Kitchen Party 'Raises the Roof' on Old Barry's Bay Train Station

Barry's Bay -- The COVID pandemic may have clipped the wings of some local volunteer groups over the past three years but not the Stationkeepers MV.

This past Sunday afternoon they raised the roof, metaphorically, on the old Barry's Bay Train Station with a 'kitchen party' that had the jam-packed audience toe-tapping heavily and hooting and hollering for more.

The Stationkeepers MV re-opened their Railroad Museum inside the 129-year-old Barry's Bay Station for its first general public event there since February, 2020. The group's president, Joanne Olsen, welcomed everyone back and gave a brief rundown of what the Stationkeepers MV had been up to, largely behind closed doors, over the past three years.

Essentially, the Station now has a new roadside sign, consistent with the group's logo. The old Station also has new exterior siding and insulation, new interior tear-drop lighting and, happily, many of its interior walls have been returned to their original 1894 railroad glory.

Ms. Olsen acknowledged past efforts to protect and preserve the old Station and concluded that, "through collaboration and support of the Madawaska Valley Township council and staff and you -- the residents -- we can boast that we have the only remaining OA & PS Railway Station housing a museum we can be proud of."

Indeed, though J.R. Booth built over 30 similar stations for his 1890s railroad, the Barry's Bay Station is the only one left standing. Its original OA & PS colours were painted over during the Second World War by CN, the last railroader to take over Booth's line in 1923 and so now it sports CN red siding with CN almond trim.

Ms. Olsen also highlighted some new museum artifacts, including an old railway clock recently acquired, as well as new exhibits and biographies about early residents. She also mentioned progress in the group’s successful effort to raise funding for a children's playground apparatus to be built in the shape of an old steam engine. Finally, she announced the launch of the Stationkeeper MV's new website at

Quickly, she then stepped aside and introduced the Madawaska Valley Township's latest fiddling sensation, The Yo-Yo Mammas, a group of six women led by Dr. Denise Coulas and including Janet Adams, Anne Burn, Lynn Gutoskie, Lindsey Stamplecoskie and Hannah van der Wielen. The appreciative audience was soon cherishing the ladies as they launched into such classic old-time fiddle tunes as When Stella Smiles, Redwing and Soldier's Joy. It was enough to grease the wheels, so to speak, and got more than a few of the 75 people crammed into the old Station to start toe-tapping in earnest and eventually make its hardwood floors sound more like dance hall on a Saturday night.

Suddenly, the fiddlers were then joined by the Stationkeeper Singers, another group of 12 local women including Pauline Burchat, Mary Blank, Vicki Cybulski Blank, Nancy Fortune, Jill Green, Beth Hildebrandt, Shirley Hill, Ann Maika, Patsie Milne, Joanne Olsen, Claire Sullivan, Marie Villeneuve, and their keyboard player and musical director, Kris Marchand.

With 10 of their 12 singers available for the Sunday performance, the 16 ladies in total soon had the crowd more than humming along as they broke into that old time Canadian classic, The Log Driver's Waltz. But it wasn't until the group did an elbow-swinging rendition of Mac Beattie's classic crowd-pleaser, The Lake Dore Waltz, that the audience figured out this was no ordinary kitchen party. Only after those crisp, sashaying notes stopped serenading the rafters, did the musical performance return to earth before too-quickly heading towards a gripping, ode-to-joy finale of both the Black Velvet Band and Amazing Grace.

As might be expected, it took almost an hour for the listening audience to come down from on high but eventually the musicians moved aside to reveal a large new TV switched on. Two vignettes from a work-in-progress documentary, The Way We Were, and intended to highlight the unique heritage and local culture of the area, began to play.

The first offering, written and produced by Joanne Olsen and Mark Woermke, told a fascinating story in dozens of old photographs and ancient artifacts of the original building and 20th century outcomes of both the Balmoral and Windsor Hotels, two anchors of local history. The second vignette, written and produced by Theresa Prince, told of nearly 60 Polish Kashub families who began settling in the area in 1858. It moved some in the audience to tears, such were the emotions stirred by the lilting fiddle music of John Yaskolskie playing the Dudzienski Waltz, and the soft, inspirational narration of Theresa Prince, both set against nearly 100 old photographs, many of them striking, and most never publicly seen before.

Those first two vignettes will soon be available on the Stationkeepers MV's new website. As well, the musical performance from last Sunday's kitchen party is available on The Opeongo Line podcast. Both can be accessed via the group's website

Barry Conway, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader