So this is what Siberia feels like

22 Jan

If you’re old enough, you might remember hearing references being made to Siberia i.e. being sent to Siberia, or how cold it was in Siberia. Since I was born in the 70’s, I certainly have vivid recollections its mention. The Cold War was on and the Russians were the bad guys; I heard all about how they sent people to prison in Siberia and they never came back (or maybe that was just my mom threatening me). Since I had never been there, all I could do was envision what it was like. I imagined a cold, forbidding place, far removed from any vestiges of civilization. Today reminded me a lot of those younger days, but that’s a story for later.

So here we are in the last few days of classes before exams, which start on Thursday. I still haven’t completely caught up on my marking, but I’m getting there. Unfortunately I’ll be back to square one with three sets of exams and two sets of culminating activities to mark soon enough. Oh well, I guess that’s why they pay me the big bucks right?

The crazy thing in all of this is that the next semester has not started yet and it’s lining up to be even busier, at least in the beginning. I already have four days that I’m out of the classroom in February alone. One is for eLearning orientation (yes, I am doing an online class), one is for open house, another is for a department head meeting and the last is for our trip to the Glazier coaching clinic in Minneapolis (yes, we’re going back this year). I generally hate to be out of the classroom; it does mess with the continuity and it is more work for me to be away than to be there. However, most of it has to do with the fact that I am complete control freak with my classes and I like to do things my way!

Anyway, you’re probably wondering what’s with the title. If you guess I was alluding to the weather, you are correct. Remember a few weeks ago when it was +7C and rained? Ya, well that’s a distant memory. The last several days have been some of the coldest I’ve ever experienced; there might have been colder, but I don’t remember. Without a doubt it’s the coldest it’s ever been since I got married. How bad it is? Well I’ll tell ya.

So it started snowing on Friday…finally! And thank God for that, because things could have gotten ugly without any snow cover on the ground. It snowed all day Saturday and stopped in the evening. Sunday was pretty chilly, which made snow blowing the driveway quite wonderful. However, the worst was yet to come!

Falling snow, January 2013.

Falling snow, January 2013.

Yesterday was cold, damn cold. When I left work to pick up the kids, my truck almost didn’t start. It had been sitting in the parking lot exposed to the sub -30C wind-chill all day. On the second try it went, but felt like a block of ice the entire drive. The thermometer never moved from -28C and it was 3:30 in the afternoon! The temperature continued to drop, and by the time I went to bed it was -38C with the wind.

One of my morning routines immediately after getting up is to check the outside temperature (the wireless sensor is on the northwest side of the house). I was shocked to see it display -37.2C, by far the coldest I’ve ever recorded at my house in 10 years (it bottomed out at -37.8 by 7:00). When I got to work, the wind-chill was sitting at -45C! That’s kinda one of those unfathomable numbers…I may have stated earlier today that it was “stupid” cold. Funny thing is that it does even come close to breaking the all-time record, which was set at -41.1C. Brrrr!

Early morning temperature, January 2013.

Early morning temperature, January 2013.

-45 with the wind, January 2013.

-45 with the wind, January 2013.

Well, all this frigid weather means that there’s a lot of time spent inside, and that gave me chance to do some extra railway stuff. Most of it involved research, but I did do a little work in preparation for my upcoming presentation at Gunflint Lodge. The event has been confirmed for February 9th at 7:30pm (CST) at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center. I’m pretty excited about the presentation and especially that I get to go to Gunflint to do it. Now I just need to convince my wife to come with me and enjoy a little break from the kids!

It had been a while since I stuck my nose in the computer and did some railway stuff other than writing. I always love the rush I get when I’m on the hunt…you’re still talking about historical research right Dave? Yup, and call me a nerd, but I find it exciting! Whether I’m out in the field or following a trail on the computer, nothing beats trying to locate the next clue. This is why this project is so amazing; I never get tired of discovering new things. It will be a sad day when I finish all my research.

Anyway, there have been a lot of great revelations. I’m not sure what started it all, but I did spend a lot of time looking at things on That site has been absolutely phenomenal for my line of work. Well worth the money. I think it started with my thinking about Leeblain, and specifically the customs house that operated at the eastern end of Gunflint Lake from 1903 to 1909. I looked up the two gentlemen who ran it, then moved on to Archie Bishop who owned a sawmill on North Lake circa 1911.

Somehow or other I ended up with a census record showing that certain key railway people were all boarding together in Port Arthur in 1891 (Alex Middleton, Richard Hazelwood and Ross Thompson). That then led me into a search of these gentlemen and then some. It was at this point I made interesting discovery.

George Middleton (Alexander’s brother), was a primary contractor of the railway along with prominent area politician James Conmee. While the railway was being constructed, the contractors had control of the line, and so Alexander served two terms as president (and chief engineer) in 1890 to 1891. He was eventually succeeded in his role as chief engineer by Richard Hazelwood. Hazelwood as it turns out, thanks to Ancestry, is George’s brother-in-law. Nothing like a bit of nepotism!

My next mission is to try and track down pictures of these people, which doesn’t look to be an easy task. Maybe Ancestry will come to the rescue again…fingers crossed! Speaking of pictures, I just received three pictures I ordered from Library and Archives Canada today. One is of a locomotive, which may help in solving our engine mystery. The others show a construction camp and workers loading logs; now I’ve got more work to do trying to figure out where they were taken!

Anyway, time to finish my marking. Hopefully be next week it will be a tad bit warmer. Until then…

1 Comment

Posted by on January 22, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing


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One response to “So this is what Siberia feels like

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