Quest in Roots:
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VARCOE BRANCH C.P.R.
The first settlers arrived in the district in the 70''s or early 80''s. The early railroads had been surveyed and planned to run either south through Carberry to Brandon or north through Palestine, (Gladstone), and Neepawa to Minnedosa. It was important to the early settlers that their farms be as close to the railroads as possible. It must be remembered that their means of transportation was by ox or horse drawn vehicle, which meant that the maximum speed would be about four miles per hour and considerably less than that when loaded.
So, when the country became more densely settled it was desirable that an improved means of transportation become available. Since railroads had been in use for some years in the longer settled areas, it was only natural that the settlers, as well as the other land owners, should be asking for a railroad in their area.
We are no longer aware where, or to whom, all the requests were made but eventually they did reach a receptive ear and plans for a railroad were embarked upon. The routes for the first railroads, naturally followed the routes of original trails. If the first settlers, trappers, or what have you, had located a passable route, why waste time and effort finding an alternative? There were several routes through the area so that was no difficulty. Hunters and trappers had been frequenting the area ever since Lake Agassiz had dried up. The old trail was still in use so the survey followed it, crossing Boggy Creek very close to the site of the old trail. The surveyors had difficulty deciding whether they should go west following the trail or follow the section road west to the proposed site on Dave McNaughtons. In the end they went to the site of Brookdale. It was 1902 before the railroad was built, and only after Adam McKenzie and Dave McNaughton had exhausted their capabilities to have the town built where they wanted it.
In 1902 the railroad finally reached Brookdale.
It was really a very rudimentary road, the narrowest of grades, white ties and No. 56 steel, that is 56 pounds to the yard, in other words LIGHT STEEL.
However, it was heavy enough to do for 60 years or so. Sometime in the 1960''s the c.P.R. relaid the steel and we had HEAVY STEEL on the branch, 85 pounds to the yard.
Over the years the farmers and residents became more prosperous. Vehicles became modern and better roads became more numerous and instead of four miles per hour, people thought the speed limit 60 mph was the speed they should observe when using their car or truck.
In 1978 the c.P.R. discontinued train service on the Varcoe Branch and the following year the track was torn up. So, in a period of 75 years the district has gone from an Indian paradise to a very prosperous, modern, rural community.
Some of the agents that were in the station at Brookdale were: H.C. Smith, Edgar Newcomb, Jack McMillan, Harold Curll and James Mills.
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