Tiny Village of Saskatchewan helped 98 stranded passengers in extreme cold

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.

A Toronto-bound Via Rail train experienced a mechanical failure in eastern Saskatchewan, delaying the holiday travels of 98 passengers who spent most of Christmas Day in the tiny community of Spy Hill.

The train originated in Vancouver but was hobbled on a –30 C night near the Manitoba border, forcing Via Rail to leave its passengers in the village of about 300 people that’s located some 250 kilometres east of Regina.

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.

He happily said, “The population of Spy Hill increased 25 per cent through Christmas due to this.”

Travis Moore, a local firefighter whose family was the one originally planning to use the hall on Christmas, said they were happy to turn over the space for the train passengers and quickly moved their party to the curling rink.