“It’s strange to think of this peaceful old Station here in town,” said Joanne Olsen, who heads The Station Keepers MV, a non-profit corporation attempting to revitalize the old Barry’s Bay Railway Station, “and then think of that horrible night after three men had just been killed in an explosion, trying their best to build the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway into this village 125 years ago.”
“George Marsten, Louis Keller and Bill Deep, all lost their lives in one of the worst industrial accidents to befall the building of the J. R. Booth’s OA & PS Railway,” added Oslen. “It happened just down the road. And Tom Murray (at left in photo above) knew some of their families; Keller, a father of four, was from Palmer Rapids and Marsten’s sister was living in Barry’s Bay at the time.”
She said The Station Keepers will be kicking off a year-long 125th Anniversary celebration this week to help remind people of the town’s sometimes forgotten railroad history.
“At 7:00 p.m. Thursday, August 1st, The Opeongo Readers Theatre will be presenting at the Barry’s Bay Station a riveting, new production called ‘Ribbons of Steel’,” she said. “Among other things, it will detail the tragedy that took those three young lives, but it will also let you hear the actual words of Tom Murray who, at 14 years of age, helped lay those ribbons of steel into Barry’s Bay.”
“Mr. Murray, as everybody who grew up here in Barry’s Bay in the last century knows, was born near Barry’s Bay in 1880 and died here, aged 101. Thankfully, in his 90s, he recorded an audio interview with his grandson, Sean Conway, and Tom’s memory is so wonderfully detailed, hearing his words — it’s like watching a movie. It’s not hard to feel the drama of that summer of 1894, when Tom worked for fifty cents a day as a waterboy for the navvies as they laid those rails into Barry’s Bay.”
On the Saturday, August 3rd at 2:00 p.m., The Station Keepers will also be presenting an afternoon of traditional music at the Barry’s Bay Station when they host, weather permitting, an outdoor concert, featuring The Stoppa Lake Melodiers, a local group who hail from close to where that deadly dynamite accident occurred at the western exit of the famous Haggarty Pass which claimed those three lives.
Conway,B. The Station Keepers MV (2019,July29) Ribbons of Steel [press release]