Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Day: A New Beginning!

Prince Rupert, September, 1959. For many, New Years Day provides an auspicious beginning, a new starting point, a renewal of spirit: "Things are going to be better this year!"

While searching through my photos, trying to find something iconic to visualize New Years Day, I kept coming back to this photo of a ballasting crew working their way out of Prince Rupert, facing miles and miles of tedious back breaking work.

What better visualization of a New Year, a New Day, and in the case of these cohorts, a New Beginning in a New Land. None of these fellows spoke English with certainty. At first, they were wary of "the kid with the camera." But after we exchanged some good-natured smiles, "Boss" began carefully demonstrating The Art of Leveling Rail.

These fellows epitomize the spirit of a New Beginning. They had migrated from a variety of European countries; Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and who knows where else, thousands of miles from friends and relatives to begin a new life.

I wondered what it was like being so far from home? What compels a person to travel so far to start a new life?

"Boss," riding the leveler, directed the sextet. There was no horseplay. No wandering off on a "smoke break." Working through rain squalls that would have sent lesser characters scrambling for shelter. With little conversation, and an occasional chuckle, they leveled rail.

Two massive. raucous, McWilliams multiple tool air tampers followed along, advancing four ties at a time, mile after mile after mile.

The crew bivouacked in converted passenger coaches with their own cook and dining facilities. Once they left Prince Rupert, there was 100 miles of empty wilderness until they reached Terrace.

Yeah. I'll go the photographs of the Ballasting Gang, iconic of a New Year!

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