From left: Roy Mitchell

Railroaders share stories of adventure, avalanches and isolation during winter

  • Mar. 1, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Story written with notes provided by Jennifer Dunkerson, the director of the Revelstoke Railway Museum

Avalanches and dealing with limited supplies were among two of the experiences shared by four retired railroaders during a panel discussion about working the rail line in winter at a Heritage Week event at the Revelstoke Railway Museum on Saturday.

Roy Mitchell, Ed Jaatteenmaki, Paul Mares and James Walford were the four workers who spoke about life on the line and living in isolated mountain communities.

Mitchell, originally from Newfoundland, talked about having to wait for an avalanche to be cleared and having to make do with very limited food and supplies.

Jaatteenmaki spoke about growing up in the mountains as the son of a railway section man and the isolation of living in remote mountain locations along the line, with only the trains going by as contact with others and offering transportation to get groceries and supplies. He also spoke about the boxcars used by the family when they moved to another station along the line – Golden, Albert Canyon, Emerald, Field, Kicking Horse Pass, etc…

Mares talked about his early experiences shovelling coal in steam locomotives in his home country of Czechoslovakia. He recalled coming upon a speeder in the Connaught Tunnel and having to slow the train so they wouldn’t run over it before it cleared the tunnel and could get out of the way.

Walford talked about jumping off a train before it hit a slide on the track and how early on, he worked on the tracks using a velocipede.

The talk was filmed by Media Arts students at Revelstoke Secondary School. The footage will be used for a class project and each student will edit and produce their own final version of the talk.

Photographs on display helped give a visual element to the stories and the Model Railway Society was there to run their trains for visitors.

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