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Resource Award

CN Railroaders Retiree Reunion

I was asked by the Hanna Herald to cover the CN Railroader Retiree Reunion that was held at the Historic Hanna Roundhouse on August 8th, 2015. I have to say that I was blown away by the transformation of the building since I did a photo shoot in there earlier this spring. It went from a health and safety hazard to a very useable facility, although there is still no plumbing and power there. Generators were brought in for power and Greenslade’s supplied the porta-loos. But … wow! Massive props to all who contributed.

The interior had a serious pigeon doo issue the last time I was inside. I had to roll back and forth in it with my cameras for a grad shoot and was utterly grossed out – went home and scrubbed off a good part of my epidermis afterward. As well, I came close to having some injuries from people who wanted to pose for pics on the turntable, which in fairness to the Roundhouse folks, was well marked off as a safety hazard.  On the 8th, the floor inside the ‘great hall’ was pristine thanks to being steam cleaned and a new, safe path had been created across a portion of the turntable. The unsafe portions were well marked again. Much better.

I really enjoyed the event and I liked what I heard about future plans. As previously discussed in my rail town piece, I think live theatre is absolutely something that should be pursued, so I was thrilled to hear Sandra Beaudoin, president of the Hanna Roundhouse Society, talking in that direction.  It’s going to take a few years, but this will be a killer facility when it is finished. I’m personally looking forward to the interpretive centre when it’s done. I can spend all day in an interpretive centre reading everything. It also won’t hurt my feelings if they manage to slip a massive model railroad in there somewhere. (Hey, I can dream, right?)

What personally disappointed me was that out of all the photos I took, a single one of our MLA, Rick Strankman, was the one the paper chose to use alongside my piece. I love Rick to bits as he’s a crap disturber and I admire dysfunction when it is done to a high enough level. Hell, he was my old sorta neighbour when I lived out in the Altario region. It’s just that the weekend was all about honouring the retirees and also the work of the Hanna Roundhouse Society (HRS) that culminated in their receiving the historic resource designation. Those are both huge deals and I would have thought those would have merited photos of retirees or the award presentation being used? I would have at least liked to have seen the photo of Sandra holding the plaque published because by all accounts she has spent the last couple of years being Hanna’s answer to Sisyphus.  I’m grateful to the Herald for the work, but that’s my opinion on what I would have done if I’d had a say in things.

CN retirees and former workers who were honoured at the reunion. Many excellent stories shared at the open mic.
CN retirees and former workers who were honoured at the reunion. Many excellent stories shared at the open mic.

Hanna Herald Piece (with their edits):

Published Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015. Page 6.

The CN Retiree Railroaders Reunion, held at the old Hanna Roundhouse from August 7th through 9th, was by all accounts a tremendous success. The event was well attended by a large contingent of retirees, their families, and railroad enthusiasts. Some notable federal, provincial, and municipal dignitaries were present for activities at the Roundhouse on the evening of August 8th.

The event also marked the designation of Hanna’s Roundhouse — officially named the Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse after it was built in 1913 — as an Alberta Provincial Historic Resource. “We are pleased the provincial government approved our application for historical designation of this iconic building, turntable, and water tower foundation,” Hanna Roundhouse Society president Sandra Beaudoin said in a press release.

Ms. Kim Schreiner, the MLA for Red Deer North, was on hand to formally present the Provincial Historic Resource plaque to Sandra Beaudoin and the members of the Hanna Roundhouse Society on behalf of the Honourable David Eggen, Alberta Minister for Culture and Tourism, who was unable to attend in person.

Kevin Sorenson, MP for the federal riding of Crowfoot, unveiled a memorial plaque commemorating the six railway men who perished in the February 28th, 1948 snow plough crash that occurred opposite the freight sheds near the original Hanna Train Station Site. The Hanna Roundhouse Society has worked hard to ensure that their sacrifice is honoured as part of the restoration of the historic Roundhouse building.

Also speaking on behalf of the efforts of the Hanna Roundhouse Society were Rick Strankman, MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, Jordon Christianson, Acting Chairman of the Special Areas Board, and Richard Preston, Deputy Mayor of Hanna.

Beaudoin acknowledged the massive effort that had gone into acquiring the Roundhouse, cleaning it up for use by the public, making it safe, and spoke about plans for its future during her talk later in the evening.

The former auction area — installed after the Roundhouse ceased railway operations in 1961 and was converted into a cattle auction market — had the unsafe wooden bleacher seating removed, but the metal support scaffolding remains in place. The Roundhouse Society has been having conversations with local groups Stage Hanna and Front Row Centre about using this “theatre” area for live performances.

The Roundhouse Society has designated the large area that the Retiree function was held in as the “grand hall”. Beaudoin hopes it can be rented out or used in the future for public events, weddings, and even functions as diverse as wrestling matches and quilting shows.

Beaudoin hopes to eventually see an interpretive centre that explores Hanna’s railroad history installed in the former office and administrative area, which sits at the back of the roundhouse. This will be some time in the future as the roof of that portion sustained heavier damage from moisture and requires extensive renovation. The final bill to bring the Roundhouse up to what the Society feels is an acceptable level comes in at under a million dollars. Beaudoin acknowledges that this is a substantial sum, but that it is achievable, and much lower they had initially expected when the project was started.

Much recognition and thanks were given to those individuals and volunteers who have devoted time and resources to cleaning up and restoring the roundhouse. Greenslade’s Disposal was singled out in particular for the amount of free waste disposal services donated thus far.

The evening of August 8th concluded with retirees and visitors stepping up to an open microphone to share stories. Among those who shared were, Emerson (Red) Robinson of Hanna (retired engineer), Ken Parker of Hanna (descendant of settlers who sold land to CN) and Gerald Campion of Hanna (he was the last engineer out of Hanna).

In addition to the festivities at the Roundhouse on August 8th, visitors and locals alike were able to visit the Hanna Fall Fair, which ran at the Hanna Historical Museum on Friday and Saturday, take in the town parade on Friday evening with a “train ride” provided to CN retirees on the mini-train brought to town for the day, attend the Museum’s Ghost Walk (also on Friday), and partake in a reunion breakfast on the morning of Sunday the 9th.

[ PDF version ]

Some Photos:

It bears mention that these images were taken with newspaper publication in mind. I did my best to keep any personal bias I had out of them and to just shoot an honest photo essay of what occurred that day. Post-processing is also kept to a minimum, which is why the images don’t have my customary ‘look’ to them.

One image in particular was special to me. Toward the end of the album is a fellow, Clif Chapman, holding up a picture of his brother in front of a train. Clif is standing in the same spot his brother stood and I’m photographing from where the original photographer stood. It was an emotional moment and I was lucky to share it in. Photography is all about telling stories and it was cool to be allowed into this one for an instant.

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