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Our Road to Aspen Land, to Wetaskiwin, Alberta Central Railway Museum

Wetaskiwin Museum 030The weather is fine, our spirits are high. On May 24th, 2011 the whole group of CPR pensioners’ club are on the way through Central Alberta to Wetaskiwin.

Listen to the music:Mississipi Fred McDowell-John Henry

Because trembling aspen trees are pervasive in the area, the region is sometimes referred as the Aspen Parkland or Aspen Land.

The region is also a part of the Great Plains and has been the home of Aboriginal Peoples for nearly 10,000 years.

For better entertainment on our way we will recite some beautiful verses by Alexander Anderson and watch the photo expose “Spring Flowers”:

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“The Violet.

On the down line, and close beside the rail,

A tender violet grew,

A sister spirit, when the stars grew pale,

Gave it a drink of dew.

And so its azure deepen’d day by day,

And sweet it was to see,

As I went up and down the four-feet way,

The flower peep up at me.

I grew to like it-such a tiny thing,

So free from human strains,

Bending and swaying to each rush and swing,

Of passing pitiless trains…

Listen to the song:Vasily Gerello-Cheremshina

But one sweet morning, when the young sunshine

Laid long soft arms of light,

Around the earth, I found the flower of mine,

Wither’d, and shrunk, and dead.

Thus some rare soul, toiling for purer gains,

Sinks in the night alone,

While the hoarse world, like the iron trains,

Unheeding, thunders on.”

By the way, violets are very common in this area, and even Violet Hamlet exists nearby, which we are passing by peacefully.

Central Alberta stretches from Alberta-Saskatchewan border to the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. TheWetaskiwin Museum 086region is a transitional zone between the arid grasslands in the south and the wetter, cooler boreal forests in the north. Central Alberta’s landscape is typical of the prairies, with rolling hills interspersed with groves of aspen trees.Shrubs such as snowberry, sasktaoon berry, chokecherry, and low-bush cranberry are common ground cover. The soil in much of this area is very fertile, making Central Alberta a very important agricultural region. The Aspen Parkland is dotted by numerous lakes, some of the largest being Pigeon Lake, Buffalo lake, and Gull Lake. many rivers run across Central Alberta including Red Deer River, North Saskatchewan River, battle River, and Beaver River. Alberta naturally explores the physical geography of Central Alberta in more depth.

We are looking through the windows, enjoying picturesque landscapes and talking with the neighbours who are by and large very interesting people with long life stories and social careers.

At times the bus stops for short breaks and we have a lucky opportunity to listen to the birds’ singing.

Slide show :”Cuckoo Birds”

Among the birds’ choir was a song of a cuckoo bird.Cuckoo Bird-Female

The poem “The cuckoo” by Alexander Anderson, a rail worker:

“Amid the sound of picks to-day,

And shovels rasping on the rail,

A sweet voice came from far away,

From out a gladly greening vale.

My mate look’d up in some surprise;

I half stopp’d humming idle rhyme:

Then said, the moisture in my eyes,

“The cuckoo, Jack, for the first time.”

How sweet he sang! I could have stood

For hours, and heard that simple strain;

An early gladness throng’d my blood,

And brought my boyhood back again.

The primrose took a deeper hue,

The dewy grass a greener look;

The violet wore a deeper blue,

A lighter music led the brook.

Each thing to its own depth was stirr’d,

Leaf, flower, and heaven’s moving cloud,

As still he piped, that stranger bird,

His mellow may-song clear and loud…”

Watch the slide show “Cuckoo Birds”:

Some of our travelers started to reminiscent the early history:

1: Do you know, Walter, that Treaty 6 First Nations, as well as other Aboriginal groups, were the first human habitants to live in Central Alberta?

2: Sure. When the Fur Trade was developing, Europeans began to come to the area, the Canadian government in 1869 purchased Rupert’s land which included Central Alberta, from the Hudson’s Bay Company.Wetaskiwin Museum 003

1: It was not until 1890 and the completion of the Calgary-Red Deer line of the Calgary and Edmonton Railroad that settlement here began in earnest. The first immigrants to the Aspenland region were from Ontario, Britain, the United States, then from France, Holland, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Ukraine etc.

Here we are, in Wetaskiwin.

The Alberta Central Railway Museum is located in the country just southeast of Wetaskiwin. The Museum is dedicated to preserving the pre-1965 heritage of the railways.

Hey, let’s go for a ride on a restored 1926 first class observation-buffet sleeper Mount Avalanche train. Oh, what a ride! Janko brought back memories of crossing Canada by train, eating in a dining-car with fine cutlery, friendly service and watching the scenery speeding by: villages, towns, grain elevators, thing which are no longer there.

We visited also a typical country railway station with a waiting room, baggage room, and a telegraph office.

We took pictures everywhere and this is our photo expose: “Wetaskiwin, May 24, 2011”

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Along with a collection of CPR artifacts, the museum has also the second oldest standing grain elevator, so that we could learn about the interaction between the railway and the grain elevators.

The impression was awesome. Here you feel the importance of people who just did their job.

In the years following World War II, people began moving off the farms and settling in urban areas. While agriculture is still the primary industry of the area, as of 2006 it does not even make up 15% of the total industry of the region. Because of the advances in technology, a single farmer can now farm almost four times more land than the 160 acres given to settlers by the government at the turn of the century. Immigrants to the area are now coming from places all across the world, including Chile, China, the Philippines, and the Middle East. Currently, over 250,000 people live in Central Alberta.

The people of Aspenland have been active in the spheres of athletics, arts, and human rights. Important figures include figure skating champion Kurt Browning, Grammy award-winner kd lang, pioneer judge Marjorie Bowker, Icelandic poet Stephan G. Stephansson, and Famous Five member Irene Parlby.

We had a wonderful lunch at the train restaurant.

Satisfied and happy, we came home to Calgary, safe and sound.

Thanks a lot to the group of organizers of CPR Calgary pensioners’ club, the bus driver, the steward, and all tourists who were participating in this unforgettable event.

More you travel, more you widen your horizons.

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