It was a day for fun, music and many memories as Valley folk and visitors gathered to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Barry’s Bay Railway Station on September 28. Attendees were reminded of its importance, not just locally but globally. Station Keeper President Joanne Olsen said in her welcoming remarks, “This railroad Station was built to connect Barry’s Bay to the world. It was built to ship millions of board feet of lumber and millions of bushels of grain each and every year. Back in the day, as many as 20 trains passed through Barry’s Bay each and every day.” Photo above: Throughout the afternoon Ish Theilheimer and the Stone Fence Theatre troupe entertained the crowd with some of their original tunes from their show Here Comes the Train!
Olsen continued, “It’s a little-known fact that the decks of such famous Cunard line ships as the Lusitania and Mauretania were made of timbers cut right here along the Madawaska. That might strike some of you as impossible; to think of this valley, this station as being somehow connected with the oceans of the world. But strange it was not. In fact, over 40 per cent of all Western grain would pass through Barry’s Bay in the early part of the 20th century on its way to the overseas markets of the world.”
She said the Station “was built at the behest of John Rudolphus Booth, a Canadian like no other. By the end of the 19th century, his OA & PS Railway would become the largest private railway in the world, a fitting match for Booth’s gargantuan sawmill in Ottawa. By that time, it had become the largest sawmill of its kind in the world. And it was that Ottawa mill that depended on the virgin white pine cut up here in the Madawaska Valley.” Later in the afternoon a monologue by J. R. Booth. read by historical re-enacters Brian Peterson as J. R. Booth and Carol Peterson as Rosalinda Booth (inset), provided fascinating details of the lumber baron’s remarkable career. The performance was recorded by Station Keeper manager Barry Conway and will soon be available online as a podcast episode of the Opeongo Reader’s Theatre.
More personal memories were shared, one example being MPP John Yakabuski who entertained with a train station tale from his childhood. See separate article in The Current for his story.
Station Keeper volunteers organized activities to test the knowledge, skill and luck of everyone who attended – no matter what age. Several adults and children successfully completed the scavenger hunt throughout Railway Station Park. They went home with prizes of engineer caps, train whistles and/or Stone Fence Theatre Here Comes the Train! CDs. Above from left: Volunteers Carmel Rumleskie and Theresa Prince organize the children’s games; Erin Plebon and her children on the Scavenger Hunt
Inside the Station building, Andy Laird from Cobden set up his outdoor scale model train layout to the delight of train lovers young and old. Above left: Ken Ramsden quizzes Laird about the model train while Rose Faiella and Roxanne Dibbley (at right) enjoy a quieter non-motorized train set.
The most exciting event was the spike driving which included male and female participants. Bob Corrigan told The Current: “It was pretty exciting because two of them tied during the regular round and then had to go two more rounds to determine the winner. They were the only two participants to actually drive their spikes right down into the timber. When they repeated the feat in the showdown, they then had to do a round that restricted them to a time limit of ten seconds to see who could drive the spike in the furthest within that time allowance.” After the extra hammer downs, the winner of the $50 Home Hardware gift card was J.B. Rumleski. Rumleski is shown below wielding a spike driver.
The Share the Wealth draw was won by Alfred Villeneuve and Carmel Rumleskie. The TrackWalker limited edition print was won by Mary Conway. Danny Cubulskie won the Children’s Train Themed Basket and the Adult Train Themed Basket was won by Beth Hildebrandt. Maryjka Mychajlowycz, Esther Yantha and Heather Poliquin won the Railway Trivia competition. The St. Francis Memorial Hospital Auxiliary took home a donation of print and online advertising from The Current.
On behalf of the Station Keepers, Olsen thanked the many businesses and individuals who sponsored the day’s events and acknowledged help from the Wilno Heritage Society including the loan of their canopies to help keep everyone dry. Her parting words: “Our little global village with one very old but unique Railway Station, still standing. It’s actually quite impressive. Just like Barry’s Bay itself, don’t you think?”