Railway Brings Drinking Water (Greater Winnipeg Water District) 12 October 1944Probably one of the most obscure railways in Canada is the Greater Winnipeg Waterways. To call a railway "Waterways" is to give it a real disguise in the first place. But Winnipeg, not too modest in many other particulars, is almost ridiculously silent on what I consider its biggest individual asset. It owns a railway line.
In order to get a particular or two about this railway, I walked into Winnipeg city hall, and sticking my head into the first wicket, asked where I could get some information about the Greater Winnipeg Waterways. A lady said that she imagined it would be in the waterworks department. No. I told her. That had nothing to do with it. This was a railway.
* * *
She puts on the kind of air that incredulous people do when they meet more incredulous people. Then and there I got a little indignant. I asked her if it was necessary for me, an Ottawan, to come all the way to Winnipeg to tell her about her own railway. Yes. I went on, it was her railway, since as a resident of Winnipeg she owned part of the Winnipeg Waterways. I said that Winnipeg was the only city in Canada that owned a railway. Guelph of course has a piece of the C.P.R. running out to Guelph Junction) and what is more, this railway was making a profit.
I could see I was getting nowhere. Then as I backed out of the wicket. I looked up to see at what sector I had landed. It said: "Dogs, female."
I was in the dog tag department.
* * *
However, I went down the street, and soon found myself with the right people. Perhaps I should mention something about this unusual railway. The G.W.W.D. was devised to bring the water from that part of Lake of the Woods located in Manitoba, to the city of Winnipeg. But to construct the pipe-line, it was necessary to build a railway. The line runs from St. Boniface which is not in Winnipeg through to Waugh. Waugh is named for the Winnipegger who at one time was a Saar Valley commissioner.
The pipe-line runs from the lake to the city, with the railway accompanying it. There was no thought of the railway becoming a paying proposition, but it so happened that it did. For after performing its chore in the laying of the pipe-line, it helped open up country for colonization. More, it penetrated lumber country, and during the war. poles, pots, and lumber all have helped swell the G.W.W.D.s revenues. Again, it runs alongside a gravel pit. and in a country where gravel is not always plentiful, the pit has done its share to keep the freight moving.
What I think surprised me most was how Iittle Winnipeg people knew about the railway. I know I had to lecture quite a few of them about their lack of civic pride. The only anomaly was that the railway, owned by the city of Winnipeg, has no terminus in the city of Winnipeg, but acrcss in St. Boniface, which is another place altogether.
* * *
Nothing would do of course, but that I should ride this railway. and I taxied to St. Boniface for the purpose. The G.W.WD. has the cleanest imaginable station, right beside Uie roundhouse. The engines, of which there are three, have as their crest, a cross section of the waterway pipe-line. If you didn't know it was water, the symbol might puzzle you.
The train goes up one day. and down the next, so I didn't have much time. I therefore elected to ride only a few miles into the country, to Deacon. They met me there with a truck. Since my next engagement was an audience with Premier Stuart Garson. I could not go scooting off along the Waterways line. Surprises as it may seem, when I told Premier Garson that I had just been rushed in from Deacon, he proved to be the only person I met all that afternoon who knew where Deacon was.
The Waterways piously claims in the legend on its tickets that it is not a common carrier, and therefore it is not responsible for you if the railway bashes your brains about a little in an accident. I am curious to know whether their feverish protestations would hold good in a court of law.
Down at Waugh. strewn with beautiful flowers, close guard is kept 24 hours a day on that intake pipe. A stranger, for instance, cannot buy a ticket to Waugh unless he satisfies the authorities that he has business there. Water from that lake once was carefully conveyed to Port Arthur to christen H.M.C.S. Winnipeg, but the grim Lloyd's officials refused to permit this desecration. Undaunted, the railway official in charge auctioned off the bottle of water that night at the banquet, and thus realized a sum for crew comforts on the new ship.