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Lake Winnipeg's Paradise Beaches

Page 2

RAILWAY PLEASURELANDS
NAR: Manitoba's cottage communities were built by the railroads. In 1901 Sir William Whyte of the Canadian Pacific purchased 330 acres on the west shore for $3,000. By June 1903 the first Winnipeg Beach train brought up vacationers to their new summer paradise. By 1912, 10 trains took 40,000 vacationers to the beach each weekend.

VAL WERIER: A couple of friends and I when were 15, decided we were going to go on a vacation to the lake; the lake meant Winnipeg Beach. So what did we do? We had no money. We got a bell tent and all our belongings, groceries hopped on a streetcar went to the CPR station got on a CPR train and went to Winnipeg Beach. And there we camped in a field opposite the station.

THE MOONLIGHT SPECIAL
FRANCES RUSSELL: The train was a very, very big factor in the early development of the beach community. In fact of the rhythm of beach communities circulated or revolved around the train.

There was a 7:20 train that went in in the morning and used to take the daddies into work and the same train would come back out. It was called the 5:20. It would arrive on the beaches on the west side around 7:00 at night, just in time for them to have a swim and a drink before dinner. Then there was the other train known as the Moonlight Special.

There was a Moonlight Special on both sides of the lake. It was a Saturday train that left Winnipeg about 6:00 at night. It was for the partygoers, the people that would come up to use the big dance pavilions at both Winnipeg Beach and Grand Beach.

It would leave at midnight. It would blow its whistle at 11:45 to tell everybody to get to the train station because if you missed it you were on the beach until the next morning because there was no other train coming back out.

DANCE HALL DAYS
VAL WERIER: To encourage traffic on Saturday night they had what they called the Moonlight. You'd go there about 6:30 come back at 12 and they packed them in and you'd go to the dance there. They had a fine ballroom. It was considered one of the best in western Canada. Good hardwood floors. You paid your nickel and you had your dance. And people stood around a balustrade and railing around the dance floor. People stood around to watch who was on the dance floor and who was dancing with who. And what songs were being played.

FRANCES RUSSELL: So the train was a part of the romantic era of the beaches. In between the two world wars and then after the Second World War the advance of the automobile. As the auto advanced, the train retreated. The very last trains to go virtually were the Moonlight Specials. At the same time, the dance hall craze, that faded too. And the dance pavilions the one at Winnipeg Beach was made into a roller rink, the one at Grand Beach just burned down. It was never rebuilt.

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