May 14 - Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Winnipeg (Manitoba), Sioux Lookout (Ontario) (Vancouver, British Columbia to Nova Scotia Train Journey)

I slept through the stop at Saskatoon, not that there was anything to miss. The station was miles out of town and not very well lit from what I remember when I was there earlier in the year. I woke a few times during the night and eventually got up and went up to the observation car at about 8am.

David was already there we sat and talked with Michelle as the train trundled along through the flat, golden Prairies. The only views of interest were huge piles of dirt from some underground mines, grain elevators and the occasional interesting settlement. The marker between Saskatchewan and Manitoba was also a point of interest, located in a river valley that cut through the otherwise flat landscape.

An hour later than scheduled we pulled into Winnipeg station. Just as I was getting off the train 8 police officers and a group of VIA Rail personnel, boarded the train in a hurry into the car in front of mine. I later discovered that a man had been acting very strange, disturbing other passengers and causing a general nuisance when shouting random things out at people.

I said to David that if he wanted food then the best place to go to is The Forks, located behind the station where the Assiniboine River and Red River meet. We met up there and had a bite to eat as David bought fresh fruit from the market.

When I got back onto the train I was asked by Vanessa, another passenger, if she could use my laptop power for her computer. We sat and chatted as she charged her computer battery. I was more than a little surprised to discover that her destination was the same as mine in Nova Scotia. She was having a stop over in Toronto where as I was going direct with out any stop overs.

Later in the afternoon I joined David in the observation car, which was becoming a second home to many passengers and the only alternative to sitting in their seat all day or eating in the cafeteria. As we crossed into Ontario from Manitoba and the scenery changed from the flat Prairies to the forested lake covered landscape of north western Ontario, we looked at his CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) maps of the area showing the tiny stations we were passing through and stopping at. It was obvious they must have relied on the railway as a primary link to the outside world. For some places the nearest gravel road connecting them to the rest of the province would be over 250km away. Float planes and boats through the hundreds of rivers and lakes would often be the only methods of getting from place to place. All of the settlements were built by the occupiers and hardly any had any vehicles other than a snowmobile or boat.

Some of the stations provided a source of amusement when we would stop for 20 minutes at a station that would consist of a shed no bigger than an outhouse with the station name sloppily painted on the side. Lookout for Rice Lake on the edge of Ontario. This is the smallest station you could ever hope to see with only 1 log cabin nearby. Sometime only 1 or 2 cabins could be found near the station. When we arrived at Ottermere, another tiny station on the side of a lake, a boat sped across the lake to meet the passengers, mail and supplies being offloaded.

David, Vanessa, Michelle and I all had dinner as hunger was setting in at a rapid pace and train snack food was beginning to loose any interest I may have had in it in the first place. I think the cheeseburger for breakfast had something to do with it.

By the time we reached Sioux Lookout, a large Indian Reserve in Northern Ontario, the only store was closed and the atmosphere in the town was somewhat unnerving. David and I wandered down the street as native people stood and stared at us. Vanessa went to the bank as we waited. A blood soaked tissue blew past and that was the sign to head back to the train quickly.

As night set in for the third time David, Vanessa, Michelle, myself and two other passenger, Beth and her friend went up into the observation car which has no lighting at night and watched a DVD on my laptop. By the time it was half way through about 4 other people had wandered in and were watching also.

One passenger pointed out the Northern Lights, which could be easily seen through the glass roof of the car.

The train made an extended stop at the settlement called Armstrong. This is an unusual town in that all of the residents work for either Canadian National Railways (CN), the forestry departments, the logging industry or are fire fighters for forest fires. It is a large camp where everyone lives in shared motel style accommodation and the train is their only way in and out apart from a small airstrip on the edge of the settlement.

By the time the movie was over, I was so tired and headed to bed.

Related Pages

Travel Guide - Saskatchewan
Travel Guide - Manitoba
Travel Guide - Ontario
Travel Guide - Getting Around in Canada
Travel by Train in Canada

Travel Diary

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