Archiving the Alphabet Railway: Small towns from A to Z

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WATCH ABOVE: Four Canadian women have been dreaming "A to Z" as they travel across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba exploring towns along the "alphabet railway." As Jacqueline Wilson reports, the women hope to create a lasting visual legacy – Jul 10, 2016

Dianne Brydon’s love for the Alphabet Railway has been brewing since she was a young girl, including having family land sold to the railway.

“I took a drive down to Yorkton and went by Fenwood, Goodeve, Hubbard, Ituna, Jasmin, Kelliher and I thought – it’s the Alphabet Railway – there are some wonderful things here and I’m coming back to photograph it,” Brydon said.

That was back in the 1980s and now Brydon and her three project colleagues are making the dream a reality.

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They’re exploring the section of railway between Portage La Prairie, Man. and Jasper, Alta, fondly known as the Alphabet Railway because each city along the line is named in alphabetical order.

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“I’m really fascinated how the towns have evolved and the vestiges of the towns that are there,” Brydon explained.

“Understanding the social fabric of community, understanding what people are about, what they’ve done, who they are and how long they’ve been living in the community,” said photographer Morina Reece, explaining what intrigued her about the trip.

“Who are the new people of the community and how does that contribute to the fabric of that town.”

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Sunday the crew stopped in Clavet, Sask., which they say has transferred from being a railway to a highway-centered town.

To the team’s disappointment, many towns have faded into history.

“I guess what saddens me in a way is when we role into a place that I know has been a booming little town or village and it’s no longer anything more than tumbled down buildings and closed up stores,” said project researcher Judy Wiesinger.

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After the 1,557 kilometre adventure, these four Canadian women plan to build a collection of photo archives and an augmented reality collage.

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“So you take the app on your phone and you put in on a part of the photo and it recognized the image and on your phone it becomes something else – a video or a link to something else that is happening,” said photographer Cheryl Hoffman, explaining the augmented reality collage.

“Someone one day will be able to go back if many more of these town disappear and find what it was like in 2016,” Brydon said.

Leaving a lasting legacy of the alphabet railway for both young and old to enjoy.

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