Monday, 24 August 2015

The Iron Horse Festival 2015

For the second time, the King's Company of Historical Reenactors put on a display at St. Thomas' Iron Horse Festival. This is a late-August festival of rides, shows, and displays put on in the city of St. Thomas, ON to celebrate the railroad heritage of the city. In year's past, St. Thomas was a hub for the Canadian Southern Railroad, the New York Central Railroad and the Michigan Central Railroad. Trains westbound to Detroit or Chicago out of New York City would come across the state of New York, cross into Ontario, Canada, proceed to Windsor, ON, and cross into Michigan at Detroit and continue west. The terrain was relatively flat, especially when compared to the washboard-like series of ridges that fill central Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. It's far easier -and therefore less expensive- to lay track on flat land, naturally.
This year and last, our reenacting group set up a display at the Festival. We were closer to the centre of the Festival this year and we fired muskets, read a proclamation from President Madison on the reasons for the invasion of Canada, and explained the history and historical artifacts of the War of 1812, especially as it touched St. Thomas and Elgin County.

Engine 5700 - part of the collection of the local railroad museum.
A classic beauty from the age of steam.

Lining up the troops for a volley.
On the far end of the line, Tyler got to wear the red coat of the British Regulars.

Preparing to volley later in the day.
From the left - your humble blogger as first sergeant in summer kit, Kevin in militia kit, Nick as a Kentucky volunteer,
Tyler in the uniform of the US regulars, Andy in the same uniform with the 1813 "tombstone" shako.

A good volley!

Beth's display of her embroidery and woman's clothing.
We were set up in what was called "Kid's Junction" as part of the children's activities. Sad to say, the pre-festival advertising made the mistake of saying we were going to have a battle reenactment. Well, we had neither the numbers nor the space to do that, but we did see quite a few young people with their families, many of whom were quite interested in the musket volleys and the table of "Please Touch" equipment. We also ran a few mini-milita drills.

The "St. Thomas Select Embodied Militia" prepares to volley in the defence of the city.

With fine troops such as these, Canada will remain "The True North, strong and free."
At one point, most of the uniformed reenactors went up to the midway to mess with the people. We tried to recruit a number of people, but they had documents proving them to be apprenticed to various trades... or their moms and wives wouldn't let them. After a blast on my bugle, Nick read the actual proclamation penned by US President James Madison in 1812. Only a few people were impressed. Well, "God save the Republic" anyway!

Soldiers of the Republic! We've liberated the poutine wagon!
(For the uninitiated, poutine is a French-Canadian dish of french fried potatoes, cheese curd, and a sweetish brown gravy.
Tasty and artery-blocking; just the thing for a cold winter's dinner!)

Kevin, the ol' first sergeant, Nick, and Tyler in a photo taken by the tourist board.
We look pretty good, in my opinion.
The building behind us is the original railroad station which is an architectural gem and is still being restored.
As the day wore on, Andy had to leave because of other commitments, but the rest of us struck camp about 7:00pm. It was a good day;  we got to talk to folks and educate on the local history. We got to burn some powder and drill some young folks. We met some army cadets who were quite interested in what we were doing. We added some 'colour' to the festival and we supported the home town. Since we see ourselves as a community group with a educational role, we fulfilled our purpose. And we had fun, which is our REAL purpose for doing this!

Another volley... Make ready! Take aim! Fire!

A misfire! Andy's musket had some trouble during the day.
Again you can see Tyler in the red coatee of the 10th Royal Veterans Battalion.

Our full camp under the small fly.

A family looks over the equipment and tries on some of the head gear.

The look on the little girl's face is enough reward for what we do.
Every so often, a railroad handcart would pass by. It was fun to see and we considered walking up and "commandeering" it, but we never got around to it. We think they were selling rides from the far end of the property to down where we were.

Last and least, your humble blogger, as he takes a breather. It wasn't too hot but the uniform always makes me perspire.

"A face for radio and a voice for print."

Another view of the 5700, since it is a railroad-themed festival.

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