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Antique train prepares to hit the rails

Farmer plans to use his collection of engines and cars to offer historic scenic tours in southwestern Saskatchewan.
Gary Southgate
Gary Southgate stands on one of the train engines he will be using for the Eastend Scenic Rail Tours this summer.

EASTEND, Sask. — An antique train collection is rolling into Eastend, Sask., this summer, providing historic tours between Eastend, Ravenscrag, Robsart and Shaunavon.

“I just wanted to do something that would be different, maybe the word would be unique,” says Gary Southgate, a farmer from North Battleford who is taking his passion of trains to the town of Eastend and the Great Western Railway.

Southgate began collecting trains in 2013, when he bought a 3101 Canadian Pacific Railway steam engine, one of only two ever created. Since then, he has collected more than 26 antique train cars and engines, which he has found a new purpose for other than collection.

“I started with Canadian Pacific equipment but I didn’t realize it was hard to find older equipment they used in the ’50s and’ 60s, and even older. So, I switched over to Canadian National because they had more equipment available.”

He currently owns trains and cars from both railroad companies and plans to use a combination of them on the tours, although most are Canadian National train cars and engines.

“I wanted to set up a display and then eventually have a working display like a museum. What we’re trying to accomplish, we’re trying to preserve some history.”

Neighbour Michele Rogers handles social media and marketing for the small railroad company Southgate is building.

There is a Eastend Scenic Rail Tours Facebook page and further social media sites are in the works.

“So the plan is to do a historic scenic tour from Eastend to Ravensgrag and Robsart, which is about a 16-mile track,” said Rogers.

“Then also between Shaunavon and Eastend.”

Southgate is trying to make the tour available by the end of June or early July.

“It’s not going to be like a guided tour, so it’s not going to be like train robberies, or Elvis impersonators,” said Rogers. “He’s more interested in sharing the history of the railroad and the history of the area.”

“He’s the humblest character in the world and just wants to tell the story.”

Southgate chose the Eastend area because of its natural beauty.

“Who wants to look at fields of wheat or canola,” he said.

“If you drive down the highway you see all that, whereas some of the railways follow the river valleys where it’s level, so it’s more scenic and natural. It’s like almost going back to what nature would’ve looked like before settlers came to the country.”

Eastend is home to the famous Tyrannosaurus rex, nicknamed Scotty, at the T. rex Discovery Centre. Along with the Cypress Hills and Jones Peak, the area has a wide variety of tourist attractions.

Southgate and Rogers hope the trains not only benefit from the other sights-to-see but that people will also discover all of Eastend.

“You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours kind of thing,” said Rogers.

“He’s very Saskatchewan proud, he wants to bring more people not just from Saskatchewan, but people across Canada and globally to come see this collection of train cars and take in the T-rex museum and all the other things down there.”

Southgate plans to offer sleeping and kitchen cars on the trains as well, which he will rent to people wishing to stay the night on the train or host a train-themed event.


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