Sunday, 9 June, and relaxing in the Via Rail Canada’s Montreal Lounge awaiting boarding time for the overnight train, The Ocean, heading to Halifax. The trip is 1346 kilometers (836 miles) through rural communities of the Lower Saint Lawrence down the Matapedia Valley to Chaleur Bay crossing the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The train leaves Montréal just as the sun sets over the fertile farmlands carpeting the southern shores of the St. Lawrence River. In 2011 I travelled by business class rail from Montreal to Toronto to ride The Canadian to Vancouver (click here to see that group of posts), so once I arrive in Halifax I will have been coast to coast in Canada by train.
GARE CENTRALE – MONTREAL
My trip to Montreal was flawless, and executed better than last time. For the last train journey I thought I was smart leaving my car in Burlington and catching the bus to Montreal. It was easy, but a hassle at the border unloading and loading the entire bus of passengers and bags both coming and going. Plus I was traveling on Greyhound time, and not Ray time. The Ocean is an evening train, so having the entire day to travel the roughly four hours to Montreal, I decided to drive all the way, but where to park? Near the train station was $20 plus a day, but after some continued Googling I found parking at the end of the Metro Yellow Line at Longueuil – Universite de Sherbrooke for $7.25 a day. A short walk to the Metro, a $3 ticket and 15 minutes later I was in the Gare Centrale with plenty of time to spare. Having studied maps on-line, printed out directions, and screen saved maps to my IPad it was so easy (and familiar) and I highly recommend this way for anyone coming to Montreal and wanting an easy and inexpensive way to leave your car while you play without it.
It is hard to really share an overnight train experience in words and photos, so my plan is to document the next 24 hours in video and post those with some commentary. My camera is ready with a large SD card, and I found a new program for my MacBook Air (free) to easily and quickly convert my video to MP4s for quick and easy uploading. An hour to boarding — so here goes.
Now I am back writing, Monday, 10 June, comfortably settled in the observation dome of the “Park Car” at the end of the train. Last evening I converted some videos and learned more about my MacBook before enjoying a comfortable lulling and swaying night.
Once on board the train I started by documenting my room. First are two videos of my room
The sleeper cars on this train were all built with compartments for two (fold down upper berth, and the rear of the seats folds down as a bed) with bathrooms (very ingenious – it only took me 16 hours to figure out how the sink stopper opened) and storage that you see in the video. The Canadian going west consists of 1950s era Budd Cars which have the different sleeping accommodation configurations including the tight (yet enjoyable) roomette that I had. And, you may recall my sink that folded into the wall draining onto the tracks, the shower (down the passageway, or maybe in the next car) drained directly onto the tracks as I watched, and the cleverly placed toilet (do not flush while standing in station sign still in place) which had been modified for sewage containment. Too much fun!!! Thus I have now had two totally different experiences.
Prior to settling down in the observation dome for our departure I made a quick run to see the other cars which included two service cars for snacks and drinks, the dining car, and at the end the Park Car with observation dome. The front of the train had a few coach cars which I did not see.
Then it was time to depart
Salmon for dinner
NOTICE BELOW THAT MONTREAL TO HALIFAX IS NOT A STRAIGHTWEST-EAST LINE
GOOD MORNING FROM ACROSS THE SAINT LAWRENCE RIVER 5:15 AM
Approaching 10:30 (Atlantic Time) and today’s scenery has gone from river to bay, to forests to wetlands complete with large beaver lodges, and now back to remote forest (fir and birch – trees not too tall – reminding me much of scrub brush/trees in the New Jersey Pine Barrens – sans Jersey Devil)
And then about 2PM (Atlantic Time) we had to stop longer than usual at Moncton, N.B. for a freight to pass by. Remember freights have the right of way. We should have met this train further down the track, but we are running late. But, it gave me a chance to duck out and get some quick shots.
Well, I have arrived in Halifax, checked in my Inn, had dinner, and it is time to post. I will keep you up to date, as always, yours, RAY
BOTTOM LINE — RAY RECOMMENDS: Overnight (multiple is better) train travel is something to be experienced, but unless you have to take THE OCEAN to complete “coast to coast Canada by train” take a more scenic and breathtaking route. Once the track departs the Saint Lawrence the rails run through scenery that is “nothing to write home about.”