With Wreckhouse, Sherry Ryan sings tunes about trains

Singer/songwriter Sherry Ryan says inspiration for her new album, Wreckhouse, comes from a favourite family story from her childhood.

Have a First Listen to Stop the Trains and learn about N.L. legend Lauchie MacDougall

Sherry Ryan's latest album is called Wreckhouse. (Courtesy Tom Cochrane )

Sherry Ryan says inspiration for her new album, Wreckhouse, comes from a favourite family story from her childhood.

Ryan's father worked on the CN Railway on the west coast of Newfoundland.

"It was the late '50s, and of course, Dad being from Middle Cove, didn't know anything about the Wreckhouse winds," recalled Ryan.

"So of course this was a very exciting story for us growing up."

The legend of Lauchie MacDougall

Ryan wrote a song called Stop the Trains, based on the story of Lauchie MacDougall, a man who lived in Wreckhouse — a part of Newfoundland's west coast near Port aux Basques known for its devastating, train-toppling winds — who said he had the ability to "smell the wind."

When Ryan was a little girl, she said her father used to tell her about how the railway workers relied on MacDougall to send them warnings about when the winds in Wreckhouse were too high to run the trains.

Then, while Ryan was writing Stop the Trains, she was stuck on a line for the chorus, and she asked her father for advice.

"It just came out of his mouth right away, the last line, 'Hold the trains in Riverview and Port aux Basques.'"

Railway pensioners get involved

Ryan and her bluegrass band, Flower Hill, made a video of the song at the Railway Coastal Museum in St. John's, with her father and other members of the CN Railway Pensioners Association as part of the onscreen audience.

Ryan is hoping to take her material from Wreckhouse on the road this summer, across Newfoundland and Labrador and into Ontario and Quebec.

Ryan has performed on Via Rail trains through a program that gives free train rides in exchange for playing for passengers.

"This time, I'm just going to fly straight to Toronto."

Have a First Listen to Sherry Ryan's conversation with Weekend AM's Heather Barrett.

Singer/songwriter Sherry Ryan has a chat with Weekend AM Heather Barrett and a First Listen to her new album, Wreckhouse. 14:59

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You can hear First Listen on Sundays on Weekend AM from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. (5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in Labrador) on CBC Radio One.  

About the Author

Heather Barrett

CBC

Heather Barrett is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One in Newfoundland and Labrador.