Who doesn't have a story about a train?
My story is this.
Flip back in time to July 5, 1983. Five other men and I are about to begin what will become a 50-day, 800-mile canoe trip into the center of Quebec wilderness, then north to the sub-arctic region of Ungava Bay. We intend to follow the route NOT taken by a Hudson Bay Company explorer in 1620. He did not take our route because the passage was considered too dangerous -- almost constant rapids and drops.
We take the train from Sept Iles with our destination somewhere in Labrador. Mostly the train is carrying Montagnais and Naskapi -- small, nomadic Cree tribes -- and Inuit. The First Peoples are all required to travel in cars separate from us, from whites. They are also segregated by tribe because, as the conductor tells us, "they don't get along." We did not find that. We mingle in their cars, gathering information -- mostly in drawings on our extra maps -- from those who know the rivers on which we plan to travel. We felt no tension.
We proceed north on the edge of Labrador for eight hours and then, at a spot agreed upon with the engineer, the train stops and we unload our canoes, food and gear. Everyone gets out and helps. Including The First Peoples. They are alternately confused, amused, respectful of the six white men who are embarking on this journey. They smile and wish us luck. By gesture.The engineer and conductor and brakeman all shake our hands, and everyone gets back on the train. Except us.
We watch as the train gains motion and then momentum and pulls away north, up a slight slant to the left, then, as it approaches a corner to the right, we hear, in the distance, the double whistle blast, a goodbye, as the train and its red lights on the last car disappear into the wilderness. We are left to the lonely silence of our thoughts as we turn and look to the edge of the lake that will begin our journey.
We set about to make camp and supper.