Sunday, December 2, 2007

Children, Cream Cans and Trains

The story I was told today was about children, cream cans and trains. The trains were vital to the province back then. They ran through almost every small town picking up produce and bringing in commercial goods as well as being one of the main sources of passenger transport. Often the train came through town at night. But not all towns had crossings or even electric light.
At the age of nine or ten it was the job of the local store owner's children to flag the train down. They would set a kerosene lantern by the track to let the engineer know there was a pickup. Unfortunately, the lantern was small and by the time it was spotted the train would usually overshoot the stop. Because the cream cans were too heavy to lift, the children often worked in pairs and dragged the cans to the train. When they reached the train it was usually at a full stop or moving slowly and someone would reach down with a hook and pull the cans into the train. Back then, no one thought that it might be dangerous or too much for children of that age to drag heavy cans in the dark to slowly moving trains. I'm not too sure what people would think now. It really was a different world then.

“Playing?” She wrinkled her nose. “Who would clear the field?”
Maggie Edwards "From the Dust"

Safe travels


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