Letter – Disappointment expressed regarding transfer of NAR Train Station

To the Editor:

It was disappointing to learn that the Falher Town Council has agreed to move the NAR train station to McLennan as this building is an integral part of the history of the settlement and economic development of Falher and area. It belongs in Falher.

My father, Noel Boisvert, grew up in the Falher area and was the NAR station agent from 1959 to 1970. He became the travelling representative for the NAR until 1981.

Therefore, the station was also our home, and my family witnessed the many comings and goings of railroad life on the prairies.

The history of the Northern Alberta Railway illustrates the many essential services that it provided in Falher and in the heart of the northern prairie farmland. The train station is the historical physical representation of this.

The NAR was an essential transportation and communication system in the north. In World War II, it transported American troops who helped build the Alaska Highway and contributed to the Allied war effort.

It also provided Falher a postal system, often more reliable than today’s.

Mail would be loaded on the train in the evening and arrive in Edmonton by morning. Numerous parcels from many far-off places would arrive, and around Christmas, many of them had a return address from Eaton’s or Simpson Sears. I remember the joy on the faces of Falher parents whose “Santa packages” arrived.

People received or sent many goods on the railroad. NADP shipped cream cans to Edmonton, and during difficult times, many women fed their children through their “cream cheques”.

My father was one of Alberta’s last telegraphers when he passed away three years ago, and I recall many stories about the significance of the telegraph system in relaying messages.

In World War II, especially, when family members were left at home when husbands, fathers, and sons went off to fight in foreign lands, the use of telegrams to bring death notices or happy news was vital.

The NAR was also a freight highway; many businesses and merchants in Falher depended on the railroad to ship needed goods and to receive them.

Agricultural development in the Falher area saw the shipment of grain and livestock. Who can forget the massive elevators that bordered the train tracks and the farm trucks bringing their product there waiting for shipment?

Lumber, coal, and in the sixties, petroleum products were shipped on the steel highway.

The NAR extended the world for the inhabitants of the Falher area. In an era where modern highways or better vehicles did not exist, many depended on the passenger trains to get to doctor appointments in Grande Prairie or Edmonton, to visit family and friends at a distance, and to travel on to distant locations.

The heart of all of this activity was the train station in Falher; it is an historic landmark.

How sad that we live in a society where some people forget the past; to them, it is disposable. Visit any country in the world, and you will see evidence of preservation and pride of things historic. You will lose the ignorance of the attitude, “Stop living in the past.”

Live in the present, look to the future, but don’t forget your roots and how you got to where you are today.

The name on that train station was FALHER, not McLennan. Keep it in Falher; it is part of the town’s history.

Patricia Boisvert Drapeau
November 5, 2018


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