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I can see that on Google Maps?

Why yes you can! If you have no idea what I mean, which is probably the case, I’ll explain later. Patience!

So what’s new Dave? Well, I’ll tell ya. As of today, there are only 8 more sleeps until I’m on a plane headed for France. As you can tell, I’m getting pretty excited. Even though there is a bit of nervousness for this experience, the thought of visiting some new places overrides it all. The only big concern I have so far is the flight. We fly from Thunder Bay to Toronto, then catch a quick connecting flight to Montreal and from there to Paris. We only have a 55 minute layover in Toronto, which is tight, but we are flying Air Canada the whole way so the transfers are all in the same terminals. There is also the benefit of flying with other people, as we are travelling to Europe with our sister high school St. Ignatius. In Toronto I’m assuming we’ll meet up with the third group that is on tour with us, a school from St. Catherines.

I guess the biggest concern right now is some of the labour issues ongoing with Air Canada; fingers crossed I’m hoping all will be okay! I know that the kids are getting pretty pumped as well and part of my excitement stems from their enthusiasm. It will be amazing to experience the history we talk about in the classroom. From what I’ve heard, there will be over 150 schools from across Canada converging on Vimy Ridge on April 9th. Representatives of the government will be attendance, as well as His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet the GG!

On the railway front, I finally have finished my half of the Minnesota History article. It only took me two months, but I’m pretty proud of myself. There are still some tweaks that need to be made, but there’s nothing major left to do. The final word count is 3200, which is over my limit, but there is so much to talk about. I’m not sure how things will make it through the revision process, but I guess I will find out. Not having written anything of this nature does make me a bit nervous, as you do worry how people will receive your abilities and writing style. It will probably be fine, but I’ll be very happy when it makes it to print!

So, the Google Maps thing. I happened to be looking on Google Earth and noticed that they updated some of their maps of the area. Google Earth/Maps has been great in the past for helping me locate the railway and plot the data to my GPS, especially along areas like the Whitefish River that have been eroded over the years. I want to hike the area around Hymers this summer, so I thought, “hey, what if I do an overlay and see how they match?” Well, it isn’t the first time that I’ve tinkered around with Google Earth and map overlays, but probably the most successful I’ve been at it. Some of you may be baffled, so I’ll explain.

Map overlay of the Hymers-Sellars area.

Google Earth has a feature that allows you to overlay or superimpose scans of paper maps onto the satellite photos. It does take a bit of work, as you have to line up key geographic features between the two, but once it’s done it yields awesome results, especially if you are doing historical research.

So I took a copy of the 1960 Geological map of the Hymers-Sellars area, scanned it and did the overlay. It is a good quality map and lined up quite easily. I was amazed when I began playing with the transparency of the map and comparing the current topography with the one from 52 years ago…what a difference! The technology certainly gives you an appreciation of the forces of nature and changes it undergoes. The Whitefish River has changed its course significantly and it makes me wonder how things looked when the railway was built in the early 1890’s. When I hiked the railway back in the 90’s I would often lose the grade where it had been eroded by the river; now with this overlay I can mark the data points on my GPS and hopefully track the railway without any complications. I’ll be trying this overlay with other map areas in the future.

The main reason why I was playing with the maps was due to a request I received last week via email. The Municipality of Oliver-Paipoonge is looking into creating some recreational trails within their boundaries and contracted a landscape architecture firm to do some consultations. I was contacted by a gentleman at the firm who saw some of my photos on Google Earth and was looking for more information about the railway and the old grade. I dug up some of my maps of the railway for his research, and that got me looking at them. You know the rest of the story.  I will be attending the open house meeting on the trails that is being held at the Murillo Town Complex (4569 Oliver Rd) tomorrow from 4-8pm as the architects have some questions for me.

Last tracks of the PAD&W Railway, Rosslyn, ON.

Now because of the meeting and the recent mild weather we have been experiencing, I decided to take a little

drive yesterday (though the warm temps seemed to have disappeared). The real motivator however was the 74th anniversary of the last train run on the railway. On March 24, 1938 engineers discovered that several bridges near Hymers had been weakened by high water on the Whitefish River. No passenger trains would ever travel the rails after that day. Faced with increasing competition from buses and trucks, CN had lost $79,000 over the two previous years. The line was probably in poor shape due to years of neglect so the decision was made to abandon it in October. The rails were taken up the next year.

Tracks and switch, Rosslyn, ON.

I drove to Twin City Crossroads, which is just east of the village of Rosslyn. Here can be found the last remaining tracks of the railway. They are not the original steel (dated 1903), as they were replaced when Canadian Northern took over in 1899. However, they are the closest one can come to the old railway. After photographing the tracks, I drove further west, past Rosslyn to the site of the old Brick Plant. More tracks can be found here, along with a switch that allowed rail cars onto the factory spur. From there the rail bed continues west, just south of Rosslyn Road until you reach the intersection of Fraser Rd, at which point the road becomes Harstone Drive and sits directly atop the grade. I went about 2km west, to where there was a spur that ran to the Stanley Ballast Pit. I think I found the spur, but it was too wet and cool to do any real exploration.

Anyway, until next week…

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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Hiking, Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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Technology: The good, the bad…

The ugly? Haha. I think this title appropriately sums up the week I’ve had and how technology has flavoured it, both positively and negatively.

I always say that technology is a double-edged sword; great when it works and a pain when it doesn’t (I guess so does everyone else). I experienced both, but it’s funny that technology usually picks the worse time to fail. For me it was on Thursday, which was the first day of semester 1 exams. For the last few years I have been using response technology on the multiple choice sections of my exams. While there is some inherent laziness, since I do not have to mark, the “clickers” allow me to analyze the data and use it to improve my teaching/questioning. Last year I switched to a new system, the CPS Pulse by eInstruction. Everything went fine, as did the trial run I did on the Monday before the exam. However, when my period 1 class arrived (Grade 10 Canadian History, Academic/AP split), the program would crash when I tried to activate it. After many restarts and failures, I told the students to go to plan “B” and use the answer sheet. Shortly thereafter, it started working. ????? There were a few choice words muttered to myself but I was glad it was working (worked fine for the most part for the next 2 exams).

On the upside, there were some great things that technology did for me on the research front. I have spoken before about how great the digitization of old books has been and the impact it has had on researchers like myself.  This past week has been a flurry of discoveries, which unfortunately had an impact on the article writing I was supposed to do (sorry Lee). However, I could not resist the temptation to continuing digging, which is clearly more my forte than writing. I began probing a site that I had visited before, but now I’ve realized that there is way more material available than I initially thought. Hathi Trust has been an absolute gold mine of information and I continue to find more and more material (I was just on it prior to writing this and looking up Poor’s and Moody’s Railroad Manuals). You must download each page individually, but that isn’t such a terrible problem since you never really need more than a few pages from each book or article. Everything has not been entirely perfect, as there are a few sources that are not available even in a digital format. Take for example the 1897, Volume 67 issue of Railway News which has some very important information. It cannot be downloaded and the closest library that has copies is in Kansas City (1250km from my house in case you’re wondering). I’ve tried to get a copy from that library, which hopefully works.

The one by-product of all this new research is that it has left me with stacks of paper that needed to be properly filed. They have been accumulating for a few months now and on the weekend I decided it was time to organize it all. I ended up with 21 piles of paper; I couldn’t resist taking a photo. It started me thinking about the time and money I’ve devoted to this project. There are hours on the internet, in the library and in particular tromping through the bush in the heat and bugs doing field work. Cost? I can’t even begin to calculate what I’ve spent on printing, gas and in the “old” days postage and film developing. Some people golf, some people drink…I research a “dead” railway (that’s what my wife calls it). We all have our vices right?

So speaking of this vice of mine, I finally decided to try to complete some of the critical research that needs to be done before I can contemplate any real writing. For years I have been making plans to visit the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa where some of the most important railway files are located. I also need to go back to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto and re-examine some of the material I looked at in 1999. I am very fortunate that my job allows me to take a deferred salary leave and pursue this goal. Therefore, if everything goes smoothly, I will be off from February to September 2016! I know it is a long way away, but I’m sort of excited already. Now the big decision is going to be how many days do I need in each city?

I guess the last thing I will leave off with this week is the fact that there are some really great people who share my interest in the railway. In the past few weeks I have received some awesome pictures of the railway and some of its associated history. First was a picture from Brett showing an aerial view of Trestle Bay on North Lake, where you can clearly see the pilings left from when the 1000 foot bridge burned c.1909. Today it was a series of pictures from Don of the old Bishop’s property also on North Lake. North Lake is a bit of special place for me as it was where I first encountered the railway way back in 1990. The photos showed the old Bishop’s cabin where I stayed on my first moose hunting trip. It also makes me think about how fragile history is and how quickly it moves and changes. Maybe this is what motivates and drives me; just as these gentlemen have shared history with me, I want to share history with others. Until next week…

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Miscellaneous, Research, Writing

 

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