Book Review: Prairie Dog Central – The Story

The Prairie Dog Central Railway has been a Manitoba success story. Over the past 52 years, they have preserved and operated steam engine #3, the oldest operating coal fired steam engine in North America. This book is their story.

The Prairie Dog Central Railway operates steam and diesel hauled excursion trains between Inkster Junction and Grosse Isle, Manitoba just northwest of Winnipeg. They have operated trains since 1970 over several different routes and Prairie Dog Central – The Story by Paul Newsome tells their tale.

Paul is the general manager of the Vintage Locomotive Society, the owners of the PDC and Prairie Rail Solutions, the commercial subsidiary. He started volunteering with the PDC on their second day of operation in 1970 and is well positioned to tell their story from an insider’s perspective. He’s also a keen historian and an all-around “good guy”.

Sample page

This 202 page soft cover book contains many, many photos of the operation, from start to finish. Most were taken by Paul over the years, but the book also features photos by Andrew Nelson, Mark Perry and several others. Many news clippings are also included to show the public’s viewpoint of the railway. Appendices include historical information on CP 86 (today’s steam engine #3), a list of the locomotives and other equipment owned by the PDC, and the VLS founding members.

Paul takes you through the very beginnings of the railway, when enthusiasts worked to preserve steam engine #3, through the first operations in 1970 through to more stable operation from 1975 to 1996, the crisis* at the end of 1996, the relocation to its current route and the addition of commercial operations. All through the PDC’s history, Paul emphasizes that the members’ commitment to financial prudence and realistic planning has paid huge dividends in keeping the railway operating and the equipment in good shape.

* the PDC had been operating from St. James (near Polo Park) northwest to Grosse Isle on the CN Oak Point subdivision. At the end of 1996, CN advised the PDC that they were abandoning the Oak Point subdivision. The PDC did not operate in 1997 and 1998, and engaged in significant fund raising to purchase the majority of the Oak Point sub and relocate their operations (and the St James station) to its current location at Inkster Junction.

Throughout the book, Paul emphasizes that steam engine #3 has been the centrepiece of their operation, but the volunteers of the VLS and the PDC have been the real heroes of the operation. Their dedication and professionalism show through in his writing.

I am a big fan of the PDC and have always been impressed by how well they work as an organization.

Ordering the Book

Prairie Dog Central – The Story is available from the Vintage Locomotive Society’s ticket office at (204) 832-5259 (email or from the gift shop on days that the train is operating. The cost is $35 + GST + shipping if applicable.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Prairie Dog Central – The Story”

  1. Thanks for the heads up about the book. I ordered a copy and it arrived yesterday. I was living in Charleswood in 1970 went to see the PDC when it first arrived thru there, and made many trips, “down to the tracks” to watch and photograph #3. Even managed one or two rides out of the Charleswood station at Elmhurst and Ridgewood by the old Searle grain elevator.

    • You would know it well then, Glen! As a latecomer to Winnipeg, I never saw the PDC anywhere except its current route so the book was a great way to discover its history.

Comments are closed.