No, this isn’t about London or Paris, and definitely not about the French Revolution; it’s a little closer to home. Likewise, I’m certainly no Charles Dickens or anything close to it. I fancy myself more like Hemingway haha! This story however, does have a historical flare to it, I guess like everything I write about. It is a bit of an adventure and deals with new discoveries, at least on my part. I doubt there will be a TV adaptation…I know, it would make for a “great” story.
Hey kids, it’s summertime! Well, I guess summer started a few weeks ago, but as this is my first post since that time, I do need to point it out. It has been a over month already since my last post and I can’t believe that much time has passed by; summer is flying by! I am doing my best to make the most of it considering the craziness of this time and the uncertainty of what the future brings. I don’t even want to think about what fall in the classroom is going to look like.
Thankfully, Mother Nature has been mostly cooperative. While we’ve seen some unsettled weather in the last week, it has mostly been great. Fairly dry and very warm; in fact, we had some extremely warm weather a few weeks ago where the temperatures were over 30 Celsius. It’s still been warm, but we’ve had showers and thunderstorms thrown into to mix since then that make things a little more interesting. Hopefully, these warm days continue for the rest of the month and into August. We’ve been spending most of our time out at camp where we can relax a bit more and cool off in the lake.
In addition to relaxing (and working a lot) at camp, I’ve been going on hiking trips as often as I can. Two were on the Grand Trunk, and one on the Canadian Northern, though with all the time spent at camp, there will be more Canadian Northern hikes in the future. It’s been great to get out, though the bugs have made things a little more challenging that usual. However, it’s all been offset by the amazing discoveries and scenery I’ve been able to take in.
My first hike after the last post took on part of the Grand Trunk Pacific between Ellis and Flett Stations. I was one of the longer hikes I’ve attempted, but well worth it. My journey started on Finmark/Flett Road, just east of Flett Station and it took my about 8km east to Ellis Road and back. There were some remarkable sights, including a number of huge rock cuts and a very unusual concrete culvert over Strawberry Creek. The only downside was the bugs; I was absolutely eaten alive by deer flies, particularly on my head through the holes in my bike helmet. A small price to pay for the experience, I guess.
The next trip was less vigorous, but certainly strenuous given the temperatures that day. We departed for camp on a one hour and twenty-minute ride to the northeast to Macdiarmid, Ontario, on the former Canadian Northern line. I had never been to this spot before, and in fact had only been up the stretch of road it is located on once (Highway 11). Our goal (the boys came with me that day) was to explore something that I had been looking forward to seeing for quite some time, which was the railway tunnel known as the Madiarmid or Jumbo’s Cove Tunnel. It is one of the few railway tunnels in the area, and I believe the longest at over 1000 feet.
After a very picturesque drive along the Nipigon River and Orient Bay of Lake Nipigon, we arrived at our destination, which was a dirt access road a few hundred metres from the tunnel. We walked in from the highway and could see the tunnel right away to the north. Soon we were at the entrance and proceeded through its length toward the northern portal. Other than its length, this tunnel is unique as it is partially lined with concrete at intervals inside its cavernous expanse. From what I could see, with reinforcing steel jutting from the complete sections of concrete, the entire length was supposed to be lined but was never completed. It does give it a rather interesting appearance. Railway ties still sit in their place throughout the length of the tunnel.
After completing our exploration of the tunnel, we headed south for about 700 metres to where the grade crossed over the Postagoni River on a high bridge. This structure, built in 1924 to replace a previous wood trestle, is 285 feet long and 45 feet high. The temperature was starting to climb quickly, so we didn’t dwell too long, but we spent enough time to check out both ends of the bridge as well as the area next to the river. The views from the bridge (which was rather interesting walking across…much like the bridge in the previous post) of Lake Nipigon and Orient Bay were spectacular. It must have been quite interesting from the train!
A week later I was back at it, this time on the complete opposite end of the district on the GTP. This “hike and bike” as I call them was going to be tough, as it was going to a 10km trip each way. The boys were going to come along again on this trip, and I was bracing myself for a bevy of complaints about how far and how boring it was. I won’t ever tell them, but their complaints make the journey a little more entertaining.
So the plan was to pick up from the last hike at Finmark/Flett Road and push northwest, past the station at Flett to a bridge crossing just east of Griff Station. There was a thunderstorm the night before, so the air was hot and very humid that morning. After a short ride, we arrived at the first point of interest, which was another tunnel. The Flett Tunnel is a very popular hiking spot and probably the most visited abandoned railway location in the area. Unlike the Macdiarmid Tunnel, I had been to this one before, back in 1996…if I remember correctly. I might be hazy on the exact year, but I recall the tunnel well and remember ice still in the tunnel months after it had disappeared from the ground. It’s just over 600 feet long and has a much more rough appearance, with no concrete on the inside.
Past the tunnel, there are numerous large rock cuts that made the journey very interesting. In one spot, I was expecting to see (hopefully) another concrete culvert. What I found was something far more unique. Very strangely, the railway engineers re-routed a creek and blasted a culvert out of solid rock, the likes of which I have never seen.
The railway grade in this area is in rough shape, as it was used a logging road for many years. There were many large puddles in some of the rock cuts, which made our journey a bit challenging at times. It even ended our ride short of the planned destination, as several large puddles about 500 metres from the bridge were unnavigable by bike, so I had to walk the last bit. I was hoping this bridge over the Oskondaga River was another concrete structure like the one over Strawberry Creek, but it was something different, a bridge I had never seen before. Turns out it is a Ballasted Through Plate Girder span bridge. Who knew!
My last bit of railway news relates to those North Lake Station documents I bought off ebay. One of my goals was to have them properly preserved and accessible at the Thunder Bay Museum. After reaching out to the museum, I was able to arrange to present them to Curator Michael DeJong. There they will form the first part of a historical fond of my research files, which will eventually all find their way to the museum. I don’t often feel that I do a ton of things right, but this one gives me warm and fuzzy feelings!
Anyway, it’s time to move along. I already have new hikes to write about and even more on the drawing board. I’ll be back soon enough with all the latest info. until then…