The afternoon passes me by. I’m deep in my book, so forgive me for not repeating myself in describing the scenery as we re-trace the route that carried us north two days ago. I’m transported back to the first half of the twentieth century in The Blind Assassin, reading the life story of a Canadian woman who would never have imagined herself visiting northern Manitoba.
South of Sipiwesh (marked by the strange white poles that stand either side of the track as part of an experiment to monitor the permafrost level beneath the track) we pull forward into a siding to allow the northbound ‘Hudson Bay’ train 693 pass. An identical train to ours slips past, but the shaded windows don’t reveal any faces in the bright sunshine. I imagine another blogging traveller on board that train, trying to think of something poetic or apposite to describe our two trains passing, like ships in the night. That synonym wouldn’t work of course, because it’s broad daylight.
We reach Wabowden about fifty minutes behind schedule. The speed restrictions of the track have held us up, but I am assured by both Tara and Carmel that I’ll have no problems making my connection tomorrow in Winnipeg. When we first came through Wabowden it was raining – not it’s a bright sunny afternoon. Several of the passengers and our conductor cross to the ‘Lucky Dollar’ general store to buy lotto tickets. Tonight’s draw is worth five million Canadian dollars, which could probably persuade even the happiest VIA Rail employee to consider early retirement.
We’re directed into another siding a little further south. A northbound freight train trundles past: about forty empty lumber cars and tankers are pulled by two very shabby looking locomotives with the name of the Hudson Bay Railway stencilled onto their flanks. I can’t imagine painting them would make them go any faster, and besides not many people see them up here, so appearance is hardly important.