The Daily Observer

A blog of urban issues, travel to obscure places, amateur photography, and blatant self-promotion.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Manitoba Vacation: The Prairie Dog Central

Riding a restored 1910 locomotive is not something you do every day. The Prairie Dog Central posed an excellent opportunity and the day was gorgeous. While it once called St James Station home, it has recently moved to perimeter of Winnipeg. It's worth the extra drive.

All aboard!

The interior of the coaches are lavishly decorated with brass and mahogany. Beautiful chandeliers curve gracefully from the ceiling. The seats are leather and some are rotateable. For some reason, I am reminded of the Polar Express and half expect some eccentric conductor to give me hot chocolate. The whistle blows and we leave the station at a comfortable pace. As we travel across the endless plains, I am reminded that railroad companies are the accidental preservers of the Tallgrass prairie. While 99% (real statistic, see here) of the Tallgrass prairie was removed to make way for agriculture, the railroad tracks preserved thin slivers of this rare ecosystem.

Lavish interior

We stopped for a break in Gross Isle (pronounced "Gross Aisle" by locals). There were a few merchants assembled outside, selling their wares: honey, candles, clothing... one person was spinning wool by hand. I found a building with a most unfortunate exit.

Watch your ste... Aaaaaah!

After packing back on the train again, we set off for Warren. When we arrived, there was live music, more food, and a tour of an old grain elevator. When it was originally built, the elevator was made entirely of wood. Over the years, modern additions had been made and it is still used (sometimes) for weighing things. A thick coat of dust and cobwebs covers almost everything. An ancient sign warns of a "nightly inspection". Spidery wire pipes form a network throughout the structure.

A proud grain elevator justs out against the prairie sky

The town of Warren has built a beautiful garden with fountains and a variety of lovely flowers, welcome respite on a hot, sunny day. However, time waits for no-one and soon the whistle beckoned passengers back on the train, to return to Winnipeg.


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