Last weekend, the kids and I had an opportunity to ride the Prairie Dog Central, near Winnipeg. This superb tourist operation is home to Canada’s oldest locomotive, an 1882 4-4-0. That in itself is remarkable, but the PDC has gone a step further in assembling an authentic early 20th Century train to go with it.
The #3 was pulling three wooden-underframe passenger cars (and a caboose to provide the necessary buffer between occupied cars and locomotive on the return journey). One of these, #104, was built by the Crossen Car Company, which built a number of cars for the Canada Atlantic. The southern Manitoba countryside is close enough to parts of Renfrew County to make this the closest you can get to riding the Canada Atlantic Railway in 2018.
So how was it? The relaxed pace, the light breeze wafting the mingled scents of Prairie wildflowers and coal smoke into our nostrils through the wide open windows, the green-filtered sunlight through the arched transoms gently warming our faces, the rock-a-bye swaying of the car, and the lullaby of crickets and distant steam whistle combined for a singularly soporific experience. If the conductor hadn’t kicked us off at Inkster Station, they might have found us still unconscious when they resumed operations this weekend. Travellers in the Canada Atlantic’s time must have been made of more wakeful stuff!