Saturday, 13 December 2008

Arctic blast!

It's been an eventful week in Ralston, as winter finally arrived full throttle. On Wednesday with the weekend's snowfall still on the ground we decided to spend the evening awaiting the transit of the Canadian Pacific Holiday train through Suffield.

The Holiday train makes an annual journey across Canada and the US stopping at over 100 locations in seven states and six provinces. It's beautifully decorated with lights and looks like something out of a Hollywood Christmas film.

Sensible people would have perhaps opted to drive to Medicine Hat where the train was stopping for half an hour or at least perhaps have decided that the best vantage point to see the train as it journeyed from Medicine Hat on to Brooks would have been at some distance from the track, but for reasons that now escape us, a group of decided the best place to see the train was beside the railway and about 3 foot from the track.... oh, for the benefit of hindsight!

After nearly an hour of waiting, drinking hot chocolate and faffing around with our cameras, the train finally passed through Suffield... at about 100km an hour! Instead of slowing for the level crossing we were positioned next to it sounded its horn, whipped up a icy gust of air and dumped a shower of snow on us. We were left gasping in disbelief and covered from head to toe in snow!

Instead of the wonderful action photos I had anticipated, I instead ended up with the photo above right! (the one at the start of this entry is courtesy of the Holiday train website)

We must have provided a huge amount of entertainment for the people sensibly parked up on the other side of the TransCan and the worst thing is that we won't even be here next year to benefit from what we have learned.

Our second big event this week happened yesterday with our first arctic storm. The winter so far has been unseasonably warm and we all knew that sooner or later temperatures would have to start dropping.

On Friday the weather channel put out a storm warning promising 25cm of snow, 60km winds, a wind chill of nearly -40c and zero visibility by the evening. Snow dumps at the weekend are a complete pain because living in the middle of the prairie I only manage one shop a week, on a Saturday.

With a storm promised for Friday night I knew we'd be running the risk of missing out on our weekly food shop, (they give us chest freezers for a reason!) So yesterday lunchtime I left work early and raced down to town ahead of the storm, I got back two hours later just as the weather started to close in, a bit of a gamble, but it paid off!

However, the fun was far from over, at 6:30pm I noticed the heating was no longer working and it quickly became apparent I wasn't alone with my problem. A massive gas leak in the village had forced them to shut off the supply to about 30 houses and with the temperature dropping rapidly (both inside and out) we were faced with the prospect of forced eviction and being rehoused in the gym on camp beds!

I had a mess function to attend, so I kept my fingers crossed and went out. Eventually after lots of updates being sent between the workmen and the mess, we heard they were "pretty sure it would be back on by midnight" and low and behold 15 minutes after I arrived home, a man turned up on my doorstep to relight the furnace (and what a treat I must have looked in ski socks and pyjamas!) I must say after everything, I was quite impressed that the house had only dropped to 5c in nearly 6 hours!

On a final note, I've noticed a lot of new traffic coming to this site looking for information about BATUK (the wonders of Google Analytics!) For anyone who is looking for more information, Jim is back next Saturday and I hope to extract a few more photos and some relevant details from him then, I know there was very little on the web when I first looked, so hopefully we can provided something of use...


  1. It might not be the photographs that you wanted but I think it is a great action shot!

  2. And it's a whole lot better than my efforts!!!! Please can I have copies of yours?? ;-)