Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Little Bit of History

Train tunnels, rock ovens and tent sites of railway workers from the early 1900s were some of the historic items I had the privilege to see last week. My daughter, her partner and I hiked through the forest (huffing and puffing up the mountainside) around Okanagan Lake, high above the town of Naramata. We wandered along trails trod by those long-ago railway builders of 1915. It was fascinating to see where the men had slept and how they cooked their bread (in rock ovens). We stood inside one of the huge tunnels and marvelled at the black soot on the rock overhead — a marker of the early steam trains that had chugged through the area. We could feel the history.

The Kettle Valley Railway was one of the last railroads to be built in North America without big machines, using only the hard labour and muscles of men and horses. It was built through some of the toughest terrain in Canada. I'd seen archival photos of tunnels and rock ovens when I wrote The Kids Book of Canada's Railway, but this was the first time I'd viewed the actual artifacts. Touching these rock remnants gave me a strong sense of our past and of the enormous challenges the railway workers must have faced. Truly inspiring!

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