18: Transport and Communications: Past and Present
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By virtue of its coastline along Hudson Bay, Manitoba is a maritime province. Churchill is its only port handling a few ships in late summer each year. In the past river and lake transport was important, and, although there is still some on Lake Winnipeg, there is none on Manitoba’s rivers. Several ferries used to cross lakes and rivers; the location of some of them can be seen on old air photos. Winter roads cross frozen ground and frozen lakes in winter, but as nearly all air photos are taken during the summer, the roads are not readily located, although in a few cases scars left by the roads are observed.
In the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century, numerous railway lines criss-crossed southern Manitoba influencing the location and layout of villages and towns. Railway lines are very sensitive to gradients, and in many cases the topography dictates that a line takes something other than the shortest route. Railway line abandonment dominated the second half of the 20th century, but although a route may have been abandoned many years ago, its former location is obvious on air photos.
Roads have to some extent replaced the railway lines. They have a general east/west alignment (the Trans-Canada Highway No. 1, The Yellowhead Route No. 16, PTH 2 and PTH 3) or north/south alignment (PTH 10 and PTH 5). The main sources of electricity are in the southeast and the north. Power lines carry electricity to most parts of the province. They can be seen on air photos especially where they cut through wooded land. Similarly the routes followed by oil and gas pipelines are identifiable because when they are buried the soil is disturbed to result in a different tone or colour than the surrounding land, a variation that is easily detected on air photos. The topography of southern Manitoba lends itself to easy construction of airports, hence the location of the Commonwealth Air Training Programme airports in southern Manitoba—as well as other parts of the prairies. For a time in the second half of the 20th century, virtually every small town had an airport or landing strip. Many have been abandoned, but they still stand out on air photos. Landing strips are especially important to northern communities.
18.55: Airport at Churchill
Planes and airports are crucial to the well being of settlements in northern Manitoba. Although a railway line services Churchill, most visitors arrive by plane. The airport 1 is located about 4 miles (6.4 km) east of town just south of the Hudson Bay shoreline 2. There are two runways, one trending east-northeast/west-southwest 3 and a longer one—at least 2 miles (3.2 km) long—north-northwest/south-southeast 4. Fuel storage tanks are seen in the angle between the two runways 5. To the north are terminal buildings 6 and the barrack-like buildings 7 of FortChurchill.
Figure 18.55: Airport at Churchill
Vertical air photograph: A22955-18
Flight height: 17,600 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.682 mm