We have this strange fascination with small towns. They have such character and charm. Still, it’s even deeper than that, so while we can’t quite put our finger on the deep down reasons why we do it, what ever it is draws us in like a magnet And the best way to experience that small town vibe, put feet to pavement. Just start walking, in what ever random direction, camera in hand and just take it all in, with no expectations or plans or purpose. This is how you get to know a community.
This day finds us in Viking Alberta, founded about a century and today with a population of about a thousand. We’re on assignment, just finished dinner and have time and energy to spare, so as we often do, we take to the streets. It’s twilight time and pretty much everything is closed. Peace and quiet, the calm of evening, no traffic, the town is all ours. Come join us…
1) Seems the only open business is a liquor store. A fellow on a bike stops by for some refreshments – lots of parking available. Seen far in back is the Viking Museum which earlier this day we visited. What great place and a fine collection they have.
2) Always love a good farmer’s market, but seems we never can time it right, so rarely get to visit any. The curling rink is that way. This sport is still popular on the prairies, but not as much when compared to the old days. Back then every small town, no matter the size – kid you not – had a rink. And it was always hopping. Hurry! Hard! Curling culture, now there’s a subject for BIGDoer.com to document. Anyone out there listening?
3) We always manages to find old cars. Not that it’s hard in small towns – back lots and such almost always hold something interesting. Some 60s iron up front. Sky sure is getting interesting.
4) Viking’s “Rocket” Theatre. Guess there’s also a bowling alley inside. It appears the 1940s era (we think) building is still used but perhaps not on a regular basis. Digging that cool art-deco inspired sign.
5) A building with stamped tin siding. There’s some texture!
6) Historic old brick building left, and in front a real anachronism in 2017, a honest to goodness old fashioned telephone booth. These are disappearing from the scene at an incredible rate. What’s Superman to do once they’re all gone?
7) “Valkcommen to Viking’s Troll Park!” The area was settled by Scandinavians, hence these Norse type themes.
8) Down by the tracks – we often find ourselves there – a lone grain car sits along the elevator siding. Hope for a passing freight to show and we won’t have to wait long. This is a Canadian National Railway line built a century ago by predecessor firm Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.
9) The old (ex-GTP) train station is now a tea house. It’s been moved back from the rail line a bit and the building spun around so the track facing side is now the road facing side. The building still acts as a station of sorts and Via Rail’s “Canadian” transcontinental run will stop here on demand (both ways they pass in the wee hours). There’s a small platform for boarding but suspect not many people use it given the small population here. Passenger trains don’t seem to work in Canada anyway.
10) Been here only minutes, and boom there’s a train coming. This is one busy line as it turns out and in the twenty minutes or so we hung around, three really long freights passed all heading east.
11) And do they fly! Trains cruise through here at a hundred clicks (and we earlier paced one on the highway to conform that) which for something that big, heavy and long is really moving. That’s the Via platform spoken of a couple paragraphs back. Impressive passenger accommodations. Low shutter speed exaggerates motion.
12) This second train was an endless string of lumber cars. Lost count at one hundred. That’s a lot of wood!
13) A third train, same direction and hot on the tail of the second (in fact it they were within sight each other). This one had a solid block of covered hoppers (for fertilizer we think). Those amazing prairie skies!
14) And in flash it’s gone. We could spend all night here, so love watching trains roll by (yes, we’re weird that way), but decide to move on. Interestingly, we heard another train tooting not long after leaving. In back, a fairly modern grain elevator. There used to be a line of traditional wood-cribbed “prairie sentinels” about where is stands.
15) Downtown Viking is empty and quiet. They’ve rolled up the sidewalks. Such a serene sight.
16) Another view, the place exists only for us.
17) Some fine auto-themed art, on the wall of some building. Caught our eye, nothing more.
18) In a residential area of Viking, this “catalogue house”. This one came from the T. Eaton Company (or just Eaton’s) a once retail juggernaut in the country, gone since the 1990s. They used to sell anything and everything, including “kit” houses, shipped out to you in a couple boxcars and delivered to the nearest rail siding, that you could then assemble yourself. This particular barn roofed design was one of their most popular. We’ve seen a lot of them across the prairies, in towns and or out on the farm. Unseen in the photo is a second of the same design hidden by the trees on the left.
19) Here’s our Boler fix, found in some back alley. I could feel it – knew there was one here somewhere. When playing the Boler Spotting Game, you’re encouraged to shout out “Boler!” as loud as possible on seeing one. This often startles those around you, which is great fun. We’re going to publish game rules eventually. Promise. By the rules this little trailer is worth a measly three points out of a possible twelve – it was easy to spot, was in a nothing special setting and is a common model, hence the low score.
20) The site of the old hockey “Carena” financed by a car raffle. It was built in the 1950s, but burned down a dozen of so years ago and replaced by another structure elsewhere in town. The arena was home to the Sutters, who ever they are. Small town minor league hockey heroes, I guess, unknowns hardly worthy a mention, maybe some wanna-be Lukowiches. Or something like that.
21) St Matthew’s Anglican. It’s getting real late now and sleep calls.
22) Our home base for the weekend, the Lamplighter. We love our small town accommodations. Time for a beer, than sawing logs. We’ve got a busy day ahead exploring. An old metal yard in the AM followed by a Russian Style Church afterwards. Then the long drive home.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: June, 2017.
Location: Viking, AB.
Article references and thanks: Town of Viking, Sylvia Hoffman.
Everything you see was shot from public property.