Our Trip on the Polar Bear Express

Cochrane Polar Bear

We decided on a trip to Moosonee for a couple of reasons. For Sylvana, the trip offered a look at the Cree culture of a Northern Ontario community. For Hans, it offered a train ride.

Ontario Northland locomotive 1800 at Cochrane

Since the train leaves early in the morning and returns late in the evening, it is important to book a hotel room in Cochrane well in advance, for both the night before departure and the night after return. If you return from Moosonee the same day, which many tourists do, you have about five hours of sight-seeing in Moosonee. But, this is really not enough time. We recommend staying at least one night.

Scenery along the route to Moosonee

The Polar Bear Express is misnamed for two reasons: First, the 300km trip takes about four and a half hours, which means that the train moves leisurely with an average speed of less than 70 km/h. Secondly, real polar bear are rare at the destination!

Scenery along the route to Moosonee

The scenery along the way is varied. Signs of civilization are rare and the last village reachable by road from the south (Fraserdale) is passed about an hour and a half into the trip.

The further north you go, the shorter the trees get. At one point, you reach a broad expanse of muskeg - poorly drained bog where even hundred year old trees never grow very high - that seems to go on forever.

Moosonee station

Finally, the train reaches Moosonee. Buses wait to take tourists to their hotel, even though most of the town is within a short walk of the station. The only paved road in the town runs from the station to the shore of the Moose River, about half a kilometer away.