A Train Ride On The Polar Bear Express And A Quick Tour Of Moosonee Ontario

A Train Ride On The Polar Bear Express And A Quick Tour Of Moosonee Ontario

Train o Moosone e Canada June 2 (26 of 50)
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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. 

I watched the passing trees hoping to see some wildlife, maybe even a bear or a moose. 

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. 

I  watched the passing scenery for about an hour. I didn’t any wildlife but I did see a few pristine rivers that we crossed the last, and largest, being the Moose River about an hour from Moosonee.

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. 

It was most sunny, windy and cool when I walked on the quiet and dusty streets of Moosonee. 

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. 

I continued walking  the streets finding may small hotels and restaurants were closed and boarded up. I learned they closed during the COVID epidemic and have not re-opened. 

I walked past the residences in the small town, it only has a population of 1500 people. 

 the churches  (two of them that I saw ) and

the only gas station  in the town. It also sells a limited amount of groceries and other household supplies. There was a larger, well stocked,  supermarket located across from my hotel.  

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. 

I was tired, it was a long day but I brought my Jeep all the way up here so I had to take it out and explore. I had learned the only backroad in the town was the old Quarry Road. 

I was soon driving over the dusty , rutted and unpaved road. 

I drove out about four miles crossing a small stream before the dirt road got even more narrow and rutted.

I got out here and walked around a bit before deciding I should be heading back since it was getting late. I didn’t want to be out here in the dark. 

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


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