Monthly Archives: March 2013

Can’t win for trying!

We’ve all been there. Trying hard to do something and it’s just not working out the way you want it to. Oh the frustration! What is going on you ask? Well I’m sitting here watching my eLearning website spin its wheels and refuse to load. This is supposed to be my eLearning period, and I’ve got a ton of stuff to do since I’ve been out of the school the past couple of days, but I cannot get into the Learning Management System. Grrrr! I’ve written in the past about technology and how great it is, when it works. And right now, it’s not working for me. I guess it gives me time to write my blog, but that’s not really what I need to be doing right now.

So things are humming along as we push into the end of March and the Easter break. I’m back to 100%, which has made dealing with all the usual craziness a bit more bearable. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost April…where does the time go? Soon it will be mid-semester, and as the weather warms it will be harder to keep the kids focus. Hang on and keep pushing forward right?

The railway has been very busy yet again, with what seems like a million and one things going on. One of the biggest pieces of news from the past week was the completion of the new logo for the Silver Mountain Historical Society. We are truly excited! The logo allows us to move forward and really begin to market and promote the society. You can read more about this exciting event on the SMHS blog.

Silver Mountain Historical Society logo.

Silver Mountain Historical Society logo.

Progress continues to be made in our attempts to preserve the sites at Leeblain, albeit at a much slower pace than I would like. I never worked on anything of this nature, and certainly never worked through government bureaucracy which can be a tad bit frustrating. I am sure things will move ahead in the coming months, but am anxious to get some safeguards in place before the area is even further disturbed.

Now speaking of Leeblain, I did receive some great news from the publication committee at the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society. They have agreed to publish my article on Leeblain! I could not be more thrilled at this news…I am finally going to be published! I can then truly call myself a “historian.” Not that I am all about the title or anything; to me it’s more about the acknowledgement of all the work I’ve done on the railway over the years.

To go along with the article, I will also be presenting a lecture at the Thunder Bay Museum in September. I’ve actually been asked to kick-off the 2013-2014 lecture series…what a great honour! I’ve waited a long time to be able to speak at the museum, to be able to share the work I’ve done on the railway. I’ll be sure to write all about it when the time comes.

On Saturday I had the opportunity to head down to Gunflint with the family (not that I needed an excuse anyway) to meet with Gunflint Lodge owner and long resident Bruce Kerfoot. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time, as Bruce was away when I did my presentation back in February. Growing up on the lake, Bruce’s experiences and those of his mother Justine (who was a legend in the area), are important to my research. I really wanted to pick Bruce’s brain!

Back in January Bruce had sent me a map of Leeblain and it had radically changed my understanding of what that town had really been like. Bruce’s explorations and excavations at the site in his younger years revealed more buildings than I knew existed. Then again, all I had to work with was a map that was surveyed in 1911, nearly 20 years after the town was founded. His information has provided me with a wealth of information, and a whole pile of work to do when I next visit the area.

My conversation with Bruce also enlightened me to some of the other history of the Gunflint area. He told me about logging camps that I never knew existed! Of most interest to me however, was the information regarding the removal of rails along the Canadian side of the lake. I had come to the conclusion, based on some historical documentation and maps, that the rails west of North Lake had been removed circa 1915. However, Bruce emphatically stated that his parents removed some of the rails, at least to the eastern end of the lake, during World War II. This radically changes my interpretation of how things unfolded with the railway along this portion of the line.

While I was in the area, I did take a few minutes to snap some photos of the railway in Minnesota, particularly the area around the double trestle at Round Lake. It has peaked my interest again, and I’ve decided that I am going to try and get down to that area around the beginning of May to poke around and shoot some new video. Getting exciting for hiking season!

Railway grade, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway grade, Minnesota, March 2013.

Double trestle area, Minnesota, March 2013.

Double trestle area, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway embankment, Minnesota, March 2013.

Railway embankment, Minnesota, March 2013.

Anyway, time to wrap up; more to say next week as usual. Until then…


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Wait, it gets worse!

Remember back a few weeks ago when I was lamenting how middle age was catching up to me? I was so sore and tired? Ya, well I had to go and open my big mouth about it did I? I seem to do that a lot unfortunately. So since that ill-conceived tirade, I have since wrenched my back shovelling snow and then come down with the flu. Karma 1, Dave 0.

On that note, it’s good to be back. Once again I took a little break from the blog since I was away on vacation and there wasn’t a lot to talk about. Yes, as I’ve aptly described, it wasn’t a pretty second half of the week for me last week. We arrived home from the States to find the driveway nicely plugged with a dump of snow, and in my haste to clear some room to unload the “loser cruiser,” (my wife’s eloquent nickname for the minivan) I went a bit too hard too fast and tweaked my back. It kinda bothered me for a few days, but then I got the flu on Saturday and forgot all about it. So then I spent two days on the couch not eating and shivering…see the score sheet above.

Snow filled driveway, March 2013.

Snow filled driveway, March 2013.

Well thankfully I’m feeling a bit better today, though I thought that last night and after eating dinner had a rather unpleasant wait during the kids swimming lessons. Fingers crossed. But hey, on the up side, my back doesn’t hurt anymore!

So the little break from reality was good, but alas it is back to work. Fortunately we’re on the downward slide toward summer as the days get longer and warmer. You couldn’t tell that right now though, as old man winter refuses to go away. This time last year the snow was completely gone and we were basking in double digit temperatures. Right now there is still a few feet of snow and we are not expected to slip above zero until the end of the week. Gotta be optimistic right?

Just before the break we did pass an important milestone that I though was worth mentioning. The countdown to next year’s Europe trip is now less than 365 days…353 days to be exact! I can’t wait. Even though I visited some of these places less than a year ago, it’s still exciting nonetheless. There are some new places to see, and a whole new group of kids. They’re pretty pumped too! When I let many of them know that the trip was a year away, it solicited a lot of enthusiastic responses.

So the railway front has been somewhat busy, especially given the fact that I was away from home for several days. Last week we celebrated an important event, the 106th anniversary of the announcement of the construction of the station at Silver Mountain (and by default the one at North Lake as well). The Silver Mountain Station is one of the few remaining structures on the line, and last significant station. It was constructed in 1907 and the railway also built an exact copy at North Lake. To mark this event, I spent some time on Wikipedia creating two entry pages, one for Silver Mountain and the other for North Lake. It took me a bit of time to do, but I’m very pleased with the results. I think I’ll be doing a few more in the future.

Speaking of Silver Mountain, work is progressing along with the society. Our biggest news is the forthcoming launch of our new logo. I had an opportunity to preview it today, and hopefully we’ll have it in the next days. Then there will be a mad dash to get some stuff ordered (cards, banners, brochures) so we can start promoting the group. It’s going to be a busy April!

While I was away in Minnesota, I did not forget about the railway. Sitting there one night (the kids go to bed at 8, so I need something to do for a few hours), I had a brain wave. How about doing some research? One of my biggest frustrations is that Google has digitized all of these old documents, but because I live in Canada, I cannot access them. That’s just blatant racism…Canadians are people too Google! Anyway, I figured that since I was in the US, I could try downloading some of these elusive files.

I didn’t get everything, and the internet speed was a bit slow, but I did manage to pull in quite a few things. The most interesting was an account written in 1908 by a Richard Haste, and his experiences travelling through the “new” Ontario on a railway tricycle or jigger (I never knew it was called that). He and a companion started in the Rainy River area and using their hand-powered jigger, rode all the way to Port Arthur. They then hitched a ride on the train down to Gunflint and rode back. I was disappointed that they didn’t say more about the PD and there weren’t any photos, but it was neat nonetheless. Some really good research information in there too!

Railway tricycle or "jigger," early 1900's.

Railway tricycle or “jigger,” early 1900’s.

Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap up. I am travelling to Gunflint this Saturday for a meeting with Bruce Kerfoot at the Gunflint Lodge, so I’m sure I’ll have a bunch of things to say next week. Until then…

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Research, Writing


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The spirit is willing, but the flesh…

Ya, I hate to admit it, but I am starting to feel my age…physically that is. In my heart I still feel like young guy, but my body is telling me otherwise. Sigh. I guess it can be expected, I am turning the big 4-0 this year. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that I’ve reached middle age already; I can remember events in my teens and twenties like it was the other day. I guess time has funny ways of doing that, flying right before your eyes. Thankfully it has been a good show, and a nice ride. Let’s hope that the next forty are equally as memorable.

Okay, enough with the sob story. Pain is always temporary, or at least that is what they told me when I was in the army. Or was it that pain is a sign that you’re alive? In any case, I’ll get over it. There are far more important things to worry about, like vacations. Yes, March break is just around the corner…in 3 days to be exact! A little time away from work will be great and I know my kids will appreciate the little trip we will be taking.

So work is as it usually is, work; I’m still very busy with so many things going on. I think I’m finally settling in to this eLearning class, though I do feel a bit useless. I’m probably just used to being at the front of a class and actually teaching, not just answering questions and marking things. I had a student ask for some help so she came to see me in person; I told her that it made me happy that I was actually doing something. I guess this is ideally how teaching should really work; the kids learn at their own pace and I am there to help them along. Facilitating versus teaching.

On Sunday the boys and I trudged up the mountain for could be our last winter hike of the year. The weather has steadily been warming and the snow may not last much longer. I decided to take a somewhat different route this time, since variety is the spice of life right? It was a hard push all the way to a spot that overlooks Loch Lomond; after all was said and done we (well mostly I) had walked 9.5k. For half of that I was dragging a 105lb sled, which is the main reason why my body was killing me in the hours that followed!

Going up the trail, March 2013.

Going up the trail, March 2013.

Loch Lomond, March 2013.

Loch Lomond, March 2013.

So the railway front has sort of been busy in the last week. I’ve been plugging away at a few things with the Silver Mountain Historical Society, mostly getting the message our incorporation out via the society blog. Our next big goal is to have a logo made up for us to help with advertising and marketing. Strange how this position has brought me into so many things that I’ve never dealt with before, like asking for my creative input on a logo. Talk about unchartered territory! But I guess life is all about change and we all need to adapt.

Most of my railway time however has been devoted to spreading the railway message on the web. What pray tell are you referring to Dave? Well, I’ve done it before, and I’m back at it again. Yes, I’m creating stuff on the good ‘ole pages of Wikipedia. Yup, Wikipedia, that great bastion of knowledge that has taken over and now dominates every Google search we do. Last year I made a page for the ghost town of Leeblain and I thought I did a pretty darn good job of it for my first try.

This time it all started with the Silver Mountain Station. You see, next week (March 14) is the anniversary of the announcement of the station’s construction was back in 1907. There isn’t really much out there in terms of information about the station, even on my website. So I decided to create a page for the station to promote its history and its current status as a restaurant. That then led me to make some changes to the railway page, but that one is going to need some serious work before it’s up to my standards. However, I did branch out from Silver Mountain and make a separate page for the station at North Lake. Neither of them are ready for official publication, but I’ll be sure to let you know when they are good to go.

Anyway, it’s probably time to wrap up. I’m not sure if I’ll blog next week since I’m away in the States, but in any case I’ll be back soon. Until then…

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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Hiking, History, Miscellaneous, Railway, Writing


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