An Evening on the Pacific Starlight Dinner Train
By Darlene and Laurie
We inquired at the hotel concierge desk about transportation to B.C.
Rails Pacific Starlight Dinner Train. We had tickets for dinner on the
train, and wanted to know the best and quickest way to get to the
station. Grey Line tours had pick-up service but that required us to
purchase our dinner ticket package from them. A few other unsuitable
options were investigated, so, we opted to take a taxi for the supposed
forty to fifty minute ride.
We left our hotel at 5:00 p.m. and were pleasantly surprised to arrive
at B.C. Rail a short ten minutes later. People were already milling
about. We inquired, and received our tickets at the ticket wicket from
the very pleasant and helpful operator. We met Dean McClernon, the
guest service co-ordinator of the Pacific Starlight.
Darlene and I enjoyed browsing at the numerous quality items in the gift
and souvenir shop.
People lined up to have their picture taken before heading to the
boarding platform area to listen to the live band. They were excellent,
and played ( according to Darlene) such toe tapping oldies as 'Sweet
Georgia Brown' and 'Yes Sir That's My Baby.'
We boarded and were shown to our seats. There were tables set for two,
four, and six person parties, but I'm sure the number is flexible. The
patrons seated beside us were obviously celebrating a thirtieth
birthday. Friendly Christina introduced herself as our server. She
seemed very pleasant and good-natured to all guests aboard that evening.
The train departed at 6:15 p.m., and the mood on board was festive.
Soft music was piped over the intercom, and I noticed the ceiling
lighting effect looked like thousands of tiny stars. During the first
portion of the ride people waved to the train as we rolled slowly past.
Delicious smoked salmon with focaccia bread and lemon on a bed of
lettuce was served as an appetizer to the gourmet delight yet to come.
We passed by Stanley Park and watched people out strolling, or sitting
on benches, and even saw white haired, spandex-clad seniors jogging and
using in-line skates. Something maybe we should be thinking about after
our dinner. We peeked into people's backyards as the train slowly
transversed a residential area. Everywhere the vegetation was so lush,
with immense evergreen trees.
Dinner was served at 7:00 p.m.. Red Pacific salmon presented on strips
of B.C. red cedar, fresh carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, with
wild rice and a lemon wedge completed our fabulous dinner. Darlene
declared her fish, 'just perfect'. (We had never seen salmon served
this way before, and I asked Darlene how would we write this up?, she
replied, 'Just say red salmon on a two by four')
We noticed Dean moving back and forth between cars, checking that
everything was perfect.
As we traveled through a long tunnel, the subtle overhead lighting gave
such a romantic aura to our aptly named Twilight Salon. It was as if
the ceiling disappeared and we were dining under the stars. Too bad I
was with Darlene.
The train snaked along the coastline, hugging the mountains. We were
hypnotized by the breathtaking view of the distant mountains and
Across from us, a young couple and her parents, were obviously
celebrating a special evening. They were Dan and Helen Robek, daughter
Kirsten, and, her husband of one year, Stephen Holmes. The special
event this evening was Stephen's 30th birthday, and we enjoyed watching
him unwrap some presents along the way. He was serenaded by a hearty
rendition of 'happy birthday' sung by everyone in the salon.
At 7:50 we arrived at Porteau Cove and detrained. We enjoyed the music
of the jazz band 'Night Train', and in no time the dance floor was
overflowing with couples enjoying themselves. We spied Kirsten and
In my notepad I wrote, 'conversation, dancing, laughing, party mood,
smiles.' That sums up the forty minute layover. I walked the length of
the train (it was longer than I thought) and tried to take pictures, but
the lighting had become dim. In the meantime Darlene had sauntered down
the pathway by the water's edge to enjoy the calm waters of the cove.
The band played the tune 'Night Train' as the whistle sounded twice for
re-boarding. People strolled back to their different cars, and once on
board coffee and dessert was served. I enjoyed the blueberry
cheesecake with raspberry sauce. Darlene declared her chocolate
cheesecake with strawberries and apricot sauce delectable.
The mood was serene, and people were content to simply inhale the
relaxing atmosphere as we retraced our route. Dean came by just before
we arrived at the station to say good-bye. It was a delightful
experience from beginning to end.
As we detrained at 10:00 p.m. the pictures taken before boarding had
been processed and for a fee of $10.00, you could take home a pleasing
personal memento of the Starlight excursion.
We were surprised by the many different reasons people took this trip.
I thought of a special anniversary, but there were many different
celebrations going on. One woman said she received this trip from her
daughter for Mothers' Day, Kirsten and Stephen were celebrating a special
birthday, one group was here as a 'thank you' from a grateful daughter,
to all those who helped her move her elderly mother to new lodgings.
And Hilda, whoever you are, I hope you saw your fans waving a sign
wishing you a happy 80th. So many reasons to be on this train enjoying
spectacular scenery, and fine dining.
Taxies were waiting at the station.. $l6.00 plus $4.00 tip, well worth
it to be driven right to our hotel.
P.S. As a postscript to this story, a Lionel collection watch,
purchased at the souvenir shop, was not working. Darlene phoned the
next day and was told 'no problem, a replacement will be mailed to your
address, just mail the broken one back'. She wanted you to know the
watch was waiting for her when she returned to Ontario.
Ray Burns and the TrainWeb field crew did quite a bit of rail travel from June 9, 2002 to July 11, 2002, especially in Canada.
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