Connecting Dots
September 6, 2019

Train trip memories ... because Heritage Matters

Pam Handley while a child in England during the Second World War.

My first memories of train travel were not in North Bay but during the war in England. There were trips from Welling in Kent to Portsmouth to stay with Aunt Dolly for a while and when the family made frequent trips to London. The trains had carriages which opened right onto the platform (something you may have seen on television shows and Hollywood movies).

What I thought would be our final train trip in England was in 1948 when we packed up everything we could and once again traveled to Portsmouth to say goodbye at a family gathering of my Dad’s relatives.  I remember two of my cousins tied me to the clothes line pole in the garden. Not a happy send off.  Then onto Southhampton to board the Aquitania for a seven-day voyage to Canada.  The ship was still in her troop form so about 40 women and children were lodged in a large cabin while Dad was down below somewhere with the men.  He brought up lovely ham rolls, most of which went out the porthole (it is rough in the North Atlantic during March.)

Dad took me up to the ship’s prow on a beautiful sunny day to witness our entry into Halifax Docks and the famous Pier 21.  We finally disembarked about four in the morning (our last name began with a W).  From there we traveled by train all the way to Toronto where we changed trains for London, Ontario.  We lived there for nine years before moving to North Bay.

Dad had been north but the rest of us had never been this far before and when we began to see the huge rocks cuts on the highway, my Mum asked Dad just where in the world did he think he was taking us?  Dad had a job waiting for him with the Glidden Paint Co. with Halliday Hardware on Main St. W. being his headquarters while he travelled throughout Northern Ontario.  This later became Bob’s Hardware, then a very popular Tea Room which we visited many times, then maybe a wool shop and many other businesses since.

We lived in the Dickerson Apartments on Worthington Street for one year then moved to Banner Avenue to a lovely apartment on Lake Nipissing.  Dad was then moved to Regina by the Glidden Co. again in 1959.  It was such a bittersweet memory of saying goodbye to fellow staffers from the Nugget, maybe some kids from St. John’s AYPA and my future husband, Peter at the C.P.R. Station on Oak Street (which of course is now The North Bay Museum).   It was a delightful experience going around the northern lakes but later felt the prairies were going on forever because I am sure we saw Regina for a whole day in the distance before we finally reached The Queen City.

Peter and I arrived back in North Bay two years later in his little V.W. and then took up the joy of train travel between North Bay and Toronto via the O.N.R.  Later I took our six-month-old daughter to visit Mum and Dad in Vancouver via the C.P.R.  Once again we endured the prairies but their saving grace was the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and this time we went through the remarkable Rockies, which have a presence all of their own.  Crisp white tablecloths, sparkling silverware and creamed salmon in a patty shell awaited in the dining car while Mairi sat in her little carry chair on the table by the window sucking on C.P.R. breadsticks.  The return trip was just as beautiful with a stopover in Winnipeg to visit our cousin and her family.  I remember us all sitting around the table which had somehow made its way from London, Ontario to Winnipeg and eating Lu’s homemade leek and potato soup, crusty bread, butter, cheddar cheese and pickled onions. What a feast!

Back in North Bay again we settled down for a while and raised our two children and then when they were maybe 12 and 14 years old, we took the train to Vancouver leaving at 7.30 p.m. from the C.P.R station on Oak Street and carrying a large bag of sandwiches and a change of socks. This time we were traveling coach and took turns sleeping on each other’s shoulders.  

While in Vancouver Mum and Dad drove us to Whistler to see all the sites including where Mairi and I rode the tram up the mountain.  We even climbed a path higher to see a major river, a shiny blue ribbon so very far below.    While Mairi and I discovered our passion for climbing during our marvelous train trip, Peter Jr. discovered his passion for photography with a camera he says he ‘borrowed’ from his Dad.  Now he takes aerial photos of planes for Vintage Wings in Gatineau, Quebec.  

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