Thursday, 6 October 2016

Colour and Trains, Part 1

There are a few things this road trip is and is not.

It is a lot of driving. A lot of driving = early days and late nights = difficulties keeping the blog up.

It is a LOT of scenery. On Oct 4th, 771 photos. On the 5th, 298 photos. On the 6th, 841 photos.

It is getting off the beaten track. When last we left, we were in the vacation hotspot of Cochrane, ready to "ride the rails" north to Moosonee and James Bay. The train we took -- The Polar Express -- has 3 passenger cars, all about half full, and near as we could tell, only 2 other tourists on it.

The Polar Express train has morphed through the years from a mostly industrial train serving Ontario's only salt water port, to a 3 day per week tourist train, to a money losing daily passenger service, to an essential supply route for a new diamond mine. These days, it runs almost daily, is required by the Victor Diamond Mine, and carries locals and tourists to boot. The presious Government tried to shut it down, but nowadays it has a renewed mandate, still loses money, and is getting new rolling stock. Later -- much later -- I'll write a post about the train, because finding info on line about it was hard.

A 0730 boarding for a 0800 departure meant for an early wake up call. Mist was in the air, light rain was falling, and it was overcast despite the weather forecast for clear and sunny.

Step 1 was boarding. This train carries everything, from trucks to canoes to snowmobiles. The train shunts around in front of you until it's fully assembled.
Passenger cars lined up 
Truck carriers connected 
Freight cars and passenger cars
The journey is supposed to take ~5 hrs each way; we left at 8 AM and arrived at 2:40 PM, so ran late the whole way. But that means time to look out the window.

Much of the early scenery is just like home: aspen parkland with yellow aspens, dark green spruce and the odd colourful bush thrown in.
Aspen parkland colours in the morning mist
By 11 AM, it finally cleared, and the promised sun arrived. After passing numerous creeks and rivers, we stopped at the Otter Creek dam on the Abitibi River.
The dam in the distance
A little closer 
A little prettier
This is a "whistle stop" train. It has two designated stops -- Cochrane and Moosonee, 186 miles distant -- but stops wherever there is freight to load/unload, people to put off or take on, or beer bottles to return. There are ~10 "designated" whistle stops.
Crews loading/unloading 
Locals watching
Beer bottles. All empty, I think.
Much (but not all) of the journey looks like the picture below: paralleling the power line (recently twinned) that runs to Moosonee, black (swamp) spruce in the muskeg with tamaracks interspersed.
Not really interesting
We did see a moose on the power line, though he darted into the forest the second the train made noise. 

However, there are plenty of little creeks, big rivers and one or two lakes that are crossed, too, and these are often very cool.
Blue lake. Yellow aspen 
The start of the Moose River 
The mighty Moose, almost 800 m wide 
The Moose's shore 
Colourful still ponds 
Muskeg creeks 
Tannin coloured rivers 
More of the Moose on the way home 
Dramatic Moose shot
So instead of rolling into Moosonee at 1:05 with a 4 PM departure, we rolled in at 2:40 with a 4 PM departure. That gave us little time except to walk around ½ the town in a 6 km loop.

The DeBeers office 
Bear tracks, and the others could be wolf (but they could be large dog) 
Abandoned factory 
Baseball diamond with a ~5 year old tree growing at home plate 
The Brick -- proof you can get bad furniture here! 
A museum that hasn't been open for ~4 years 
Expensive bananas. At hoe we pay $0.89/kg 
Tomatoes are triple what I pay 
Milk: $7.60/three litres. At home it's $3.79/four 
Pop: $10/case. 
But the star of the town is the river and the boat traffic, specifically the ferries to Moose Factory, home of the historic Hudson's Bay trading post, which is on an island in the river out of sight.
The ferry comes in
Dramatic lighting 
Taxis ferry up the river 
In dry dock, but... 
That's a funny place to be from up here
The car ferry
The busy taxi dock 
In and out
As someone once said "the journey is the destination", and this is never more true than when you spend 6 hrs 40 min on a train to visit a place for 1 hr 20 min to spend 5 hrs 10 min getting back. Especially considering that the sun set ~3 hrs into the return journey, so 1/3rd of it was in the dark. The photos below were taken over the space of 20 min and about 25 km.

Sunset 1 , 6:44 PM
Sunset 2 
Sunset 3 
Sunset 4
Sunset 5, 6:51 PM
Was it worth the trip? Sure. The colours were limited to aspens and tamarck/larch yellows and golds, and it's a bit of a shame that at this time of the year, half the homeward bound journey was in the dark. But the people on the train were nice an fun to talk to, the staff was great, the food on the train good and reasonably priced (all things considered).

Coming next: Day 6, COLOURS and a flat tire.

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