Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/6/2016 (1756 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A bit of rain didn’t dampen the spirits of Prairie Dog Central passengers on June 12.
Over 280 passengers rode in five 100-year-old coaches pulled by a steam locomotive on a three and a half hour round-trip from Inkster Junction station in the RM of Rosser to Grosse Isle, Man.
The train’s journey was interrupted by an unscheduled stop for a family of five who’d arrived at the station just as the train was pulling away, due to a GPS error. A Prairie Dog Central Railway staff member was able to drive the group to a spot where the train could stop briefly to pick them up.
The PDCR uses a variety of themes throughout the season to entertain passengers, and a great train robbery was held on June 12. After the conductor warned about a blockage on the track up ahead, a sheriff and his deputy walked through the coaches to reassure passengers. But it wasn’t long after that the train stopped moving and "armed" bandits on horseback surrounded the train. Despite the rain, the robbers rode back and forth to give the passengers plenty of time for photos.
Meanwhile the sheriff turned out to be part of the outlaw gang and he held the conductor for ransom. Walking through the coaches, he demanded that passengers pay a ransom for the conductor’s life. PDRC marketing manager Catherine Duffin said the approximately $750 raised is being given to Helping Hands for Manitobans with Breast Cancer.
Rick Peloquin, of Ste. Anne, Man., plays the sheriff, volunteering with his wife Lee-Anne Losee-Peloquin and other members of the Prairie Gun Slingers.
While Lee-Anne is comfortable on horseback, Peloquin said he lacks the skill needed to play the role of a gun-toting rider.
"We are volunteering nine or ten times this year," he said.
Peloquin and his "hostage," conductor Bryan Harmer, said they enjoy talking to the train’s passengers and have met people from many countries.
Harmer is a member of the Vintage Locomotive Society that owns and operates the PDCR. He said his love of trains began when he was growing up and lived across from a rail line. He worked for CN Rail for 38 years, ending his career as a locomotive engineer.
While he’s taken on all of the jobs required to operate the Prairie Dog Central, Harmer said, "I like being in the coach with the passengers."
Passengers disembark for about an hour at the Grosse Isle station. Local vendors and organizations sell food items and crafts. A large covered picnic shelter kept everyone dry while they ate lunch and listened to pop duet Fire and Ice perform.
The Ridgeway House, built in 1886, has been restored and furnished with antiques in keeping with the house’s age. Volunteers dressed in costume provide visitors with information on household life. Dorothy Braun, of Grosse Isle, sits at a spinning wheel where she turns sheep’s wool into yarn.
The journey back to the Inkster Junction station seemed to pass quickly and the swaying of the car almost put some passengers to sleep.
Harmer and the other volunteers thank the departing passengers, and encourage them to take another trip on the Prairie Dog Central.
"It’s such a classic piece of history," he said.
For more information on the PDRC, see www.pdcrailway.com
St. Vital community correspondent
Andrea Geary is a community correspondent for St. Vital and was once the community journalist for The Headliner.