Thank you everyone who contributed to and visited the SL History blog in 2012. I wish you a safe and warm New Year’s Eve and nothing but blue skies, green lights and fresh coffee in 2013. Reid Dickie
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Shoal Lake Minute #19
TRAIN TOWN – EARLY TOURIST IDEAS
Let’s see. It’s 1885 and railroad companies are expanding their reach further across the prairie everyday. That year the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway came through Shoal Lake partly because of the spot’s tourist prospects.
M & NWR saw the north end of the lake as having excellent potential for a resort and recreation centre. A fresh flowing stream fed the lake, which was shallow and reasonably warm, the lake sometimes produced 15-pound catches and the new townspeople appeared to be an industrious and inventive lot. A tennis court and other facilities were built and the annual M & NWR picnic was held on the flats, now the park at the north end.
The railway planners were encouraged by the area’s existing reputation as a good location for hunting beast and fowl. But the locals wanted something more than shooting so the railroad began making plans for Shoal Lake’s new role.
The M & NWR’s manager, Mr. N. R. Baker, visited the village in 1885 to assess its tourist potential, especially along the east side of the lake south of First Avenue.
While the railroad was successful at creating massive hype about its resort plans – newspapers even began calling Shoal Lake “Saratoga of the North”, a reference to Saratoga Springs in upstate New York that attracted the wealthy and famous – it wasn’t so good on the follow-through.
Nothing became of the M & NWR’s grand plans for Shoal Lake. No spas, casinos or racetracks sprang up along the lakeshore, no millionaires smoking two-dollar cigars stepped onto the station platform but the trains kept rolling through town and the people kept coming. For a brief dreamy moment, Shoal Lake had established itself as a recreational retreat, a bit of paradise on the Escarpment.
Header photograph of Shoal Lake sunset by Mark Fikkert
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