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Photo by James Duncan, Universe Camp, Uyuni Salt Flats

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by James Duncan,
"Universe Camp"
Uyuni Salt Flats



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  #1  
Old 20 Apr 2006
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Churchill Manitoba ??

Any one made it the entire way by bike?? Any one try riding the railbed?? Would be interested to hear from those that have tried or better yet done it. I have not found any true roads or trails other then the railbed, and I am not opposed to getting the train schedule and trying to ride that last leg from Gillam to Churchill on the railbed. Any thoughts? Thanks
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  #2  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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Finally - its been done!

Richard W rode his Suzuki DRZ400 and I rode my DR650 across Saskatchewan and Manitoba and then north on the tracks from Sundance to Churchill this past June. It was a fantastic 2800 miles of back / dirt roads and RR tracks ride through Canada.

For me this was one of the missing rides in my 62 years of motorcycle living. I had been dreaming about doing this ride for well over 30 years. Having done a 50,000 mile round trip Denver to Ushuaia and back to Denver in 1977, as well as RT Denver-Inuvik-Denver in 1988 and then RT to where Lief Erickson lived in L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland in 1989 I was always left wanting to go to Churchill and Hudson Bay by moto.

Ahhh... but then I had kids in 1995 and 1999 and devoted my life to them. Well they are big boys now (22 and 18) so it was time. The events worked out in a way that we were able to do the ride as well as a good deed for the folks of northern Manitoba. Riding the tracks is not condoned nor do I advise it, but we knew there would be no OmniTrax or CN trains running. There were a lot of risks though as there is absolutely no one out there to help you.

With no train service every cabin, every train stop and every outpost is a ghost town. It was very spooky as we drove through Amery, McClintock and other outposts along the tracks honking our horns and hollering "HELLO." The homes and buildings drifted by in silence with no reply from within. Run out of fuel or have an medical issue out here and your F#*ked!

There was another major, very real risk too. Logistically we could find ourselves in a fuel pickle. Had we made it too far up the track and found an impassable spot we would face either a long walk (maybe 40 miles) to Churchill or we could turn around and go back. That would mean a long walk too since we would not have enough fuel and would have faced an equally long walk back to the dirt road near Sundance. With a 200 mile fuel range we knew that after 100 miles in we either had to make it to Churchill or we had to walk a long, loooong ways. All the while our imaginations were running wild picturing a fall on the metal rail with the bike on top of our leg - SNAP! Then there was knowledge that Wapusk Provincial Park was just a couple miles to our east. This is a main polar bear denning and birthing area for the area. Mamas come ashore in the Spring to have their babies here - Yikes!

There was nobody and no services at all along the track. It was quite possibly one of the loneliest most remote routes I have been on in many years. Even in 1977 on my R50/5 in South America crossing the Paraguayan Chaco or the the Trans-Amazonica or the long lonely stretches of high Bolivian Alti-plano (all very rough dirt back then with no bridges) there would be a vehicle every day or two. Here along this washed out track nobody had been by since May 23rd and I doubt anyone has been by on the ground to date. (I've been keeping a close eye Churchill RR track news.) The one plane that flew by was at 10,000 feet. Prudence was the name of the game.

Seeing no evidence that anyone had been by on the ground we made a point to thoroughly document and photograph all the damage to the track from a ground level. Once in Churchill we offered them to the town contacting them via their website, that was at about midnight on June 14th. I awoke on the 15th with a reply that the mayor wanted to meet with us. We had a two hour meeting in the City Council's Chambers with mayor Mike Spence and city administrator Cory Young who were very interested to see our photos which contradicted what the main stream media was saying. The tracks were not underwater as being reported!! Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Nation as well as ViaRail were also very grateful for our photos, descriptions, mile markers and GPS waypoints of all the track damage. Our ride and the review of the RR damage made national news in Canada. (Funny- Even on June 16th, two days after our arrival, there were news releases stating the HBR track is underwater - fake news.) My hope is that we were able to help all the wonderful people we met on our trip who depend on the Hudson Bay Railroad (HBR).
Esteban - Golden, CO

Last edited by The Original Esteban; 14 Jul 2017 at 15:47.
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  #3  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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The ice on Hudson Bay had only just broken up a week before. We were warned that polar bears particularly like the beaches between the ice pack and the rocks.






The best (and only) place to camp was on the tracks as everything else was swampy muskeg.
The mornings were cool and the mosquitos were not out yet.


This was barren lands grizzly and polar bear country. I never knew how serious to take this potential threat but once we arrive in Churchill we were told again how careful we needed to be.


We were around 57 N latitude and sun rose around 0400 and set around 2220, it was only truly dark for about 3 hours per day. Once in Churchill we would be at 58N considerably further north than Ushuaia (on the tip of South America) is south.


Record Spring snows, water diversion projects and not enough culverts = washouts

Last edited by The Original Esteban; 14 Jul 2017 at 14:50.
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  #4  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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When we got there a video crew making a documentary interviewed us





Had one or two issues along the way - no biggie though.


Last edited by The Original Esteban; 14 Jul 2017 at 07:56.
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  #5  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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Hmmmmm...... what's this?


Last edited by The Original Esteban; 14 Jul 2017 at 08:04.
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  #6  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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I don't think anyone but you can see your photos. Maybe choose another photo host....?

If you camped on the tracks, how did you determine when trains would be running? I assume that both passenger service and freight to the port are still in operation.

FWIW, I thought long and hard about riding the tracks, but the consequences of any sort of failure seemed out of proportion to any gain. I brought a mountain bike on the train instead, and rode around Churchill on and off the few roads.

Mark
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  #7  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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Hmm, all the photos appeared fine to me last night. I hosted them on Photobucket and then included them here. Any tips?

As for riding the track... We did it when the train was not running. Its not running since the track was washed out this Spring. I would not advise doing this while the train was running as you could make a major problem to for the train even if it is only going 10 mph. Technically riding the tracks is trespassing even though the locals ride their snow machines on it in the winter. Also a fall within the tracks could land your leg on the rail with the bike on top - snap!

Since this is my first time back on HU in over 10 years can anyone give me some pointers to get my photos to show? Thanks.
Esteban
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  #8  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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With my limited web knowledge I just looked at my photobucket account. Since last night they decided to make me upgrade to a "P500" account for which they want $399.99 per year. Ouch! That is not in my plans. How else can I get the photos to post here?
Este
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  #9  
Old 13 Jul 2017
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Ah, hadn't heard that the track was washed out. Makes much more sense under the circumstances.

There's been a thread within the past couple of days about the Photobucket fiasco. In that thread, people recommend alternatives for posting photos without paying hugely. It's not just you; it's anyone and everyone.

best,

Mark
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  #10  
Old 14 Jul 2017
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OK, I think now maybe there are visible photos. I used UltraImg but since opening an account last night somebody already spammed my account somehow posting porn photos. I hope that does not continue to be the case.

Last edited by The Original Esteban; 14 Jul 2017 at 14:53.
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  #11  
Old 14 Jul 2017
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Very cool report, now with photos. Thanks! I have to say, your photos of tents on the tracks makes me nervous, even sitting here safely at home.

I had some doubts about riding around on my mountain bike, but the local men I spoke with said they'd done the same as teenagers, so I figured the odds were reasonable. I did hear about a couple of polar bears rummaging around in the dump just as I pedaled past it, and decided not to go in for a look largely because a tour bus (actually, an old schools) full of tourists was doing the same, and I didn't want to become a chapter in their photo and video sagas.

Hard to imagine that whole area absent train service, leaving only flying or sledding for access and egress. Hope your reporting helps restore service.

Mark
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  #12  
Old 15 Jul 2017
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Here are a couple of news reports:

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
'It's fixable': Colorado motorcyclists ride rail line to Churchill
'It's fixable': Colorado motorcyclists ride rail line to Churchill - Manitoba - CBC News

Besides the article watch embedded video in the above link.


and


Winnipeg Free Press article
Cynicism on the Rails
Cynicism on the rails - Winnipeg Free Press
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  #13  
Old 15 Jul 2017
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Amazing. Hard to believe that in this day and age, when every other person you meet owns a drone of some sort, that it took a couple of middle-aged (no offense) motorcyclists to reveal the actual condition of that rail line.

I once rode a train in Mozambique, right after the civil war ended. The rail corridor had been heavily mined, so no one wanted to do real repairs. All the tracks were loose, the ballast eroded, the sleepers rotted. Our train derailed (long story), but within a few days a couple of guys appeared with some primitive hand tools on a little gas-powered cart, fixed the rails and jacked the train cars back onto the track.

You'd think if they could do that in post-war Mozambique, they ought to be able to make track repairs in wealthy, infrastructure-intense Canada. I'd expect that would be doubly true about Churchill, which has geopolitical importance as an international port for shipping prairie products through the fast-melting arctic.

Thanks again for the reports!

Mark
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Old 16 Jul 2017
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I'll be 62 this week. I guess 62 is the new 48. And yeah I too am amazed at how slow the Canadians are to get this fixed. I am also surprised that they let an American company take over the only land route to Churchill. I am reluctant to criticize the Canadians too much since they were great to us during our trip. However, if they let me use a couple locomotives, a few box cars and a few flat beds with a track hoe I could have that line back in useable condition in two months with 20 guys and a 1.2 million USD. I'd spend a million and put $200K in my pocket. The total washouts were only 860 feet and all the actual structures (steel and wood bridges) were perfectly sound.
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  #15  
Old 16 Jul 2017
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What an incredible trip, but I shudder at the sight of a tent on a railroad track. It may have been out of use but I'd be lying awake all night knowing that a service truck on rails might still be able to come from either direction to scope out damage. I've seen them on our abandoned rail line on Vancouver Island ...but probably not at night ...probably

As for the repairs and damage, it's a lot more than just the one washout. I, along with many other Canadians, am not happy with such a vital link being owned by foreign interests but I don't think it matters much in how fast the repairs are being done. On the upside there is now a discussion starting about building a road to Churchill. Good for the community and another potential adventure route opening up for more of us ...OK, maybe ..and many years away

Here's a link to a CBC article about the situation.

Railway to Churchill broken in at least 24 locations, says Omnitrax - Manitoba - CBC News
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