Mag­i­cal think­ing and the New­fie Bul­let

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net.

I re­cently learned a new phrase: mag­i­cal think­ing.

Here’s the def­i­ni­tion, pro­vided by Au­gusten Bur­roughs in his book of the same ti­tle: a schizo­ty­pal per­son­al­ity dis­or­der at­tribut­ing to one’s own ac­tions some­thing that had noth­ing to do with him or her and thus as­sum­ing that one has a greater in­flu­ence over events than is ac­tu­ally the case.

As the years creep up on me, I won­der if I some­times, know­ingly or un­know­ingly, en­gage in mag­i­cal think­ing. I don’t think I do, but I sup­pose the po­ten­tial is there.

At 57, I have a foggy child­hood mem­ory of trav­el­ing on the New­fie Bul­let, the pas­sen­ger train op­er­ated by Cana­dian Na­tional Rail­way in New­found­land from 1949 to 1988.

But did I re­ally? Or am I en­gag­ing in mag­i­cal think­ing?

I de­cided to check with two of my sib­lings.

“Well,” Karen says, “the year we all went to Hant’s Habrour for hol­i­days.” That’s where Grand­fa­ther Janes lived. “I think we were liv­ing at Twill­ingate.” That would have been in the early 1960s when I was but a boy. “So we would have taken the train from Lewis­porte to Whit­bourne. I think Pas­tor Vaters met us there and drove us to Hant’s Har­bour.” Eu­gene Vaters was the gen­eral su­per­in­ten­dent of the Pen­te­costal As­sem­blies of New­found­land (PAON). “We prob­a­bly rode it at some other time, too. But I can’t be sure.”

David says, “I sus­pect we were go­ing on a trip to Hant’s Har­bour, maybe, or Bishop’s Falls, or maybe Camp.” Camp Em­manuel was the PAON’s sum­mer camp meet­ing at Long Pond, Manuels. “If it was a oneway trip, maybe it was in one of our moves to a new church.” Our par­ents were pas­tors. Note David’s re­peated use of the word “maybe.” He con­tin- ues, “I’m sure it was a hol­i­day, be­cause we were on the train twice. I re­mem­ber sleep­ing on the train­ing overnight and eat­ing some food on the train. I don’t usu­ally for­get food!” Then he adds, al­most as an af­ter­thought, “It must have been to St. John’s, be­cause you or me left a coat on the train. We had to go into the St. John’s CNR sta­tion to pick it up.”

All this won­der­ing about mag­i­cal think­ing and the New­fie Bul­let came about af­ter I picked up Ken­neth G. Pieroway’s book, “Rails Across the Rock.” It’s an ideal re­source for any­one who won­ders what it was like to travel by train across New­found­land. I am one of those who re­mem­ber the mighty steam lo­co­mo­tives that hauled the New­found­land Ex­press. I felt the earth shake un­der my feet as we rolled across the is­land. Pieroway awak­ens within me a keen sense of nos­tal­gia.

The book re­pro­duces a then-and­now cel­e­bra­tion of the for­mer New­found­land Rail­way on the twenty-fifth an­niver­sary of its clos­ing. The au­thor takes the reader on a stun­ning pho­to­graphic jour­ney, ex­tend­ing from Port aux Basques to St. John’s, with vir­tu­ally ev­ery stop in be­tween. The full-colour de­pic­tions were cap­tured by some of North Amer­ica’s top rail­way pho­tog­ra­phers be­tween 1952 and 1988.

“Af­ter years of col­lect­ing the im­ages,” Pieroway ex­plains, “I set out on the 547-mile roadbed to search for and stand at the same lo­ca­tion to recre­ate scenes that in some cases were over 60 years old. This book is the cul­mi­na­tion of that three-year jour­ney of dis­cov­ery.”

He be­gins with Port aux Basques in 1969. That’s when I lived there. I fondly re­call the many sum­mer nights our fa­ther drove my brother and me to the CN sta­tion to watch fer­ries ar­rive and de­part. We couldn’t help but over­hear the shunt­ing trains in the back­ground.

The in­fa­mous Wreck­house area evokes mem­o­ries of wicked gales sweeping down from Ta­ble Moun­tain. CN ac­tu­ally hired Lauchie McDougall to “sniff the wind” to de­ter­mine whether or not it was safe for trains to pass. When we lived at Port aux Basques, Lauchie’s wife was still liv­ing at Wreck­house.

Deer Lake is where I met the love of my life, the lust of my pas­sion. (She’s gonna kill me!) Sherry re­calls the diesels, with dozens of loaded box­cars in tow, bar­rel­ing past her house on North Main Street.

There are pho­tos of other places with per­sonal con­nec­tions ... How­ley, Bishop’s Falls, Notre Dame Junc­tion, Whit­bourne , Long Pond and Manuels. I won­der why I sud­denly feel like break­ing out in song with Box­car Willy’s “Big Freight Train Carry Me Home.”

So, I’m not en­gag­ing in mag­i­cal think­ing af­ter all. And, it’s com­fort­ing to know I’m not suf fer­ing from Au­gusten Bur­roughs’ “schizo­ty­pal per­son­al­ity dis­or­der.”

“Rails Across the Rock” is pub­lished by Cre­ative Pub­lish­ers of St. John’s.

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