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August 3, 2007

Community History Alive and Well


There is a lot of heritage activity within driving distance of North Bay this summer.  Let’s look at a couple of items of interest.  I was in Temagami on Saturday July 21, as a part of the Angele Egwuna art exhibition at the Temagami train station, when some 30 track motorcars pulled into the station and drew a crowd.  I did not realize that these little four wheel gas-driven vehicles had a future after they were done as a part of railway inspection and repair travel.  

Railcar on the CNR’s Algonquin route in Algonquin Park about 1915. From My Childhood in the bush, Past Forward Heritage.

Hundreds of them have been bought and restored, and there is a national organization that supports them with information, insurance, meetings and incredible excursions.  The group at the Temagami station was a part of a three day trip from North Bay into Quebec with various stops along the way and back for 30 motor cars and 65 people.  Ten of the cars were from Ontario, with the rest from the U.S. They were hauled to North Bay on trailers and with the help of the Ontario Northland Railway lined up in tandem and run on a 700 km trip.  

I happened to be at the station when they arrived and had a chance to chat with several of the participants, including Jim Brown, one of the Ontario leaders from Tottenham, Ontario. By coincidence, North Bay Mayor Vic Fideli and Patty were on a Saturday drive and were interested as well.  They also had a look at the Angele Project.  There are many of these motor car excursions, and another four-day one out of Sault St. Marie was scheduled for the next week with several of the participants from the current trip joining in. 

Track motorcar excursion lined up at the Temagami station for a brief stop on their way to North Bay. D. Mackey photo.

In order to participate you have to be a member of the North American Railway Operators Association. It is a non-profit organization dedicated to the safety and legal operation of railway equipment used historically for the maintenance of railways. There are over 1,800 members. You have to pass a test and become certified to be a member and to go on any of the many excursions with your car.  Check the association out on the Web. 

The organization includes old hand pump cars and velocipedes — a two-wheeled vehicle with a wheeled side arm to provide balance.  They eventually added a gasoline engine. There are several of these vehicles shown in my books on Fossmill and Brent, and the one here shows the one used out of Brent. 

North Bay Mayor Vic Fideli and his wife Patty enjoying a visit with one of the travelers on the motorcar excursion in Temagami. D. Mackey photo.

There were men and women of all ages, young and old, at the Temagami station.  Maria Calabrese wrote a nice article in the Nugget, where she pointed out that, while traveling, the ladies were at a slight disadvantage to men on occasion — for example, when nature called.   

When I returned to North Bay I noticed several of the motorcars on trailers in motel parking lots waiting for the trip home the next day. On my way to Toronto the next day I met Geoff Elliot, one of the excursion participants, in Huntsville on his way home to Tecumseh, Ontario near Windsor.  He took his dad on the trip and was pleased with the event. 

The Angele Egwuna Project

I was in Temagami the same day to attend one of the many events associated with the art show on Grey Owl’s first wife now at the Temagami Station until October 15th.  Doctor Donald Smith, a history professor from the University of Calgary who has written the best book on Grey Owl was at the theatre at the Welcome Centre to talk about Angele her daughter Agnes and their family. Albert Lalonde, Grey Owl’s grandson, and his wife Jeanette and some of their family were present and hosted Dr. Smith and his son.  Dr. Smith’s talk was quite informative and was well-received by a good turnout. Mattawa artist Claremont Duval, who I wrote about here recently, was in Temagami to see the art show and attended the lecture.  

A real bonus was a lecture by Gary Potts, the former outstanding leader of Temagami First Nation a decade ago.  He had not spoken for years, but was in excellent form and spoke for an hour and received a long and enthusiastic ovation at the end of his talk. 

Mattawa Museum’s New Farm Display

The Janvaeu/Burrit family is the driving force behind a fine new farm history display at the Mattawa Museum that opened last Saturday. Joy Janveau who passed away recently, made a financial bequest to help with the display. The display features the Janveau grandfather who was well-known in Cameron Township and was featured on the cover of the township history. Drop in and have a look if you are in the area.   

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