Canada Day 2007

It’s not every day you get to celebrate someone’s 140th birthday, and they’re pretty happy about the whole affair.   I got to spend it what I’ve done for several years now, helping out with the Rocky Mountain Rail Society at the Alstom Yards (former CP Ogden) holding a little show-and-ride.

We also attempted to see fireworks. With emphasis on “attempted”. You’ll see why in a moment.

But first, the trains. As with most years, we haul out the Eagle Springs (a “comboose” we aquired from a private owner) and the coach car, strap ’em to CP SW900 6711, and take people for a ride forward and back through the yard. We can’t go out on the main line, but the yard trip is about 10 minutes, and it doesn’t cost the public anything. Which is nice.

We also bring in a band — a pretty good one, too — that plays music while people wait for their turn on the train. We hope to sell a few knick-knacks at the same time for funding.

This year, though, we also got a bonus — a steam locomotive. CP 2816 (“The Empress”) came out for viewing. We had also hoped she would pull a couple of runs with the cars, but the track in the yard is pretty sketchy, and given that she was due to travel out to Vancouver the next day, they couldn’t afford her hitting ground. But even a stationary steamer is gorgeous.

I never got near her, though. I was on security detail. Normally, security isn’t hard to do — a couple of people, and you’ve got things locked down. This time, we had to have people walk a few hundred metres over a hill and through a fairly rocky/gravel-strewn area to reach 2816. We couldn’t get her any closer, as the curves are so sharp, she’d definitely derail.

Problem: That much distance, combined with a few people who think rules don’t apply to them, equals potential disaster. So we had people stationed fairly regularly to ensure that people didn’t “accidentally” wander into the yard to see what else was there. Up on the hill, I could see most of the yard, and caught sight of a few people breaking the rules. In a couple of cases, it was family of Alstom or CP employees — that I couldn’t do much about. Two other cases was a guy who tried to follow the family (and was caught), and some punk kid who feigned ignorance when told that the security gates are not jungle gyms. Having radios for keeping everyone informed was a godsend.

I don’t know how many people were there, but from where I was, I could never see the end of the line for the train rides. We had to have easily doubled last year’s numbers. At least I hope we did that — standing in the hot sun for five-odd hours wasn’t easy. At least I wasn’t as bad off as Ian, who looked like a lobster by the time he was done.

After wrapping everything up, I returned home to find out that Alex’s friend Colette had invited us over for bratwursts, and to see the fireworks. Rebecca, who had come over the for the evening, tagged along. Nick and Mo were already there. Thus began several hours of chatting, eating, playing a weird Wii game that lets you do surgery (a weird Japanese anime-style game), and watching fireworks.

Almost every year, the big fireworks show is at Canada Olympic Park. It’s a great place because a lot of people don’t have to leave their homes — you can see it quite easily overlooking Bowness. Given, you have to come to the northwest to see it, but it’s still cool.

Or would have been, if the City (thanks, Dave) decided to move it on top of the municipal buildings downtown. Others could hear fireworks (big ones), but we just assumed neighbourhood stuff. If only we could have seen behind us. At the time, I was pissed — why would the city do something so stupid as to move the fireworks downtown? Who goes downtown to cram into Olympic Plaza (not Park, hence all the confusion — even 311 had it wrong!) to see fireworks?

Then I thought about it some more. It actually is quite brilliant. By making people come downtown, you make downtown more important than it is. Right now, downtown is little more than office buildings, a few restaurants, one struggling shopping mall (crazy busy during the weekday, dead on weekends and evenings), and most of Calgary’s homeless population. Attract attention to downtown, and maybe you’ll have some more success.

But I can’t imagine what the traffic must have been like…