Saturday, August 18, 2018

South of Moose Jaw to Congress, Assiniboia and Rockglen, 1989

On September 12, 1989, we did a quick trip between Regina, Moose Jaw and Portage la Prairie,
running close to the international boundary for a good part of the trip.

We had hoped to visit Aneroid - the hometown of one of my bosses at the time.
However, early on we determined that this side trip would make the day too long.
It turned out to be a very long (but good) day anyway.

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NOTE: I tend to use the 'historical present' tense when describing our trips. This post will be read by visitors in 2018 and beyond ... so to identify features existing at the time of writing, I usually state 'in 2018 this feature still exists'.

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Below are a couple of images from an April 1945 CPR public timetable.
We are heading south from Moose Jaw, through Assiniboia and east via Big Beaver.

If you enjoy puzzles, you might like to try deciphering the Assiniboia-related passenger train schedules above.

Probably, local people taking trains on prairie branchlines would work through their friendly
local station agent rather than using a system timetable.

... But then, how could residents of small quiet western towns
not be fully aware of the habitual comings and goings of steam locomotives?

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Map from 1981

Atlas of Canada; 1981; Reader's Digest.
The 1981 map above shows the roads and railways almost the way we saw them in 1989. We'd started the day in Regina, rolled through Moose Jaw and past the Canadian Forces Base which was home to the Snowbirds. We followed Highway 2 south through Assiniboia. This post ends at Rockglen, but next time you'll see photos from Big Beaver!

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At 0930hr, about 30 minutes south of Moose Jaw on Highway 2,
we came upon this picturesque vista.

Near Congress, Saskatchewan, looking north.

Congress, mile 55.5 on the Expanse Sub, looking southwest at about 10hr.

The next few photos were taken at Assiniboia - a centre of branch line operations for the CPR.
Here is the former Assiniboia station, the camera is facing timetable west.

Taken a little farther to the east, here is the main line switch at Assiniboia.
Track forces have been dropping some ballast.

At 1030hr, here is the former roundhouse/shop - now a livestock sale barn.

I counted 17 units in the yard - generally four-axle power.
This view looks southwest.

(My grainy fast film - for typical 'vacation weather' - doesn't like being on the wrong side of the sun.)

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Subdivisions at Assiniboia

To illustrate the role of Assiniboia near the end of the steam era,
I have included timetable pages which show the subdivisions which radiated from it.

I have reproduced full pages because the subdivision footnotes are interesting ... as are the other local lines.
For each sheet below, my title points out the subdivision name and its position relative to Assiniboia.

Assiniboia Sub - to the east

Expanse Sub - to the north

Shaunavon Sub - to the west
Fife Lake Sub - to the south, then east at Rockglen

Wood Mountain Sub & Colony Sub originate on the Fife Lake Sub - to the west

Considering all of our vacations spent in western Canada, this was one of the few times we saw a combine in action up close.
We probably experienced more springtime stubble burning than harvesting over the years.
At any rate, in this little field south of Assiniboia you can see a genuine Massey Ferguson working.

Notice how short the stalks are.
If a plant puts less energy into growing a stalk, there is theoretically more energy for developing the grain itself.
Long-stalked grain plants are susceptible to being hammered into the ground by heavy winds and rain.
This may result in the stalk being broken and the plant dying before it reaches maturity.
And, combines have difficulty picking up seed heads lying flat on the ground.

Next, we see the Fife Lake Sub - this is looking north.
I noted that the rail was 80 lb Algoma from 1905.

This location is Rockglen, mile 36.3 on the Fife Lake Sub.

Here are the elevators at Rockglen.
You can see that the land is becoming dryer and less inviting for grain crops.
I read Trackside Treasure so I know that the tilt of the elevator at the far right is within acceptable limits.

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The last image below is detail from one of the maps shown in previous posts.
It shows township (each square is a township) population density in 1911.

Assiniboia is seen at the left margin.
A number of the railway lines shown above had not yet been constructed.
It seems that our travels will take us over land which is not well-suited to farming.

Next: On to Big Beaver! ...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saskatchewan and the Dominion Land Survey (1919)

Before continuing our quick sweep through southern Saskatchewan in 1989,
here is a document from 70 years earlier, which explains the Dominion Land Survey system.

This topic arises from the two previous posts, looking at the land and the CPR
between the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border and Moose Jaw ...
and including references to 'correction lines'.

from: Canada Handbook; 1948; Government of Canada.

The 1870s surveying process preceding the Canadian/European/US settling of the Prairies
contrasted with survey systems used in Canada in an earlier age (above).

... And where western settlement had occurred before the 1870s
river frontage and other traditional systems had been in use to organize land title.

Today, aerial views of farmland (e.g. near Selkirk, Manitoba) illustrate the contrasts between the two systems.

from: Canada Handbook; 1965-66; Government of Canada.

The 90 degree angles of the DLS can be see everywhere in the photo above.

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A 1919 explanation of the Dominion Land Survey system.

This booklet was published by the federal government in 1919.
In its 150 pages are detailed all aspects of Saskatchewan's features and resources.

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If the Minister's name rings a bell ... Arthur Meighen was later prime minister for short periods - twice in the 1920s. 

An Arthur Meighen Digression ...

from: Borden, His Life and World; John English; 1977; McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Originally from Ontario, Arthur Meighen was first elected as the member of parliament for Portage la Prairie in 1908. Later, in various ministerial portfolios ... he presided over legislation and events which included the 1917 Conscription Crisis, the creation of the Canadian National Railways and the Winnipeg General Strike. 

He became prime minister after the resignation of Sir Robert Borden in 1920 ... until the results of the subsequent 1921 federal election ... when Mackenzie King's Liberals were elected and Meighen lost his seat in Portage la Prairie. Leading the Conservatives, Meighen returned as an MP via a by-election in Grenville. >> This supports my long-held observation that everyone has some kind of connection with Lachute, Quebec.

The 1925 federal election resulted in a Mackenzie King minority government ... and the famous King-Byng Affair. About to lose a scandal-inspired vote of censure in the Commons, Mackenzie King deftly asked Byng to dissolve Parliament and call a federal election. Usually ... a governor general would comply with this request. 
Consistent with the practice in those times ... British prime minister ... David Lloyd George ... had recommended to King George V ... that the English-born Julian Hedworth George Byng ('Bungo' to his friends) be appointed as Canadian governor general in 1921.
Responding to Mackenzie King's request for an election, Byng 'interfered' and invited Meighen to form a government. After 3 days in power, Meighen was defeated by a vote of non-confidence. Trivia fans: This was the shortest-lived federal government in Canadian history.

Mackenzie King won the election handily by emphasizing that the foreigner figurehead Byng had interfered in Canadian politics. Meighen, again running in Portage la Prairie, was defeated.

Arthur Meighen was subsequently appointed to the Senate in 1932 by RB Bennett and his life in politics continued after that ...

Historical observation:

Meighen's lifespan encompassed the end of the bison herds on the Prairies,
the Great War, the Great Depression, World War 2,
the end of steam on Canadian railways and the first satellites of the Space Age.

... and also, he probably went to Lachute at some point.

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*  *  *

From a CPR booklet for settlers from Britain circa 1909

The apportionment of Sections in each Township
is shown in this CPR diagram from circa 1909.

*  *  *

from: Arc of the Medicine Line; Tony Rees; 2007; Douglas & McIntyre.
Sappers of the Royal Engineers prepare an international boundary marker near Milk River (in today's eastern Alberta).

As noted above, everything began with surveying the 49th Parallel of latitude ...
which forms much of the boundary between the US and Canada in the west.

The photographs above and below help show the scale of the vast expanse of western land,
and the tiny specks of determined human effort to establish permanent settlements on it.

... Human and animal muscle power did most of the early work of settlement.

from: Canada, The Missing Years; Patricia Pierce; 1985; Stoddart.
Above, settlers are trekking out from Moose Jaw to the patch of prairie they intend to work.

While a sod hut could be built primarily with local material (prairie sod for the upper walls, and a hole in the ground for the living area), stove pipes and other key technologies had to be carted to the staked-out lot which the settler had spoken for ... somewhere out there on the prairie.

from: History of the Canadian Pacific Railway; W Kaye Lamb; 1977; Macmillan.
Photographed after 1900, here is a sod hut.
Anecdotes suggest that its 'green roof' would 'rain' inside for several days after wet weather passed.

The bones are not decoration, but bison remains harvested as a cash crop from the prairie.
The going price for bison bones was $5-8 per ton.

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In 1911-1915 ...

The maps above and below show population density in 1911 and features up to 1915
... from my Government of Canada atlas.

I have inserted the key to population density in the upper right corner of the map above.
Most Township squares have fewer than 30 people per square mile.

Once again, I'm bumping up against the size limits for Google Blog images.

The enlarged map section below offers more detail for the area
which will be shown in photos from 1989 in the next post.

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Printed cheaply on cheap paper, this 80 page booklet was probably produced in 1909
for free distribution to prospective British settlers visiting 'emigration' offices in Britain.

Horse-drawn binders are working ... they cut and bind groups of wheat stalks into a sheaf.
This bundle of stalks is left lying in the field - each bundle might weight 30 pounds (?)
... depending on the preferences of the farmer, how dry the wheat plants were, weather, etc.
The turning wheels under a binder are geared to drive the cutting and binding mechanism.
A key technology here is the mechanism to knot and cut the binding cord for each sheaf.

The sheaves are next stood vertically on their cut ends
and leaned against each other, forming  stooks, to dry completely
(labour-intensive - stooking workers are not shown).

Once dried, each sheaf is taken from the stook and forked onto a wagon.
The next step, threshing, is done at a central location.

We only see three stooking/forking labourers working in the whole field!

At the threshing machine (not shown),
the wheat seeds are broken free from the straw (hollow stalk) and chaff (seed husks, etc).
Early threshing operations directed the grain seeds into standard 100 pound bags for storage and/or transportation.

Today's modern harvesters (combines) combine the cutting and threshing steps.
Modern strains of short-stalk, earlier ripening wheat are often sprayed with glyphosate
to dessicate the plant before harvesting.
Aircraft can spray grain fields quickly without the loss of plants flattened by tractor-towed spraying equipment.