My thoughts meandered from one subject to another. I wondered if I would have found this relaxing if I was travelling across the Prairies in the heat of summer with five kids in 1910? Would we have had meals of bread, dried fruit and salted meat? What did they do for bathrooms? Would the countryside look at all like this if we were travelling through Germany?
It was Sunday, July 4, and we were on an Alberta Prairie Railway excursion, named the Teddy Bear Special because all the kids were invited to bring their favourite teddy along for the ride. The train left the Stettler station at 11 a.m. and arrived in Big Valley near 12:30. We had two hours to have a buffet lunch and wander the nearby streets before boarding the train for the approximately 90-minute ride home.
I admit to being a little hesitant before the trip, as the idea of train cars full of children in a confined space brought Grinchy thoughts of all the noise, noise, noise. But I was pleasantly surprised when people were able to fall asleep on the trip down and back, and I was even happier when my sniffly four-year-old slept the entire ride back to Stettler. Actually, he was almost asleep on the southward leg of the journey, but the train robbers had him quickly on alert.
We were rolling into Big Valley when the train slid to a stop and the popping of gunshots brought curious heads out of the windows. Horses ran the length of the cars, carrying robbers in full cowboy gear and handkerchiefs over their faces.
As we were gruffly told to hand over our change, I could see the kids holding their teddy bears a little bit tighter. Up and down the train the cowboys rode, collecting coins for the Edmonton and Calgary children’s hospitals.
After lunch we meandered up to the little ‘Blue Church,’ otherwise known as St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, built in 1916. Then we wandered on and bought gemstones at the quaint shop on the corner.
We poked around the museum and were herded back into the train car early, as it started to rain. Before naptime on the ride home there was a teddy bear promenade, with all the kids walking the length of the train and back. Some kids (mostly girls) proudly held aloft their favourite teddy, while others (mostly boys) sauntered along with their friend dangling by their side. Do boys really learn to try to look cool at such a young age?
The trip home was a little uncomfortable, with my little guy using us as a mattress, but being able to kiss his warm cheeks made it worthwhile. The entire day ended up being relaxing and easy, and I highly recommend the trip to anyone. The countryside is beautiful and the excursion staff is fun and friendly.
Visit absteamtrain.com for more information on their various seasonal excursions.
And now I will just leave you with one thought: why hasn’t someone designed a children’s bed that shimmies like a train car?