CPR Section House

CPR Section House

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Snake Creek -more

With the beginnings of tales for the family repetoire , Mum and Dad climbed aboard the passenger train at Tabarette heading toward Snake Creek .

Snake Creek was located on the east banks of the Ottawa River about half an hour's ride by train north of Mattawa . The CPR traced the river cutting by the canyons of the Laurentian Highlands and bridging creeks and rivers that emptied into the Great River . The area around the mouth of the creek created a level platform on which people had made camp over several thousand years ...a natural adit to the interior search for furs and a fishing spot to fill hungry stomachs .

 A small stop at Snake Creek in the 1890's gave passengers a break to stretch their legs in a walkabout .There were a few houses and a store that supported the CPR's trek to Temiscaming . While the train downloaded cargo and mail and took on other mail and orders from inhabitants along the line , passengers could dismount to vent their lungs clear of the sooty smoke that inevitably filtered into passenger cars from the powerful locomotives that pulled them north . Occasionally , a passenger got off or on the train . As in all small stops along the line , the local inhabitants always rushed to the station to see what news could be gleaned from what they saw and overheard .

The CPR employee who operated the mail/cargo car took on cargo and letters to be forwarded up or down the line . Inside the car , he sorted and labelled things as to which stop it was destined to reach and what transfer points may be required to get it to its destination . He then placed it in the the car according to how far it was to travel . Before the next stop , he had gathered the items for drop-off . When he rolled open the big door at the next official stop , freightage and mail was quickly off-loaded onto a freight cart at a station or into the arms of a designated receiver at a small stop ( like the store owner at Snake Creek ) . He took on what was waiting , along with the fees for shipping . Locals oftened slipped little messages and packages to  familiar passengers for drop off somewhere along the line to avoid paying the fees . The Snake Creek stop was still in use in late spring 1947 when my parents got off the southbound passenger train to take up residence .

Since all section houses were situated away from the activity around a station or stopping place , the Snake Creek house was located up the line near the signal switches . When locomotive engineers reached that spot , they knew the caboose was clear to pick up speed .
 This house was a big 'step up' from the Tabarette house since it had a closed-in back porch , a front veranda and a little storage shed out back near the outhouse ... all indications that a minor official had at least once occupied the house . Some unknown sectionman's wife had patiently maintained flowers beds at the front and they were in bloom that June when my parents approached for the first time .
  During the early stages of her pregnancy she felt lonely for her family , particularly her midwife sister and her Great Aunt Maud with whom she regularly corresponded . The isolation at Taberette magnified the loneliness . Although she was helped to overcome most of it , the last lingering pangs disappeared when she saw that flower bed . Visions of English country gardens filled her mind with plans to develop the existing one into the free ambling natural style she missed so much ...full of colour and blooms . A vegetable garden plot lay on the south side of the house , turned and already hoed into rows by the last sectionman's wife , part of the 'welcome to your new home' gift . It was a message that read , I loved this home and I hope that you do , too . Mum did .

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