Get­ting back on track

Canada's History - - EDITOR’S NOTE -

My grand­mother had a great col­lec­tion of hard­cover books that she kept in book­cases through­out her house.

One of them — The His­tory of Pug

wash, by James F. Smith — caught my at­ten­tion and pre­saged my cur­rent love of his­tory. Pub­lished in 1978, when I was seven years old, the book re­called the early years of my home­town.

The Pug­wash I knew grow­ing up was a small vil­lage filled with hard-work­ing ev­ery­day folk. We had one gro­cery store, the Co-op, a fam­ily-run con­ve­nience store that rented videos, and a red-brick train sta­tion. The lat­ter hadn’t seen a train pass through in years.

And so I was amazed to read in The

His­tory of Pug­wash that this train sta­tion was once a hive of ac­tiv­ity in what had been a busy com­mu­nity with sev­eral ho­tels, restau­rants, and fac­to­ries.

Built in 1892, the sta­tion was de­signed by none other than Sir Sand­ford Fleming — the in­ven­tor of stan­dard time. For decades it was a ma­jor link be­tween Pug­wash and the wider world.

In 1957, when the world’s first con­fer­ence to as­sess the dan­ger of nu­clear weapons — the Pug­wash Con­fer­ence on Science and World Af­fairs — was held in my home­town at Thinker’s Lodge, sci­en­tists ar­rived by train to at­tend. Some even stayed in lux­ury rail cars parked at the sta­tion dur­ing the event.

Pug­wash sta­tion was closed in the 1970s. To­day, the his­toric build­ing — one of only two Fleming-de­signed sta­tions left stand­ing in Nova Sco­tia — is home to the vil­lage li­brary.

The story of the Pug­wash sta­tion is the story of many aban­doned train sta­tions in vil­lages and towns across the coun­try. These build­ings, many of which still stand, ex­ist as re­minders of a time when rail travel was the pre­dom­i­nant form of trans­porta­tion in Canada.

In this is­sue, we show­case some of Canada’s iconic trains and ex­plore the many ways they have con­nected the coun­try. These in­clude the Cana­dian Army’s top se­cret ar­moured train, the cel­e­brated royal train of 1939, the Cana­dian of Via Rail that still runs to­day, and many oth­ers.

Else­where in the magazine, we look at the City Beau­ti­ful move­ment of the late nine­teenth cen­tury; we re­mem­ber the dev­as­ta­tion of the Hal­i­fax Ex­plo­sion of 1917; and we ex­am­ine the lives of two Metis matriarchs who fig­ured promi­nently in the growth of the prairie West.

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