A Train Ride On The Polar Bear Express And A Quick Tour Of Moosonee Ontario
During my recent visit to Canada , after exploring some more of Cochrane Ontario and enjoying a delicious breakfast, I left the train station restaurant and boarded the Polar Bear Express, a passenger train that is operated by Ontario Northland Railway. The train transports passengers and cargo the 186 miles between Cochrane to Moosonee. Moosonee is located on the Moose River, a short distance from James Bay. It is the southernmost range of polar bears and this is how this train got it’s name.
I love train station and watching the passengers saying farewell to their loved one before boarding the train. I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be and hoped I had a window seat. I was happy to find I had a comfortable window seat, and happier to find out there was no one seated next to me.
The train left the station at 9 a.m., with family and friends waving to the passengers embarking on the five hour ride through the northern Ontario wilderness. The train passed through the center of Cochrane , the trains whistle blowing as we crossed busy Highway 11.
We soon saw the last of the houses and businesses of Cochran and would now see mainly white and black spruce and balsam poplar trees for the next 186 miles. There was an occasional wetland and river on the journey through the forest.
However, there were forests growing right up to the railroad track right of way on my side of the train making it difficult to see far into the forest through the fast passing trees. . Here is a video I took from the train and posted on my YouTube Channel .https://youtube.com/shorts/udziwJoDlOg?feature=share
There is no road to Moosonee and this train is the only way to get there by land. We did make a few stops along the way, I think the first near the village Fraserdale . It is the last community on the last paved road. and some folks drive here to catch the train to Moosonee.
I also think there was a brief stop at Otter Bay another resort village accessible only by this train. I sat and enjoyed the ride the first few hours/. Riding a train is a good place to reflect on life . After about an hour or two I got a little bored, I decided to walk through the other passenger cars, I now saw there was a utility pole line on the other side of the track. I thought there was a better chance to see some wildlife in the clearing along the pole line. I decided to stand between passenger cars and look out the window for wildlife. Here is another video on my YouTube Channel from the other side of the train. https://youtu.be/QsPJDh1IRBA.Unfortunately I didn’t see any wildlife during my five hours on the train.
We arrived in Moosonee right on time at 2 p.m. I departed the train and waited for them to unload my Jeep. It took about 45 minutes and I walked around the small train station watching the passengers leave and the unloading of the cargo.
My Jeep was taken off of the train and I drove about two blocks on the dirt streets to my hotel, the recently built Super 8 by Wyndham. where I would be spending the next three nights in this remote northern town.
The room was modest and comfortable but I didn’t stay there long. I quickly unpacked and was off exploring the streets of Moosonee. Moosonee was established around 1900 as a fur trading outpost in competition with Moose Factory, an older trading post established by the Hudson Bay Company. Both communities were isolated until the arrival of the railroad in 1932. Moosonee is know as the “gateway to the Arctic” since cargo brought in by train is loaded on barges and transported to communities in the James and Hudson Bays.
I first walked to the boat docks that connected this community with Moose Factory located on an island in the Moose River. Here one would hire these small local boars, the water taxis. They were the only way to travel between the two communities in the Summer. There is an ice road in the Winter.
It didn’t take long for me to explore the entire town, and I soon ended my three mile hike. I discovered there were two places to buy prepared food in the town the small KFC and Pizza Hut across from the hotel. I never eat fast food but it was after 5 p.m. and I was hungry. I had little choice my dinner was Pizza Hut pizza which would last for three days. It wasn’t very good but it filled me up.
On my way back I stooped at a small cemetery and had to get out and investigate. As I noted in earlier blogs I always visit cemeteries on my travels. I reflect on the lives of the folks who lived in this remote area.
I saw this photos and wonder how these two souls met, did they have children, where did they work. So many thought flow through my head in the quiet of a cemetery, especially one as remote as this one.
After walking through the cemetery I drove back into town. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my train ride and exploration of Moosonee. Moosonee Canada June 2 2023.
I had hoped to stay up and watch the stars and moon, and maybe even the northern lights, but clouds moved in. I wasn’t too disappointed it was a long day and I was tired. I was soon falling asleep, thinking about my adventures in Moosonee the next day
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain