LINCOLN, N.H. — Soldiers from the United States and Canada have fought side-by-side during major wars, building on a close relationship between the two nations. That relationship has been honored by memorials at sea and on land — and now, through the railroads.
Dignitaries from the two countries gathered at an excursion railroad stop in northern New Hampshire on Friday to dedicate a memorial garden to rail workers from both countries who served in the armed forces and merchant marine.
The event was sponsored by the Canadian-United States Heritage Coalition and was held at the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln. The small, oval garden on the lawn across from the trains has day lilies, marigolds, hydrangeas and other flowers.
“They were all skilled engineers and skilled operators,” said Jeffrey Monroe, a maritime consultant for a Boston engineering firm who is part of the Portland, Maine-based coalition.
“They knew how to command and control. They knew logistics. They knew how to move cargo and people,” Monroe said of the veterans from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. “They knew how to operate steam locomotives and diesel engines.”
He said a lot of war veterans ended up working for the railroads if they didn’t start there.
Neil LeBlanc, Canadian consul general to New England, said the two countries have a special, valued relationship, whether it’s collaborating on fighting in Afghanistan, jointly managing the U.S.-Canada border, or building on cultural and commerce connections.
“We have a relationship that is the envy of the world, and oftentimes it is taken for granted,” he said.
LeBlanc said it has been Canada’s “joy and pride” to serve along with its American colleagues in Afghanistan. He said that like the United States, Canada wants to leave the people of Afghanistan “a lasting legacy of a more secure, more peaceful, and a better governed country.”
Past events honoring the two countries have included the dedication of the Canadian-U.S. Maritime Veterans Memorial at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Portland, Maine, in 2006; and the annual maritime wreath-laying in honor of World War II veterans at the Arctic Campaign Memorial in the Port of Portland.
Watching the ceremony was Archie Prevost, 77, of Barnet, Vt., who joined the Navy right out of high school and was based in the Mediterranean during the Korean War. When he left in 1955, a railroad job seemed to be a good fit.
He worked for the railroad, first based in St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain, Vt., then for many years as a freight engineer at the Canadian-Pacific Railroad, which he retired from in 1993. Today, he works during the summers at the Hobo Railroad as “Choo-Choo,” a clown who entertains the children.
“This is great,” he said of the memorial garden.
Neil Mullaney of Lincoln, who served as a Marine in Korea and Vietnam, thought the memorial garden was a nice gesture.
“The Marine Corps teaches you to get the job done,” said Mullaney, who worked for the Maine Central Railroad and a commuter line. What was more important to him, though, was the young woman who was a member of the local American Legion post, playing taps on her trumpet during the dedication.
“To us old veterans, that’s how we say goodbye. And she just graduated from high school, and she’s joining the Navy now,” he said.