As a child, I always loved trains and railway lines, and I have fond recollections of being taken regularly to the nearby village station to watch the steam trains come and go. I remember standing on the platform as the huge locomotives came to a stop, or roared past, their distinctive clamor dopplering curiously. I have vivid olfactory memories of the magical combination of coal, oil and steam that skirled around you as the engines passed, a signature that remains indelible in my mind. Even today, over sixty years later, I still find a fascination with these behemoths of the rails.

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As a recent denizen of Lower Lonsdale, in my comings and goings, I’ve always enjoyed the view from 3rd Street East at the Moodyville hill that overlooks the railyards and the bulk terminals. Each time I drive that way, my eyes are always drawn by the sun glinting off the rails, the lines of railcars and the huge machines of the Neptune Bulk Terminal.

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Yesterday, I drove down to Moodyville Park and set off downhill to join the Spirit Trail and ambled toward the railyard overlook. The day was crisp, blue and beautiful, the crocuses blooming in profusion along the trail, with the massive silhouette of the Cargill grain elevator complex in the background.

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This newly updated portion of the Spirit Trail features inscriptions along the path that present First Nations knowledge and beliefs regarding the crow, an important part of their traditions and legends.

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While I found that there were, unfortunately, many impediments such as wires, street lights and other structures that made getting clean shots a challenge, I was able to spend time just watching the drama as locomotives shunted cars through the switches, creating larger constructs that will eventually head out for other destinations. As an engine shunted past, a huge flock of pigeons basking on the tops of the stationary railcars suddenly burst into the air, wheeling and swooping until almost as a single organism, they alit elsewhere.

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To my right, the Neptune Bulk Terminal is an immense series of coal piles, surrounded by masses of incomprehensible machinery. Conveyor belts are busy making more piles while a machine with a huge rotating bucket apparently feeds the insatiable conveyors.

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Walking back, I spent some time at the back of the Cargill building looking for abstract images in the details of the piping.

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I’m looking forward to further exploring the Spirit Trail, there’s simply so much to see here on the North Shore.


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