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Elmwood writer seeks train stories

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Barbara Lange never expected to have a hand in a book about trains.

Now, the Elmwood resident is getting to work on a second.

Lange, 68, edited the Through the Window of a Train compilation, which was released in 2010.

While involved in the project, she became fascinated with the Grand Beach Train after reading a story of one man’s experience on the train, ranging from his hijinks as a young man to his eventual employment on the beach train.

She’s now working on a book of stories surrounding the old train, which ceased operation in the early 1960s and is also known as the Moonlight Special, the Campers’ Special, or Daddy trains.

"People kept asking me ‘are you going to do a second book’, and at the time, I was too worn out," Lange said. "But then I thought of the Grand Beach stories, and was looking, and couldn’t find what I was looking for.

"There are some wonderful books out there, don’t get me wrong, and there’s a lot of history. The more I read it, the more I fell in love with it, but what I have in my mind is interviewing people."

Lange grew up in England, where her father was a ticket collector for the London North Eastern Railway, and train travel was a regular part of her life. She moved to Winnipeg in 1978, and eventually married Larry Lange, a Canadian National Railways carman at the Transcona Shops.

Though she’s always maintained a tie to the rails, Lange noticed upon arriving in Canada how little the train is used for transportation. However, upon meeting several of her husband’s work friends and hearing their stories, she discovered the railway plays a major role in Canadian history, and she looked to capture those bits of the past before they were forever lost.

"You get to hear all these little anecdotes, and I thought ‘somebody should write these down, they’re all going to be gone one day’, not thinking that I would end up doing it," she said. "I didn’t just take those anecdotes — I started looking on a larger scale."

Lange said the Manitoba Writers’ Guild became aware she was looking for stories and connected her with others working on similar projects, and she was able to combine the ones she wrote with others she received. She is keeping the Grand Beach project to a smaller scale, with just three other writers instead of the 30 used in the first book.

She’s looking for approximately 40 stories of those willing to share their memories of the train for her new book. Those interested in being interviewed can contact her at railwaystories@hotmail.com or 204-667-8521.

Lange also hopes to use several more photographs in her new book, which she hopes will be released by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the first train service from Winnipeg to Grand Beach.

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