Day 3 on the Canadian Train, Edmonton to Winnipeg across the Prairies

The morning of our next day on the Canadian train saw a completely different landscape. We had gone to be in the Rockies, and woke up in the Prairies. We had left Edmonton around midnight, breakfasted and were now ready to face a heavy day looking out the windows.

The prairies are not quite flat, but sort of knobbly, with dips that contained small pools of water from recent rain or melting snow. They are mainly planted for wheat, and efforts have been made to stop erosion by plantings of groups of trees here and there.

The small dots are what I take to be few remaining bison on the prairies, and these bison are farmed for meat, not roaming free in their thousands as in the days of Buffalo Bill. There is a midday stop at the well known town of Melville, which turns out to be a refueling stop surrounded by prairie, but nevertheless a welcome break to walk the length of the train and back.

You get some idea of the Stainless steel construction of the carriages from the above shot of the Park Car on Melville station.

Then on across the prairies, with a brief foray across a low line of hills and a spectacular river valley, which disappeared as soon as one noticed it.

Along the track were a series of grain elevators. Grain elevators, which have been referred to as prairie icons, prairie cathedrals or prairie sentinels, are a visual symbol of western Canada. Elevators have dominated the prairie landscape for more than a century. The grain elevator was a strictly utilitarian building, designed to receive, store and ship grain in bulk. This is the first step in a grain trading process that moves the grain from producer to worldwide markets. The logistical problem of getting producers' grain into railway boxcars was first solved by farmers shovelling their grain into 2-bushel sacks which they then transported to a loading platform along the rail line, a back-breaking and time-consuming job. The railway solved the problem by developing the grain elevators, vertical warehouses that could take advantage of the fluidity of grain under gravity. An endless belt with cups or scoops attached elevates the grain from ground level to the storage bin. The hundreds of standard grain elevators were built to these specifications. All elevators, despite variations in shape and bushel capacity, shared 3 architectural elements: the elevator, the driveway and the office/engine room.

By late afternoon rain clouds were forming and there was a rainbow to be seen. We then have dinner before arrival at Winnipeg around 8pm for a long 3 hour stop. The station is central in the city of Winnipeg, so there is the chance during this long 3 hour stop to walk the streets of the city, and indulge in a cup of Starbuck's finest.

Winnipeg station is one of the classic "railway" building that are dotted across Canada and date back to the grandiose visions of the original builders of the railroads. Then it was back on board the Canadian for a midnight departure from Winnipeg

The Canadian Train overview