Sentimental Journey: An Oral History of Train Travel in Canada
T.D. Regehr is a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan and
author of The Beauharnois Scandal: A Story of Entrepreneurship and
Oral histories have considerable popular appeal in Canada, and when the subject of those histories is train travel, that appeal is bound to be increased. Trains and railways have a particularly strong sentimental attraction for Canadians. In his very appropriately titled book author/editor Ted Ferguson takes his readers on a 246-page Sentimental Journey.
Ferguson’s work is filled with nostalgia, sentiment, and romanticism. The material is arranged into 25 topical sections or chapters, beginning with “First Impressions,” moving on through items such as “Best Loved Trains,” and ending with “Wrecks and Runaways,” and finally “Journey’s End.” Within each chapter or section there are between 10 and 20 short recollections. Most are one-half to one page in length and were apparently lightly edited. The arrangement of the material appears to be entirely haphazard and unplanned.
Ferguson does not identify the persons interviewed, nor does he make any attempt to provide focus or content, or to correct even the more obvious factual errors related by his interviewees. As historical source material the interviews are completely useless and unreliable, but Ferguson might well argue that in expressing the unverified and highly romanticized memories Canadians have of train travel he has touched an aspect of railway history not dealt with by more traditional historians.
Sentimental Journey is for those eager for a generous dose of nostalgia, completely divorced from the normal rules of evidence by which historians ply their trade. Those looking for such tedious matters as footnotes, a bibliography, identification of the interviewees, or any evidence of “research” will not find it in this book. The one exception to this general comment pertains to the 40 pictures; the source (and in the case of pictures from the Public Archives of Canada even the archival references) are given. In general, however, sentiment, not scholarship, marks the pages of this book.