A Visit to White River

The town of White River, Ontario is a small dot on the Trans-Canada Highway north of Lake Superior. It is known as the “birthplace” of Winnie the Pooh, and rail enthusiasts know it as the endpoint of the last public RDC service running in Canada, the Sudbury-White River train.

On a recent marathon Winnipeg-Toronto round trip, we stopped briefly in White River on our way to our stopover in Wawa, ON. I was hoping that the RDCs were in town after their run from Sudbury.

White River, ON train station
White River, ON train station

The two story brick train station looms over the train yard. The station was built in 1886 and expanded in 1907. White River was an important centre on the CPR for many years. The station appears to still be in use by CP, judging by the many cars beside it.

VIA side of White River train station
VIA side of White River train station

It is also where the RDCs stop after their almost 9 hour run from Sudbury. It was a 50/50 chance that I would see them in White River, but I was on the wrong side of that coin.

There was a “stationish” looking building nearby that I photographed. I learned that this used to be the CP bunkhouse – and maybe it still is.

Ex? CP bunkhouse in White River
Ex? CP bunkhouse in White River

This little building was near the station. I’m not sure what its function was/is; it has a pretty fancy pair of doors for such a small building. My initial thought was that there is a tunnel under the yard to allow workers to cross under the tracks and this is one end of the tunnel, but I’m probably wrong on that. Virden, MB had such a tunnel.

Unknown building in White River, ON
Unknown building in White River, ON

There were no RDCs but there was a work train in the yard. This train had many “buildings” on flatcars to house track workers in remote locations. Years ago, the railways would use retired passenger cars for this purpose but those are all gone, replaced by what are basically mobile homes on flatcars.

Bunkhouse cars in White River
Bunkhouse cars in White River

Note the satellite dishes on the roofs – Internet and TV, I suppose – and the pair of cabooses (CP 434727 and 434303).

The train had a couple of generator cars, like CP 424973 below.

Generator car CP 424973 in White River
Generator car CP 424973 in White River

Farther down was this interesting “propane pump car” next to a black tank car, presumably filled with propane.

Propane pump car
Propane pump car

I’m guessing this is to fill up the propane tanks at remote switch heaters along the line. Railways have switch heaters to keep their switches clear of ice and snow during the winter. You can often hear them roaring in the winter. These heaters need propane. I’ve seen Brandt trucks towing tank cars for that purpose, but this is the first dedicated pump car I’ve seen.

I took one more view of the White River yard against the setting sun.

White River yard
White River yard

After that brief interlude, it was time to head to Wawa for the night.

If you’d like to learn more about White River, I highly recommend David Gagnon’s post on White River and Schreiber. I learned a lot!

Just One More Thing

I just finished reading “Longitude” by Dava Sobel.

In the days before GPS and radios, navigating across the ocean and arriving at your intended destination was a huge problem. It was relatively easy to determine your latitude – use a cross staff or backstaff to measure the height of the sun above the horizon at noon, or the Pole Star at midnight, and consult a chart – but determining your longitude was basically impossible. Various schemes were devised but nothing worked with any accuracy, and ships often wrecked on shoals or went dozens or hundreds of miles off course.

The problem was so bad that the British government passed the Longitude Act in 1714, offering a huge prize to solve the longitude problem. The book “Longitude” is about the quest to solve the problem, and the heretofore unknown genius John Harrison who built a series of highly accurate clocks.

This is well worth the read.

4 thoughts on “A Visit to White River”

  1. I was in White River a few weeks ago, and just as we were leaving, an eastbound intermodal train rolled through, I did eat lunch at the yard then went to the Winnie the pooh and as soon as we left I could see the stacks heading east

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