After graduating from High School in 1972, I went on to study Music Education as a Cello major at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. While at University, and with the help of my professor, I began playing professionally with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and other professional orchestras in the southern Ontario triangle - Toronto Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo pickup, and St. Catharines Symphony. I graduated Magna cum laude in 1977, and then went to the University of Toronto for post-graduate work in Music Education. While at U of T, a former youth orchestra conductor contacted me to do music supply teaching (strings only) in the public school system. And I liked it - a lot. By 1979, I had my first music teaching job. I have had my fair share of different schools, the best being my five years at the Etobicoke School of the Arts as Head of Strings and it was not unlike the 'FAME' television show.
In order to earn enough money for tuition, my father (a very early computer guru) secured a summer student position for me at Ontario Hydro working on the UNIVAC/IBM computers for five great summers. It was here that the computer took on a special interest as personal computers had not really come of age in 1973. I began toying with electronic music and doing 'some strange things' with the computers on the night shift, while learning programming in COBOL and FORTRAN.
Because of the way public education is being handled with the Arts (students are only required to take one Arts credit out of five years of High School in Ontario), a few years ago I saw the writing on the wall and decided to get further credentials for teaching computer. After earning a Specialists Certificate and a degree in computer programming, I made the switch from teaching computer music and programming to only computer programming in BASIC and the various languages around it now.
My maternal ancestors arrived in Canada as United Empire Loyalists in 1797 - it would be another 48 years before they began working for the Canada Central Railway, later the Canadian Pacific Railway. After 1845, family member's up to 1915 were all born in railway stations across south-eastern Ontario - family members were station agents, operators, and dispatchers for the CPR, Grand Trunk Railway and Canadian National Railways - why I never worked for the railway, at my uncle's insistence, is still a mystery and sore spot with me but I guess my father's music/medical background pushed me into Music - but why teaching??!! Some days I wonder - a lot.
I have written several extensive historical articles about the railway in Canada over the last eight years. Most of the articles have been published in "Canadian Rail' through the Canadian Railway Historical Association in Montreal, Quebec. The articles include: Darlington and Port Union Stations; A Review of the Ontario and Quebec Railway - the Scottish Line; Rockwood Station (two separate articles); The Railway Telegraph and Telephone (this won the 1991 Best Article in Canada Award from the CHRA), and, CPR and TSR Tracks Through Etobicoke. I also have a large number of computer programs published, the most recent in Model Railroader called the Telegraph Ruler which prints a scale ruler on paper making it easier to plant telegraph poles on a scenic layout so there won't be any damage done to the scenery. The latest project is working on HTML.
The article mentioned above (the 'Railway Telegraph and Telephone') is the geniuses of my first book, Canadian Railway Telegraph History as detailed by Bill Meier. Bill has a link to a website I have made detailing many aspects of this book. He did a great job scanning the cover and providing the first site to advertise this book.
Railway History is more important today than ever before. The telegraph and its related parts and pieces, has been short changed, as has the study of insulators and the collection/restoration of them. Both aspects have been taken foregranted and neglected for far too long. I hope this book 'gets something going' and that others will see how vital and significant the telegraph network has been to both our countries - socially, politically, economically and historically.
I can be reached through my email address below or through Bill's link to my website.
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Written by Robert Burnet,
Last updated Thursday, June 20, 1996
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