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Eric Wicherts
April 9, 1954 – Groote Beer

I was educated in The Netherlands (University Utrecht BSc 1951, geology and geophysics). There was no particular reason for me to leave the Netherlands. I had a good position at the National Research institute, was (am) married with one small daughter.

However, long before the war, I read, as a child, a story about a boy who travelled through Canada on the massive Canadian trains. Imagine me, as a young boy reading in bed this fascinating story about a boy who travelled through Ca nada on the massive Canadian trains. Imagine me, as a young boy, reading in bed this fascinating story while the wind and snow was whirling around our house near the Zuiderzee. The war came, we went to school and then occupation. Then the country was liberated by the Canadians, in my case Regiment de la Chaudiere, then followed the encouraged emigration by the Netherlands Government, (totally misguided as it turned out because only 10 years later Holland had to import thousands of people from elsewhere). Anyway, I never forgot my interest in Canada and with my training there must be all sorts of opportunities. I had written to Imperial Oil who answered that, if I was in Toronto, they would talk to me. Thus we applied at the Canadian Embassy, waited six months or so and got approval to book passage. I went alone first so that my wife and child could come later after I was established. In Rotterdam (now one of the largest ports in the world but not at the former downtown jetties) I boarded amidst emigrants of all stripes but mainly people with farming backgrounds. Stepping on board we had to pass over mats drenched in anti bug material so that none of the farm (!) stuff would be brought on board.

I soon made friends with some young people several of which also had university education, and we had a great journey, particularly since the food on board was excellent and it blew like hell on the North Atlantic. That prevented many people to come to the table due to seasickness, which does not bother me since I sailed in yachts at sea many times. In mid Atlantic, the vessel had to heave to because the green water was coming over the foredeck about 30 degrees. About that time too, we met the Queen Mary running before the wind and healing port to starboard about 30 degrees either way but it was an impressive sight.

Toward the end of the crossing everybody was trying to see the first glimpse of land. By that time, the weather had improved as well and we all stood on the rail when we docked along Pier 21. Visibility toward the inland was poor so we did not see much of the hills behind the town. The hall in Pier 21 was full of people and officials of the Immigration Service who checked papers and were very friendly indeed. In those days people could not even board the ships if their papers were not in order. Things have changed considering who gets here now. We also got a large map showing the whole of the CN system, which I still have. So we, my acquired shipboard friends and I were cleared and we wandered through the hall doors toward the standing CN train. This was for me, of course, a boyhood dream come true but nevertheless we all were impressed by the size of the train, which was larger than the European ones. We found our assigned car and seats with upper and lower berths. Then we left the train again because it would not depart until another two hours, and wandered through Halifax. Impressions: Old, wooden houses, many cars and hilly.

Back to the train. We found the train stifling hot and wondered if they could not turn the heat down, but nothing changed and around 18.00 hrs the train pulled out; a long string of sleepers curving slowly through the yard and many turnouts until it reached the mainline and quickly gathered speed. The track climbs from the harbour into the Nova Scotia highland and, at first we did not know what it was we saw on the lakes: ice? Indeed later, through the gathering darkness, snow! Meanwhile the outside temperature was dropping rapidly explaining clearly why the steam heat pre-warmed the train at the Pier. The temperature became cozy indeed and the porter installed window blankets on the lower portion of the windows. He also made the beds in upper and lower which was for many a novelty. For me, the novelty was the along ships arrangements of the sleepers instead across, which is the case in Europe. We slept very comfortably and in the morning the necessity of the heat became even more evident: The temperature in Quebec was minus 30! We all wondered about the deep blue sky, the heaps of snow and the unpainted barns of the farms. Towards late afternoon the train pulled into Montreal but before the station, the engine was changed to an electric one, which at that time served also the eastern part of Montreal Central. In Montreal many of us changed directions and a great number travelled further west. I took a train to Ottawa in the evening. That particular part of the journey was rather melancholy. It was on the old CP tracks, not the modern VIA connection between the two cities, and was operated by an old, open seating CP coach that looked, and was probably from 1910. Outside, the country looked forlorn with flooded fields and darkness. It was for me the only time I was doubting my entry into Canada and thinking back to my comfortable apartment with my wife and child.

Ottawa: Appointment at the Geological Survey who said if I did not have a PhD there was no point in applying….The city: presumably, the capital of the country, something less then impressive. Besides the Parliament Buildings and immediate surroundings it looked like a forlorn, rather dilapidated mining town. Sleeping at the Y.

On to Toronto the next day. This time the train was nice (pool service) and on arrival in Toronto I was picked up by a classmate from high school living in Unionville. To make an end to this: Next day I had an interview at the head office of Imperial Oil at King and Church and was offered a position. Impression Toronto: The downtown at that time had electricity at 25 cycle current. You could see the lights slightly flickering and the town was heated by coal. In the evening it had something of a Dickensonian atmosphere but the people at Imperial were fine.

Later we lived also in Unionville right on the tracks which to this day are used by the GO trains. I made a career in the exploration business and am now retired from BP. In the meantime, I was also involved in the railways and owned and operated with others a CP sleeper in Western Canada. I also became a director of the first Canadian shoreline the Central Western Railway with a 100 mile track for grain transport. We became Canadian Citizens in 1959, got 3 daughters and seven grandchildren, the eldest of whom is now graduating from UBC. My wife is a well-known artist in Calgary and elsewhere. I am a member of the Professional Engineers in Alberta, the American Association of Railroad Superintendents and support the Liberal Party of Canada.