A past way of life (travelling by sleeper), and a way of life not much thought about (freight traffic). A unique and nostalgic experience. In fact, any feel good adjective applies.
As soon as I boarded on Tuesday night I familiarized myself with my roomette and headed to the nearest dome car. Others had found it, but there was room, and a staff member was serving drinks and appetizers, and providing information on what to expect. I watched the Toronto skyline fade until after midnight when I decided to return to learn how to operate in my roomette.
My bed slides out from underneath the roomette next to me which is raised from the floor level (the bed in the adjoining space then folds down from the wall – I had to ask, but thought so intuitively). Each sleeper car is laid out with different arrangements with either berths (basically open seats that make into upper and lower beds – remember the classic I LOVE LUCY SHOW?) and cabin arrangements. We also have three economy class cars which are just seats, no meals, no amenities (I walked through today to see), and I also learned that there are 310 passengers with just over 2/3 in the sleeper cars. There are three dome cars, two dining cars, a snack car for the economy class, and the last car is the Park Car – a deco curved lounge with another dome. Well, you can see that I have so much to share it is easy to digress.
I turned in, but was aware of the many stops and occasional backing up of our train. It is to let freight trains pass by. They have priority because they earn more revenue, and in our case VIA RAIL is leasing the right to run on tracks owned by CANADIAN NATIONAL who has the freight. But it all works out, even with our leaving late. Our train is about ¼ of a mile long, and I was told some freight trains are 3 miles long, but the sidings are usually a maximum of two miles. Bottom line, you don’t want to mess with a freight train. What a thrill to lie next to a window and watch the stars and trees go by, along with an occasional freight train. I fell asleep but soon heard my alarm go off, I thought I had it set for seven. But it was still dark, “guess we are far enough west that the sun has not gotten here yet,” I thought, but with darkness remaining I checked my clock and it was 3:30 AM. Not sure what happened, but somehow my alarm needle had been moved. Before you ask, I did fall back in and out of sleep.
Breakfast was a choice of three entrees and nice. I visited with strangers, but I will mention at this point people no longer dress for train travel either. I know I will be out of place at dinner tonight wearing a sport coat – but I want to. I think the rest of the morning I wandered from READING DOME place to place with books in hand, but when I was in a dome observation seat my mind usually wandered and was sedated by watching the scenery go by. Trees and lakes predominated, and it seemed like we were always along some body of water (but soon it will be open plains, and then mountains). I would love to make a photographic study of the
telephone/telegraph poles following the tracks (need to find out if they are still used) since some are planted in rock outcroppings (oops, we are parked and another freight is roaring by – sorry no sound!). I had lunch (and then dinner again this evening) with a Catholic Priest who teaches in many academic venues in Toronto, and with another learned and well travelled gentleman from Victoria. I know a little about Canadian history and the recent conflicts between the Anglos, French Canadians, Quebec language and religious history but it has been fun learning and getting their perspectives of past and present “problems.”
We stopped at about 4PM at Hornepayne (population about 1200) which was started as a railway town, but now serves the pulp and plywood industry. Many such towns were built because the steam locomotives would require water and fuel every so often. It was a twenty minute opportunity to walk the train and explore. When I got to the engine I saw a couple fellows climb up into the cab. I know enough not to ask, so I followed along, and the engineer started showing four of us around the cab, and then motioned us back to see the diesel engine. Shortly he had to move the train forward for the “honeywagon” to make a new hookup, so we exited. I am sure this visit is not allowed, so don’t tell VIA RAIL.
I am working on this before dinner because we arrive in Winnipeg at about 8AM tomorrow morning until shortly before Noon. The attendant in our dome car also acts like a cruise ship activities person (games, movies, etc.) and mentioned today a tour of Winnipeg. Knowing that I should have done so in Toronto, I said I would like to go since Winnipeg will be harder to get back to than Toronto. So that is my plan and I should still have time to upload this post along with pictures which I will format later this evening. I have no idea where the time has gone today!
Back from dinner, just moved our clocks ahead an hour for Central time, so I have more time to finish this up. We are moving and bouncing along making it very hard to type. I discovered earlier today that there is more motion the further to the rear you are in the train, but this section of track apparently is not good either – will be nice for falling asleep !!! So, ten images selected and sized. I will decide where to put them, and hopefully get this all posted in Winnipeg after my tour. So, until the next opportunity to post may be Friday in Edmonton, if not Saturday night from Vancouver – Good Night (and now we are stopped again – go figure!), RAY