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The year it wouldn’t stop snowing…

The year it wouldn’t stop snowing…

Some years it feels as though winter will never end. Some years it doesn’t. Living in northern Ontario you get used to cold weather and long winters. Seasons like spring and summer are a welcome respite that people long for. When they don’t arrive when they’re supposed to, it feels like a gigantic gut punch. This year put us down for the count.

Hey kids, I’m finally back. I know I say that literally every time I write this blog, but this time I not lying. This has been the longest stretch that I have not had a written post since I started this site back in 2011, as it’s been over 13 months. I know, I’ve been very remiss. My excuse? I’ve been busy? Never heard that one before, right? The last year has been rather crazy, especially the last number of months. Between Covid and everything else going on, I just haven’t been inspired to write. And when I am and have the time, I get distracted with something and then forget. My apologies!

So, one of the things that really messed with me was the ever-changing schedule with school because of Covid. We were in person, then online, then at home…it was quite the gong show! Thankfully I’ve had some time to recuperate. In February, my wife and I started another leave (sabbatical if you will) which will last until September. On our last one in 2016, we took time to travel with our kids and tend to projects around the house and camp. This time has been rather different, with Covid and the War in Ukraine influencing our plans. We did do a lot of work around the house, and I did manage to get some railway work in, which I’ll talk about later. As we roll further into spring, I can finally get out to do some hiking which I’ve been waiting patiently (or more correctly very impatiently) for.

Speaking of spring, I certainly have to have a big rant about the weather. I usually do, but this time it’s the real deal. We had, as far as I can remember, the worst winter and spring ever. Literally! After a relatively mild start to winter, we got hit with a storm right after Christmas and it just didn’t stop. It was almost one snowstorm after another, and when it wasn’t snowing, it was cold. Usually we have periods where it warms up at points in January and February, but that never happened. When March rolled around, there was hope that things would improve. Mother Nature teased us with a few days of warm temperatures during the March break, but then quickly slapped us back into reality. The next week we were hammered by a storm that dropped 51 centimetres of snow (at my house at least). Every week after that for the next month, we got snow mid-week. We broke the record for the most snow on the ground at this time of the year since they started recording that data in 1955. This past week the weather has finally started to turn with sun and temperatures near normal. A lot of the snow has gone, but there are still patches hanging around where it was deep or shaded.

Early spring storm, March 2022.
May 2022.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing about the snow situation at camp. I’m actually writing this as I spend my first weekend out here and while there’s been a lot of melt, there’s still a ton of snow. I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow at this time of the year. We have a basement door that opens out to the lake side and it is still blocked by a snow drift 5 feet high. I was hoping to dig the door out this weekend but it will have to wait a bit. I even had to bring my bike inside the camp because there’s a drift about the same size blocking access to one of the sheds here that I store my bike in. They are calling for highs approaching or over 20 celsius this week, so with any luck it will put a dent in all this snow.

Camp, May 2022.
Camp, May 2022.

One of the things that I’ve been doing to occupy my time since I can get out hiking has been some visits to the Thunder Bay Museum to do some research. My book on the Pigeon River Lumber/Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad is still way behind schedule due to all those Covid issues, but I’m trying get it finished. I was able to locate information to complete the end of the book, and hopefully next year I can get the visit to the Archives of Ontario and the Minnesota field work done. I need to win the lottery and do this full time!

Alright, lets get to meat and potatoes as they say. As I mentioned earlier I’ve been dying to get out hiking and I’m not kidding. Not to make light of something like this, but I really think that I was suffering from some depression being cooped up in the house. Last year I did my first hike on April 15th. This year we’re about 3 weeks behind and I didn’t do my first hike until May 4th. I feel like I’m under the gun because I am trying to get in as many hikes as I can before the leaves come out.

I had a crazy hiking season last year. I biked and walked 350 kilometres, drove 12,000 kilometres to those hikes and created 134 videos. There was definitely a lot to see and do, especially since I wanted to really work in the drone I bought. With that in mind, one of my biggest projects was a very ambitious video on the Blende River Viaduct, which most people know as the Pass Lake Trestle. It’s just a short distance from camp, so it was easy to make numerous visits. Those trips produced some great photos and a video that I am very proud of. You can see more of my videos on my YouTube Channel.

Viaduct, August 2021.
Viaduct, October 2021.
Viaduct, October 2021.
Viaduct, March 2022.

This year will be less ambitious, but still there’s a lot planned. My goal is to finish exploring the Kinghorn, of which I’ve covered about 80% of its nearly 200 miles. I also want to redo certain sections that I did back in 2020 because my knowledge of the line has increased greatly since that time. The big highlights will be two trips, one to Jellicoe later this month and a week-long one in August to Geraldton. Fingers crossed Mother Nature cooperates!

Anywho, it’s time to get rolling. I’ll try to write again soon, but I can’t make any promises. Hopefully it won’t be May of 2023! Until then…

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2022 in Hiking, History, Railway, Writing

 

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Extra Credit IX “GPS”

Extra Credit is video series that examines topics related to history in the Thunder Bay District and exploring that history.

The Global Positioning System has revolutionized many areas, including history and hiking. My experience with GPS dates back over 20 years and first started as a school curriculum requirement. Join me as I talk about my GPS receiver and head outdoors along the former Kinghorn rail line for the first ever field segment of Extra Credit.

*The current comparable Garmin model is the eTrex 32x.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2022 in Hiking, History, Railway, Video

 

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Feature Friday January 14 2022

Feature Friday


Then and now photos of the former Northern Empire Gold mine and railway line northeast of the community of Beardmore, ON. The first was taken in the 1930s when the mine went into operation looking east along the grade. The mine produced nearly 150,000 ounces of gold from 1934 to 1941.


The second photo was taken in May 2021 looking west at the remains of the concrete foundations. The mine was located at Milepost 19.8 of the then Canadian National Railways Dorion Subdivision (MP 69.5 of the later CN Kinghorn Subdivision).

Northern Empire Mine Mill, 1930s.
Northern Empire Gold Mine, May 2021.
 
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Posted by on January 14, 2022 in History, Railway

 

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Extra Credit VIII “Winter Hiking”

Extra Credit is video series that examines topics related to history in the Thunder Bay District and exploring that history.

Do you hike in the winter? For me, it isn’t my favourite time of the year to get out, enjoy the fresh air and explore, but since we get several months of it around here, you have to roll with what you get. So here are a few of my gear suggestions of make your winter adventure potentially more enjoyable.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2021 in Hiking, Railway, Video

 

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A new year, a hope!

A new year, a hope!

Almost sounds like it would be a title for a great movie doesn’t it? I should come up with a plot and write a movie based on it don’t you think? Maybe it would make me famous and rich, and then I could do all my history stuff fulltime. Why didn’t I think of this earlier? Talk about completely missing the ship or what!

Hey kids, I’m back! I know, I know, I was supposed to be back a month ago, but I have an excuse…I was busy. Never heard that one before, right? It’s a well-worn rationalization, but that’s all I got. In all honesty, I haven’t been my usual insanely busy self, but rather it’s how I’ve chosen to spend my time. I have not been writing because I’ve been working away on this website. There are no dramatic changes, but there’s been some important updates to some the sections and the menus. Take a look around!

I guess I would be remiss if I did not wish everyone a Happy 2021! I don’t even have to say how challenging the last year was and how hopeful the entire population of the planet is for things to improve moving forward. Speaking of the current situation, myself and a good chunk of the population of the province of Ontario find ourselves at home under lockdown. This latest stay at home order began December 26th, and lasts, at least for us in the northern part of the province, until January 11th. This means, like in the spring, I am teaching from home. The distinction this time however is that we’re expected to deliver “synchronous” learning, that is teaching real time. It’s been going well, though it is somewhat weird teaching from my dining room dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Our internet connection is taking a beating as well, with two teachers and two kids working from home. We’ll be back in the classroom soon, but it’s doubtful the Covid restrictions will end anytime soon.

So, it is January if you’ve lost track of time like many have. That means we’re well into winter and that means it’s usually time for a rant about the weather. However, I really don’t have much to say. What, really? I know, shocking isn’t it? Well, truth be told it hasn’t been too bad. In my last post I complained about some early snow, but after that things settled down and then some. We had some fantastic weather in November and December, including a record breaking +20C day in in the former. Since then it’s been seasonal or above seasonal, with only 10cm or so of snow. We’ll see what the rest of winter has in store for us…hopefully we don’t pay for it in the spring and summer. I have a lot of hiking to do!

With the continued Covid issues, work to complete my book on the Pigeon River Lumber Company and its operations at Gunflint Lake continue to sit in a holding pattern. There are a few things I’ll be working on in the next few months, but the really important stuff that needs to happen, some field work in Minnesota and a trip to the Archives of Ontario in Toronto, have to continue to wait. It is very frustrating, since I’d like to move on from this project, even though it has been very enjoyable. I have some other plans, but I don’t want to bounce around too much without fully completing this first. I guess we’ll see how things pan out in the next year.

In my last post, when I was complaining about the weather, I mentioned that I was doubtful I’d be able to squeeze in any more hikes, but fortunately the weather gods took pity on me. The warm up we had after that early snowfall allowed me to complete two more hikes, but that was not the end of it. Although I decided to put the bike away until spring, I figured why stop exploring? With that in mind, I did 6 more “mini” hikes sans bicycle before the end of the year, plus a few more since the new year started. I consider these to be reconnaissance for the real explorations, or using the proper Commonwealth term, a “recce” (pronounced rekke). One of the most time-consuming tasks of my hikes is stopping to check out spots and then entering the data into my GPS. This way, most of that work is now out of the way and I can then concentrate more on the photo and video part. I’m not the biggest fan of winter, but if I have to be outside to get some fresh air and exercise, why not do it on a railway line?

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Wolf River Bridge, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Bridge, October 2020.

Insulator, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Rails, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, October 2020.

Coldwater Creek Bridge, October 2020.

Flanger sign, October 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Telegraph pole, November 2020.

Luna, November 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Switch, November 2020.

Rails, November 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, November 2020.

Mackenzie River Bridge, November 2020.

Culvert, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Culverts, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Crossing sign, December 2020.

CNoR/CN grade, December 2020.

Selfie, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

CNoR/CN grade, January 2021.

Those extra hikes I was able to complete in the fall has helped me to almost complete my documentation from Red Rock to Pass Lake. There is one section left to do around Ancliff Station, while I would like to redo 3 sections from Pearl to Pass Lake since they were not done with the full bike effect. Meanwhile, those “recces,” including one at Ancliff, has prepared me to cover the reminder of the line right up to the outskirts of Thunder Bay. All told I travelled nearly 5700 kilometres and recorded over 800 minutes of video…I have no idea how many photos in the process. Probably way too many!

I have a very ambitious 2021 hiking season laid out, as I hope to get in at least 19 separate hikes. Some of these will take me much farther out to the east on the line, particularly around places like Macdiarmid, Beardmore and Jellicoe. One of the more interesting ones will be around Macdiarmid and the large tunnel just south of the community. A few weeks back I learned in a social media post that there were purportedly workers killed while constructing the tunnel; intrigued, I began to dig into the circumstances. As it turns out, the rumours were correct, and the workers were even buried nearby. I plan to incorporate this tragic event into my videos, which adds a very important human and personal element to the story.

Anyway, it’s time to move on. I’ll try to get back a little sooner next time, but I make no promises! Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2021 in Hiking, History, Railway

 

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I didn’t know it would take this long!

I didn’t know it would take this long!

Have you ever started on something and thought “this is a piece of cake; I’ll be done in no time”? We’ve all be there before, right? Sometimes the task is small, you know, like making dinner or cleaning the house; other times, it’s a big, complex project like renovating a room or say writing a book. Wait, what? Writing a book? Who casually writes a book? Haha, I guess the percentages of people doing renos is much higher than people writing a book. Are there bonus points for doing both? Asking for a friend.

Hey kids, I’m (finally) back. I know I said in my last post I’d be back before Christmas and well, it’s now the end of January. My bad? I guess it’s the difference between aspirations and reality. I really did intend to post before Christmas and then, as usual, life gets in the way. Hey, I’m busy guy…I’m writing a book and doing some renovations. Okay, I’ll be honest, there isn’t a ton of work with the renos, but I have been doing a lot of work on the book. That’s a topic for later though.

So, if it’s the end of January, that means I’m in a bit of a down time. What does that mean? Well, it means that the first semester is almost over and we’re gearing up for the second half of the year. The good news is that, as JBJ would say, “we’re halfway there;” bad news is that there is still half a year to go. Oh well, we’re on what I call the downward slide. Second semester always goes faster, the days are getting longer, and winter will, eventually, be over. Yay!

Speaking of the weather, no post would be complete without some mention (or rant) about it. Funny thing is that there isn’t too much to complain about. The winter so far, fingers crossed, hasn’t been too bad. We haven’t had very many cold days, and it’s been fairly mild at times. The only issue is that we’ve had quite a bit of snow; according to the data there is officially 35cm of snow on the ground, but some areas are reporting upwards of 80cm. I’d say my house is somewhere in between, probably around 60cm. I’m getting rather tired of cleaning snow, but I decided to live here right?

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Winter snowfall, January 2020.

Alright, so what’s going on with this book Dave? Well, a lot actually…thanks for asking. When we last left off, I mentioned that I would be starting to write again soon. And write I did, maybe not necessarily by word count, but certainly in reorganization and revising. When I started this project back in 2014, never in a million years did I think I’d be at it 6 years later (and counting). This was supposed to be a short paper, like my first published work on the ghost town of Leeblain. Boy did it ever blow up! The scary thing is that I’m just supposed to be writing, not digging up new information. However, since I’ve never done this before, I have no idea of how it works.

If you’re wondering why I’m still gleaning the interwebs for information, it has come out of the fact that I’ve had to re-jiggle my chapters slightly and add to what I wanted to discuss in the book. I must admit I’m not really sad or upset about this; I love doing research. I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and testing my ability to find new material. It can be very frustrating, tedious and expensive. I’ve requested documents from the Minnesota Historical Society, and Library and Archives Canada, plus from the Wisconsin Historical Society if they can turn anything up. I have no idea what I’ve spent on this project in these six years, but it’s now in the thousands. Ya, I know, I’m crazy.

Piles of documents, January 2020.

Now speaking of expenses, I still have two trips (or more) that I need to undertake to finish this odyssey. The first is to Toronto, where I will need to visit the Archives of Ontario to find information about timber licenses and the incorporation of a company, the Arrow River & Tributaries Boom & Slide. My wife has bought tickets to see Bon Jovi on July 10th, so it will be somewhere around that time. Thankfully my brother lives in Toronto, so we have a place to stay while we’re there. Hopefully I can find all the material I need.

My second trip is one that I’ve discussed several times in the past and was actually supposed to happen in October. If you read my last post, I always travel to Gunflint for Canadian Thanksgiving with the boys. One of the big goals for the trip, one which I was very excited for, was the planned visit to Camp 8 with USFS archaeologist Greg Heide. Unfortunately, it snowed that weekend, which forced us to postpone until this spring. May cannot come soon enough! It is so important to the book to get some professional exploration of the site, which has already and might continue to provide a treasure trove of information. Hopefully the weather cooperates this time!

Anyway, I better get moving; there are always a million things to do around here. I’ll be back as soon as I can with the latest updates. Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2020 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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I want to fly away…

Well, not physically, because that’s impossible, but you get the idea. I would certainly love to go anywhere I please, at any time, but I’ll guess we’ll just have to leave that to Lenny. In any case, I am thankful I will be able to get away for a little while.

Hey, it’s March kids! That means we’re weeks away from “spring,” that is if it ever shows up. It obviously will, I’m just being facetious, but the point is that it can’t come soon enough. March also means that we’re on the downward slide in the school year, and before we know it, it will be June. Things are going well in that respect, just as usual, I’m quite busy.

Since I brought it up, I might as well talk about the weather, especially as I never do that! The weather has been, you know, not great. Better than it was in the last post, but still not what it should be. It’s still cold outside, but you can see that the seasons are changing. The days are getting longer, and even when it’s crisp, you can feel the warmth of the sun. According to the meteorologists, the temperature should start moderating this weekend and be above zero by next week. The only concern is that if it warms too quick, with all the snow we have, it might get a bit soggy .

Late winter snow, March 2019.

So I’m still plugging away on the railway front. Progress is slow but steady, and I am now approaching 50,000 words in the book. Chapter 13 is mostly complete, save for a few tweaks, so that just leaves 1, 10 and 14 that require some work. I should be able to finish Chapter 14 this spring, so with any luck I’ll be done everything by next winter. As I’ve described before, everything depends on when I can get to Toronto and get more detailed information on Camp 8.

Alright, so let’s fly away shall we? I am mere days away from another adventure in Europe. I described our journey in my last post, but now a few days out, it all seems very real. I know the kids are super excited, and they should be. I’ve been to most of these places before, save for Berlin and some parts of the Netherlands, but likely most have never been overseas. As a teacher, this is the best part for me, to see them experience the history and culture of another part of the world. The only thing that concerns me is the weather (ya, I know, shocker). Looking ahead, it seems that in contrast to some of our previous trips, the weather is not going to be 100% cooperative. Most days call for cloudy/showery conditions, which is not ideal, but we’ll have to make the best of it. Showers aren’t too bad, but if it decides to rain all day that will put a damper on things.

We now for the most part have our detailed itinerary. The one thing that amazes me is that even though I’ve been to some of places before, we always stay in a different town or part of the city. It gives you a different perspective on things and keeps it fresh. Also, after the last tour in 2017, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, it will be nice with a lot less Canadian tourists running around. Many of the places we visited we quite busy, which made it hard to linger and get a real good look around. That was case with Vimy; while the ceremony was great to be a part of, we really didn’t have a chance to see the memorial or the park. I know my fellow chaperones are looking forward to the opportunity.

St. Pats group, April 2017.

If you’d like to follow us around (well, other than this blog), you can do so on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Anyway, I better get going as there is still a ton to do before we leave. Right now I need to set up all the blog posts for the trip, so it’s easier to get everything going once the time comes. I’ll be back in a few days with the first post from the trip. Until then…

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2019 in History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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I’ve been here a long time!

I’ve been here a long time!

It amazes me how fast time goes by. Do you ever pause and go “it’s been that long?” You know, when you feel you just started something the other day, whatever it is, and it’s actually been years or decades? It definitely has a way of making you feel old, especially when you add up all the years.

Hey kids, it’s only February…ugh! Ya, it’s not a particularly optimistic start, but it’s been a long few months. Since it is the second month of 2019, it means that we’ve started the new semester. That puts us that much closer to end of the school year, which is great, but I’m really tired. I can’t muster the enthusiasm right now. It’s not that there anything particularly wrong, just a general malaise. The classes are good, but there’s seems to be a lot on my plate right now. I’m sure it will look up soon enough.

On a related note, this month I am celebrating my 20th anniversary as a full-time teacher. Yup, I was hired back in February 1999…I just can’t believe how quickly those years have flown by! Twenty years is a long time, a quarter of most people’s lives; I guess I am officially old. What makes it even more incredible, is that I work at the same high school I attended. I started there in 1988 (my Grade 9 year was at the same school, just in a different building…long story) and continued for the next 4 years. I did a placement there while in teachers college, and then returned on a contract in the fall of 1998. So what it all means, which I pointed out to my students, was that I’ve spent nearly 25 of the past 30 years in the same building. I’ve literally never left high school!

One of the things that has contributed to my sour mood is the weather. Yup, I’m back on the weather train again. If you read my last post, things were decent until the end of December. We had a big storm that I detailed in that post, and then things seemed to be okay for a week or so. That’s when things went off the proverbial rails (pardon the pun). The temperatures plunged to into the ridiculous range, where it was even difficult to leave the house. Then it got warmer, but the snows returned, resulting in copious amounts of the white stuff on the ground. I don’t think we’ve had this much snow in five years. At camp, there is even more snow, more than I remember in 2014. Shovelling a path to the house left something resembling the front-line trenches of WWI. Stupid Polar Vortex and climate change!

Winter snowfall, February 2019.

Polar Vortex temperatures, January 2019.

Camp snow, February 2019.

So in less than a month I will be able to hopefully escape this situation with another trip to Europe. This will be my fourth trip with students from the school and I am really looking forward to it. Right now it might not appear that way, as I am struggling to get all the last little details taken care of. This excursion, known as From Vimy to Juno: History of Canada in the World Wars, will take our group to similar places that we’ve been in the past, such as Amsterdam, Ypres, Vimy, Juno Beach and Paris. The exception this time will be a couple days in Berlin, including a visit to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and the eastern part of the Netherlands. We will be paying tribute to fallen soldiers at the Groesbeek and Beny sur Mer Canadian War Cemeteries. As I the past, I will be hijacking the blog to chronicle our journey.

Despite all the craziness, I have been very busy on the railway front (though I have been on a little break for the past week). Working diligently for the past two months, I’m trying to get as much of my book done as possible, which has gone in fits and starts. Writing is not always easy; sometimes the biggest challenge is not the actual words themselves, but organizing all the information, especially when you realize you’re missing some information. I’ve had to do some additional research, and I’m also going to have to go to Toronto to look through some files at the Archives of Ontario…again. This is on top of further archaeological efforts at the site of Camp 8 in Minnesota, hopefully with the assistance of the US Forest Service.

In any case, I’m now over 46,000 words organized into 14 chapters. Most chapters are done, save for some minor tweaks, while 1, 10, 13 and 14 still need varying degrees of work. The last two should be done in the coming months, while the first requires the material from the archives and ten is the chapter on Camp 8. With any luck it will be completed at this time next year, but that hinges on what happens with the field work. I am quite adamant about including detailed information about one of the best preserved logging camps in Minnesota, but obtaining assistance from the USFS is out of my hands and might require me to wait until they have the time and funds.

Book work, February 2019.

Well, it’s time to move along. I’ll be back in early March, right before I leave for Europe, hopefully in a better mood. Until then…

 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2019 in History, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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The best birthday present ever!

The best birthday present ever!

You know, when you reach a certain age you don’t really look forward to birthdays anymore. There are no important milestones left, only ones that remind you that you are getting old. Despite all of that, it is nice to spend time with family and at least try to celebrate. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and get an unexpected gift. Boy did I get one this year!

It’s Christmas vacation kids! What a welcome break in the midst of chaos. I really needed the holiday…it was a bit of burnout city for me. The kids were pretty much finished too. By this time of the year they have no focus or attention and trying to get them to do anything is nearly impossible. One week has already flown by, but it with Christmas out of the way things are a little less hectic.

Mid-month snow, December 2018.

View from the mountain, December 2018.

View from the mountain, December 2018.

View from the mountain, December 2018.

So, I can’t not write this blog without making a comment about the weather, which surprisingly has been fairly subdued. Well, until a few days ago that is. Up until the 27th, we didn’t have a lot of snow and it’s been mild. They predicted a major snowstorm for right after Christmas and this time they weren’t wrong; it was quite the dump! We received more than 30cm of the white stuff and of course the temperature dropped the next day. That left me the best birthday present of all time-two hours of snow blowing in the freezing cold. Happy birthday Dave…

Snowstorm, December 2018.

After the storm, December 2018.

After the storm, December 2018.

After the storm, December 2018.

After the storm, December 2018.

With the respite from work, it means that I do have some time to devote to railway work. I did manage to make to get over to the Lakehead University Library just before the break to look up a few books. After going through the information from one of them over, I had to go and get it again. This time, I made the shorter trip the Brodie Street branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library who also had a copy of the book. That then prompted an examination of some microfilm, which didn’t quite yield the results I was looking for (both of the good quality viewing machines were being used). So, I went back a few days ago and was able to find the newspaper article I was l after. That’s a lot of time in the library!

I’ve also begun writing again. As I described in my last post, there is a bit of work left to do on the book, mostly finishing the last couple chapters and tweaking a few others. There is a chapter that will have to wait until after summer, that being the one that describes the second logging camp, Camp 8/11. Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to make a more detailed examination of the site, with some luck in the company of some experts. That means I hope to have all the writing done by next winter, which means this odyssey will have encompassed the last 6 years of my life. Do all books take this long? Well, I guess I can answer my own question by saying “yes,” since I’ve been working on the PD for the past 24 years and I’ve written only one chapter!

Anyway, I better move along. This is obviously the last post of 2018, so here’s to another great year in 2019. I’ll be back soon with the latest news and exciting developments. Until then…

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Well, it only took 16 years!

Well, it only took 16 years!

They, or at least someone at some point, said patience is a virtue. Well, if that’s true, I could be the poster child for that. It’s also been said that it’s not the destination but the journey getting there; it’s definitely been a long journey! I have however enjoyed every moment of this particular journey and those who I have shared it with. The reality of our world is that sometimes we have to wait for good things to happen and it certainly makes you appreciate it even more.

Hey, I’m back kids! I know, it’s been a while, but as usual, I’ve been a tad busy. In case you weren’t aware, I do have a job and a life. Too busy to write a blog? Well, ya, it does take time out of your life even though it’s just “writing.” And as anyone who writes will tell you, sometimes you try but it’s not working, the proverbial “moment striking you.” Anyway, what’s keeping me busy you ask? Well, what isn’t? We’ve passed the halfway point of the school semester, and no matter how much I get done, I’m always behind on my marking. Oh the life of a teacher. This week is the last of November, which means there is only four weeks until Christmas break. What a blur things have been…I don’t even know what to ask Santa for!

Besides school, I was particularly busy with football. The minor season ended in late October, with both boys making the finals with their respective teams. Unfortunately, they were both on the wrong side of very close games. However, they both played well in the fall and grew a lot as players and teammates, which makes dad proud. After 7 years, Ethan played his last minor football game as he will be joining dad at high school in September.

As for the high school campaign, our team finished in top spot with a 5 and 1 record, the first time that has happened in a long time. We won our semi-final game quite convincingly, and booked a spot in the finals, our first trip there since 2014. We would be taking on our cross-town rivals, the St. Ignatius Falcons, who we beat twice in the regular season. We scored first, and went into half with a 7-0 lead. By the fourth quarter we were up 21-7, but unfortunately we let them score late to make it close. Our defence came up big though, intercepting their last gasp pass attempt.

2018 SSSAA Championship final score, November 2018.

2018 SSSAA Champion captains, November 2018.

2018 SSSAA Champions, November 2018.

Our program had not won a Junior championship since 2002, a drought of 16 years. We had four previous trips to the final, but sadly could not come away with a win, losing two of those games by one score. It definitely plays into your psyche, as at times you question your abilities as a coach. However, we were very lucky to have an amazing group of young men who were extremely dedicated and willing to work hard all season long. I am glad they were able to come away with the title and I could help them cement their place in school history. With a solid crew coming back and a strong incoming group, hopefully we don’t have to wait another 16 years!

Since it’s November, it means that we’re on the verge of winter. Not like it hasn’t been “winter” for awhile; if you read my last post you’ll know it already snowed in early October. The weather hasn’t really improved since then. We’ve had some good days, but we’ve also had some rainy, snowy and bitterly cold days as well. I have no idea what this winter will be like as Mother Nature doesn’t seem to know herself. We had a bit of snow until a few days ago, and then it warmed up to +6C and it all melted. Who knows if we’ll have a brown or white Christmas this year.

Late Fall, November 2018.

So with everything going on, you’d imagine that I have not had a ton of time to work on railway stuff of late. On the contrary however, I have been a bit busy. In my last post I mentioned that I’ve been working on some research related to the early history of the Pigeon River Lumber Company and that has continued unabated.

When I was in La Crosse, Wisconsin in August, I was able to probe some of the interactions between the principal investors in the PRLC, well before the company was even formed. That led me into the tangled history of the early logging along the Pigeon River, making many interesting discoveries. If you don’t know, this is where I excel or it’s “in my wheelhouse.” I love the thrill and challenge of historical research, confident I can find exactly what I’m looking for.

What have I found you ask? Well, apparently there was an attempt to log the Pigeon River area well before the late 1890s, which ended in quite the controversy. Later, extensive work was done by the Ontario government to encourage/assist the later logging operations, which amounted to thousands of dollars. And then there is the matter of when exactly did D.J. Arpin, William Scott and the others become involved in the Pigeon River, which appears to be well a number of years before the company was formed in 1900.

While these discoveries have been huge, there have been some frustrations, namely tracking down all the information I require. It looks like I might have to do travelling again; places like the Cook County Museum is easily done, while the Archives of Ontario in Toronto might require a bit more effort.

With the Christmas break on the horizon, it means that I will be back to writing soon enough. There is still a lot to accomplish, and I hopefully I can get most of the book done by spring. The laundry list is quite extensive; complete/revise the first chapter, add the information from 1906 and complete the last couple chapters. This doesn’t even include anything about Camp 8/11, which I cannot finish until I wrap-up all the field work there next summer. However, for some reason, I am rather apprehensive regarding this session of writing and I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because I’m getting to the end and there is some finality to it all. I think though, it is because I’ve left the more difficult sections for last and I am worried about getting them right. Whatever the case, I’ll do my best to get it done.

Anyway, it’s time to go. I’ll probably be back before the holidays with a few thoughts before the close of the year. Until then…

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2018 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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