Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 4 November 15 train ride

Monday November 15, 2010

 I don't have a lot of service areas now so wanted to send an email when I can.
Last night was the first "try to sleep on e train" night. It is not a smooth train like the one in Germany...it reminded me of trying to sleep on a roller coaster.. A moving roller coaster. Throw in a train whistle at ever road and you have quite the fun time. 
They dim the lights around 7pm and now I understand why as it took 12 hours of trying to sleep to get 3 or 4 hours of sleep. But I will say that I did actually sleep.

I woke up at 2:30am as the train stopped and we were in La Pas. I didn't get out, but Dad did and said it was so nice. I woke up again around 4am as the train stopped and started backing up. A little bit later it started going forward again.

It is now 7am and although the sun is not up I can see lots of trees and snow from the window. Our next big stop is Thompson but I don't knowhow far that is. It is an 18 hour train ride from Thompson to Churchill so judging from the time that would make Thompson around 6 hours away.

Mom and Dad just went to breakfast. They have blueberry pancakes on the menu...so Mom reported. I decided not to eat this morning as it seems like all we are doing is eating and sleeping. I have a hot cup of coffee so i am set.

I was going to take a shower on the train, just to say i did,  but I will have to do that on the return route. I found it today so I better use it.

I am beginning to see more outside as it is getting a little lighter out. There are electrical poles along the track that are not placed in the ground rather propped up by three other poles, teepee style. I just heard the horn again so another road ahead. They are becoming few and far between.

The trees look like a Minnesota Christmas Card. Pine trees full of snow. This could be the start of the Boreal Forest area, so i will get my map out and confirm. There is a small stream that the train seems to be following. I can't tell for sure, but it looks like open water maybe three feet wide. Every once in a while you see it cut through the trees. I can't imagine that it is not frozen, but so far it looks like an open stream.

I can't wait for the light as it is a pretty weird feeling looking out both sides of the trainu and seeing pine trees so close. It is like they cut a path just big enough for the train to get through.

Mom just came back and said the reason why the train is going so slow. I guess we are going through permafrost. It is like a frozen peat bog. So the ground is very unstable. I would think we should go 90 miles an hour to get through it, but I guess that is why I am not a train engineer.

Okay now I can see more, 7:40am. Yes in deed there is an open water stream flowing next to the tracks. It actually is very interesting landscape with pine trees and a scattering of poplar and it looks like bog grass. The train is maybe going 5 or 6 miles an hour so you can really see what permafrost looks like and is.

I do see a signal tower ahead so it must be a town coming up. Oh to the left, two black birds in a tree. Okay, now a lot of blackbirds in trees. A little Hitchcock around here. Another interesting thing, electrical poles have no lines running on them. Just the pole and glass caps. I see lights ahead so if we stop i will get out and take a picture or two.

We have a town. Silver leaf hotel in Wabowden. It doesn't look like we are stopping and all of a sudden the train is picking up speed. Houses and trailers are scattered throughout the tees and i can see a pretty good size lake as well.

It is full light now. No sun but with the snow covered ground it is bright out. The trees have become very thick Noe and every clearing is now a frozen lake. The stream is still open along the tracks, but everything else looks a little frozen, okay a lot frozen.

We are stopped at some little town to let people on.. All of a sudden there are four wheelers and snow mobiles galore. Where did they come from? Three dogs are chasing around as see another guy come walking down the little road with his dog. The town is called Thicket Forest.
The lady and kid that got on in La Pas last night are now getting off. Looks like one of the snow mobiles is for them.as quickly as the atvs and snowmobiles came they are gone and the train begins to move forward again.

We are in Thompson, or at the train rail station. We had heard that we have to back into town, but we didn't. It is snow covered and none of the streets are plowed so pick-ups everywhere.

Mom and I head to town. We have until 1 pm so we walk fast. Town is about 5 blocks from the train station and after going over the small hill the town shows up. First is The University of the North. It is a branch of the University of Winnipeg and the farthest northern university in Manitoba. Next a stop light and car dealerships - Ford and Chrysler. Turn to the left and you have a lumber yard and to the right the City Centre Mall.

We walk towards the mall looking for a gift shop to get something from from Thompson. There is an Arctic Trading Company but only sweatshirts that have Thompson on it. We walk out and what to my wandering eyes would appear but a Wal-Mart! They are seriously everywhere. But wait there's more...a McDonalds and a Starbucks also are in the mall. Crazy!

Mom buys some more yarn and chocolate for Dad and off we go. We find a Safeway next so we pick up some grapes, bananas, cokes, and a couple cans of cherries. Mom says cherries help her legs settle down so she will be eating cherries tonight.

It is now 12:30 and rather then chance missing the train there is a line of taxis waiting to take us all back to the train. $6 forge ride and we are back within minutes.

The restrooms at the train stations are nice and as Dad says " they don't move so his aim is better." I see they have a hand dryer so i quickly wash my hair in the sink and blow dry it. It feels good to get it curly again.

Temperatures? Not bad. I didn't wear gloves and it was fine so maybe 30 degrees out or so.

1pm sharp

Train is on a roll again! We just went backwards for about five minutes and now are stopped. Okay going backwards again and a little faster. Maybe we back out of Thompson rather than back in?

Seems like all the new friends are back on the train so no one looks missing. We have a few more new people on the train but still not crowded at all. The train is now to the Y on the track so I think we are now at the end of the backing up. You can hear the tracks being changed and the train hits it.going straight again so thinking we will stay to the right now...on the tracks again and sure enough, moving forward.

There is one more stop before Churchill and that is the town of Gilman. There is no Internet service out here, but I keep trying. Between here and Gilman and Gilman and Churchill is a shattering of small dots on the track. They are the Inuit villages so it will be a different experience.

The train is now stopped as one of the men got off to switch the tracks is now getting on in the back and off we go again.

The area is still full of pine and birch trees and little rivers or lakes along the way. One interesting thing is the slabs of ice stuck on trees maybe 2 or 3 feet up on the tree trunks. It looks like the water was high, froze and then the water went down and left slabs of ice attached to the trees. 

We have 17 hours to go and I am looking forward to waking up in the Arctic Tundra. Will stay up as long as I can at least while there is light out.

Not a lotto report. The train goes fast and then slows down to let a train pickup truck pass and then off it goes again. I got Dad playing checkered on e iPad and some bowling. Will probably need to play some three handed pinochle tonight before bed and after dinner. 

 We arrive in the small village of Pikwitonei and most of the folks we picked uo in Thompson are feting off. The town has five or six buildings and a number of houses. It is on a river so a few boats are sitting on the banks as well.

We were able to get off the train for a few minutes while the locals got off and unloaded their supplies. A snowmobile with a plastic sled loaded some boxes as well as a few pickup trucks. There are three dogs that are greeting the locals and after a few minutes to off load, the train is on it's way again.

It is starting to snow now but I am surprised at how warm it feels out. This is the first snow I have seen this year and it is good. We are still surrounded by pine trees. Jack pines but the poplar and birch are no longer standing along side them. It looks like few ash trees are sitting closest to the tracks but 99% are pine.

The landscape is starting to be more hilly and the trees much smaller. It looks like many of the trees have fallen like toothpicks in a stack. There are small towns every few miles now so we maybe picking up more or dropping off a few.we will have to wait and see.

As quickly as it started to snow it has stopped, but the sky is still different shades of grey like it is waiting and wanting to snow. The weirdest feeling so far on the train is when we take corners. It feels like the cars are tilting to one side and out the window you can see the engine cars.

The jack pines are poles here. It really is a baron land. If you ever wanted totally remove yourself from civilization, this would be the place.

 The train horn no longer blows as there are no roads anywhere to be found. It seemed when we left Winnipeg the horn was blowing every few seconds, but today I think I have heard it may three times in 9 hours.

I keep a watch out for animals - moose, deer, fox, rabbit, elk or anything else. I see a ton of tracks, but nothing moving. Most of the tracks look like rabbit and deer and have small paths that run in and out of the thicket. With only an hour or so left of daylight I hope to see a little more before the night sets in.

Well night set in. I am amazed how instantly dark it gets out here. Maybe 10 minutes from sunset to pitch black.

We had dinner at 5pm. I had Polaco and Mom and Dad had the Salmon and Rice. For dessert a little chocolate ice cream and strawberry shortcake. Mom said the shortcake didn't taste like hers, but it was still very very good. We had the grouchy train guy again. He doesn't take a joke at all. We figured he was a year and a half to retirement so he is just here to buy his time. I will never understand buying time, if that is what he is doing. I also don't understand being in the service industry if you don't like to be friendly. No one knows his story so maybe he stubbed his toe or something.

We have two more stops, planned stops, before we head straight into the Tundra town of Churchill. One at about 6:30 and the other is Gillam, the last official town before Churchill. I need to at least go outside and step on the ground to say I have.

Interesting fact: the train changed it's horn a few years back in Canada to a higher pitched sound. Why? Well the old horn sounded very similar to a bull moose call so when the train would give a toot, the moose would come a running. Ended up to be to many along or on the railroad tracks, so they changed horns.

Just had a stop in Hilman where more people got off with supplies and a few more got on. As we were standing outside one of the train engineers was there and he said that in a month or so the locals will not use the train anymore as the rivers will be frozen 3-4 feet thick and they drive on the ice up or down to bigger towns.  He also said that they have a Large Fishing Derby up here that everyone comes out for. I asked what they caught up here and he said big Northern Pike.

Also, Dad asked him what was the problem with the grouchy guy who serves in the dining car and he said " oh him, he is lazy. He doesn't want to ever do anything!" I guess bad attitudes are seen by guest as well as colleagues.

Dad also asked how cold it gets up here and he said it was to warm now, but by Thursday windchill is suppose to be -40 so that will make for some good ice.

Train is on the move again. Next stop is Gillam, MB. It will be the last stop for the night until we reach Churchill in the morning. Train will be a little late, but maybe an hour or two at the most.

The train has just left it's last stop until Churchill, Gillam MB. Another small-town but right across from the depot was the Canadian Mounty Legion. Dad has been talking about the Legion in Churchill since he found out there was one. He even brought a hat from the McIntosh Legion to give to them.

Well now starts another night of trying to get comfortable and sleep on a moving train. There should be no horns tonight as the last of the roads are behind us know, so we listen to the click a de clack of the train as it makes it's way northeast 500 miles or so.

Looking out the window I see more pine trees. I do not believe that will be the case in 10 hours when I get up. 

Very strange to see an electrical plant out here. Not a small one either, it is huge and lights up the sky. As quickly as it was here it is now gone. It seems a lot quieter tonight as the rails aren't clanking hardly at all. I can tell that they turned the heat up. Whoa. Nice and toasty.

Okay, time to head to the bathroom now that we are out of town and get comfortable for the night.    

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