Getting back on track
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.