Many gathered at the abandoned town site of Farron on Saturday to celebrate 25 years of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail, including a man who was born in Farron.
John Peterson was born in Farron in 1932 and lived there with his parents and older brother Roy.
“My dad worked for the CPR. He was a section foreman and he started in the ’20s. Anyway we lived there until the later ’30s and then moved to Tadanac, because we were late for starting school by a year or two,” he explained.
Peterson can’t remember exactly how many people lived in Farron while he and his family were there, but there were a fair number of people around.
“Quite a few people stayed here at the time because, well, they looked after the engines that helped the freights come up from either end, drive up the hill like,” he said. “So they had spare steam engines up here. So the engineers, firemen, break men, all the crews stayed up here in cabins for their shift.”
Peterson has fond memories of growing up in Farron: he and his brother had a pet deer that sat on the front porch with them watching the trains go by and the boys would hike and pick huckleberries.
He also has a hair-raising tale to share.
He and his brother had received sleds from station agent Joe Willis and “I was sleigh riding down the hill there, by our house and just then the passenger train was leaving heading that way. And my sleigh — I didn’t see it coming — my sleigh hit the edge of the ties there and I accidentally rolled off, because it was kind of a hump, and my sleigh ended up in the middle of the track and the engine took it away.”
The sleigh eventually wound up sunk in the snow beside the track and Peterson was able to reclaim it.
“My mother was looking out the window and said her hair was standing up on end, but anyway they didn’t get me,” he chuckled.
There’s little left at the Farron town site, save for the historical information signs and kiosk that the Columbia Western Trail Society have built and the flag pole that was installed in anticipation of raising the Canadian flag at Farron to celebrate 25 years of the Great Trail and Canada 150.
Jeremy Nelson, president of the Columbia and Western Trail Society, said that as the society has worked on installing historical kiosks from Castlegar to Fife, thanks to grant money from Heritage B.C., he has met many families who used to live along the trail.
“And that’s why keeping the Rail Trail open for everybody … is so important,” said Nelson.
During the celebration, Peterson was presented with a plaque featuring a photo of him with his mother and brother waiting to board a train to Fife. He said they traveled there often to visit family.
Now the only thing left of Peterson’s family’s two storey house is some broken pieces of the foundation, but he returns often with his wife, walking sections of the trail.
“We’ll keep coming, long as we can walk,” he said.