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Michael Portillo: Great Canadian Railway Journeys #12/15 – “Portage La Prairie to Watrous”


Steered by his 1899 Appleton’s Guide to Canada, Michael Portillo continues his journey through Canada

Steered by his 1899 Appleton’s Guide, Michael Portillo strikes west across Manitoba into the province of Saskatchewan. High above the Prairie at Riding Mountain, he discovers how a middle-class British boy from Hastings transformed himself into an influential, self-proclaimed ‘indigenous’ naturalist called Grey Owl.

Deep in the Prairie, he finds a network of railways that once served the wheat farmers of Saskatchewan and learns how communities grew up around the grain elevators used to load the crop on to rail wagons. The Wheatland Express still hauls freight but also operates as a tourist line and welcomes a new recruit to the sidings on the afternoon shift. At Manitou Beach, Michael reaches the Dead Sea of Canada, a 14-mile lake three times saltier than the ocean. A Yellow Quill First Nations Elder tells him about the healing properties of the water and Michael decides to try it for himself.

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