18 August 2011 — On the Canadian Plains on VIA RAIL’S Number 1 – The Canadian

Right now it is 9:15 PM Central (10:15 back on the East Coast), and we have been told that we can set our watches back for Mountain Time.  For the past 2 ½ hours we have been peacefully sitting on a siding.  Remember I said freight trains have the right of way?  Well, there is a 14,000 foot freight train ahead of us in Melville that should be heading our way, but its locomotive is having problems, and being serviced up ahead.  It needs the main line we were on.  And then behind it, 6 hours late, is our sister train The Canadian Number 2 from Vancouver back to Toronto.  Dinner tonight was easy without a rocking train, and typing now is a breeze, that is why I got my computer and am in the lounge car.  So, here is today’s excitement.


As you know, I was able to post shortly after 8 AM my time from Winnipeg.  I got up before 6 AM to have breakfast before 7 since we were warned there could be a line of folks wanting to eat before getting off.  That was not the case, and I sat with an English teacher/administrator from Alberta who was heading back after visiting back East for the summer.  Shortly after I sat down he said, “we have just entered the Canadian Plains.”  Yes, the trees along the tracks gave way to open spaces.  We had a leisurely discussion and he asked many questions about New Hampshire government, politics, and the origin of “Live Free or Die.”  He was impressed that I knew so many state representatives, and the full background of our state’s slogan.  In return I gained more insight to Canadian politics.  Wow, we just started moving after almost 3 hours – guess typos will start – but I hear the service attendant explaining to someone that it is just to get us closer to Melville, the freight and Number 2 still have to move. 

We arrived at Union Station at 7:45, and I scooted inside to work.  When the tour guide arrived I was first in line to buy my ticket for $30, and then went back to email you.  The tour and guide were fabulous.  Winnipeg with about 600,000 people is easily understandable.  The city has been inhabited for over 6,000 years and is sited at The Forks where The Red River (which runs North from North Dakota) and the Assiniboine from Western Canada converge.  The 2 ½ tour took us through The Forks area (on foot) which is a wonderful arts and shopping area built on former railroad yards and recycling many of the old railroad buildings and warehouses.  We toured inside the Manitoba Legislative Building, built in the Beaux-Arts style using fossil-rich Manitoba Tyndall limestone.   Then we drove around several different neighborhoods, walked through the English gardens


and sculpture garden and visited the unique St Boniface Church in the French Quarter.  The church burned in 1906, but the shell remains and within the shell the new church was built with interesting stained class representing the stages of Christ’s life. Above the Altar are Mary and Jesus in large folk art carved representations. Uniquely the Risen Christ is at the Altar, and Mary is shown dressed in First Settler (Native) Canadian clothing with moccasins.  Believe it or not, this tour really did Winnipeg justice in 2 ½ hours giving both sites and history.

We just got into Melville, and we can get out while they fill us with water and refuel.  So, even though it is dark – out I go, will return later to writing.  Only a few people got out.  I am way near the end of the train so I started walking forward, camera out taking many late night shots


(few more Melville images below).  I thought the stop would be longer but soon I heard the classic, “All Aboard,” and I wisely got on the first economy class coach in the front of the train just as the train started moving and walked back through the train to my car and roomette.

MY DINING CAR -First Rate !!!

Time for lunch and I sat with a 67 year old gentleman from England who tours the world 6 months of the year (he survived prostrate cancer, and realizes “life is too short” – gee I have said that before), and with us was an 80 year old retired railroad executive and his wife.  At one time he was also in the Transportation Ministry, and was a wealth of information and history.  And, yes they are abandoned telegraph lines that I wondered about – not worth tearing down.  The afternoon I then spent reading in the Dome Observation and visiting with some other folks until dinner time which I shared again with the Catholic Priest and the gentleman from Victoria.  It was just as we sat down that the train parked for the long wait.  We are now barreling along.

We were supposed to arrive in Edmonton Thursday at 6:30 AM to add the Panorama Car.  This stop is less than an hour, and I hope to post this then so that when we have the hour and a half in Jasper scheduled for 1PM that I can run hard to see Jasper.  But we are now running late so I will have to get up before 6AM to eat and be ready to jump off when we do stop.  Fortunately gaining an hour helps getting up earlier.  So, if you see this you know it worked, and you next will hear from me Saturday night from my B&B in Vancouver.

Posted 8:45 AM Mountain Time from Edmonton





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3 Responses to 18 August 2011 — On the Canadian Plains on VIA RAIL’S Number 1 – The Canadian

  1. scotttho says:

    Awesome Ray, keep the posts coming!

  2. Fr. Michael says:

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure. Thanks for sharing your trip.
    Fr. Michael

  3. Lil DeCoste says:

    Ray, this is just fantastic! You can only imagine how envious I am but it sounds like you are making the most of every minute! I can only anticipate the wealth of knowledge you will have to share when you, Dave and I make the trip in reverse!


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