In 1877 work began on building the CPR from Winnipeg to Rat Portage. Somewhat latter construction began from Prince Arthur. The Winnipeg to Rat Portage was completed in 1882. The impact of the railway on Rat Portage is immeasurable. The history of the railway and its impact are told elsewhere at http://retson.ca/railwayconstruction.html.
This page will attempt to cover the individuals involved.
The Railway in Keewatin
The first train from the West and East passed through Keewatin on 11 June 1881. Soon the railway was a big business.
The railway employed many dedicated mployees over the years:
Jack Conlon was a conductor who gained a reputation for his work in the cramped Keewatin yard. He was employed as a brakeman in Saint John and left for Kenora between March 1903 and 1925 where he became a switchman for the CPR. He was working as late as 1940.
Ed Sweet in Keewatin Reflections spoke of Conlon's work,
It was pretty to watch Conlon make a "drop" - first the entire train would get moving with one switchman uncoupling and remaining on the unit to be dropped. The engine would then accelerate rapidly, widening on the gap between it and ongoing cars. Within this interval another man would throw the switch diverting the oncoming unit to the desired track. Keewatin's yardage space was fairly cramped so this whole act required perfect timing and cooperation; one can imagine the costly damages if anything went awry in executing the performance. Should any one in the act dally or hurry too much he incurred Conlon's wrath interspersed with colourful and scorching remarks. Colon expected perfection from his crew because Colon was good himself. He indeed ranked high in everyone's esteem.
John Lewis Conlon died in Kenora 6 Dec. 1962.
Jack's son Edward Lewis Colon, also served as a conductor. his son Arthur John Conlon also worked for the CPR. Allan Roy Conlon retired from the CPR Feb 1957.
Ralph Earnest "Earnie" Reid, son and eighth child of nine was born in Kenora on 28 September 1909. His father arrived in Rat Portage prior to 1899. He married Margerie Beatrice Stubbins 0n September 22 1934. They had two daughters Lorna Jay (Reid) Wilson and Lynda Susan (Reid) Jones. A letter addressed to the Superintendent, CPR, a copy of which may be found at the Kenora Railway Museum in Kenora speaks of the dedication and service of the conductors as well as the appreciation of those who traveled the rails to their cottages between Kenora and Winnipeg.
Ernie passed away February 15 1992.
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