Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Handcar Tale

Some traits must run in the family. Two descendants of one of the perpetrators were trying out the handcar on display at the Canadian Railway Museum. Wisely, this handcar has been chained to the track.

One evening at the dinner table in the late 1960's, my grandfather recounted to us details about a railway related adventure which occurred many years earlier, probably around 1910.

A group of young men from Milan, which was said to have included the CPR station agent as well as my grandfather, borrowed the section handcar to travel the ten miles from Milan to Scotstown. The purpose was to attend some long forgotten social function in Scotstown. Anyway, the handcar was of the vintage that required a pair or quartet of participants to supply muscle power to pump the handle bars up and down, much like a see-saw.

For the return journey, rather than pump the handcar over the uphill grade to Milan, the group decided they would place the handcar on the track behind the eastbound passenger train when it made its late night stop at Scotstown. Two of the men then held on to the rear of the trailing passenger car. By the time the train attained track speed, my grandfather claimed the handcar's handle bars were moving up and down so fast that no one dared to move from fear of being struck and killed. 

Spring Hill, Quebec, was renamed Nantes
Somewhere after McLeod's (former flag-stop) the two who were holding on to the rear of the train let go. My grandfather always insisted that the handcar did not stop coasting until it almost reached Milan. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but that was the only time the perpetrators pulled off that stunt to avoid having to work the CPR's uphill Scotstown-to-Milan route the hard way.

The Oddblock Station Agent

Note: Details of this anecdote also appears in Duncan McLeod's publication, "The Milan Story"

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