Friday, January 7, 2011

Saskatchewan, trains and Vancouver's winter

From Schmidt & Weston blog

This photo was inspired by two things; my lifelong love of trains and an online friend from Saskatchewan who I've never met in person. Her online name is Wilma and her blog is here. I have met the friendliest people in Saskatchewan (and Montana, but that is a very different story).

When I was little, I apparently wanted to be a train engineer. This was before I can remember and knowing that my dad was always into trains, I wonder how much I really wanted any vocation. Seems a parent could easily imprint any idea onto someone under the age of 4. However, I next wanted to be a forest fire fighter because of a picture book about parachutes. I remember that... and it came to pass.

What I do remember is that the decline of the caboose caused me to eventual lose any interest in pursuing a locomotive job. Strange how the seemingly little things can have such a large impact on a child's career aspirations.

I live near the tracks here in Vancouver, and I'm happy for it. It is a constant reminder that long before the information super highway, railways connected people at a much more reasonable pace. The best part is that those rail lines still exist.

I used to live in Montréal. Mile End was all about the train in 1887, when the first regular train service all the way to the Vancouver linking two of my neighbourhoods... and the rest of Canada... sort of.

I say 'sort of' because the problem with Canada is that it is so regional; everyone thinks they have it worse than everyone else, and this frosty Saskatchewan grain car illustrates this beautifully.

Each province, (and then city or town and so on), believes that their winter is the worst. Moving from Edmonton to Montréal, one of the first questions I would get from Montréalers was "How cold a winter have you experienced?"

Each time I would cringe, because it is such an irrelevant question. The weather is what it is and there is nothing any of us can do about it other than move away. I don't really enjoy talking about it, or bragging about how I have seen temperatures of -50 celsius. For the record, I can't really tell the difference after -25 because after that point, it's just a matter of how fast you get cold. It always hurts a little.

In Montréal, I would be told how "it's a wet cold".

Well, great. So somehow they are tougher than me?

I never understood the point of it all. I have family in Yellowknife and Hay River and I wonder if they ever put up with anyone comparing weather stories or whining about the temperature.

I have respect for those that can go through the day without making a meaningless mention of the obvious weather conditions. When I was a treeplanter and then a forest fire fighter, we had an unwritten, unmentioned rule of never bitching about the state of things we could do nothing about. This included black flies and mosquitoes, wet boots, blisters, bruises and most of all... weather. Unless you could laugh at the misery, bringing it up is not helpful.

Vancouver deserves a good smack across the back of the head. I have heard so much whinging about the "cold" weather lately, along with further remarks about the infamous "moist cold". No wonder the rest of Canada laughs at the Lululemon clad wimps on the west coast.

Here is what a cold day in Vancouver looks like:

From Schmidt & Weston blog

See that?! Some lovely ice crystals on the steps of my front door and a plant, still green, with a beautiful touch of frost.... IN JANUARY!!!!

From Schmidt & Weston blog

In closing, Climate is what you expect, Weather is what you get. Suck it up fellow Vancouver kids. Try being quietly content about having a green lawn all winter long and not bring up the rain to the rest of Canada.


  1. i like trains too.

  2. Shunting Trains and Winter are Canadian 'fabric' indeed. Tabarnak on est bien icitte!



Thank you for visiting. I live in Vancouver now, but I've lived in other places too. I take photos and make short films about things and people. Please comment and be argumentative. It amuses me.

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