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In May 2003 my ol' pal Wayne and myself began tossing around ideas for our now annual trek to Moose River. We quickly run through our past experiences up there and make notes (what we need, where to camp etc.). We also had to pick a date to go. Wayne will pretty much have the entire month of July off so we plan accordingly. The first week of July will be our 3rd trip to Moose River. A necessary journey to nearby Timmins at the end of June gave Wayne and myself a perfect opportunity to visit the local Walmart to stock up on food and bug spray. With that done, all we have left to do is pack up gear for the next morning's northbound Polar Bear.

We meet up at Cochrane Station the following morning. Our necessities are packed quite compactly due to the baggage restrictions of the Polar Bear. We socialize for awhile and hop on the train. Right on time she pulls away. Although I was born and raised here in Northern Ontario, I found the guided tour piped in over the train's P.A. system quite informative and interesting. A real must for anybody interested in the history of the far north.

 

Wayne and I decide to head over to 701 (the PBX's Diner/ Take Out car) for a quick bite to eat and a bit of socializing with Claudette and the staff. The food was indeed great and was guaranteed to hold us over until we haul out the canned stuff for supper that evening.

 

Thanks to a prior arrangement in Cochrane that morning, the Crew of the Polar Bear will be dropping us off in Moose River (not a normal PBX routine). But, as luck would have it we'll also be meeting a southbound Work Train. The train comes to a halt at Mile 142. PBX Conductor Bill pops the vestibule doors open and we haul our stuff to the other side of the siding. No sooner do we get our stuff off and I get my cameras, Work 1805 appears around the corner with a Work consist picked up at Renison. After about a minute the Work Train clears. We get a friendly wave from Bill as he closes up the vestibule and the Polar Bear is on it's way. Peace and quiet quickly surrounds us as the Polar Bear rolls out of sight. We immediately leave our supplies at our favorite Hi-rail garage and immediately take a stroll for the half mile or so to Moose River Crossing to do a bit of fishing and to spot our location for the cameras.

 

It's a warm day and the bugs really aren't that bad. Just as we approach the bridge we're approached by the two man Moose River Section giving us a friendly wave from their hirailer as they head north to Mile 148. We walk down from the bridge along a steep trail and Wayne drops a line into the river. Unfortunately the fish aren't biting that much (Wayne actually only caught one fish) and we figure it might have something to do with the low water level due to June's hot weather. I decide to set up the cameras at the same spot as last year south east of the bridge. With our fishing attempts exhausted and our photo location picked we venture back to the Hirail Garage.We then grab a bite to eat and smoke a cigar or two when the two man Section Crew arrives from their trip to mile 148 to perform necessary repairs. We chat for awhile about the bad fishing and the reason we're here.

 



After hanging with the guys for an hour or two, the Crew hops back in their Hi-Railer and head north to Moosonee. The boys are heading home this Thursday night. One is heading to Moosonee while his partner is catching the southbound Polar Bear home to Cochrane.

We sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet a little more by eating, smoking cigars and drinking a couple of spiked coffees.

PBX departure time from Moosonee soon arrives and we calculate an appropriate time to start walking back to the bridge. We start walking at our most accurate guess time-wise when all of a sudden, it happened.....clouds. Lots and lots of clouds. We made it in plenty of time to meet the train but we also met the drizzle. I pretty much knew that a wide photo of the whole bridge would be a write off so I fired up the digital camera for some neat looking close ups of the train approaching the bridge with some of the staff and friends waving at us. Therefore the photo shoot at the bridge was still successful in my eyes, besides we still had the opportunity to catch the next morning's northbound.

With the train back up to full speed and fading off into the wilderness, Wayne and I pack up our gear and walk back to set up our sleeping arrangements and call it a night. The clouds that night got darker and soon produced a fair sized thunder storm which I still can't believe I slept through and missed. Gotta love that Kahlua and coffee... hee hee.

 

The next morning Wayne and I decide to do some exploring down river. A friend mentioned a couple of caves to the east and we decide to try to find them before meeting up with the northbound Polar Bear. We wind up about 3/4 of a mile from the bridge. I turn around and snap a pretty cool photo of this engineering marvel in the middle of nowhere. We spot the caves but unfortunately they're across the river. We head back to photograph the northbound PBX.

You won't believe this but as soon as we set up and wait for the train we're revisited by dark clouds... big ones. The train thunders into view as the drizzle starts falling. I again put away the 35mm and manage to snap a couple of digital photos. The remainder of the morning was pretty cloudy when after some thought Wayne and I decide to hop the northbound Little Bear to Moosonee to have a "Cheeseburger & Fry" feast at the Chip Stand behind the station. We can then catch the southbound Polar Bear at 1800. The word "Cheeseburger" sold me and we pack up to wait for the Little Bear. This is where something really neat happens.

While Wayne and I are playing with some of the local dogs, we notice a small group wandering up the track from the direction of the bridge. At first we're stumped as to where these folks came from (since we're tourists ourselves) but soon realise they must be canoeists. As they arrive to our quaint little Hi-rail garage and introduce themselves we learn that they are actually riding kayaks. These folks were from California. They travelled to Mattice, Ont., launched their kayaks and have been cruising the river system all the way up to Moosonee. That's quite a haul. Wayne and I were quite impressed.

Our train soon arrives and we meet up with a smiling Pat and Bernie, the Little Bear's Baggageman and Conductor (the same guys who worked the Little Bear on our last expedition). We ride the bouncy unilevel coaches for the 44 miles to Moosonee.
 

We arrive at Moosonee at around 1600 and immediately drop by to visit Moosonee's Ticket Agent (a C.S.S.A. ). Due to health reasons, Moosonee's regular CSSA was replaced by one of Cochrane's summer student CSSA's named Christian.

 

Christian has been up north for about 2 weeks when we meet up with him and seems quite comfortable with the arrangements for him made by ONR and the duties required of him up in Moosonee. I think he still can't wait to get back home though. Christian also mentioned that he has family in Moosonee which of course makes things a little easier for him. I snap a photo of Christian hard at it and we head to the Chip Stand. We had some time to browse the local Northern Store before boarding the train. One thing I found fascinating was that you can pretty much buy anything at the Northern Store from Kentucky Fried Chicken to canoes!

After our browsing binge we walk back to the Station, say our "adios" to Christian and hop the train. It was kind of nice to recline back in those coach seats of the Heritage Coaches as the Polar Bear rolls away. After a few miles roll by we decide to slide on down to the 1410 Bar Car to have a listen to this year's Entertainer Eliza Benedetti and have a couple of brewskies. This girl is very outgoing & talented thus making the first few hours of the trip very enjoyable.

 

We arrive at Otter Rapids (Mile 93) for the Polar Bear's routine inspection by the Crew. That's when I noticed the southbound destination of Work 1805 as I spot her work equipment there. Just then, I look across at Otter Rapids Dam. The sunset was lighting it up very nicely so I snap a photo of the dam also. With a couple of beers in our system we head back to our coach and relax for the remaining hour of the trip. We arrive right on time at 2205 into Cochrane where Wayne's wife Karen (yup, she's a CSSA too) meets up with us to bring us home. It was a great trip despite the lousy weather but it was also great to be home. So, there you have it. We wrap up yet another trip to 142.

Of course, l have to give a big Thanks to Wayne, Gord, Yvan, Elke, Claudette, Karen, the entire Crew of the Polar Bear & Little Bear, the Moose River Section and the many other folks involved in making this year's trip another success. See ya soon 142.

 

See our first trip to Moose River