So, in what is appearing to be a fit of sentimental insanity, I booked the train from Thompson to Churchill. Now, I am sitting at Thompson’s only internet cafe with a lovely view of car dealerships and ‘The MALL’ and waiting for the train, which is surprisingly only one hour behind schedule. Of course, the schedule now has about four or five hours built into it as a buffer zone so that the train is never really ‘behind schedule’ or at least not supposed to be. Then again, the schedule has also changed about two or three times this year.
Funny to think that its been over ten years since I first hopped on the train to Churchill, pretty unsure about my capability to drive a tundra buggy and wondering what bear season was all about. The train was pretty fun, even if it was 36 hours long (from Winnipeg), it didn’t take long to run into the other new buggy drivers on the train – Jp was a quirky frenchman who also happened to be a wild animal trainer – grizzlies, cougars and such – Glenn a farmer/golf course owner from western Manitoba, Everett – a parks canada interpreter and a good jaded redneck counter to my then-eco-freako tendencies and ultimately my mentor in all things jaded and redneck, which I must say I have excelled at.
The train and conversations just kind of drifted along, so did gambling in the lounge car and well, the lounge car itself – especially once the residents living at the remote communities along the line – boarded in thompson, after a weekend of shopping in the ‘big city’.
Rolling into Churchill on the train is always a crazy feeling, you’re going so slow and you have this pit in your stomach of excitement, nerves and then shock (at least back then) at the chaos that awaited you outside the train.
Back then, the train station was still under restoration and the ‘station’ was actually operating out of an ATCO trailer which doubled as a storage room for lumber, tools and sawdust. The parking lot was simply a jumble of old school buses, each painted up with sort of company colours – most of which seemed to be yellow-orange and black – highlighted with a bit of rust (also crazy to think of how many of those buses are still running today…).
It was pretty much find your own way, asking people for some kind of direction until you finally hit the right bus. By the time I did, it was a stubby old black and white International bus, with not much brakes and less steering. After a quick round of introductions, there followed a ‘say, you have your bus drivers license don’t you? Great, you’re driving shuttle today.’