Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rail cars in Lake Superior


According to the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, two rail cars derailed and rolled down a steep embankment in to Lake Superior near Rossport on 21 January. Fortunately they were full of wood pulp and not some noxious chemical but it still gives one pause.

I personally know exactly how many trains go through Rossport on a daily basis. Rossport is one of the most beautiful kayaking areas on Lake Superior. When we paddle out of Rossport we normally spend a night at the Rossport Inn, a historic railroad hotel built in 1884 by the Canadian Pacific, the very railroad whose two cars are sitting in the lake currently. At least a half dozen times during the night the CP freight train blows through town, sounding its whistle per the law, about 50 yards from the hotel's front door. This is the main rail line between eastern and western Canada so you can imagine the traffic.


As you would guess there are people who this disturbs greatly, both from a sleep and an aesthetic standpoint. I am not one of them. The railroad was there first and in fact, is the only reason there is a Rossport in the first place. It kind of like the Yuppies that move into their 1.2 acres estates in the country and then complain that the neighboring farm smells like cow manure. Or, one of our local classics, the 'cidiots' that move into their dream cul de sac next to the Rod and Gun Club and complain that they can hear people shooting. Well, no shit! (sorry, had to get the cow manure pun in there). There seems to be a growing trend to use the government to get your own way, with the Kelo vs New London, CT Supreme Court ruling being one of the most egregious examples. In a nutshell, the city condemned a bunch of working class homes so a developer could use the land for his massive property tax generating development project. If its OK to kick people out of their homes for more tax dollars why not do the same to the manure generating farmer, the noisy Rod & Gun Club, or the loud and dangerous Canadian Pacific Railroad? The article in the Chronicle Journal stated that, "Doug Yurick, co-ordinator of the federal marine conservation area program, said legislation governing the program does not give the government the authority to order CPR to move its rail line". I for one would sure as hell hope not. I could go on about the families that lived on Isle Royale or in the Apostles when those areas were designated national parks but that is a whole post on its own. We need to be very, very careful when we hear that its in the public good to deprive people of their property. And, as I alluded to in an earlier post on snowmobiles and cross country skiers, we need to work a bit harder at finding the middle ground on a number of these issues.

5 comments:

Silbs said...

Right on. And don't get me stated on what happens to the habitats of many local animals when massive "progress" happens in their back yard. It's the golden rule: He who has the gold rules.

Moderator said...

Great. Let's abolish zoning laws and the like and prevent the government from assembling large tracts of land for managed wilderness like the Apostle Islands. Let's put no restrictions on private acquisition and use of property.

Result. Large tracts of land held by clubs like the Huron Mountain Club that are off limits to anyone but club members. The rest of the Lake Superior shoreline sliced and diced into cottage size parcels. Add the infrastructure to serve those cottages and any semblance of wilderness goes away. And try finding a camping spot. KOA anyone!?

The environmental laws also restrict property rights. Let's roll those back too so we can go back to the good old days of dumping mine tailings straight into Lake Superior.

Sure, government can get heavy handed at times and it makes mistakes. Yet, letting private property rights reign supreme invites tyranny of a different but equally oppressive nature.

Silbs said...

Moderator, I hear your passion (and sarcasm) but am unsure as to what you take exception to. Extemes at either end don't seem to work...we can agree on that. I guess I never equated our subdivision with the Apostle Islands. I do see your point.

KGap said...

Moderator, it ain't a zero sum game, which is what the nuts on both ends of the spectrum would have you believe. I'm all for the government assembling large tracts of land for the purpose of parks and such. I'm also comfortable with the fisherman on Isle Royale being there and the cabin folks on Rocky Island maintaining their places. The park service and the rabid wilderness folks aren't however. In an earlier post I talked about the snowmobile/cross counrty skiier interaction in the Porkies. While I'd rather not hear and smell them, I don't plan on starting a movement to 'zone' them out of the park. All of these issues have middle ground and these days the short sighted and myopic 'leaders' of both factions don't seem to want to acknowledge this fact. Tell me about wilderness when you're on a 160 rod portage in the BWCA and all the vintage canoe rests have been taken down because they don't 'meld' with the wilderness experience. I'd also suggest Googling 'Aldo Leopold' and 'Huron Mt Club' and see what the master had to say about the situation in the 1940's. Its the largest and best preserved tract of wilderness in the UP. And they have joined the fight against the sulfide mining initiative. Seems to me like they are staking out that elusive middle ground. (DaveO posting remotely)

Ranger Bob said...

Very interesting and thought-provoking post.

The railroad was there first and in fact, is the only reason there is a Rossport in the first place. It kind of like the Yuppies that move into their 1.2 acres estates in the country and then complain that the neighboring farm smells like cow manure.

Indeed. I always shake my head when I read news articles about homeowners along railroad lines complaining about the noise from locomotive horns. Given that the vast majority of rail lines in this country were pretty much in place by the time of World War I, you know damn well that the tracks were there before the houses.

"Due diligence," people?

And regarding farms... I grew up in one of those suburbs that sprouted up in farm country right after World War II. There was one poor fellow who had a pig farm a couple of miles away, near the "better" side of town. (Lawyers and doctors there, unlike the cops, firemen, and factory workers in my neighborhood.)

We all know how a pig farm smells... didn't take long for the affluent new arrivals to force him out of business. The thought still infuriates me.


I could go on about the families that lived on Isle Royale or in the Apostles when those areas were designated national parks but that is a whole post on its own.

I'd definitely like to read it some day.