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LOCAL HISTORY - Rural Roots # 6

‘Rural Roots’ is drawn largely from my book ‘*Sisu – The Finnish Determination of a Canadian Family’.

Copies are available ($30.00) by calling me at 577-7484, cell 621-6621 or email: leoh@tbaytel.net









Rural Roots
by Leo Hunnakko
Issue #6 (Published in 'GrassRoots' (September, 2008))

Last Train

The thirties were the depression years. It was the time of “Bennett Buggys” whereby people with cars couldn’t afford the gas so pulled them with horses. With the high price of gas now seventy years later and a struggling economy especially in the United States, will this be known as the time of “Bush Buggys”? Just a thought. The difference is, back then, there were no handouts. Tommy Douglas and Medicare were a long way off. Social programs were non-existent if not severely limited.
1938 was a troublesome year in our region. Getting from place to place wasn’t easy. While the average price of a new car was $763.00 and gas was 10 cents a gallon, the average annual wage was only $1,730.00. The cost of travel by car was prohibitive.
The Port Arthur, Duluth and Western Railway had been heralded as the lifeline for the remote rural districts it crossed with the probability of bringing growth and prosperity. The depression thirties were not the time for more bad news. But by then, those pioneers knew that ‘all news was bad news’. That’s when the expression “No news is good news” started.
The P.D. “Pientiä” from the date of its opening, was in immediate trouble. In 1892, the silver market collapsed and the numerous silver mines along the line closed. Nolalu and Silver Mountain, as this region was known, were no exception. Service was unreliable, being constantly off schedule, usually late. Author James Oliver Curwood dubbed the railway, “Poverty, Agony, Distress and Want.” By 1898, the railway was bankrupt and was purchased by the CNoR (Canadian Northern Railway). In 1902, the section between North Lake and Gunflint Narrows was abandoned. A huge forest fire destroyed a 1000 foot trestle on North Lake in 1909, severing the line.
In 1915, all the rails west of North Lake were removed. In 1920, by the time CnoR became CNR (Canadian National Railway), the writing was on the wall. In 1923, the railway abandoned the section of line between North Lake and Round Lake. In 1937, more financial losses forced the railway to abandon more track from Round Lake to Mackie’s Siding. In March 1938, Canadian National gave the order to halt all operations. Over the next year, work began in removing the now badly deteriorated rails. Today, only the ribbon of bushed in railway right of way serves as a memorial to a time when train travel would open up the Great North-West.
After the train stopped running in 1938, for a period of approximately ten years, there was regular ‘International Transit’ bus service along the main highway up as far as Round Lake. Sister Violet remembers that an Arvo Johnson was one of the drivers. The bus operated on a set schedule with a regular stop at the Strange Township Road, now the North Sideroad. She recalled father giving her $10.00 so that she could take the bus to Port Arthur. The bus fare was only about 50 cents and after having a meal, seeing a movie and buying herself a new dress and shoes, she still had money left over. (September, 2008)