Thursday, 25 December 2014

Mile Post 17

Mile Post 17. Nothing is significant about this place unless you happened to have been two boys in summer 1968.

Mile board 17 of CP Rail's Sherbrooke Subdivision as it appeared in July 1992. Gone today are the telephone poles, wires and green glass insulators.

I had always wanted one of those green glass insulators that adorned the wooden pins on the cross arms of the railway's telephone poles. As youngsters my brother and I literally walked miles along the railway track in each direction from town. Occasionally we searched around the poles hoping to find an insulator that had been dropped and forgotten. No such luck.

One weekend when visiting Milan, I noticed that several wires had been removed from the lowest cross arm and one pin nearest the pole had an unused insulator on every pole. Being the eldest and usually the instigator or schemes, my brother and I set off westward along the railway looking for the shortest pole we could find. None were as short as we thought when we started looking. 

Near mile board 17 (in 1968 the mile boards were fastened to the telephone poles) we located a reasonably short pole. Too add to our luck, if one can call it that, we spotted a railway tie further along the embankment. We wrestled that tie over rocks and bushes and eventually had it moved to the base of the pole. With all our strength together we just barely managed to prop up the tie against the pole. My brother clambered up the tie while I tried to make certain it did not slip. He could just reach that unused insulator on the bottom cross arm.

In a minute he had the insulator unscrewed from the pin and tossed the insulator down to me. Not just content with one, my brother also unscrewed one of the other unused insulators further out on the cross arm and tossed the glass treasure down also. With our work done we shoved the tie off the pole and quickly headed back with our trophies.

You can probably imagine my reaction, several weeks later during another visit to my grandparents, when I was sent to answer the knock at the front door and found a Canadian Pacific Railway police officer there. While my mother and the CPR police officer talked in French, my brother and I whispered together in the next room trying to figure out how the CPR could have found out about the two missing insulators.

The CPR police officer departed without speaking to Ted and me and Mom carried on as if nothing was amiss. When my brother and I finally had the nerve to ask what the visit from the CPR police was about, we learned that the CPR was investigating incidents of stone throwing at trains several nights earlier. Fortunately for us, we were home in Montreal on the dates the CPR was questioning.

Mile post 17. Again, nothing is significant about this place unless you happened to have been two boys in summer 1968.

Today, all the poles, insulators and wires are gone without a trace. Twenty-five years later this same green glass insulator still sits on my desk.

Dominion Glass - 42

(Written autumn 1992)
The Oddblock Station Agent

1 comment:

  1. My dad collected insulators. Thanks for reminding me of him!