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Train Hopping Across Canada - part 2

by Rodney Graham for Street Sheet Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba

 

July 11th, 2005
Early AM and the same grainer left Prince George BC heading east. It was a beautiful day when she pulled out of the PG yard and I took many pics with my digital camera. For a link to my pics go to "rodney-graham.magix.net".

My intention was, first of all, to head east and hopefully NOT south and then to get off in Jasper (off the train) and hop a big IM that hopefully would go all the way to Toronto. I ended up doing just that but it is a VERY long trip! I ended up three times running out of water too. The good thing about hopping in Canada is that a lot of IM goes clear across the country - but make sure you take plenty of water!

I don't like going too far in grainers since the grainers in Canada are different - they are a lot smaller inside (holes) and not as comfortable.

I enjoyed the sunny day and kept an eye out for where we were going since I wanted to go east not south and the tracks split near the border of BC/Alberta. I managed to get some very good pictures in the Rockies after a few hours the thing I feared happened - the train began a 90-degree turn south. I had visions of going all the way to Kamloops and having to turn around there and head west out of Kamloops. The train slowed and stopped. Then proceeded again and as we neared some tall mountains to the east it began turning left towards the north and I was delighted to see we were after all heading east and not south!

I sat outside on my private porch and took dozens of pics some of the beautiful valley and some of big Mt. Robson, which you have to go past on your way to Jasper, Alberta.

It was slightly raining when we arrived in the lovely resort town of Jasper, Alberta. I got off too soon (off the train) and had to walk some distance. I set up my rain fly (made for a hammock) and slept by the tracks just south of town that night. The next day I moved a bit farther down the line since there were so many tourists wandering around in the bushes.

The next day there were not a lot of trains going through but I enjoyed the beautiful town of Jasper and refurbished my canteen with food and water (not enough water as it turned out later) . Then at around 9 PM I saw fireworks about a hundred yards south of me. Damned kids were lighting off fireworks and making a hell of a noise. Soon an RCMP cruiser went that way and the fireworks stopped as kids scattered into the bushes no doubt enjoying their little adventure on the railway.

Shortly afterwards a train came along and it was an Intermodal so I gathered my stuff and got ready to hop on it. I managed to hop on a 48 but it was the fastest hop on the fly I've had to do. I don't remember now if it stopped or not but I got on anyway.

I enjoyed the majestic but eerie dark mountains silhouetted in the coming darkness. I was facing south standing and looking out when suddenly I was blinded by the lights of a train passing by. It then passed by in a dark blur - I felt good about heading out again. I settled down and unrolled my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

Early in the AM I awoke and noticed the train had stopped. It was a huge yard with giant forklifts driving up and down the yard. There were hundreds of containers all over. I estimated that it was just west of Edmonton somewhere. I think but am not certain that they were rebuilding my train. I panicked a bit and thought for sure they were going to unload the entire train right there! After about 45 minutes I decided I better hop off the train so I did and had to crawl across two other trains. As I was walking on the edge of the yard, however, I noticed the train I had been on was moving again - so, like an idiot, I had to scamper back and hop on her again (on the train). I was happy to be heading east again.

Around 8 AM we arrived in Edmonton (Calder Yard) in the north central area of Edmonton, Alberta. We were there for a short half hour or so and pulled out again heading straight east and over the massive bridge over the mighty Saskatchewan River. I was able to get a lot of pics. The scenery between Edmonton and Saskatoon is very pretty especially if you are partial to the prairies or, as they call them in United States, the plains.

We arrived in the small city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan around suppertime. I got off a picture (camera) of a lone coyote that I scared the hell out of as I stuck my head over the side - and he ran like a son of a bitch into the tall grass. Poor little bugger - looked like he was thin as a rail.

The train only stayed about half an hour in S'toon and then pulled out heading east again and as in Edmonton there is a large and high bridge over the mighty Saskatchewan River. The scenery, as mentioned before is spectacular - flat for miles and miles with rich yellow canola fields stretching for miles and miles. The sky is particularly beautiful in the prairies too. The sky seems to be a darker and richer blue colour there, and the clouds are small and cotton shaped clumps of bright white. I am partial to the prairies since I was born in Saskatchewan.

Late that evening we arrived in the crew change of Melville, Saskatchewan. I ran out of water by then and that was the first of several times I ran out of water. The only place I could see was what looked like a swamp with cattails about twenty yards away. I put my stuff over the side and left them there while I ran over to the swamp and waded into the water. I lost my right boot in the mud as I got stuck up to my knees in mud. It took some doing to pull myself out of the muck and I heard what sounded like engines firing up behind me but I didn't know if it was my train or not. I had only two one-litre bottles and I tried to quickly fill them up with murky water. I managed to retrieve my right boot and with the bottles and the muddy boot I ran like hell back to the train. It was still parked there, however and stayed all night in fact. I went to sleep and she pulled out of Melville early AM and headed eastwards.

I notice as the train took a few sharp curves that the train was now much bigger than it had been now. They must have built it up quite a bit as I was sleeping in Melville.

We rolled into Winnipeg (where I presently live). It was so hot you could fry and egg in my 48! I actually opened a one cup package of instant coffee and with the last of my water made some fairly hot coffee by putting the tin cup on the metal of the car and letting it sit a while. I moved into the front part of the car where there was some shade. I was out of water again and was forced to get the only water available - from a big mud puddle beside the train. I was delighted to find out that it took my headache away and gave me some energy. Fortunately, we finally moved on after a couple of hours in the extreme heat of the "Transcona yard" in Winnipeg and headed eastwards. We had stopped for the crew change on the south side of the yard with the locomotives pointing east - and I think it was the third track out from the south side. But it was close to the south anyway. To the south of us was tall grass and a highway about two hundred yards away. There was no fence there at all.

I had not even considered hopping off there since I had a ride probably all the way to Toronto, Ontario with plenty of food (mostly trail mix).

I enjoyed the scenery of northern Ontario with its rugged and rocky geography and thousands of lakes. The summer of 2005 was not just rainy but very hot which I was to find out later in Toronto and Montreal to my displeasure. But another old problem sprung up again - water. The train stopped a few times to let other trains by but I never had a chance to look for any water. So many lakes but no water to drink! But finally the train stopped in what I think was Sioux Lookout and I noticed what looked like a car wash about a hundred yards up ahead. As the train sat there I put my stuff over the edge beside the train and ran with my two one-litre bottles to the car wash. When I got there I couldn't find any water taps so I asked a couple if I could have some of their water. They had a high-pressure hose to wash cars with. I then ran back to the train and noticed them looking at me quizzically as I hopped back on. I try to remain covert at all times, but when you're dying of thirst you sometimes have to do what you can.

As we arrived at another crew change I again was out of water. It is called Capreol - a crew change in northern Ontario. I found some water down a slope and also some very tasty wild raspberries too. Towards Sudbury I noticed large power lines and I saw a few people along the tracks picking berries. It was a pleasant scene with sometimes-whole families scurrying around with their dogs and picking berries.

We arrived in Toronto and I think it was the Brampton yard so I had to take a city bus to the Mac yard. While there I met a "train spotter", an old fellow in his eighties who was standing on a bridge overlooking the south end of the yard. He gave me a lot of good info but I realized later I should have been hopping out from a different yard altogether which is 6 kilometres east of Mac Yard. The radio that week was announcing a weather warning and telling people to stay indoors and seek air-conditioning is possible. It was in the high 30s Celsius and high humidity with lots of smog too.

After camping in the yard for a long two days I decided to get info from an employee so I went right up to a locomotive. It was pointing south right in front of the tower near the bridge at the south end of the yard so I guessed he was ready to go somewhere. The engineer was quite friendly and did ask if I was an official and I said no so he told me to go and ride on the third locomotive and keep low. He was heading to Montreal. "If you get caught, I didn't see you" he had said. The fridge was stocked with little bottles of water and I drank plenty of them - I had heard there was air conditioning on the engines but I didn't see - or feel any.

The only problem there was that I lost my Tilley hat in the tall grass there in the Mac yard of Toronto. The engineer had told me to jump off before we get to the yard, which had confused me cause I was looking for a "bigger" yard than what we stopped at. It was the "yard" mentioned in most cc books under a bridge with lots of graffiti. I made an idiot's mistake there and walked away from the location, which is where I should have stayed to catch out from. I walked about a mile north to an area called Point St. Charles. I camped out there behind a supermarket and later enjoyed the Just for Laughs Festival downtown that week. Nearby they sell ice cold beer too so it was an enjoyable stay for the most part.

 

...to part 3