This silly little post, number one thousand and change at BIGDoer.com contains some random photos, simple captured moments from a busy weekend in June. Nothing more. For our enjoyment and for yours, hopefully, the passing things, big and little that grabbed our attention while out of town on assignment. Between the bigger stuff, take in some old metal, old buildings, here and there, out on the road, in town, on the farm, with friends, just the two of us…all of it pure magic. Then, it’s easy to blow our minds.
Never that far away and a backdrop for entire weekend is the railway. It’s always close…sometimes directly in our line of sight, other times we’re only within earshot, and sometimes, well, being train buffs, we make it the the absolute centre of our universe for a hour or two. We’re in Viking Alberta, and surrounding area, along a super-busy stretch of track, Canadian National Railways east/west mainline, and the trains here, do they fly.
Bruce, just up the line from Viking, is a small place, a half dozen blocks square and like many prairie towns it’s seen better times. Sidewalks are crumbling and overgrown, streets empty. Only the hotel is busy, on weekends, (yum, “Steak Night”) but otherwise it’s pretty still and quiet here.
The old store is closed. For a fair time I’d guess. What a nice shade of pink – got a rotary phone that colour. Pink, by the way, is another theme for the weekend. Railways and pink. Who’d have though?
On residential streets…some houses are lived in, some not. One church appears closed, another seems to be holding on. Sunday services are listed. Suspect the congregation is small and ever dwindling. When the last old timer goes…then what? The former school is now a home. There’s no open businesses in Bruce, save for the hotel.
A freight barrels through town.
Old “land barges” catch our attention. These 60s/70s era Chryslers have room for six easy, but a good eight to ten if you don’t mind getting a bit cozy; and twenty with a crush load. It’s a long distance phone call from the back seat to the front…and each is in a different time zone! Oil companies salivate in anticipation of one needing a fill…the trunk can be rented out as an apartment. You get the idea!
Strolling back to the hotel, dinner on our minds (and what a good one it was, enjoyed with new friends), bells ring and crossing gates fall. Guess what, another train. A long freight barrels through town at an incredible speed, faster than any Team BIGDoer has seen, a blur – “Hi Bruce” Toot-Toot, “See you agaaaaaaainnnn sooooome tiiiiiime”…..in a trailing-off voice. And in a heart beat…silence…it’s gone. The trains here, do they fly.
Now picture it, a fine slab of meat nice and pink, a vast buffet of sides, beer, oh the beer made the night, and homemade dessert. Between mouthfuls of pure unadulterated yum, and lively conversation, an invite. Did someone say Studebaker? Ahhhh, a pink Studebaker? No hesitation, we’re in! The rumble of a train. Another!
Then it’s off to a farm nearby. Old tractors, cars, trucks – some of them in retirement, some still hard at work – LOVE that – we shoot and the interesting stuff just keeps coming. That old building was moved in from somewhere else. Cool! Some cool church pews in a barn. More to see, to experience and new friends to pal with. And that PINK Studebaker!
Off in the distance, the lonely whistle of a passing train.
Wandering Viking in twilight. Down by the tracks at the “Via Rail” platform, sit on the stairs and it’s more trains. They seem to slow not when passing through town. Fly trains, fly. Exciting, exhilarating, another two hundred plus cars long heading east. Then out of nowhere, another westbound, looking equally as long, stretching from horizon to horizon. Shoot another is near darkness – damn this camera is powerful. Don’t want to go back to the hotel.
Done chronicling the Viking Museum, fantastic place, (see Museum Tour: Viking Alberta) we find ourselves with both some spare time and a desire to explore. Hmmm, let’s drive down the highway, east to where we’ve never been, with no expectations and find spots to train watch. Sounds like the perfect way to unwind.
The track parallels the highway, often smack dab beside it. On a side road…sit and wait…but the wait isn’t long. They come often here. Train after train, speeding past on the near arrow straight railway, headlights in the distance telling of another following closely behind. We could get spoiled here.
This is a long one. One hundred cars, one hundred and fifty cars, a few shy of two hundred cars, and it’s gone. Looking down the line it’s quickly out of view – and recall this is the prairies where one can see forever. But what’s that? A horn? Another is hot on its heels. And equally long. Jump in the car and let’s pace it! This thing is moving…highway speeds, 100kph and we’re making no headway…stomp the gas catch up…130kph for a time (don’t tell the RCs) and we’re beside it. Match the speed, the century mark…and holding steady, even through passing towns. We keep with it, freights heading in the opposing direction waiting at every second passing siding. It’s not a railway. It’s’ a race track! God, where is all this stuff going?
Here, in a rather lacklustre economy and this railway appears to be booming. Rival Canadian Pacific Railway, in our neck of the woods, in comparison, seems like a backwater sleepy little branch line. The difference is amazing.
Toooooot! Another. At one point three separate trains are in view, two going all out, same direction, a couple clicks separating them (told you we could see forever), the dust flying, with one off to the side waiting its turn for a run. They come long, hard and fast (porn “tag line” gold!). The trains here, do they fly.
Time to be homeward bound, but we doddle.
This old place looks interesting…but Caraganas have taken over blocking views to what would be a photogenic place. Track down the landowner…get the okay to go in. Check out that old cabinet TV and that wringer/washer. Wow! It seems the people just up and left. One day here, one day gone. Odd. Stop and pause and ponder. Upstairs, pink walls. The theme continues.
More railway track, a lesser (CPR) secondary line. Down the them a bit, by the grain elevator, what’s this? Derailed cars? Looks like the railway had an ooopsie! There’s a story for this in the works. In the meantime a teaser pic to remind one what can happen when a train goes off the rails. Here, potash hoppers, bashed and mangled, loaded up on flats to be hauled away, the scene of the derailment, not far away but cordoned off from view (still being cleaned up). Suspect we’ll be in the Canadian Pacific Railway’s bad books on publishing that! No moving trains see on this stretch of track – flying or otherwise.
A fine old house, good sized, surrounded by a field. Memo for next time…check it out. Long drive back to BIGDoer HQ.
The clicks pass. Back in familiar territory, always a downer it seems. Soon on we’re home. And soon on we’re already reflecting on the weekend. Tons of fun, lots done, a museum helped, good stuff in the can for salable articles, a productive time. But our minds keep going back to the quiet moments. Wandering the streets of some forgotten town, the stillness overwhelming. Poking our heads into a house long empty and vacant and wondering about who, what and why. The time just sitting there in the car, waiting for a fast freight to pass, knowing one will come soon enough, sitting there talking, about nothing in particular, listening to tunes.
These are the moments we’ll remember from this trip. These are the special ones.
And those trains…damn…did they fly.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2017.
Location: Viking, AB and area.
Article references and thanks: Sylvia Hoffman, a most accommodating host, and all the fine people we chatted and visited with.
Everything you see what shot from public property, or was shot with permission.