Railroad Town:
 Bowie , Maryland

When people think about the town of Bowie, Maryland, they think of it as that town that they breeze through between Annapolis and Washington D.C. along U.S. Route 50. Most people will say that there is really nothing in Bowie but houses and a few shopping centers, and that there is really nothing particular to the town. Well, if you knew that it is the largest town in Prince George’s County, Maryland; that it is the fifth most populated town in the U.S. state of Maryland and the third largest town in land area in the state of Maryland;  that it is one of the largest suburban cities of Washington D.C., the home of a race track, the Belair Mansion and Belair Stable Museums which was once a colonial plantation house plus a few other historic homes; and that it is the home of the National Radio and Television Museum which is housed in an old home, you cannot say that there is not much to the town of Bowie. It is a town that has much more than you can imagine.

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A Railfan Visits
 Swift Current, Saskatchewan

A trip to Saskatchewan in late June, 2015, afforded a chance to do—what else?—a bit of railfanning. It started with the journey along the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg. For many kilometers along the way the highway parallels the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) mainline and, in a few places in Manitoba, the Canadian National (CN) line. In some places, the tracks are very close to the highway. If you are lucky, you will come across trains in those places. I was not very lucky on this trip, seeing only a few trains up close.

Our destination was Swift Current, with a side trip to Saskatoon. Read more

Trout Lake

I cross the Big Mac into the Upper Peninsula, paying four dollar for the privilege at the St. Ignace toll booth. A few miles north of St. Ignace, I leave the freeway, taking Michigan 123 into the heart of the Upper Peninsula.  The road follows the former roadbed of the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad which Ernest Hemingway rode a few years after the Great War as he and his friends headed to a fish camp along the East Branch of the Fox River outside of Seney, Michigan.  That adventure provided fodder for his classic short story, “Big Two Hearted River.”  In those days, one had to cross the Straits of Mackinac by ferry, but in 1957 the bridge opened, spanning the straits.

It’s late afternoon on a hot July day when I reach Trout Lake. There is a small IGA here with wonderful sandwiches, piled high with sliced meats.  As I plan to have dinner with friends in Marquette, I avoid the temptation and order a cone of hand-dipped black cherry ice cream.  As I wait on the clerk, I look around the store for a minute.  In addition to groceries and a deli, they have fishing gear and some hardware.  It seems to be a place from the past, which is why I like stopping here. Read more

Railroad Town:
 Boyce, Virginia

Norfolk & Western Depot circa 1913 – Boyce, Virginia (Norfolk Southern photo on loan to Virginia Polytechnic Institute Library)

The Town of Boyce, Virginia and its railway depot have enjoyed a long history together. Nearly as old as the town, the 1913 structure served as its public gathering place, the portal through which travel and commerce passed, and became Boyce’s icon.

Indeed, it was the crossing of a newly-built Shenandoah Valley Railroad with the Winchester and Berry’s Ferry Turnpike that prompted the birth of a new community in formerly dense, forested land. Unlike Berryville, White Post, and Millwood, the Boyce community—briefly named Boyceville—sprung forth around a stop along the tracks relatively late in Clarke County’s development. The town would not have existed were it not for the arrival of the Shenandoah Valley Railroad in 1879. Read more

The Drummer

Antlers Hotel ca. 1910 (scanned from old copy of photo, source/photographer unknown)
It’s 1910.

The drummer* stepped off the westbound Austin & Northwestern Railroad train onto the wet wooden platform, a carpetbag in one hand, a leather-sheathed cardboard sample case in the other, wishing he had booked another night in Austin at the Depot Hotel. He was glad it was only sprinkling when he walked the few blocks from his hotel to Austin’s Union Station. With a sigh he set both down, pulled his coat tighter around him in a useless attempt to set off the bone-chilling dampness of the evening. If it weren’t for the rain – a downpour of the kind seemingly known only to Central Texas – and a washed out bridge a few miles up the line, he’d be spending the night in Llano at the Dabbs where he had reserved a room. Picking up his bags he fell in with his fellow passengers, all but a few stranded like himself, toward the large hotel across the tracks. Read more

Sawed in Two

A Brief History of the
Coutts – Sweetgrass International Train Station

Looking north from the United States toward the newly built train station with the NWMP barracks in the background, in the fall of 1890. Note that the water tower spout is also visible. Glenbow Museum and Archives NA-1167-15.

This is the story of a unique building (the only one we know of) – an international train station that was run by one family operating two railways in the Northwest Territories (pre-Alberta) and Montana and how it was almost lost in the redevelopment of the new border crossing at Coutts Alberta (AB) – Sweetgrass Montana (MT).


Background

In 1883, Sir Alexander Galt and his son Elliott co-founded the Town of Lethbridge, AB when he established a mine on the banks of the Oldman River in the southwest portion of the district of Alberta, Northwest Territories. Galt is a well-known figure in the Lethbridge area where a public park (Galt Gardens) and a museum (Galt Museum and Archives) are named after him. Canada’s then Governor General, the Marquis of Lansdowne, demonstrated the Government’s support of the Galt enterprises by opening the Galt’s railway in September 1885.

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