for this and this only bridge remains a mystery. I was last there in 2009 and I’m anxious to get back as soon as I can as I did not shoot any video on that hike; I’m sure much has changed it that time.

Rail bed, Leeper, August 2009.

Telegraph pole, Leeper, August 2009.

Telegraph pole, Leeper, August 2009.

Bridge remains, Leeper, August 2009.

Bridge remains, Leeper, July 2012.

Most of my railway time however was once again taken up by the Silver Mountain Historical Society. Our incorporation meeting is coming up in less than a month, and there’s a lot to do in that short period of time. I have a presentation to put together and there’s also the matter of recruiting as many members as possible.

In conversation with my fellow co-chair Shelley Simon (who’s also the proprietress of the Silver Mountain Station), we decided it was time to look into a website. I’ve registered the domain name and started work on the site. Web design unfortunately is not among the many skills in my repertoire, so I had to resort to using the provided web builder. It looks decent, but it could be a bit better (I am somewhat of a perfectionist though, which does colour my opinion). I want to unveil the site by the end of the week, and hopefully this will lead to some increased publicity for the society. Fingers are crossed!

Anyway, I’m kinda out of gas, so it’s time to wrap things up…more to say next week as usual. Until then…


Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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On that disappointing note…

Ya, so I’m not my usual happy self, but the last few days have been a bit of a downer. The weather has been very blah, it’s November and oh ya, we lost our semi-final game! I’ll try to keep it cheery, as I now have a bit more time to do things I’ve put on hold for a while. But judging by the ideas floating around in my head right now, this week’s blog is going to be a bit more pensive than usual; I guess it fits in well with the time of year.

So yes, unfortunately, football is done for another year…hence the title for this week. While I appreciate the time to relax and catch my breath, it is never easy to conclude something you’ve invested so much time and effort into. After beating our opponent 30 to 7 in the regular season, we were confident we could once again beat Churchill. It was a bad omen when we lost our starting A back (and kicker/punter) on the second play of the game with an MCL injury.

The boys played hard, but it was clear there was no mojo at all…we just couldn’t string anything consistent together and lost 14 to 7. Despite the loss I’m still proud of the team, as we came a long way in a short period of time. This was especially true since so many of them had never played football before and nearly sixty percent of the team were grade 9’s. That certainly bodes well for next season, and gives us a lot of optimism.

One of the bright spots this week was the continued progress of the Europe trip. As I reported last time, all the available spots were filled in two days. Tomorrow is our first of many group meetings, and I will outline the student responsibilities for our journey. This is not only a trip, but also a pilgrimage (hence the name Canada’s Battlefields), and as such we want them to understand the importance of recognizing and remembering the sacrifice of previous generations.

On that note, this coming Sunday is Remembrance Day here in Canada. It is the day we take time to honour the more than 100,000 Canadians who have given their lives for our country. It is sad however that for many Canadians it is the only time each year that they remember our war dead. It is almost as if the young cadets and aged Legionnaires distributing poppies are a visual cue for our collective reflection. While I do tend to remember more than most, this time of year does make me think of my own efforts, both in the classroom and outside of it.

Stone of Remembrance, Brette-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

From an early age I had always wanted to serve my country in the armed forces. The plan was to attend Royal Military College, but my initial dream of becoming a pilot was sadly shattered in Grade 7 when I found out I had terrible vision and needed glasses. I shifted my focus to a career in the army, possibly even entering the ranks of the parachute infantry (which is extremely bizarre given my fear of heights). At age 17 I decided to join the Army Reserve to prepare for my future transition to regular force of the Canadian Army. I thus became a member of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment (LSSR).

Pre-10 mile march, August 1991. I’m on the left with the C9 machine gun.

Change of Command parade, September 1991. Front row, second from left.

It is rather interesting how one’s life plays out, for at the time I joined the LSSR I never could have imagined that 21 years later I would be in a classroom teaching history to teenagers. While I certainly enjoyed my time in the reserves, I also came to realize that it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The constant relocation and deployment of our soldiers was a big influence on my decision to switch careers, but I am also convinced that I was called into my current profession. Maybe teaching sacrifice to our young people is my particular version of duty to my country.

Mother Canada weeping for her fallen sons, Vimy Memorial.

So this week I will do my part to remember. Yesterday was an important anniversary for my old unit, Zijpe Day. On November 5th, 1944, mortar and anti-tank units of the Lake Superior Regiment (LSR-predecessor to the LSSR), along with tanks of the British Columbia Regiment, attacked several German ships moored in the port of Zijpe, Netherlands. They would be the only Canadian Army units to score a naval victory during the Second World War. Some of the LSR dead from this theatre of the Northwest Europe Campaign are buried in the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen-op-Zoom and we will have an opportunity to honour them during our visit next year.

Grave of Rifleman Janson, Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.

Obviously with all of these things going on it has been a relatively quiet week on the railway front. I did spend a bit of time looking over my article on Leeblain, which I hope to get back to very soon. I also did a little bit of light research, but there were no earth-shattering revelations.

Most of my attention was directed toward the impending incorporation of the Silver Mountain Historical Society. Next week I meet with the Regional Advisor from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to discuss preservation of some of the railway, so I guess it’s time to get this group rolling. We have our incorporation meeting scheduled for Sunday, December 9th, and I certainly hope it is well attended. We do have a good little group so far, but we are going to need more support and help from the local community.

Truth be told I am a bit nervous about the whole process, as there are a lot of legal and procedural requirements to this type of endeavour. I really hope more people step up to the plate and volunteer their time. Likewise, it would be nice to see some young blood get onboard too; at 38 I am the youngest person involved with the society. I know there are a lot folks out there that appreciate the history of our area and the history of the railway, but without some hard work and dedication there would be no history to enjoy for anyone. Please support the society!

Well on that note, I should wrap things up for now. As usual, there will be more insights and news next week. Until then…


Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Travel, Writing


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