Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Prairie Dog Central Railway

The Prairie Dog Central Railway is a tourist railroad located near Winnipeg, Manitoba. The train leaves from Inkster Junction, on Inkster Boulevard in the northwest part of Winnipeg, and travels almost 30 km through the community of Grosse Isle to Warren, Manitoba. At Warren, the engine runs around the train while the passengers disembark to enjoy the local community market.

I took this train on July 24, 2004 with my son and my father-in-law. We arrived at Inkster Boulevard a little early so we could look around before boarding the train. I saw two CN locomotives in a field near the station, so we drove over to photograph them. A crew member came out and invited us into the engines. It turns out that they were going to switch the nearby grain elevator, after the rest of the crew returned from lunch. We chatted for a few minutes, then the rest of the crew arrived. The engineer invited my son to sit in his seat and drive the loco up to the Prairie Dog station! Nick was thrilled to push the throttle to notch 1 then 2, and blow the horn when we crossed Inkster. The engineer applied the brakes and we hopped out of the engine onto the station platform, just like it was a normal way to arrive. My son still talks about this experience.

We got our tickets from the smart little station and boarded the train. It left pretty much on time, for a slow and rocking journey down the line. The area is pretty much flat and open, and we were fortunate to have a very nice day for a train ride.

The power for the train was diesel 4138. The railway has a steam engine but it has been under repair for quite a while.

There were five cars and a caboose on the train. I think four of the five passenger cars are essentially the same, with the head-end car being a combine.

The train stops briefly in Grosse Isle, where some local people sell items out of their car trunks. I think we had an ice cream there. At Warren, the train stops for about half an hour while the engine runs down the line to a wye, turns, then runs around the train and couples onto the rear. There is a little market there with some performers and food - very enjoyable.

Once the train returned to the Inkster Junction station, the engine was uncoupled and turned on the wye before running around the passenger cars. I was fortunate to be in the cab for this operation... very interesting.

I intend to chase the train the next time I'm in Winnipeg. I think it will be quite simple, as Highway 6 parallels the track quite closely all the way from the station to Warren.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable experience and I recommend it highly for anyone visiting Winnipeg.

All photos

Visit the Prairie Dog Central web site

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