An interview with Barbara Lange, author of “Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era”
by M. Haddad
Barbara Lange and her husband Larry, a retired CNR railwayman, spent a sunny afternoon recently at Carol’s on Leon, Traverse Bay to promote Barbara’s second book about trains – Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era, published in 2018.
The book is a collection of memories, interviews and photographs, that recounts the period during the first half of the 20th Century, when the Canadian Northern Railway (later CN) established a train service to the east shores of Lake Winnipeg, called The Victoria Beach Sub Division line.
What inspired her to write about Canadian trains in not one, but two books? “A longing to revisit my youth, in England, where everybody takes the train”, Barbara replied. “My father worked on the railway and always took our family on summer holidays by train. We loved it. When I emigrated to Canada in 1978 the glory days of the train were in the past for the Canadian passenger trains. How I wished I could have been a passenger in those early days going to the beaches.”
“Trains played such an important role in those early years, in just about everybody’s life, especially to those still around to tell their own story.” That’s what Barbara found out when she did her first book. There were just too many Lake Winnipeg beach train stories not to seek them out and put them into print before the memories dimmed.
The first book published in 2010, Through the Window of a Train: A Canadian Railway Anthology, is a collection of short stories from 30 authors across Canada. When there was so much positive response, and a cascade of new stories to be written, Barbara enlisted the help of a few others to work on a second book, including a friend to accompany her on a photo-journey of sorts, to collect more pictures for this latest book.
Barbara had not always been a writer, but worked her first career as a secretary. With a membership in the Manitoba Writers Guild and some Toastmaster speech writing, she discovered her hobby in retirement became almost her second career. Her husband provided encouragement and marketing advice. She and Larry have enjoyed their retirement years together, travelling around by car and train promoting the sale of both books. A highlight for this author was when VIA Rail asked her to supply copies of her first book to be available in all the station bookstores across Canada!
If you want to take a trip back in time to the days of the lonesome train whistle, or learn more about when your parents or grandparents rode the Moonlight Special to Lake Winnipeg beaches, this book is a must-have. It is a real conversation starter….and Barbara would like someone else to write the next book about the Manitoba train era…..those stories are just waiting to be told.
Her books are available in Winnipeg book stores and museums, and locally at Carol’s on Leon, Traverse Bay. If you are lucky, you just might meet her and Larry at Victoria Beach at a craft sale or market. Better still, invite her to your craft sale or market or to give a talk to your group.