romp at Sioux Lookout

romp at Sioux Lookout

We arrive in Winnipeg after dawn. I don’t know how long we’ve been at the station when I awake. But we’re now nine or more hours behind schedule. There are 11 freights on the rails and we must yield to the eight westbound ones.

When the newcomers have boarded – after waiting all night in the Winnipeg station — we have 97 people in the economy cars, 87 in the sleepers and 27 crew members. Seven seems to be some magical number that binds us all together on our journey. The carriage is home. Many sleep throughout the day, sluggish from the buzzing motion. Children murmur softly, with the occasional squeal of delight or disturbance, playing with train toys or curled up like angels in their sleeping mothers’ arms. Older travellers chat with their neighbours, recalling memories of distant trips and life experiences and sharing their knowledge of the world.

29 June northern Ontario stop 1My first foray out of doors today is at Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario, a town that sits on Ojibwe territory. It’s a very short stop, but many of us tumble off the train to breathe in the fresh summer afternoon and children frolic in a nearby field of wildflowers.

At 4 p.m., Toronto musician Michael Gabriel performs live on board in the skyline car, transporting about 20 of us into imaginary worlds created by himself or by Canadian icons like Leonard Cohen and Gordon Lightfoot.

Sometimes, if business is slow for sleeper travellers, they allow us to book meals in the dining car. But the only spaces left tonight are at the first sitting at 5:30, which is way too early for me to enjoy a big meal. Instead, I buy a small pot roast dinner at the canteen.