Tag Archives: Christmas

Visions of what???

According to the poem, I am supposed to have visions of sugar-plums dancing through my head. I know that is from “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” but close enough. And what the hell is a sugar-plum anyway? According to our friends at Google, it is a type of dragée candy. Learn something new every day! Anyway, there are certainly no candy images floating through my head. If there was, maybe I wouldn’t have a headache. No, despite the season, my thoughts are focussed on other things. The sugar-plums have been replaced by marking, meetings and railways…par for the course right? All these things do nothing but exacerbate the sense of burnout that I’m feeling right now. How many more sleeps?

So Christmas is exactly 2 weeks away. The brown blah I wrote about last week has been replaced by a new blanket of snow, at least making it feel right. The house is fully decorated and ready for the season. Most of the shopping has been done and there are only a few things left to do. I guess it is now a waiting game, which is always interesting with a couple little boys in the house. They are certainly chopping at the bit for the big guy to arrive. We’ll see what he has in store this year!

To answer my previous question, there are only 8 more sleeps before the break. Thank God…my brain capacity is dwindling by the minute! I know I write a lot about it, but it seems as if every year the burnout gets more pronounced. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I have way to many things going on (hence the lack of sugar plums). I tend to stress about things, which is not usually a good thing to do. I know that relaxation is important (and healthy), but I’m the type whose brain is always chewing on something. School is definitely one of those things. I had to laugh when I read my post from a year ago and wrote Santa for a marking elf. He never did send one, so maybe I should ask again!

This past week was again a very busy time on the railway front. Sunday was the incorporation meeting for the Silver Mountain Historical Society so there was a million and one things to do. Even though the event has passed, there are still many things swirling in my mind. The meeting itself went really well despite some bad weather.

The weather forecast called for snow on Sunday, so as I prepared to gather my stuff and head out to Silver Mountain I was a bit concerned at how that would affect the turn out. I’m sure we did lose some people due to the slippery roads, but the amount of folks that did show up was very positive. There was close to 30 people in attendance, and coupled with those that came to the previous event, we have over 60 names registered with the society!

Silver Mountain Station, December 2012.

Silver Mountain Station, December 2012.

I was the main presenter at the meeting, on top of speaking about the railway and our goal to preserve the North-Gunflint Lake corridor, particularly the ghost town of Leeblain. Other information was presented by my co-host Shelley Simon, who spoke about efforts to erect a historic plaque at Silver Mountain (like the PAD&W plaque in Hymers) and repair the Silver Mountain Cemetery. All this and we haven’t even really started!

PAD&W Historic Plaque, Hymers, May 2012.

PAD&W Historic Plaque, Hymers, May 2012.

To proceed with our incorporation process, a society executive had to be chosen. I was nominated and acclaimed as Vice-President. I certainly appreciate the selection, but I am also very nervous. There are just so many things involved and many of us have never done anything like this. Thankfully we have some members from the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society who will be guiding us through this process.

I guess my biggest fears stem from the fact that I am unsure how this will affect my free time. Between work, family and coaching, my time is fairly limited. I still want to pursue my research of the railway and especially the fieldwork aspect of it. Hopefully I can find a way to tie everything in together. To compound things, I decided to start a blog for the society as well, The Silver Express (not really sold on the title, but I can always change it). Oh by the way, if you haven’t noticed, I changed the title of this bog too. I thought it was a bit more creative than “Padwrr.”

Anyway, I guess I should get rolling as I have marking to do; big shocker! Hopefully by next week I’ll have some pics of the society meeting. Until then…

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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in History, Miscellaneous, Writing


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Dreaming of a brown Christmas?

So the $64,000 question is where did all the snow go? Last week I wrote about the big dump of snow we received quite suddenly; fast forward a week and it’s gone just as fast. The abnormally warm temperatures we experienced over the last few days is the obvious culprit…we don’t usually get +8C in December. There’s no global warming right? Anyway, the big downside to all of this is that we’ve returned to that dreary, blah landscape of brown. I’m not the biggest fan of winter, but I must admit that things do look better covered in white. And besides, snow just puts me more in the Christmas mood, especially since the big day is only three weeks away!

So, other the lack of a white blanket in Thunder Bay, what’s new Dave? Well, to quote my usual response, “same ole’ crap!” Not that life is that uninteresting or negative, it’s just that I’m tired. No, not the I need a nap tired, but just that I’m a bit burnt tired. Time for a breather…a break if you will. And coincidentally enough Christmas break is just around the corner (well, 13 days from now to be exact)! As I’ve mentioned on several occasions already, I am definitely looking forward to the vacation. Things are not entirely sane right now and it will be nice to have a few less things on my plate.

What is it keeping my so busy you ask? The most obvious answer to that question is work. Despite my desire for a respite, I still have a job to do. This is usually the time of the semester that my marking tends to pile up and my illness a few weeks back did nothing but exacerbate the situation. I am behind! Marking is like this never-ending battle (well, it technically does end at the close of a semester); just when you seem to have gotten yourself caught up, you’re almost instantaneously swamped again. I guess I have another 15 years of treading water…cheers to me!

Anywho, the craziness with work has made it a bit of a challenge to get through all my railway related projects. My free time has once again, like it has been the last number of weeks, been dominated by preparations for the Silver Mountain Historical Society incorporation. Things are a little more real now since the 9th is this weekend. There is still so much to do! I think Shelley and I have nailed down the agenda, and now I’ve begun work on the actual presentation. I have part of the slideshow done for the meeting, and I’ve started work on a video for one of our principal priorities, the preservation of the North-Gunflint Lake corridor.

As the date approaches I am becoming increasingly nervous. Preparation is not the concern; as a teacher, I learned a long time ago that preparation is a critical element in the success or failure of anything. I think it’s just who I am. As a bit of a perfectionist, I do put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to things like this…I just want things to come off as good as possible. I get the same way before football games…I routinely have to trot off to the port-a-potty on the field even though I went before we left the school. I’m sure I’ll be fine, but guaranteed the butterflies will be swirling before I start.

All the preparations for the meeting over the last few weeks has not taken every minute of my time, as I have found a few spare moments to do some other things as well. I did manage to get another vintage video up on YouTube, this time of the area around the Gravel Lakes. The Gravel Lakes are a chain of four lakes stretching for 2.5km from Sun Hill to Gravel Lake Station (mile 52); they are one of the most “interesting” sections of the railway. When I say “interesting” I am obvious being very facetious, as the Gravel Lakes are probably one of the worst pieces of grade on the entire line.

Rail bed, Gravel Lake I, July 2010.

Rail bed, Gravel Lake I, July 2010.

Rail bed, Gravel Lake II, July 2010.

Rail bed, Gravel Lake II, July 2010.

This entire stretch lies just at, or even below the water level of the lakes. It could be that the level of the lakes has risen in the past 120 years, but most likely the grade has settled into the swampy, muskeg topography of the area. If you’re not familiar with muskeg, just give it a Google. In his book “The National Dream,” noted author Pierre Berton wrote of the challenges of building railways through the Canadian Shield. He stated that many times entire sections of seemingly solid line had to be re-laid as they had settled into the muskeg; one had to be done seven times!

Ties, Gravel Lake II, July 2010.

Ties, Gravel Lake II, July 2010.

I first walked this section back in 1994, and was completely horrified (maybe that’s a bit strong) by what I found. I even got lost at one point, as I could not believe that it was the railway winding its way submerged through the last lake; it in fact was! I returned in 1997 to grab some video (I could have sworn I was there in ’95) and found that the water levels had receded somewhat. This is the footage I posted to YouTube.

Rail bed with ties, Gravel Lake III, July 2010.

Rail bed with ties, Gravel Lake III, July 2010.

I was back in the area two years ago in the summer of 2010. This section is interesting in the fact that because it is rather swampy, not many people have travelled it since the rails were removed. There are stories floating around of the locomotive engineers setting the engine on a slow speed and walking beside it on a particularly bad area because there was a tendency to derail. There are others of the train men becoming adept at coaxing the train back on the tracks because it would derail so often. I swear these legends speak about the Gravel Lakes!

Rail bed, Gravel Lake IV, July 2010.

Rail bed, Gravel Lake IV, July 2010.

Anyway, my journey a few years ago was to gather GPS data for the grade as it is difficult to plot its location due to the settling. I found that the water levels were even lower than in previous years, revealing things such as ties that I had never seen before. Many of the ties still had spikes in them! I would imagine that after sitting in the ground for so long, and the area being so wet, that they just left them in place. I took many pictures, but sadly I did not have my video camera with me. Therefore I will be returning to the Gravel Lakes to do just that, maybe even this summer.

Ties with spikes, Gravel Lake IV, July 2010.

Ties with spikes, Gravel Lake IV, July 2010.

Anyway, time to call it quits. I’ll definitely have a lot to say after Sunday’s meeting. Until then…

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Posted by on December 4, 2012 in History, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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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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What exactly is Boxing Day?

I’ve always wondered what Boxing Day was; I had to turn to our friends at Google for the answer. I guess the traditional meaning has long since gone as I certainly don’t have any servants! For those of you not in Canada and unfamiliar with the holiday, Boxing Day is our version of Black Friday. People get up at ridiculous hours to stand in line (apparently the line at Futureshop was 1000+) and try to get some good deals. I hate crowds, especially for shopping, so I never partake in the event. Besides, I’m on vacation and as much of a morning person I am, getting up at some obscene hour to go shopping is not in my plans. However, I may have picked something up during the Christmas Eve online sale, but I won’t spill the beans until it gets here!

I certainly had a good Christmas, though it seems that the day goes by ever more quickly the older I get. Thankfully I did not emerge as bloated and stuffed this year as I normally do, which is perfect for my future diet 🙂 As a parent though, I think that Christmas is more about my kids’ enjoyment. My boys certainly had a great day as Santa brought the Lego they were looking for; the Millennium Falcon for Ethan and Plo Koon’s Starfighter for Noah. There were lots of other presents as well, so they (and dad) have been kept busy playing and building Lego sets. You don’t realize how long it takes it assemble a 1200 piece Coreillan freighter!

Since Christmas has now passed, and today is drawing to a close, it makes me reflect a bit on the next event. Tomorrow is my birthday; it’s funny how when I was younger I was so anxious for the day to arrive and now it’s become such an anti-climactic thing. I suppose that in my less follicly challenged days it was about catching up to my friends, but now it just reminds me that I’m drawing another year closer to 40. However, I must say that I don’t dwell on this or feel old. As my wife’s “boyfriend” Jon Bon would say, I’m “not old, just older!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been taking a bit of a break from railway related matters. Last week I did finish reading the Ole Paulson book, which turned up some really good information. There was also some interesting material on Ole’s emigration from Norway and his experiences in Minnesota. Anyway, although it would not hold up in court, I think I’ve been able to fill in all the pieces of John Paulson’s life. I’ll get back into some research in a few days once things settle down. Next week I’m hoping to get together with Lee in Duluth and then I will be able to resume working on the article.

Until next time.


Posted by on December 26, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Dear Santa…

All I want for Christmas is a marking elf and a research assistant! Sincerely, Dave.

Did I really write to Santa? No I didn’t, but I wish I could! Now, you’re probably wondering why a grown man, a few years removed from his fourth decade, would be doing such a thing? Well, it certainly is a weird request, but boy could I use that elf! There’s only a few days left before Christmas holidays but I’m struggling to clear up a huge back-log of marking that has been accumulating for a while. It’s kinda of a never-ending battle; well, it sort of does end, but that’s usually at the end of a semester.My biggest priority is to return my Grade 12 History Independent Studies, which I promised to have done before the break. I should have them for Thursday. The research assistant is a story for another paragraph.

Speaking of Christmas vacation, it can’t come soon enough; I’m pooped! It has been a crazy last couple of weeks. On top of the marking, I’m still trying to do some railway stuff and plan the trip to Europe. Tonight is the first traveller/parent meeting, and that means I’m a step closer to making the leap across the pond! So I’m really looking forward to the two-week break and a bit of a rest. It’s going to be nice to relax and spend some time with the family, especially with my boys Ethan and Noah. They are getting particularly excited for Santa’s arrival on Sunday; hopefully he brings the Lego they are hoping for!

The railway has been the railway; the usual cycle of research, reading and a bit of writing has continued. Last week I spent some time gleaning the web pages of Google Books for information on the Port Arthur, Duluth and Western. I was able to find quite a bit of new material, particularly on the early history of the railway (1885-1890). I also turned up a bunch of stuff on iron mining and the whole Minnesota connection. It seems as if any free books seem to end at 1890; I don’t know if that is a mandated date because of copyright or what. I’m also curious if there would be more material available if I lived in the US, since Google just launched their whole ebook store here in Canada just over a month ago. There are times where all you get is a “snippet” view, which is like a tantalizing little morsel that leaves you dying to see the rest of the information. Maybe it’s a big conspiracy by Google to tease people like me!

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Ole Paulson’s book which I had been told contained some tidbits of information regarding his brother, John Paulson. It arrived via inter-library loan from St. Olaf College, which was a pleasant surprise since I was told that books could not come from the States. This is not the original book, which was written in Norwegian, but rather a translation that was done in 1981. I’m about two-thirds of the way through the book (it’s not very big, and I’ve skipped over parts), and there are some really interesting sections. The book has also helped to confirm some details in the life of Paulson, whose life story is slowly starting to come together.

This brings me to the second part of my Santa request. As much as I love researching the railway and making discoveries, it would be nice to have someone helping out occasionally. I’ve mentioned before that this has been a particularly busy year and I feel somewhat overwhelmed at times. The process of finding information can be very tedious and time-consuming; I can’t imagine how many hours I’ve spent doing this over the past 17 years. During the break, my wife and I are planning to complete the basement project that we began more than two years ago. The last major task is to install the laminate floor, which should not be too difficult (I hope; I’ve never done it before!) but will limit the time I have to do any railway-related stuff.

Anyway, it’s time to wrap-up this latest ramble. I most likely will post again after Christmas; maybe Santa will visit…though it would be disturbing to see an elf and some person under my tree in the morning. Merry Christmas!

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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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The Polar Express meets LMFAO

What does a children’s book about a train that takes kids to the North Pole on Christmas have to do with an electro pop band from California? Well, nothing really. Talk about two completely unrelated topics; however, they are the things that are currently on my mind. Surely you jest Dave! No, I haven’t started reading kids books on a whim, nor have I changed my musical tastes (LMFAO is not at the top of my playlist on my Ipod or Blackberry). I’ll explain.

The football highlight video finally made it on to the web (for all of an hour) after I made a few tweaks this weekend that were wholeheartedly embraced by the players. This year, the team (or at least the offensive pretty boys…can you tell I coach defence?) adopted the LMFAO song “Sexy and I Know It” as their motto. They even named our offensive spread package after a line in the song, “Wiggle Wiggle.” So, at the behest of the coaches, I added this song to the end of the video. The words have been stuck in my head since. Unfortunately all my efforts have come to naught; when I uploaded the video, the audio was disabled because of a copyright issue. So I deleted it and I’m back to the drawingboard looking for new music.

As for the Polar Express, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the images in the book that I saw while I was reading it to my son Ethan one night. The picture was of the train, pulled by a steam engine, passing through a forest of conifers as it picks up children on its way to the North Pole. It was snowing and dark, and it had an almost mystical sense to it. That image made me think of the railway, and something I seldom envisioned. Most of my exploration of the PD has taken place in the summer, mostly because it makes it a lot more difficult to see things with snow on the ground. I’ve often found myself picturing what it would have looked like in the area that I am exploring when the trains were still running. The image from the book made me think of a forested and remote place, and my mind was immediately drawn to the boundary waters of North and Gunflint Lakes. I visualized a train, similar to the one in the book, gliding along the snow-covered tracks in those early years (1893-94ish) in what was a very lonely, but probably beautiful and breathtaking place. It must have been an amazing sight and I would have loved to see that!

Speaking of the railway, things having been plugging along. The research continues unabated, though nothing substantive in the last few days. Last week my investigation on Alexander McEwen (yes, apparently this is the spelling of his name) continued. I did find some bio material of his life in a June 1891 obituary, but I’m amazed that there is not more information out there on a man who is supposed to have been such a big investor. I posted on Ancestry looking for help, which netted the following response; “type Alexander McEwen 1831-1891 photographs into Google and you’ll get tons of hits.” Ah, thanks, but I posted because I couldn’t find anything on the net! Well, hopefully my plea turns up something.

As for the article, I’ve started clicking a few keys;  I’m officially up to a whopping 128 words! I must say it was a bit of a struggle. I guess I need to spend some time refining my outline to make it more specific. Maybe that will help me focus my thoughts since I have little wiggle room with the word count. It’s really tough trying to figure out what I NEED to include and what I can leave out. Makes for some tough decisions. Hopefully I’ll have time this week to write a bit more.

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Posted by on December 12, 2011 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Google books and the countdown to Christmas

According to the calendar, there’s only 19 more days until Christmas; hopefully I’ll get there! No, this isn’t 2012 on the Mayan calendar, nor do I expect to suddenly keel over at some point in the next few weeks (or at least I hope not). This is more a comment on the current state of things, which is usual given this time of year. September to December in the school year is a long haul, especially with all the things going on ie. football. By this point I’m getting a little burned out, and so are the kids; everyone needs a little break to re-charge the batteries! So, yes I will make it, but three weeks does seem like a long way to go!

Since I’ve now completely finished the football highlight video (going to YouTube next Sunday), I can now concentrate on some railway related matters (if I don’t get sidetracked with other things that is). I’m supposed to be starting to write the article, but the aforementioned tangent has already started. Last Friday I found myself on the internet scrolling through Google books. The net has really revolutionized researching with all the digital content that can now be accessed. While not everything is free or available, it really gives you a lot of direction as to where to look. The amount of scanned books and newspapers is simply astounding; makes it so much easier to find information that otherwise would be inaccessible. Anyway (see, it’s happening again!), I was searching for references to the railway in Google books which turned up some great material. In the 1887 Volume 13 of “Railway World,” I came across a very interesting development regarding the first aborted attempt to build the railway in the fall of that year.

One of the news items describes the commencement of construction, and lists Sir Alexander GaltThomas Marks and a “Alexander McEwin” as promoters. I was already familiar with Galt and Marks, but this was the first I had heard of McEwin, or rather McEwan. Turns out, while biographical facts are sketchy, that Alexander McEwan was some sort of promoter/financier. I haven’t narrowed down a place or date of birth, but working out of London, it seems he was extensively involved in railway and mining projects around North America (Grand Trunk, Reading Railroad). There were a few from the Thunder Bay area, such as Silver Islet, the Huronian Mine and the Jarvis Mine. He apparently died in 1891 in New York, but that’s as far as I’ve got. We’ll see what else I can dig up, as this is quite the interesting and intriguing discovery.

So maybe I will get to that article soon as I attempt to survive the next few weeks. I’ve got a pile of marking to clear up (ugh!) and tomorrow marks the start of winter football work-outs…didn’t the season just end? The more time I have, the more things I have to do! Anyway, hopefully I’ll have a word count at my next update; stay tuned.

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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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December already?

Remember when you were a kid and time seemed to drag? Summer vacation used to last forever and it would take an eternity to get to Christmas; now you blink and it’s gone! That’s how I feel right now. The past three months have been a blur…that probably has more to do with the fact it has been the busiest fall of my life (work, football, kids activities) than anything else. I just remarked to my Grade 11’s that there is only three weeks until Christmas and a few more when we get back; then the semester is done-wow! It gets faster and faster every year. Is it because I’m getting older and older? Second semester always goes by more quickly, especially since the days get longer and the weather gets nicer. This year I’ll also be in Europe for 8 days, so I’m sure that will help expedite things.

Speaking of Europe, I am in the process of organizing the first parent meeting for the trip. I can’t believe that the trip is in about 120 days; April seems so far away, but it will fly by! There is so much planning to do, and unfortunately I am doing it by myself. I do have the benefit of working with teachers our sister school who are travelling with along with us, but since this is my first experience in this type of activity, I am a bit intimidated by the whole process. Oh well, it is a learning curve right now, but I guess I’ll know exactly what to expect when Vimy 2017 rolls around!

On the football front, I’ve almost finished putting together the football highlight video. Well, I should clarify; I’ve pretty much chosen the clips that I want to use for the video, which is about 80% of the job. It does take some time to sort through eight games worth of tape and pick what I’d like to use. Now all I have to is plunk the clips in some sort of order and add some music. I should have it ready to go for next week’s coaches wrap-up.

With that almost out-of-the-way, I can start working on the article. Surprisingly I feel somewhat calm about the whole thing (although part of me is completely petrified). Even though I’ve come up with a rough outline of where I want to go with it, I still need to work out the finer details. I think part of my difficulty might stem from the fact that this article will be written for a non-Canadian publication. There is a certain bit of Canadiana and northern nuances that go along with this railway that our friends south of the border may not understand. Trying to explain that in the limited space of the article might be a bit of an issue, but I guess that will hopefully work itself out.

On the research front, I’ve spent some of my spare time looking up a hodgepodge of things, from newspaper articles to Minnesota individuals. Yesterday I started off looking up Kristian Kortgaard and then somehow ended up on Matthew Walsh. On the positive side, I think I’ve tracked down a photo of Walsh. That would mean I’ve collected photographs of all the promoters of the Paulson Mine and the PAD&W of Minnesota. Now to get my butt in gear and start banging off some book chapters; I think the best place to start (after I write the article) is with silver mining. This is one of the few sections where I think I’ve completed all the necessary research. Should be an interesting Christmas break with the writing and some home renos on tap…I’m sure they will find their way into my musings.

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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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Christmas Trees, Grey Cup, Football Highlights and Pierre Berton

So I spent a very interesting Sunday. After cleaning up some of the snow that fell on Saturday, it was that time of the year to put up the Christmas decorations. Needless to say my boys Ethan and Noah were ecstatic, probably more so about the approach of the season that about the tree(s) coming out. Had I had more time, I would have done my part which is to put up the lights outside. Unfortunately some of my talents were needed inside and I also had plans for later in the day.

The last Sunday in November is traditionally a football day here in Canada as it is playing of the Grey Cup. For those of you outside Canada, football here means the gridiron (not soccer) and the Grey Cup is the Superbowl of the Canadian Football League. This year was the 99th installment of this great tradition and since 1992 my good friend Dave (yes, another Dave; there are three of us!) has hosted a Grey Cup party. Unfortunately my Eskimos were not in the big game, but it is a good excuse to get together with the guys (btw, BC beat Winnipeg 34-23).

Speaking of football, much of my time over the last few days has been devoted to putting together a highlight video of our past season. I use this video for recruiting in the off-season and for promoting our program. I know the kids also love to watch the video; keep an eye out for it in the next week or so on YouTube.

My railway work over the past few days has consisted of a mixed bag of things. In preparation for writing the article, I pulled some material from my files regarding the need for railways in Canada and how it became part of our national identity. I also busted out my copy of Pierre Berton’s The National Dream as it had some great stuff about Canada’s enchantment with railways.

I’ve also spent some time doing a little light research on the net. It is very interesting how you can find yourself bouncing around from subject to subject as you get ideas or some other sort of inspiration. I found myself on Saturday night looking up some material on John Paulson; I was able to find a few good tidbits. First, Paulson was involved in another railway project before his Paulson Mine days called the Lake Superior, Willmar and Dakota Railway (I have no idea if it was ever built). My other interesting development was stumbling upon a website for the Eagle Lake Lutheran Church, where Paulson’s brother Ole was pastor for 11 years. The site talks about how many parishioners moved to the Willmar area from Carver County after the Civil War.

Yesterday I found myself vainly trying to find information about the establishment of the customs house at Leeblain. At the same time this city was being abandoned (trains stopped running to Gunflint in 1903), the Pigeon River Lumber Company was starting its operations at the east end of Gunflint Lake. They built a short logging railroad called the Gunflint and Lake Superior and both US and Canadian governments established customs houses in the area. The office on the Canadian side became know as Leeblain (even though it was several miles away from the original location). It was opened in July 1903 and closed in April 1909 (it was moved to North Lake). Unfortunately I could only find a short excerpt on the net; I’ll need to try to get a copy of the Acts of Parliament for 1909.

There was one curious and unexpected revelation that came from my digging yesterday. I had heard stories that there was a gold exploration north of Leeblain during the 1890’s; I believe it was Justine Kerfoot who first told me about this. I found a report from the Ontario Bureau of Mines that mentions this small development. Maybe at some point I will have to try to locate this shaft, but given its location it might be quite the undertaking. I’ll be sure to write about the mine if I ever get there.

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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing


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