Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Small Saskatchewan Town Welcomes Stranded Train Passengers on Christmas Morning

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Small Saskatchewan Town Welcomes Stranded Train Passengers on Christmas Morning

Article excerpt

Small town helps stranded train passengers

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SPY HILL, Sask. - A small Saskatchewan town opened its doors on Christmas morning to a Via Rail train with almost 100 passengers that suffered mechanical problems due to extremely cold weather.

Company spokeswoman Mariam Diaby said in an email that the train travelling between Vancouver and Toronto had to stop at Spy Hill, and the passengers were sheltered in the local community centre where they received food, drinks and warmth.

Calvin Petracek, Spy Hill's deputy fire chief, said he was doing chores on his farm when texts went out to local firefighters asking volunteers to help.

Petracek said there's no railway station in Spy Hill, which has a population of about 300 people, so the train was stopped at a siding in the community.

He said it's only about 100 metres from the train to the hall and most passengers walked, but the temperature was -43 C with wind chill.

Petracek said the stranded passengers were served pancakes cooked by people in the town, with help from the cooks on the train.

"The population of Spy Hill increased 25 per cent through Christmas due to this," Petracek said.

Diaby said the passengers -- 98 in total -- were to be taken to Winnipeg by bus later in the day. She said Via was looking at alternative transportation for the passengers from Winnipeg onward.

"The safety and well-being of our passengers is our priority and we will continue to monitor the situation closely," Diaby said in the email.

Ryan Siemens -- who boarded the train in Saskatoon on Christmas Eve with his wife and three children, aged six, three and one -- said the train began to lose power after they had passed Melville, Sask., at about 4 a.m. The emergency lights came on, toilets stopped working and some of the cars got cold, he said.

"It just didn't have the oomph it needed, so it was losing power," said Siemens, who was reached by phone late Monday afternoon on a bus that was taking his family to Winnipeg. …

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