Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Aerial View of Milan, Quebec.

Quite a few years have passed since I last saw this scene.

I remember Duncan McLeod selling postcards with this same image in his store, which is the building behind the church on the right of the church steeple. Although now only a memory and historical footnote, McLeod Bros. Store was a Milan business and landmark for 99 years.

Milan, Quebec. View from the air.

The above scene was probably recorded in the early 1950's. 

This unique aerial perspective of Milan provides an excellent view of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the final decade of the steam era. The photo also provides a rare glimpse of how life once looked like in a small, railway-served wilderness village in the eastern corner of the Eastern Townships near Maine.

In the early 1950's the CPR in Milan appeared alive and well. The railway station was manned and open, steam-powered trains were prevalent and the water tower saw daily use. Boxcars were spotted on the team track for loading; mostly lumber and other woods destined elsewhere. 

Mail also came in by train and upon arrival was taken over to the post office. (building to the right of the water tower and across from the church.) My great-uncle Murdo Murray (maternal grandfather's brother-in-law) delivered Milan's rural mail by horse and carriage right up until he retired in 1959.

In the early 1950's, roads into and out of Milan were not paved; often impassible during winter and through the spring thaw, The CPR augmented their passenger schedules with a mixed-train winter service between Sherbrooke and Megantic.

Change was inevitable and changes came.

Roads were improved and CPR's winter mixed train service disappeared in the early 1950's. Mail service soon abandoned the railway and travelled to and from town by road.

Between 1957 and 1961 the station was closed, the steam era ended and the water tower was immediately demolished. The empty station lasted until spring 1967; demolished also and replaced by a corrugated metal shelter which remained until trains 201 and 206 were discontinued in 1970. 

Unfortunately tiny towns were not immune to railway-related tragedy. In 1960, Mrs. Norman McLeod (Duncan McLeod's mother) was struck and killed by a train at the town's unprotected railway crossing. Shortly afterward, warning lights and bells were installed.

Streets in Milan were first paved in 1959 or 1960, but the highway between Milan and Scotstown remained unpaved until the early 1980's. 

In summer 1980 while passing through Milan en route to Maine, Kie and I saw Christie MacArthur in the ditch beside the still gravel Highway 214, mending the wire fence to keep the sheep in. She must have been in her 90's then. 

Driving into Milan has never been the same since gravel-surfaced, washboard-like MacArthur's Corner disappeared forever. 

The Oddblock Station Agent


Village of Milan, Quebec, in the mid 1950's as seen while approaching from the north end of town. The CPR water tower is almost in the center of the photo.

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