Friday, August 28, 2015

Churchill by rail: Part 8 - Bears, missles and planes

 One of the more unusual Inuit sculptures at the Eskimo Museum in Churchill.
By Paul Ullrich

Our last day at Churchill was a mixed bag of sightseeing. We were supposed to go on a hike in the boreal forest, but it was raining, so the hike became a bus tour. Most of our group, already tired from being on our feet for most of the day yesterday, were grateful for that.

Our guide Paul, who tied his beard just like Albus Dumbledore, took the wheel of his school bus with the gun rack as we headed out to the hinterlands of Churchill. He told us that Churchill "Has 50 miles of road and 13 streets - you can't get lost. and there's no place to hide!"

The first sight we saw was a polar bear relaxing just off the road. Paul explained that this bear and his buddies had just finished eating a beached beluga whale, so there was no danger of him stalking any of us for a quick snack. Still, we all proceeded wit caution as we stayed close to the bus and used our telephoto lenses at a very safe distance. As his belly was full of fresh beluga, he didn't pay any attention to us at all.

Paul then showed us a polar bear trap that he made. It was a wedge-like structure made of old railroad ties with a braided wire snare inside of it. To catch a polar bear, all you needed to do was to throw a couple of sardines into the narrow part of the wedge. The bear, attracted to the scent, would get entangled in the snare. As polar bears are an endangered species, they are not killed if trapped. They're anesthetized, tagged, and then released. We also drove by Churchill's polar bear prison, where stray bears who wander into town are incarcerated and shipped out to less inhabited areas.

We were taken to Churchill's abandoned rocket research range, home of Manitoba's Black Brant rocket, built by Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg. Hanging from the ceiling inside one of the buildings was of a heat jackets used to keep the rockets warm until launch. These missiles used solid fuel (which meant that they were really nothing more than giant roman candles) which required a heat jacket.

We also saw Churchill's Miss Piggy, which is not the beloved character from the Muppets, but a slow moving, ungainly aircraft which belly flopped onto a rock ledge shortly after take-off. Miss Piggy was a C-46 Curtiss Commando, which was very similar to the Douglas DC-3 passenger aircraft.

In 1979 this plane, which was already well past its prime, was flying a cargo of soda and a snowmobile when it lost oil pressure. Its rear landing gear caught onto wires on some hydro poles and crash landed onto the rocks without a fatality, and it's been there ever since.

We ended our tour with a visit to Churchill's Eskimo Museum. Run by the Diocese of Churchill, it has one of the oldest and most comprehensive collection of Inuit artifacts and sculptures in Canada. Also on display were well preserved hide-covered kayaks, narwhal horns, a stuffed musk ox, polar bear and a walrus.

Their gift shop has a great selection of the most reasonably priced souvenirs in Churchill, and for that reason alone it is definitely worth a visit!

After our visit to the museum we returned to the Seaport Hotel for a delicious farewell supper before we boarded the train. Everyone raved at how good the ribs were! Who knew that you could find a decent rack of ribs this far north? However, pork isn't locally bred in Churchill. Someone tried it, and the found out all too soon that polar bears have a taste for pork!

When we finished our meal, we gathered our belongings and headed for the train station. Guess what! The train left on time, right at 7:30 PM!

                     This is as close as any of us wanted to get to a polar bear in the wild.
                     Our guide shows us the proper way to snare a polar bear in a trap.
               Here lies Miss Piggy, the airplane that belly flopped onto the rocks 36 years ago. 
A heat "jackets" used to keep the rocket warm until launch.  The solid fuel required that.  It hangs inside one of the abandoned buildings on the site of Churchill's rocket research range.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Churchill by rail: Part 7 - Whale watching and Fort Prince of Wales

 Whale watching on the Churchill River estuary, aboard the Sea North 2

By Paul Ullrich

Our whirlwind day of sightseeing climaxed with an evening of whale watching off the Churchill river estuary, followed by a guided tour of Fort Prince of Wales.

After we finished our afternoon's tour of the Port of Churchill, we returned to the Seaport Hotel for a delicious meal, then headed out again for our beluga what tour, operated by Sea North Tours.

Once we had a thorough orientation session on boat safety, we boarded the Sea North 2, their 32 passenger jet propelled tour boat. The jet propulsion ensures that no harm can come to the whales, as there are no moving parts underwater. The engine is also extremely quiet above and below the water. The boat was extremely stable, and you felt safe and comfortable roaming about the deck while you watched for whales.

And there were plenty of whales to watch! About a half dozen of the even breeched alongside the boat for several minutes! We were also treated to the sounds of the whales from the boats underwater microphone!

After an hour's worth of whale watching, we headed for Fort Prince of Wales, across the channel. We were greeted at the dock by (guess what) another armed guide! After less than 24 hours in Churchill, we were getting used to this sight.

Fort Prince of Wales is a fascinating place. It's one of only two remaining European style star shaped forts in North America. It's 250 years old, took over 40 year to build, and was surrendered to the french in one day! Maybe the British should've supplied the fort with some soldiers!

We saw a spectacular sunset from the fort, and when dusk arrived we found that the fort was home to millions of mosquitoes! Thankfully, we were supplied with screening that we could put over our heads.

After our tour was finished, we took the boat back across the channel, where we were treated with the sight of the Port of Churchill, all brightly illuminated. We returned to our hotel at 10:00 PM, exhausted but delighted over all the sights we saw that day.

 Beluga whales were breeching right beside the Sea North 2.

Touring Fort Prince of Wales, just before the mosquitoes found us.
 A wonderful sunset over Hudson Bay at Fort Prince of Wales.
 The Port of Churchill illuminated at night was another memorable sight.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Churchill by rail: part 6 - an afternoon at the beach

 WMRC blog editor Paul Ullrich relaxes by the Hudson Bay shoreline. No, he didn't go in for a dip.

By Paul Ullrich

What better way to celebrate your arrival in Churchill than to spend some time at the beach?

Come again?

Yes, Churchill has a beach, right on the shores of Hudson Bay, just a short walk from town. Mind you, it's not swarming with swimmers at any time of the year, although a few stalwart types do participate in an annual swim every Canada Day. But it serves as yet another reminder that Manitoba is indeed a maritime province, with a deep sea saltwater port.

But we weren't there to sunbathe. It was a little too cold for that. We were there to visit the Cape Merry National Historical Site, which is on the opposite side of the Churchill river estuary from Fort Prince of Wales.

It was also the first time that most of us ever took a tour with an armed guide! Yes, he was packing heat - a 45 caliber rifle. Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" only had a 44 Magnum. But he didn't have to be able to stop a charging polar bear dead in his tracks. Fortunately, our guide didn't have to do that.

There were plenty of signs warning us that we were in polar bear country. But despite the warnings, we still wandered around the site. Perhaps the signs were too subtle. Maybe they should've read, "What, are you stupid or something? Get out of here! There are polar bears!"

Among the site we visited by the beach were the massive inukshuck and the Enterprise boat, a landlocked ship by the shoreline. We also visited the cannon battery at the Cape Merry National Historic Site, which was being restored by a group of university students. The battery was built to guard the river mouth and to prevent enemy occupation of Fort Prince of Wales by providing crossfire.

There are two cannon batteries at Cape Merry. The first one was located directly across from the eastern wall of Fort Prince of Wales. Then they realized that the cannon could also be seized by the enemy and used to fire on the fort! The powder magazine was built right in the middle of the battery, which meant that any stray sparks from the cannon could ignite the black powder.  In 1747 the battery was relocated to a second site.

This was the second place we visited that day. It was already the middle of the afternoon, but we were far from finished with the day's tours! This stop was only part of a whirlwind tour of Churchill that day, which included a visit to the Parks Canada Visitor Reception Centre, the Port of Churchill, Fort Prince of Wales and whale watching in the Churchill river estuary!

We had an exciting preview of the evenings upcoming whale watching tour. We were watching what we thought were whitecaps in the estuary, when our guide pointed out that what we thought were whitecaps were scores of breeching beluga whales!

 Our guide, packing serious heat. Yes, the rifle is fully loaded!
Our group watches a group of university students restore the cannon battery at Cape Merry National Historic Site.

The inukshuck at the beach on Hudson Bay.

 These signs were everywhere, and they were a constant reminder that we were no longer in Southern Manitoba.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Churchill by rail: Part five: A visit to the Port of Churchill

By Paul Ullrich

A very special tour, exclusive to the Rail Travel Tours group, was a visit to the Port of Churchill. This was a special treat for railfans. It's the northern terminus for the Hudson Bay Railway and the northernmost point of any Manitoba rail line. It's Canada's only arctic seaport, and it's one of the largest grain elevators in the province.

The only reason for Churchill's existence was the port. The rail line was completed to Churchill in 1929, after it was decided that a rail line to Port Nelson wasn't feasible because of the heavy silt buildup from the Nelson River.

Farmers using the port had the advantage of not paying charges laid by the Saint Lawrence Seaway, and the route from Churchill to Europe is much shorter than any other North American port.  But the track was built on muskeg and permafrost, which limited the size of the rail cars, the length of the trains, and the speed which the trains could travel.  Standard three bay hoppers carrying a full load of grain were just too heavy.  The short shipping season also impaired grain traffic. 

For many years, the port was owned and operated by the Province of Manitoba. It was turned over to the federal government, who operated it for about a decade, until it was sold to OmniTRAX - for ten dollars!

The port was almost entirely reliant on grain shipments from the Canadian Wheat Board, but grain traffic has decreased considerably at the port when the CWB's monopoly was ended.

OmniTRAX purchased trackage north of The Pas from CN Rail to form the Hudson Bay Railway in 1997. Since then, they have been able to run heavier rail cars and longer trains, bringing increased business to the Port from various mines and pulp mills.

Much thanks to Rail travel Tours, who provided us with this rare opportunity to visit this historic Manitoba railway site!
 Our group tours the massive interior of the grain loading facility of the Port of Churchill.

 These grates are placed between the rails to empty the hoppers. The grain is then transported by conveyors to the many silos in the port.
 A representative from the Port of Churchill explains the process of grading grain to members of our tour group.
The grain storage process is described by a Port of Churchill employee. See all of those circles drawn behind him on the slate? Each one of those circles is a grain bin at the port!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Churchill by rail - Part four: The interpretive centre in the train station

 One of the displays at the Parks Canada Visitor Reception Centre in Churchill is a recreation of a polar bear breeding quarters.

By Paul Ullrich

We got into some serious sightseeing on our first day in Churchill. Our first stop was the Via Rail station, and where else would a railfan want to be? But we weren't there for the trains. The station is also home of the Parks Canada Visitor Reception Centre.

The Via Rail station is quite large, but Via now occupies only a small part of the station. Parks Canada bought the building some time ago and now uses it to house their administration centre and their visitor reception centre.

And what a centre it is! It's a mini-museum in itself, with well crafted displays of Churchill's rich history and wildlife. There were plenty of interpreters from Parks Canada around who were very eager and willing to talk about the displays and their historical and cultural significance.

There was also an auditorium where they screened videos about Wapusk National Park, an enormous park that extends from Cape Churchill (Just west of the town of Churchill) all the way south to Port Nelson. The park is the main breeding ground for polar bears, and his also home to wolves, caribou, snow geese and other wildlife.

The also gave us something to eat! The staff had prepared for our group local delicacies such as bannock and homemade jams and tea, which was made from the edible plants and berries that grow in the area. It was an authentic fur trapper's snack, and there was plenty to go around!

Much so our surprise, we saw part of our train in the station. The dome car and one of the sleepers we sitting on a side track. Somehow the train managed to reach Churchill, but had left those two cars. The next run was going only to The Pas, and the wye at The Pas where the train was turned around for its return trip to Churchill was too short to hold the extra sleeper and the dome car.

 Our tour group feasted on a variety of home made and home grown foods from the area.

Attention all modellers! Check out this beautiful model of Fort Prince of Wales that was in the Parks Canada Visitor reception area! 

Members of our group listen to the head interpreter demonstrating an interactive display.
Hey, what's part of our train doing there? These two cars were left behind in Churchill, as the wouldn't have to been able to fit in the wye at The Pas, where the train was turned around for its return trip to Churchill.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Churchill by rail: Part Three: STILL stranded in Thompson!

We passed the time taking photos the wolf mural in Thompson, Manitoba, while waiting for our flight.

By Paul Ullrich

After a pleasant sleep in a non-moving sleeper car, we woke up the next morning and found out our proposed schedule for the day.

We were told that we were to board a bus at 1:30 PM, which would take us to the airport. If we wanted to go into Thompson, we were asked to be back at no later then 12:00 noon for lunch, so we'd have enough time eat and to prepare for boarding the bus with all of our belongings.

To make our wait more pleasurable, Via ordered dozens of donuts, pastries and muffins from Tim Horton's, along with gallons of coffee, and had them placed in the station for all the passengers.

When we first arrived in Thompson, a member of our group had checked the fuel gauge on the head end unit. He checked it this morning, and found that the engine had gone through 700 litres of fuel, just to keep the train's services going!

A group of us took advantage of the time and visited the Heritage North Museum and Information Centre. This is a wonderful little museum housed inside a log cabin, and it's just packed with many fascinating displays about Thompson's history and wildlife. We also posed in front of the Wolf Mural, which is a Robert Bateman design painted by Winnipeg's prominent mural painter, Charles Johnson. It's painted on the side of the Highland Tower, a 10 story apartment block.

We got back in time for lunch in the diner car. There were usually five selections for lunch, but this time we only had two. Robert, our tour guide, announced that the plane that was chartered couldn't fit all of our group. He asked for eight volunteers who wouldn't mind flying on a later plane, then passed a sign-up sheet around.

After lunch, we packed up our belongings. We could see the Greyhound Bus waiting for us behind the station. At 1:25 we all left our quarters and waited in line to disembark from the train. Ten minutes later, we were told to go back to our seats.

More muffins were brought from Tim's as a series of frantic phone calls to Via's head office in Montreal, Hudson Bay Railway, Rail Travel Tours, Calm Air, and Perimeter Airlines. We were allowed to leave the train, but not the station.

Amid all of this confusion, we met an 85 year old woman with a delightfully lilting Scottish accent who took the new of our delay with an enviable calm. She had lived in Churchill for many years, and had taken this train often enough to expect any sort of misfortune to befall her.

"You don't know how lucky you are, dear." She said. "This delay happened in a city.  It could've occurred in the bush, and then what would would've become of us?"

We felt a bit better after hearing that.

Finally, at 5:00 PM, we were told to get our luggage from the baggage car and board the bus. Being in a tour group had its advantages, for we were the first to leave. The passengers who were not in our tour group stayed overnight in a Thompson hotel, and were flown into Churchill the following day.

One plane was waiting for us at the airport. It was a 16 seater from Perimeter airlines. We were told that another plane would be there in just a few minutes to take the rest of us to Churchill. 16 people from our group boarded the plane. It was so cramped that you couldn't stand up straight. Little packets were handed out. They looked like gummy bears. They were actually earplugs.

The plane took off at 5:50 PM. As soon as it left, the airport manager announced that the next plane would be here at 7:30 PM.

So much for "the next plane will be here in a few minutes".

Thompson airport is like no other airport in the south of the country. The secure area's door was left open so passengers could get coffee and snacks. There was a sign in the washroom cautioning us not to drink the water, as it wasn't potable. The luggage scanner was an old woman with a cane who closed up shop promptly at 6:00 PM. We had no luggage inspection whatsoever. All they did was weigh and tag our luggage.

There was a Transport Canada sign by the baggage counter listing the things you couldn't bring on a plane. One of them was an aerosol can. I had a can of shave cream in my toiletry bag in my carry on. When I asked the clerk what I should do with it, she shrugged and giggled and said, "I don't know!"

The one thing the took seriously was take-out food brought into the planes. Boxes of donuts were subject to inspection by airport officials because they had several incidents where marijuana was smuggled inside of them.

The airport manager ordered a pizza for supper. Several members of our group did the same. He offered to pick it up so we wouldn't have to pay the delivery fee. That's Thompson airport for you.

The Calm Air plane arrived on time. It was a spacious 44 seater, and you could stand up in it! They even had snacks! We arrive in Churchill exactly at 9:00 PM, exactly 12 hours later than we were supposed to arrive.

We were greeted at the Airport by Paul, our guide for the next 48 hours. He looked like a cross between Grizzly Adams and Dumbledore. The school bus that he drove to take us us to our hotel had a gun rack with a very large an menacing looking rifle. We weren't in the south anymore.

Dinner, and the rest of our party, were waiting for us at the Seaport Hotel. We celebrated our arrival by having a delicious meal of fresh Arctic Char.

We made it!

 One of the displays at the Heritage North Museum and Information Centre in Thompson.

 Taking our checked baggage from the train to the bus. We're finally leaving Thompson!
 Yes, they were very serious about those donuts!

          That's the 16 seater from Perimeter Airlines that took some of our group to Churchill.
  That's the rifle mounted on a gun rack in the school bus that took us to our hotel. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Churchill by rail - Part two: Stranded in Thompson

     Our train arrive late in Thompson, and stays there for a very long time.

By Paul Ullrich 

We awoke to a steady rain just outside of Cormorant Lake, north of The Pas. It had been raining all night, and it continued to rain until just before we reached Thompson Junction.

This was the land of no roads, no communities, no cell phone transmitters and certainly no wi-fi. We crossed highway 6 outside of Ponton, Manitoba, crossed highway 373 to Norway House north of Dunlop, and we ran parallel with highway 6 from Dunlop to Wabowden, but after that we were on our own in the wilderness of Manitoba's boreal forest. We passed Thicket Portage, which is where the Franklin expedition once stayed (not a good sign of things to come).

We were going a lot slower since we left The Pas. From the dome car you could see each car rise and fall as it rolled over the uneven roadbed. We reached Thompson Junction, confident that we'd cover the 30 miles from there to Thompson in no time.

No so! It took us 2 1/2 hours to get there, which means that we were hurtling down the track at a breakneck speed of 12 miles an hour! On the plus side, we were going slow enough to get some great shots of the Wintering River and the Grass River as we crossed over them.

The Via timetable lists Thompson as a five hour stop. I was wondering what we were going to do there for such a long time. But the train was several hours late arriving, so I thought that our stay would be brief.

So I thought.

The train from Churchill was waiting for us on the wye. When we pulled into the station, that train backed up behind us. Much to our surprise, we found three cars from the states waiting for our train. They had licence plates from Minnesota, Iowa, and California. The had obviously drove up from Winnipeg on highway 6 to meet the train at Thompson.

It's an eight hour drive from Winnipeg to Thompson. By train, it's 24 hours, assuming that it's on time. Highway 6 is a direct route through the Interlake. The Churchill train meanders through Saskatchewan, as Churchill is a grain port, and Saskatchewan is were the trains get the grain.

It would make perfect sense for anyone to drive to Thompson, then take the train the rest of the way to Churchill.  It would make perfect sense to anyone except for a railfan. After all, that's 24 hours less spent on a train!

We were told that we'd be facing a delay due to a mandatory rest period for the crew, and that we'd be leaving Thompson at 1 AM.  A few of us decided to walk to Thompson for a snack run. Just outside of Wal-Mart, a native man and his family leaving the store noticed our name tags and stopped us.

"I guess you're stuck here for a while because of the washout, right?" He asked.


He was telling the truth. When we got back to the train, it was confirmed that there was indeed a washout north on the line. Due to the heavy rains, a beaver dam had been breeched, which washed out part of the track. We were then told that we'd be staying on the train in Thompson overnight, and that we'd be flown out to Churchill the next morning.

Damn those pesky Canadian rodents, and their shoddy construction techniques.

The crew also told us that they'd be going into town for some supplies for the next day. Despite the news about the delay, we were all in good spirits, and we even had a get-together in the observation car that evening. Being in Thompson also meant that folks carrying cell phones could once again get a signal. That's when we found that the story of our washout made the news!

We went to bed that night on the train, looking forward to a better night's sleep after rocking and rolling through the bush the previous night. We slept peacefully, fully confident that Via Rail would take care of all of our troubles and get us to Churchill swiftly.

Boy, were we ever in for a surprise!

 Hey, sign painter - you had one job! Couldn't you face that "N" the right way?
 Uh, there is track under that train, right? Exactly how long has that train been at that siding?
                        Thompson station - our home away from home for the next 24 hours.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Churchill by rail - Part one

 A superb view of the prairie taken from the dome car on the train to Churchill. 

By Paul Ullrich

This year my wife Margaret and I decided to go whale watching in Churchill, a destination on our bucket list. Being a railfan, I had always wanted to travel there by train. I also wanted to see what northern Manitoba was like, as the farthest north either Margaret and I had ever been in the province was Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

We signed up for the History and belugas of Churchill group tour offered by Rail Travel Tours, which is run by long time WMRC member Daryl Adair. We opted for the upper and lower berths on the train. Not only are they the least expensive sleeping option, but they have the biggest beds, and they're more sociable than being locked away in a room, or in a roomette.

There was a horrendous rainstorm on the morning of our departure, which was so bad that we had our doubts about even getting to Union Station. But 15 minutes before were about to leave, the rain stopped! We were grateful for that, but what we didn't know was that the rain was going to play a significant part in our adventure to Churchill.

We arrived at the station in time to have our luggage checked and to join Daryl's tour of the Winnipeg Railway Museum. Daryl gave a very enjoyable and thorough tour. He's a long time member of the museum, and he knew every piece of rolling stock in the museum inside and out.

The only problem was the heat. Remember that morning's rain? After that downpour, the temperature climbed rapidly, and with all of that extra added humidity, the museum turned into a sauna. It was well before noon when our tour ended, but by the time it was finished we were all dripping with sweat.

When we got back downstairs to the station, we found that the train was running late, as it didn't arrive in Winnipeg until 7:00 that morning (over 14 hours late) and the crew needed more time to get the train ready. Lunch in the car's diner was cancelled, but Via supplied us with a lunch from the snack bar in the station's main foyer.

The train was ready for boarding quicker than anticipated, and we boarded right after we ate. Before we left, Daryl cautioned us about the schedule of the Churchill train.

"It's supposed to arrive in Churchill at 9 AM, but if it arrives on the same day, it's considered to be on time!" He said. And he was right about that.

Our guides for the trip were Robert and his wife Deborah, and they were absolutely terrific hosts. Much to our surprise, we found that most of the tour group were from Manitoba. When we booked the tour, Daryl told us that most of his customers for this trip were usually out-of-towners. He said that in Churchill they refer to this as 'perimeter-itis", reflecting on Winnipegger's well known reluctance to vacation in their own province. But it was a welcome surprise, as we got to know a lot of great people who lived nearby.

Wonder of wonders, the train had an domed observation car! The dome car has been featured this summer on a number of trips on the Churchill service as a pilot project. The domes were also featured a few years back during polar bear season in the fall and at the odd time for special groups. Boy, was it ever popular! It gave us the perfect place for our group to get to know each other, and to enjoy the scenery as no other passengers on the train to Churchill had ever been able to before.

After a hot, humid morning in the station, it was a blessed relief to travel in air conditioned comfort. I was giddy in anticipation as we left Portage La Prairie for the Gladstone subdivision, for it was a route that I'd never travelled before by rail. We weren't breaking any speed records. It was a bit disconcerting to see cars zipping by us on the road next to us, but none of us cared - we were in the dome car, it was a beautiful sunny day, and we were all having a wonderful time!

We went through Gladstone, which I had only seen from Highway 16. The track through town was elevated, and everybody laughed when we passed mere inches away from the second floor window of a Chinese restaurant! If our windows had been able to open, we all could've got some take out!

We had a wonderful dinner in the diner as we slipped through the Togo subdivision, then crossed the border to Saskatchewan and into the Assiniboine subdivision. We went to bed when we reached Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan, looking forward to what the next day was going to bring.

But the next day was full of surprises that no one had anticipated.

A tour of the Winnipeg Railway Museum was included as part of the travel package.  
Photo by Margaret Ullrich.

The train rounds a curve through a heavily wooded area outside of Gladstone, Manitoba.

The train arrives at Glenella, Manitoba, just before Dauphin.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Prairie Dog Central to recieve two CP steam locomotives from Virginia

   Two vintage CP G5 class 4-6-2 steam locomotives are returning home to Canada. The locomotives spent over 40 years in Covington, Virginia as part of the late Jack Showalter's Virginia Central Tourist Railroad. Showalter, a tourist railroad operator and dedicated steam preservationist, died in November 2014.

    The engines have been stored on the Shenandoah Valley Railroad in Staunton, Virginia for over 15 years. The Prairie Dog Central has not purchased these locomotives. They were purchased by an Albertan, but will be stored at the PDC's shops off Inkster Boulevard. The 1238 was built in Montreal in 1946. The 1286 was built in Kingston Locomotive Works in 1948. Future operating plans for these two engines are under review by the Vintage Locomotive Society.

Friday, August 07, 2015

All aboard for another open house at the Assiniboine Valley Railway this weekend

WMRC member Godfrey South and his entire family enjoy a ride on the AVR at their last open house.

   All aboard for another open house at the Assiniboine Valley Railway! The fun starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday, August 8 and goes on until 5:00 PM! On Sunday, August 9, the hours are from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. It's just two bucks a ride, and you can get a 12 ride pass for only $20! Join in on all the fun at 3001 Roblin Boulevard, just past Assiniboine Park!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

NFB video features Winnipeg streetcar operation in the 1950's

     Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman is a remarkable 1953 NFB short that documents the work of Paul Tomkowicz, a Polish immigrant to Winnipeg who worked as a street railway switchman for 23 years. Paul's main job was to keep the rails and switches of Winnipeg's streetcar system clear, and in the winter that meant sweeping them clear of ice and snow! It's narrated by Paul Tomkowicz himself, and it has some wonderful views of Winnipeg and its streetcar system in the early 50's.

    Be sure to watch the nine minute film to the very end, when he has a typical 1950's North End breakfast in a North End diner, which consists of six hard boiled eggs, a pile of sausages and a stack of rye bread!

   To view this video, click here.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

NFB's Railroaders showcases railroading in the Rockies in the 1950's

    Railroaders is a 22 minute documentary about winter railroading in the Canadian Rockies, and the men who keep the lines clear. The film focuses on the stretch of the CP line between Revelstoke and Field, British Columbia, which is a snow-choked threat to communications. The film shows the work of section hands, maintenance men, train crews and telegraph operators. For diesel lovers, this 1958 film has some great shots of classic CP F units and rolling stock, plus some nostalgic views of life and work in small Canadian mountain towns like Revelstoke from over 50 years ago.

   To view this film,  go to