The Track To Knob Lake (Kenneth Peacock)

One night as I sat in my own cozy corner,
A-thinking a way a few dollars to make,
My wife said to me, "Why don't you try spiking?
They're making good money on the track to Knob Lake."

So 'twas there and then I made decision,
And early next morning preparations to make;
Got aboard of a taxi to go to see Williams
For to get a free ticket to go to Knob Lake.

On the fifteenth of August I then signed my contract,
I read it all over to make no mistake;
On the fifteenth of December I will draw my bonus,
And then I'll steer clear of the track to Knob Lake.

I arrived on the track one fine Thursday evening,
And up to the commissary my blankets to take;
The manager he hadn't any to give me,
So that's how I found it on the track to Knob Lake.

Then out of your bunk quite early in the morning,
And into the cook-house your breakfast to take;
Then out on the track to look for a foreman
To put you to work on the track to Knob Lake.

And when you'll go in and sit down to the table,
Some half-rotten eggs and some bacon you'll take,
Or maybe some pancakes covered o'er with molasses,
So that's how they feed you on the track to Knob Lake.

On the first of September I'll always remember,
Eighteen of our men they were sent down the line;
They threw away their tin cans, got aboard of the speeder,
And went to the office to draw out their time.

And now we are up to mileage one hundred,
I don't know the very next step they will take,
But I think it's three sidings I heard Danny mention
For to store up the steel for the track to Knob Lake.

And now comes the dinner, the pushing is started,
If you get in first you'll get enough, no mistake;
But if you are last you will pray to Almighty
To take you away from the track to Knob Lake.

On the last of November, I'll never forget it
When he said, "All you Newfies are finished on the track;
Get aboard of the train and go see Bob Julian,
Give him your name and address if you are coming back."

And now to conclude I think I will finish,
But the best of it all we cannot complain;
If they gives us our bonus and the rest of our passage,
To get us home quick they will give us a plane.

Now here's to the railway and all its contractors,
I pray to Almighty I'll see them again;
For it's a good recommendation the pass into Williams,
I'll get a free ticket to come back in the spring.

Come all ye young peddlers who weigh from the counter,
A-waiting a poor spiker's money to take;
And when you will ask they'll say, "One penny taxes!"
Just think how you sweated on the track to Knob Lake.

####.... Albert Roche [1926-2006] of Branch, NL ....####

Collected by Kenneth Peacock in 1961 from Gerald Campbell [1933-?] of Branch, NL, Placentia and St Mary's District, and published in Songs Of The Newfoundland Outports, Vol 3, pp.797-798, by the National Museum of Canada (1965) Crown Copyrights Reserved.

Kenneth Peacock noted that in the early 1950's men were recruited from far and near to work on the track to Knob Lake, a railroad pushed through the wilderness of central Quebec to rich deposits of iron ore. Gerald Campbell worked on the track with his buddy Albert Roche of Branch, who composed the song. Though the first verse is patterned after a native lumbering song Twin Lakes, it continues in its own fashion after that. In ballads of this type it is customary to complain about working and living conditions, and the composer does his best in verse six. However, with planes flying the workers in and out Peacock suspected that most Newfoundlanders never had it so good.

The railroad known as Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway or QNS&LR (a subsidiary of Iron Ore Company of Canada) was completed in February 1954 and runs from Seven Islands , Quebec (mile zero) to Knob Lake, Quebec, a distance of 357 miles. From mile 150 to mile 356, the railway passes through Newfoundland territory.


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