Winnipeg And Back, Published 7 July 1947
A Geography Lesson
Even after I got to Winnipeg, I had a hard time explaining the route by which I had come. First of all, the old Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific has a hard time getting out of Duluth. It starts out on the Omaha Railroad's tracks, and the switchman works like a section hand throwing and re-throwing switches, while the four car train picks its way through the yards, and at long last, onto its own right of way. Ahead was CNR 5090, and I could only conclude that they do not retain many vestiges of the old Duluth. Winnipeg and Pacific, which was the name by which the railway was known when Mackenzie and Mann built into Duluth. I saw only one engine stencilled DW&;P. The rest of the locomotives I glimpsed had the CNR markings.
The train crawls up the mountain side, till cars on highways look like bugs crawling on toothpaste. The gloom of Lake Superior takes on a sort of depressing magnificence as you get up high enough to see long lakers, far out from port. Then a quick twist, and you are in country not unlike that which you see up the Gatineau
Our line went through Virginia. Minn., one of the big towns up in the Iron Range, but it was dark by then, and all you could see was pleasant streets, well lit.
The railway goes as far as International Falls in Minnesota, then enters Canada at Fort Frances. Next, strangely enough, it goes back into United States again, at Rainy River, and for almost 50 miles, travels through Minnesota, via Baudette and Warroad. The later named is the last Minnesota town, and the railway crosses once more into Canada at Middlebro, Manitoba. From this point, the line starts north west through Sprague, Manitoba.
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This country looks quite a bit like the territory around Cochrane. For the most part it is flat. and there are millions of trees. At first the clearings are few, but gradually, the prairie wins over from the bush. It is not, however, until you are fairly close to Win nipeg. that you shake off the forests entirely.
The names of the towns would indicate why Provencher always returns a French speaking member to Ottawa. For the past seven years it has been Rene Jutras but prior to that for a long time A. L. (now Senator) Beaubien of Provencher was a widely known figure here and in Manitoba. The names of the stations will give you the clue hence Marchand. LaBroquerie, Giroux, St Anne, Dufresne, Lorette Navin and St. Boniface. I understand that John Bracken when premier of Manitoba. had a farm at Marchand and did valuable agricultural research there
This was the old main line of the Canadian Northern, and my second trip out of the west about 30 years ago was on this road. As a competitor to the Canadian Pacific this C. N.R mainline had two handicaps. One was that it ran through the United States for almost 50 miles and the other was that it took a wild swing north to Hornpayne, before dipping south to Fort William. Sir Henry Thornton solved all this, when he built the Nakina cutoff from Longlac to Nakina. thus eliminating the American end entirely, Today, a daily service operates from Port Arthur to Winnipeg, and the line has had increased importance since they developed the iron ore at Steep Rock.
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A day and a half later, I was hustling east out of Winnipeg, Ottawa bound, on No. 2. We had 6001 up ahead, and although she is now 24 years old, she not only held her schedule, but made up time. It is always sad to see the prairie disappear, and the rocks and trees of eastern Manitoba swallow up the arable land. However, it is a sight I never fail to watch, when I can. But next morning there we were, squirming and turning, between Nakina and Longlac, hustling our cargo of humans down to Montreal.
Longlac itself is the prettiest spot on the trip, and I always like to walk down to the water, get the view, and breathe in the crisp northern air. What's more, it gave me a great appetite for lunch. I say that while I do not know the name of the steward or the crew. the dining car service on Car 1293 was the best the CNR has given me in years. Things were cooked properly, the little prewar services were right there, and I even had flowers on the table. I cannot imagine what the steward could have done to make me more comfortable, and I wish that all crews were similarly imbued with the same spirit.
It has always been my ambition to hop off the train when she stops at Main street. Ottawa East, so that I might take a bus home. The solicitous railway crew could think of half a dozen reasens why I shouldn't, and tactfully forbade me to do so. But I opened the door when the engine stopped, grabbed my bags, and got off. I walked a block over, caught the Riveraaie bus, and was home before the train A Geography Lesson officially reached Ottawa, at the Union Station.
It was an all Canadian National trip as far as it could be, and I must say that things are getting back to normal again, and the service is starting to feel like it used to feel. It was like old times on the National. The bus ride home was fine too.