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That’s why the train was always late!

09 Jul

So I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to start this post. Obviously I need to fold in the title somehow, but I have no idea how I should do it. Oh to be a literary genius like Shakespeare or Wordsworth or Shelley. Wait, I don’t think I want to be in the same category as those guys…I hated English. Why the hell do I want to be like them? Okay, how about Pierre Berton? Yes, good ole’ Pierre Berton, Canadiana author extraordinaire! That’s more like it. So there I have it; eight sentences later I have an introduction to this week’s post. Does it make any sense, or have any relevance to the title, nope. But hey, if you’ve read this far…

So, how’s your week been Dave? Well, do you really want to know? To be honest it wasn’t the start of summer holidays I was expecting. Things were okay at the start of the week, as recounted in last week’s blog, but it kinda went downhill from there. How bad you ask? Well, I should be posting this from my brother’s house in Toronto as part of the first leg of our vacation, but I’m still at home. That bad!

So, what happened? Well, my hike last week did not go exactly as planned and then the coup d’grâce happened on Friday. The boys and I were supposed to go somewhere in the early afternoon and we had some time to kill, so we stopped by my mom’s. Pretty innocent right? The boys had a snack and my youngest Noah decided as he’s done a million times before to ride one of the bikes my mom has at her house around the back yard. Low and behold he falls off the bike. When I got to him he was complaining that his arm hurt and a quick examination gave me the bad news; his concave left forearm was broken!

We spent most of the rest of the day in the emergency and Noah is now sporting a cast on his arm. The orthopedic surgeon wanted to see him this week and next, so we were forced to postpone the trip. The main thing is for him to be okay and healthy, but it sure is a pain trying to re-schedule the trip and flights…quite the headache! We’re going to try to go to Toronto next week and then do our Disney trip in August when the cast is off.

So in other news, I’ve been quite busy with the Silver Mountain and Area Historical Society planning our next event. Last year my friend and co-president Shelley Simon organized the first ever History Day, held at the Silver Mountain Station. With the inception of the historical society, we have taken over the hosting of the event. We are trying to build on the success of the first annual edition, adding more historical content and speakers. It is kinda of exciting being part of the planning process, but it is also a bit scary as well. I’ll be the Master of Ceremonies, which gives me butterflies just thinking about it. Posters are currently being put together, but you can check out the Facebook post in the meantime.

Well, I guess I should get back to the title of the post right? My plan last week was to hike the railway west of Iron Range Lake, which was a place I last visited in 2010. My GPS data wasn’t super detailed and I didn’t shoot any video of the area. I also had an ulterior motive…finding one of the water tanks (or where it was) on the railway, which brings me back to the title.

According to old railway timecards, the PAD&W had three water tanks staggered along the line; Stanley, Sand (Sandstone) Lake and Addie Lake. The one at Stanley was quite well known, and I was shown the remains of the one at Sandstone in 2011. However, the tank at Addie Lake was a very interesting story. I tried looking for it back in the 90’s, but the only spot it could have been didn’t really make sense. After examining old timecards I figured out the problem; the tank at “Addie Lake” wasn’t really at Addie Lake.

So I took the 1901 Canadian Northern Railway timecards which show the distances on them and tried to calculate its location. Working backward from North Lake (mile 71), which is a known entity, 6 miles brings you to a point approximately 1100 metres west of Iron Range Lake (another maps puts the tank right by Iron Range). It then dawned on me that the distances on the card must have been out, as the measurement from Sand Lake (another known entity) was not working out right. By using the map, I was able to figure out that they messed up the distances between Whitefish (correct at mile 43) and Addie Lake (mile 65). That made me think of all the stories about the railway and how it was never on time…of course, they didn’t know how far it was from one place to another!

Port Arthur, Duluth & Western Ry timecard, October 1894.

Port Arthur, Duluth & Western Ry timecard, October 1894.

Canadian Northern Ry-Duluth Extension timecard, October 1901.

Canadian Northern Ry-Duluth Extension timecard, October 1901.

At this point I should mention something about the hike right? So I began my hike where the railway crosses Highway 588 just east of Addie Lake. The mosquitoes and biting flies were quite murderous and made life very unpleasant. About 400 metres into our journey east I got my first rude shock of the day. At this point the railway crossed through a swampy area for about 200 metres; much to my displeasure the beavers had built a series of dams that had inundated the grade. I tiptoed along the crest of the beaver dam for part of it, but then the course of the dam forced me into a long detour around the flooded ground.

Back on the railway, things were okay for the next 1.5km. However, when I arrived at the next swamp, I found it flooded as well, probably a combination of high water and beavers again. That basically stopped me in my tracks, still 1.5km from my destination. I turned back, figuring I could spend my time searching for the water tank.

Flooded grade, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Flooded grade, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

If you’ve ever done any type of historical/archeological investigation, you know how frustrating it can be. It’s like the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” I was just going with some rough measurements and guesstimations. I spent quite a bit of time poking around where I thought the tank could be, using the fact that it would need some sort of solid ground underneath and a water supply (the concrete pads of the tank at Sandstone are still there, along with the syphon pipe). However I could not find anything remotely resembling that; I did find some telegraph wire which led me on a fruitless wild goose chase.

Water tank area?, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Water tank area?, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

I finally gave up searching and headed back to my start point. On the way back, I had to cross through the flooded beaver dam area. Instead of detouring around it again, I decided to do like I would have done in the old days (when I was younger and more foolish, but a bit more agile) and plow straight through the water. I hate getting my feet wet, but the water was only up to mid-calf so it wasn’t completely horrible (you can watch it here). It made me think of the headaches the beavers must have caused the railway when it was running.

Flooded grade, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Flooded grade, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Beaver dam, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Beaver dam, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Rock cut, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

Rock cut, Iron Range Lake, July 2013.

I am by no means giving up in my quest; I’ll just have to go back to the drawing board and figure something out. The only map I have is from the 1911 boundary survey and it seems a bit off. Maybe the original profile drawing might have something on them, but I need to get to Toronto or Ottawa to take a look. I might have to re-visit the 1935 highway map I have, but I don’t recall anything on there. Ah, the thrill of a mystery!

1935 (1911) International Boundary Map.

1935 (1911) International Boundary Map.

Anyway, time to wrap things up. I have another hike planned for this week at Leeper, one that I know will yield some interesting discoveries (I’ve been there several times before). More to say and show next week. Until then…

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Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Hiking, History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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