Laurie's Adventure to the Rockies
On VIA Rail Canada's Canadian
Our destination this morning upon leaving the house, was the VIA train
station in Brockville, Ontario. The night before we all decided that
leaving at 6:30 a.m. would get us there in plenty of time for our 7:13
Travelling with me this morning were Ray from Fullerton,
California, and Robert from Ottawa, Ontario, and my good friend and
neighbour Darlene Banning.
My husband Doug double checked to make sure nothing was left behind,
then loaded up the van and drove us to the station. Arrival time at the
depot was 6:45 a.m.; we unloaded the luggage and equipment, said our
good-byes to Doug, and took pictures in the station.
This is always the most exciting part of any trip for me, waiting for
the train. It is a time of reflection on earlier rail travel, or in this
case, family holidays when our children were young. In particular I
remembered the long arduous two and a half day journey around the lake
head of Ontario. The climbing and dipping and winding and climbing once
more seemed never ending as we made our way out of the province.
We usually set out very early. It was a game for my husband to see how
many miles we could travel during daylight, the more the better. He
could never understand why we needed more than two pit stops a day, and
was never happy until he caught up to, and passed the car that was
following us when we made our pit stop. Our young son, like his mother,
felt caged in a car, while his bossy older sister was verbally in charge
of making sure that no part of his body touched her side of the seat,
nor looked out her window. A panting dog, and a hitched hard top trailer
completed the picture. We were the Griswalds' of Canada.
But today would be my first trip out west by train, all the way to
Vancouver. Contemplating my first sighting of the Canadian Rockies with
no children, no animals, and no trailer to pack and unpack each day was
a dream come true.
We boarded VIA 1 car # 4l04. Between the four of us we had a lot
luggage but Ray managed to arrange it all on the baggage rack at the
rear of our car and we were finally settled in. The train left on time.
Our adventure had begun.
We arrived in Kingston just before 8:00 a.m. Breakfast menus were passed
out and our orders taken. Darlene had cold cereal, fresh fruit and
yogurt, while I really enjoyed my cheddar cheese omelette with chopped
pepper, potatoes and bacon, and a fruit platter. Of course fresh coffee
completed the meal
Maria Claude, our very pleasant car attendant, passed around a tray of
fresh croissants and muffins. All was delicious. It was an overcast day
as we sped along, our destination today being Toronto, where we would
spend the night before boarding our train, 'The Canadian', in the
We arrived in Toronto at 10:10 a.m., detrained, and took a short taxi
trip ($5.00) to the Raddisson Admiral Hotel on Queens Quay West. The
lobby was beautiful, and the cordial desk personnel had us quickly
signed in. Kevin, the hotel concierge, inquired about our trip, and
offered his services if we needed any directions. Our bright, clean room
which overlooked the swimming pool was equipped with two double beds. We
had a glimpse of the harbour as well. We freshened up then headed down
the hall to Ray and Robert's room. They had a stunning view of the
harbour, and were watching some tall ships sail by. We decided to tour
the city a bit and, at Ray's insistence, would search for an Indian
restaurant for our dining pleasure.
We took a streetcar, then transferred to the subway where we promptly
became lost in the bowels of the Toronto Subway system. You can live in
the city and be lost, but when you come from the country and become
lost, you have a completely different look on your face. People
approached us and asked if they could help. We eventually made it above
ground and decided to walk to the restaurant and have lunch.
It was my first taste of this cuisine and it was thoroughly enjoyed. The
diverse spices gave a unique flavour to otherwise familiar foods. We
chose the buffet in order to experience as many different varieties as
possible. Everything looked and smelled delicious. When I returned to
the table, Ray commented that the sauce I used to garnish the variety of
foods on my plate was actually vanilla custard, a dessert. He explained
that in Indian restaurants it is the custom to have the desserts and
fruit accompanying the meat and vegetable dishes. However, I love
custard and found it added an interesting flavour to the food,
especially the curried chicken. As with any buffet, a taste from each
of the selections added up to one heaping plateful. We were all stuffed
to bursting, so decided to walk it off by shopping in the Chinese area
of Kensington Market. There is always something unique to be found in
these cultural shops and we were not disappointed in the wonderful
selection offered. We purchased a few souvenirs and sauntered on down
the street to take a streetcar, as we were all just too tired to walk
Back at the hotel, we retired to our rooms to unpack and rest up. Robert
dropped by to let us know that he was going sightseeing for a while.
Darlene and I had observed some boats sailing in the harbour so we
thought it a good time to go down and explore it ourselves. We enjoyed
walking along the waterfront and hadn't noticed ourselves being drawn
along in the midst of an organized tour. We decided to continue with the
group rather than draw attention to ourselves by leaving the throng. Of
course, we found things getting sillier the further afield we went. The
tour ended unexpectedly when they boarded their bus. We would have
enjoyed the tour much more had it been in English.
There was a wonderful mini-mart across from our hotel that served
sandwiches, pizza by the slice, fresh salads and a nice selection of
desserts. We were still full from our buffet lunch, so I settled for a
salad and on the way back through the lobby picked up a cookie from a
complimentary tray situated on the desk. We were both tired, so prepared
for bed and called it a night. Sleep came effortlessly.
We awoke early Tuesday morning and readied for the day. We had
pre-arranged to meet the guys for an early breakfast at 7:00 a.m. The
train didn't depart until 9:00 a.m. but all thought we should be at the
station for 8:00 a.m., just in case.
Our breakfast table overlooked the harbour and it was a wonderfully
sunny morning. I normally don't eat a large breakfast, toast and juice
sufficed, but the guys ordered a full meal which looked very appetizing.
Breakfast service was prompt. At 7:30 a.m., breakfast over with, we
retrieved our luggage, checked out, called two cabs and arrived at the
station promptly at 8:00 a.m.
Since the first class lounge was packed, we located the correct boarding
gate and waited there. Pre-boarding was announced and they asked all
members of a tour group to board first, followed by a second group. They
were quite large tours and as a result the waiting area had drastically
thinned out. A third group boarded...then the eight of us remaining were
then allowed to board at 8:45 a.m. I stored my luggage in our double
room and detrained to take a few pictures. Back on board we walked back
through two sleeper cars to reach the park car. Fresh fruit, muffins,
croissants, and juices were waiting for anyone who missed breakfast.
We retired to the dome section of this car to await departure. It was
then that we met Betty Jean Dickerson of Austin, Texas. Back in the 40's
her father was a brakeman on the train. This was her first train ride,
and she was on her way to Vancouver to take an Alaskan cruise.
Our train departed on schedule, but pulled onto a siding while we waited
for three GO trains to pass. After a further forty-minute wait we were
finally on our way. It was 9:55 a.m., almost an hour late. Also in the
dome car this morning was Suzanne Friedman Falconi from New York City,
who was travelling to Vancouver and 'easing her way down south'. I first
met Suzanne in the train station as we jockeyed for position and made
light of it. She was very knowledgeable about global train travel, and
told us that she travelled ten months of the year, worked one-month, and
spent the last month catching up on whatever. She wowed us with some
pictures of her travels.
Todd, the Park car attendant, came up to chat and answer any questions
we might have.
Darlene and I decided to walk to the front of the train and record the
numbers of the different cars on our way back. On our way through one of
the cars we met five year old Karla, her stuffed animals, and her family
from Los Angeles California. This was her parents thirtieth holiday by
Our train set consists of:
8616 - baggage
8112 - coach
8118 - coach
8512 - dome
8305 - sleeper
8309 - sleeper
8319 - sleeper
8516 - dome and activity
8411 - diner
8338 - sleeper
8314 - sleeper
8333 - sleeper
8341 - sleeper
8311 - sleeper
8301 - sleeper
8504 - dome and activity
8410 - diner
8315 - sleeper
8329 - sleeper (ours)
8342 - sleeper
8706 - park car
On our walk back we met Lucy, a talented cartoon artist, and Bill Burns
from Massillon, Ohio, and their travelling companions Paul and Shirley
Edee. They looked like a fun bunch.
It was almost eleven o'clock, so Darlene and I headed for the diner. We
met a very handsome couple, Aurore and Viateur from Quebec City, and
asked if we might join them. Viateur had not spoken English in fifty
years, (since being stationed in Reading England during the Second World
War) but it was coming back, and with our limited French, we enjoyed
conversing over lunch. Viateur is eighty-one, and Aurore eighty-six.
'It is very important', said Viateur, 'to have an apple every morning
and a drink of gin every evening.' that was his secret to a healthy
life, 'and don't you forget it'.
The tables in the diner were draped in pink linens for lunch and blue
for dinner. Fresh cut flowers adorned the table and china tableware was
used. I liked the VIA logo on their flatware. One more piece and I'll
have a complete place setting. (Just kidding)
Complimentary champagne was served with our lunch. Since Darlene and I
are non-drinkers, we ever so gently slid our champagne across the table.
Viateur smiled. For lunch I enjoyed a delicious bison burger with Caesar
salad, potato salad, a slice of melon, and some yummy cheesecake. The
servers were kept busy refilling water glasses and making sure everyone
had coffee refills.
All four of us preferred the first seating for lunch and dinner. We were
all early risers and enjoyed an early breakfast, so eleven o'clock lunch
was o.k. and five p.m. for dinner was perfect. Continental breakfast was
served every morning in the park car and activity car, plus the diner
opened for breakfast each morning at 6:30 a.m. There were no reserved
seating arrangements for breakfast. First come first served. As we bid
adieu to Aurore and Viateur, we realized that one really does have more
in common with strangers than differences.
The train sped across the countryside. The green, lush vegetation was
proof of the excess rain this spring and early summer. We were now
somewhere in Ontario, and were not hauling a trailer.
We retired to the park car and started chatting with Sheila from North
Hampton, England. Richard Algonah from Michigan was on his way to
Vancouver to board one of the cruise ships headed to Alaska. It became
apparent when talking to Richard that he had a passion for Dixie-land
music. 'There will be, three of the best Dixie land bands in the world
on the ship' he explained, and he was looking forward to meeting up with
two hundred of his friends on board. This was his second time to Alaska,
but first time by train. At a near loss for words, he described train
travel as 'beautiful.'
Todd, our park car attendant, explained that all staff on this train
were Winnipeg based. He mixed easily with our fellow travellers, and
even though he was kept busy servicing this car, he always managed to
chat and share a joke. Young children seemed to gravitate to him.
BONUS! Up in the dome car Robert and Ray were enjoying the scenery and
taking pictures. Moe and Diane Watts were on their way home after a
holiday trip down east. They live in the Pas, Manitoba, and Moe is a
locomotive engineer on the VIA Churchill run. Ray and Robert remembered
him from their trip north a few years ago. He entertained us with
stories about working on the rails, and patiently answered everyone's
rail related questions. He'll probably travel incognito next time,
telling everyone he's a hairdresser.
Jake D is also on board. He comes from Manchester, Connecticut, and he
is a shrine clown headed for the convention in Vancouver. We are told
that there will be 30,000 attending this convention. Everyone loves a
clown, but shrine clowns are special.
Todd brought out a platter of sliced marble pound cake and cookies.
Fresh juices and jugs of cold water with citrus slices, hot water for
tea and fresh coffee are always available. A basket of mixed fruit is
replenished throughout the day.
Edward Wilmot and his mother, Vivienne, from Surrey, England joined in
the conversation. I noticed that light, balance, focus, and lens
attachments appeared to be important to Edward when taking his photos.
Myself, I use the point and click system. He seemed to have unlimited
patience when 'setting up' a shot. We learned that Vivienne and Edward
travel extensively, and have packing down to a fine art. Vivienne
mentioned that she travels with a 2 1/2-cup fine bone china teapot,
because she believes tea tastes best in a bone china teapot. It was
their packing expertise that saved the occupants of the Park car from a
very uncomfortable ride the following morning. (More about that
later,) but VIA take notice; there's a simple piece of equipment that
should be mandatory on all northern runs.
We detrained in Capreol, Ontario while the train refuelled and took on
supplies. The sunshine felt wonderful as we walked about taking
We headed to the diner shortly after boarding and sat with John and
Alice Hergel from Toronto, Ontario. The conversation was light and
animated; we thoroughly enjoyed their company. Delicious onion soup with
crackers, and a variety of warmed rolls with butter were enjoyed before
the main course. I chose the roast beef and gravy with oven-roasted
potatoes and a mixed medley of cauliflower, carrots, green beans and red
and yellow peppers. The meat was so tender, and enjoyed from start to
finish. I decided to skip dessert, until I spied the caramel cream
cake, that is. Coffee and ovation chocolates completed the meal.
We waddled to the dome car to relax and enjoy the stunning northern
Ontario scenery. It was a sunlit evening, with the clouds reflected in
the countless lakes, as we watched the train snaking its way on the path
cut from thick forests. People appeared to be on the lookout for moose
and black bear, and every once in a while someone would exclaim 'there's
one!' The effort was too great to snap a picture. We were both so full;
should have been stronger and left the caramel cake, it seemed the only
thing we could move effortlessly, were our eyes.
I met up with Ray after dinner and we decided to walk the train knowing
the exercise would be good for us both. We met Karla and her parents
again and enjoyed a nice visit with them. Her dad told us that he closes
his office every year for a month, in order to travel. 'We will never
be rich,' he laughs, but I ponder that there are many definitions of
'rich'. I think they are 'rich.'
We retreated to the Park car and listened to the lively conversations on
just about every topic. At 10:00ish we headed to our bedroom. The beds
were made and two chocolate mints rested on our pillows. We both
laughed as Darlene got caught up in the upper bunk safety harness. Of
course, at this time of night many things were hilarious. A couple of
bangs on the wall from the next compartment momentarily brought us to
our senses, then we laughed even harder and longer. (Ray and Robert were
I was up early Wednesday morning, and headed straight to the showers. I
awakened Darlene and suggested she get down to the shower room so she
wouldn't have to wait. This way I could do my hair and get dressed, then
be out of the way when Darlene finished her shower. When she returned
she asked what time I thought it was. 5:30 I replied 'try 4:30' she said
'clocks changed last night, which means you got me up at 3:30 to bathe,
and I can't go back to bed because my hair is wet'. Think I'll avoid
Darlene today. She might be a bit grouchy.
Since the park car was empty and hushed, I tiptoed to the dome and took
a picture of the pre-dawn. The sky became lighter and someone stirred.
Edward and his mother, Vivienne, were up and Edward was there to take
pictures of the sunrise. Darlene, Robert and Suzanne were also up so we
all sat about chatting. We become aware of a few mosquitoes buzzing
about, then many, many more of them. We began swatting at them but
were out numbered. Apparently they came aboard during the night, via
the ventilation system, while we had stopped to wait for a freight
train. Vivienne commented, between swats, that when travelling there
were three things you should never leave home without; a sweater, an
umbrella, and a fly swatter. This was met with much laughter, but she
was sincere, and Edward left to retrieve it. Vivienne used two rolled
up newspapers to stun them, while Edward, showing no mercy, moved in for
the kill. The park car was a battlefield of squash, smack, whack, swipe,
and slap, with Edward leading the charge. It was not poetry in motion,
but they did get the job done, and afterward we all joked that fly
stickers should be hung.
So, 'fly swatters' should be standard fare in these cars.
We went for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and sat with Helen Colgan of
Carnelian Bay, California. She was another one who had travelled
frequently by train and knew her geography. She told us of picturesque
areas we might want to photo, and she usually knew what towns we were
passing through. We thoroughly enjoyed stories about her other travels,
and her knowledge of rail experience on Amtrak. She is an enthusiastic
fan of Amtrak. I had only traveled once on Amtrak, in California,
between Fullerton and Santa Barbara, along the coastline and back. It
was one of the most mesmerizing trips I had ever taken, with the Pacific
ocean right outside our window.
We backtracked to the park car where we chatted with M.A. Sherif of
Ottawa. He was another seasoned traveller, who loved and knew the
geography of this country.
We stopped in Sioux Lookout for refuelling. Most passengers detrained
and walked about to get some fresh air. Local tourism volunteers
welcomed us and handed out pins and information booklets of the area, a
nice souvenir in itself. We took a few pictures before it was time to
board once again.
We met Wes McNeice, a Shriner from Mississauga, who was on his way to
Vancouver for the Imperial Shrine Convention. We told him about Jake and
he looked forward to meeting him. It was almost lunchtime so Darlene and
I headed for the diner. We sat with Sam Brown of Saratoga Spring, New
York. He and his wife have rented the same cabin in Jasper for the last
fourteen years. They stay twenty-five days, and this was their
fourteenth trip on the Canadian. He jokingly told us that when the
owners of the cabins alter the decor, they send them colour swatches
for their approval. For lunch I enjoyed the smoked salmon served on
herbed focaccia bread, spread with creamed cheese, and red onion and
caper garnish. It was absolutely delicious; a piece of chocolate
strawberry cream cake and coffee completed the meal. Darlene and I
walked the train again.
Many faces were now familiar, so we stopped and chatted along the way.
We pulled into Winnipeg early, it was 4:00 p.m. when we detrained and
toured the lovely old station. Line-ups were too long for postcard
purchases, so we just walked around taking pictures and admiring the
architecture. We rested in the lounge area and re-boarded about 4:45
p.m. It was gloomy and rainy as the train departed at 5:00 p.m.
We headed to the diner when first call was announced. Ray and Robert
were our tablemates tonight. Our server was Jacques, and like all the
other diner attendants we've had, he was very friendly and competent.
All of the attendants work well together. If more butter is required and
the one serving your table is busy, someone else will gladly get it for
you. For dinner I chose pan-fried pickerel with white wine tarragon
sauce, accompanied by mushroom and herb pilaf rice. My fish was
absolutely perfect. A dish of vanilla ice cream with wafer cookie was
enjoyed for dessert. Over dinner we discussed the merits of having a
nautilus-equipped car as part of this train set. A few stationary bikes,
a couple of Stairmasters, and maybe a treadmill or two could be put to
use. Just a thought.
We retired to the dome car and just relaxed. Trees, crop fields, huge
grain elevators, and the small station of Brandon North were just a blur
as we flew by. It was early evening and the skies looked like they would
clear. We were all content watching the passing countryside, seeing a
flock of sheep, or herd of cows, and wondering what people were doing in
the houses we passed. Someone spotted a beautiful rainbow and I
realized, while admiring it, that it was the first time I'd ever seen a
whole rainbow. In Ontario one side ends in a building or mountain.
The train sped along, easily making up time on the flatlands. We passed
a few potash refineries, but with the sun setting, the clouds hanging
low, and a mist rolling in, someone suggested that they looked like
alien stations. Imaginations ran wild and in no time the car was filled
with marathon suggestions and much laughter. Sunset would be late
tonight, almost ten o'clock, and it looked like a glowing fireball.
Edward was in the dome section waiting for the perfect
exposure/shadow/light/reflection/mood/degrees north. Edward had
indomitable patience. He snapped a few of the fireballs using my camera.
We retired quite late; it was almost midnight when we finally got to
bed. I remembered waking once during the night thinking we were
travelling at high-speed, the train was really rocking from side to
side, Darlene told me the next morning that she awoke a few times,
thinking we were airborne.
Thursday I awoke later than usual at 6:30 a.m. knowing that I would be
waiting my turn for the shower.
The train had passed Chauvin at approximately 5:30 a.m. this morning,
so we were now in Alberta. It was a glorious, sun-drenched morning, and
I noticed the lush green fields of Manitoba and Saskatchewan had given
way to very parched, rust looking fields in Alberta. I partook of the
continental breakfast this morning, having just a muffin and coffee.
Large grain elevators were commonplace now, so indicative of the
prairies. Oil wells dotted the rural landscape and here and there stood
a lone farmhouse with its outbuildings, and no other structures for
Darlene was working on her notes, so I walked to the forward dome car.
In the activity car, Jason, the car attendant, was pointing out
landmarks, and mentioned the movie he would be screening later in the
day. I sat in the almost empty dome car and enjoyed the beauty and
vastness around me. The parched fields were broken by splotches of green
vegetation. The train was travelling quite fast now, I guess getting a
head start on the Rockies where the twists and turns would slow it down.
Sitting in this dome car was Brian and Liz Mead from West Sussex,
England. They arrived and stayed a few days in Ottawa, then took the
train to Toronto, and would be on the 'Canadian' until Jasper. There
they would board the Skeena and travel on to Prince George. 'High marks
for VIA' they both said 'Brilliant, top class', they were loving this.
Also on board were June and Steve Robinson from Halifax, England. This
was their first visit to Canada, and their first train ride. Ruth Wilton
a teacher from Cornwall, England took this trip twenty-seven years ago.
She looked pleased to be taking it again.
Walking back to my room I noticed the car attendants in the different
sleeper cars making up the berths, cleaning the rooms, changing linens
and towels, answering questions, smiling and nodding a hello. They work
very hard at their job and it shows. They start at 6:30 a.m., and most
times when we returned from breakfast, the beds were made, and the room
tidied, ready for the day. They truly went out of their way to make your
stay as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
Back in the park car I joined a conversation with Betty Jean and
Vivienne. Vivienne and her family have travelled extensively, needless
to say she had packing down to a fine art. A week's worth of clothing,
two pair of shoes, a 2 1/2-cup china teapot and one fly swatter, all
packed in a small beaded evening bag with spaghetti strap thrown over
her shoulder. Well, just about. Between her and Edward their total
luggage was very manageable. Unlike Darlene and myself each with a
large suitcase on wheels, a carry-on bag, Darlene with a movie camera,
myself with a camera and bag, a purse, and the most ugly straw beach bag
with orange flowers, which was the only thing large and strong enough to
handle the gallon of maple syrup I was delivering to good friends on
We arrived in Edmonton around 8:30 a.m. (l0:30 Ontario time) and
detrained. I thought it easier not to change my watch; just minus two or
three hours depending on what time zone we were in. But my note taking
had suffered. Some times I remembered to minus the hours, other times I
was second-guessing myself. Next time I will go with the flow and change
my watch as required. At least I knew what day it was.
It was the end of the line for some people, and others were just
beginning their journeys. The train was being re-fuelled and serviced.
(Water topped up, and dome car windows washed among other services)
It was fun watching some of the service crew use in-line skates to get
around the platform. They were on a schedule and the train was so long,
this must be the fastest way to get to their positions. Everyone enjoyed
the walk about and sunshine. We boarded and were underway by 9:00 a.m.
We took a walk down to the activity car to see what was up for today.
M.A. was the only one there, working on his laptop. We retired to our
room and did a bit of note updating. First call for dinner was
announced. Lunch mates today were John and Alice Hergel, and Ali-sha,
originally from New York, now living in Washington D.C. She had
purchased a thirty-day North American rail pass and was putting it to
good use. I must have enjoyed the conversation so much I took no notes
on my meal. But I'm almost positive that I had the smoked salmon again.
After lunch Ray took virtual pictures of the Romance by Rail Chamber.
This is a double size room with a number of extras, such as fresh
flowers, champagne and includes a king size bed.
The terrain was rockier now with vast rolling hills, and mountains in
the distance. Huge rock formations loomed close to the tracks
The train arrived early in Jasper. It was just after 2:00 p.m. when we
said our good-byes to the friends we had made on this leg of our
journey. These rail fans were journeying to Prince George for the day,
then south to Vancouver by B.C. rail. We also had to say good bye and
thanks to Ray and Robert. They would be spending the night in Jasper,
then continuing on the VIA Skeena run to Prince Rupert. It had been
great traveling with them. I'm going to miss the banging on the wall.
Darlene and I proceeded to visit some of the many souvenir shops. All
had nice gifts, but the one I loved and planned to visit on our return
trip was the Elysion Florals Antiques and Gifts Shop. Very nice
selection, good prices, but our time was limited.
We re-boarded at 3:30 p.m. Brian had a nice display of crackers and
pate, puff pastry hors d'oeuvres, pound cake and champagne. I think
they introduced finger foods at this point so we wouldn't sit
slack-jawed at what was unfolding before our eyes. It was truly
spectacular scenery. The breathtaking, rugged, snow-capped mountains in
the distance, and the stately trees reflected in the crystal clear
waters of the lake outside these windows, was indescribably moving. As
we passed through steep rock cuts I noticed what looked like a chain
link fence lying across the rock face on one side of the track. Maybe to
stop rocks from falling onto the track, I thought, but someone explained
that it was an electronic indicator system that forewarns the engineer
of rock slides.
Helen told us that during dinner tonight we should be passing by
Pyramid Falls, so when first call for dinner was made, we raced to the
diner to get a seat on the correct side of the car. Ali-sha joined us.
Helen was a wealth of information about the different sites and she
promised to let us know in advance so as to ready our cameras. Darlene
and I really enjoyed traveling with Helen because she was so much fun to
tease. We passed Moose lake. It was six miles long and local lore
declared that a ship sank in it years ago, laden with whiskey. Moose
have been spotted swimming there, and we were told that it was also the
headwater of the mighty Fraser River. (It is now a week since we
completed this trip and something has bothered me about this passage. We
were told a ship, that's a SHIP on a six-mile lake' And in the
mountains' A SHIP? Come on now, M-a-y-b-e a bootlegger on a raft, and
he lost a case of whiskey. It just goes to show how local LORE gets
distorted over the years.) As our route followed the Fraser, we saw
magnificent trees lining the shores of this raging river. It was an
unbelievable setting for dinner. Tonight I enjoyed a tossed salad, mixed
julienne carrots and butter-squash, creamed baby potatoes and roast
beef. I relished every morsel and couldn't pass up the three-berry
crumble for dessert.
Helen alerted us that we would soon be approaching Pyramid Falls. The
train slowed down and I managed two photos but, if you blinked, you
would have missed it. So our thanks to Helen.
We headed back to the park car stuffed as ever. Someone mentioned Mount
Robson and there it was in all its glory. At l2,972 feet, it is the
highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. We were told it is free of
clouds an average of fourteen days a year. Today wouldn't be cloudless,
but mighty close. So majestic and all alone, as it should be, I guess.
The trees were so close to the tracks that some of the branches swayed
as the train skirted onward. The forest floor was carpeted in thick
green foliage with splashes of red, white and pink wild flowers. Lilac
bloomed forth in white and purple splendour. Elegant white daisies
swayed in the breeze, accompanied by neighbouring yellow buttercups,
mauve marguerite, purple magenta and yellow broom. The natural beauty
After a long, exhilarating day we retired about 10:30 p.m. after being
told to expect an early arrival in Vancouver.
I awoke at 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and headed for the shower. We packed
most of our belongings the night before to save time in the morning.
Edward looked chipper this morning, as he waited patiently for the
perfect picture of the sunrise over the Rockies. It came at 5:18 a.m. We
stayed in the dome car taking pictures of early morning sunrays. While
enjoying our continental breakfast we were told that the train would be
in Vancouver before the scheduled 7:50 a.m.
The train pulled into Pacific Central station at 7:15 a.m. and we again
said good-bye to friends. We thanked Helen for her help hoping someday
we shall see her again on the rails, probably with a book in her hand
giving a geography lesson. We searched for Vivienne and Edward to thank
them for 1.) Packing tips. 2.) Edward's photo tips, and for being a
fun part of our adventure.
We hailed a cab for the short five-minute ride to the Holiday Inn
downtown. We arrived at 7:45 a.m., to learn that earliest possible
check in time would be l2: 00 noon. They cheerfully checked our bags. I
phoned my friends Peter and Sharon in Victoria and left a message on the
answering machine saying I would call back in a half hour. We made
inquiries at the concierge desk about the best way to cross over to
Victoria. Lorri suggested a coach and said she could do the booking for
us. I dialed Peters cell number again and left another message. Since
we couldn't reach them on the island, we had to made a corporate
decision. Buy a pass on the next available bus and take a chance we
could reach them when we arrived on the island, or, wait until we
communicated with them and take a later ferry. We opted to take a
chance. After all! It was an island, just how lost could we get???, and
we had to get rid of this cumbersome maple syrup, or at least, as
Darlene said, 'get rid of the ugly straw beach bag with the orange
flowers.' We went back to the concierge desk and booked the last two
seats (luck was with us) on the coach to Tsawwassen to take the ferry to
Swartz Bay. The cost was $21.00 each for the forty minute ride to the
ferry and included the $l0.00 charge for the ferry ride.
We walked a short half block to our pick up spot and joined others
waiting for the same bus. Once we boarded, it took approximately forty
minutes to reach the ferry terminal, and one and half-hours to cross to
Darlene and I choose to live in the country but sometimes modern
technology passes us by. While on board we passed a row of pay phones
and I said that I'd like to try calling again, while Darlene took the
packages and found a seat. A coin slot was mysteriously missing. I went
back to her and whispered 'I can't find the slot'. She gave me one of
her 'are you stupid' looks and told me to go back and look again.
Definitely no slot appeared as I ran my hands all around it, thinking
maybe I could feel it. I reluctantly admitted it had me stumped, so
Darlene took the coins and went to the phone. I gave her a minute then
went over to see her running her hands all over the box. It was at that
moment we both noticed the sign saying 'phone cards only.' Talk about
your dumb and dumber.
The ferry docked at Swartz Bay at 12:45 p.m. and we entered the
terminal. Still no answer when I called, then Darlene had a brainwave.
Maybe they had a house phone, so she looked up the number in Cordova
Bay, I dialed and was so happy to hear Sharon's voice. 'Where are
you?' 'we've been waiting,' 'the cell phone is on charge'. Peter arrived
in short order; it was great to see him. I lived next door to Peter's
parents for fifteen years. They were two very special people and Peter
and Sharon, likewise, are very special. A quick drive to their home to
visit with Sharon, and then we were off on a tour of the island. Peter
took us up Mt. Doug. The view was breathtaking and we discovered it was
also a popular whale watching site. Before driving up Mount Tolmie ridge
we saw the most beautiful gardens, Oak Bay Marina, and Fisherman's
wharf where Pete and his Dad always had a feast of fish and chips. You
couldn't help but notice how lush everything was. We had our picture
taken at Mile '0' of the Trans Canada Highway, the most westerly part of
Canada, then went into Victoria and toured the city. We stopped at the
quaint VIA station, and lastly went through Harmonious Gate in China
Town. We saw many more landmarks but they escape me now. The beautiful
gardens and parks impressed us the most. It was a whirlwind tour taking
in many sights in that short time span. It helps when you know where you
are going. Back at the house, Lyall, a good friend and neighbour who had
been east with Peter a number of times came over for a visit. When you
get these two together you are in for an evening of fun and laughter.
Sharon served a delicious chicken dinner which we unfortunately had to
rush so we could make it back to the ferry on time. We finally delivered
the cumbersome maple syrup; Peter uses it when he smokes salmon and, for
the record, he makes the best-smoked salmon on the West Coast.
A quick good-bye and thanks to Sharon and we were off to the ferry. We
made it, but not by much. We purchased a walk on ticket for $l0.00 and
once on board purchased a bus ride into Vancouver. The bus dropped us
off about six blocks from the Holiday Inn. The warm evening walk back
to the hotel was the perfect tonic after a day crammed with activity.
We arrived at our hotel around l0: 00 p.m. It was very busy with all the
Shriners, but we were finally checked in and Artur took our bags
upstairs. We were on the sixth floor and were looking forward to a good
nights sleep. The room was quite large with two double beds, a
comfortable side room with a couch, chair and coffee table, and a front
balcony with a great view. We were so tired, but hey, you always sleep
well at a Holiday Inn.
I'm not sure what time we awoke Saturday morning, but we felt good, and
we both had a great sleep. Holiday Inns seem to have comfortable beds.
We decided to do some laundry this morning, before breakfast in the
hotel restaurant. Darlene got some change from Artur at the front desk,
and we headed downstairs to the guest laundry room, to put those
machines to use. I didn't want to take my empty suitcase up stairs so
asked the girls in the hotel laundry if I could leave it with them.
'Sure, sure' they said, 'we will watch it'. Many thanks girls! It
looked busy at the Restaurant, but in no time we were seated and
Samantha immediately served coffee. Darlene ordered eggs Florentine,
while I had my usual toast and jam. We arrived back in the laundry room
just as the machine stopped. We deposited the clothes into the dryer and
retreated to our room for note updating and picture taking on the
balcony. We could appreciate our clean comfortable room more after a
good night's sleep. There were little extras that are nice when you're
away from home. We were sure going to put the iron and board to use. We
retrieved our laundry and decided to take a bus tour of the city instead
of ironing. By the time we made the front lobby, we again changed our
mind. We would saunter down the street and see what found us.
A few blocks from the hotel we came upon the Aboriginal Heritage
Festival and decided to tour their craft (for lack of a better word)
tent, and sit for a while to enjoy the entertainment. It was exciting to
hear the native music of many different countries, and to see their
native dances. While each country had a distinctive sound, there was a
similarity, a shared thread to all of the music. The throat singers of
the north were outstanding amongst all the fine entertainers. Darlene
and I understood early on that this would be our only stop of the day.
We had much to see in Vancouver, but this gem was not to be missed, so
we decided to enjoy it for as long as possible. Because we had a prior
commitment for the evening we reluctantly left and headed back to the
hotel. We stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and enjoyed it on the patio
of the hotel overlooking the front entrance. We were going out to dinner
tonight on a dinner train and knew it would be a late night. Oh well, we
would sleep in tomorrow.
We were both up and ready by 8:00 a.m. Sunday Morning and decided to do
one more load of laundry, leaving everything clean for the return
journey. This is a wonderful service that some hotels make available,
and we were so thankful they provided one here. We went for breakfast in
the hotel restaurant after we loaded the washing machine. We had our
usual breakfast, with efficient service, then made a trip back to put
our clothes in the dryer. The girls in the hotel laundry department
waved a good morning to us I'm sure their day started quite early.
Passing through the lobby we waved good morning to Lorri at the
concierge desk, then we were off on our foot tour of the local area.
It felt good to walk in the fresh air and look first hand and up close
at all of the beautiful flowers. We walked a two-block area around our
hotel and window-shopped. Being Sunday, everything was closed until
noon, but there were a few places we decided to return to. We walked
back to the hotel, picked up our laundry, finished packing, and checked
out at 10:45 a.m. asking at the desk that our luggage be checked until
our departure later on.
We started out for the second hand treasure shop spied earlier in the
morning. Back home Darlene and I frequent the local auctions, so this
was right up our alley. The place was stocked from floor to ceiling with
treasures. Two hours later we left with our prizes. Darlene purchased a
beautiful hammered brass parrot on a perch, while I settled for a more
manageable small folk art picture.
At one o'clock we went for lunch at 'The Elbow Room' restaurant. The
sign in the window claimed they served 'the best burgers in town.'
Ho-hum, we would be the judges.
Immediately we were seated by a less than friendly waitress who asked
for our drink order. Darlene proceeded to give her dinner order; 'listen
honey, this is just the drink order, pay attention'. (I'm glad I
listened) We read a few house rules: l.) We'll get your first cup of
coffee, if you want more-get a butler, and 2.) In a hurry? Go to
McDonalds. Stupid me pointed out a spelling mistake on the menu board, a
cleaned up version of her reply would be, 'Why don't you talk to your
friend and leave me alone.'
Her name was Sue, and she was our waitress from Hell. As we ate, she
told us to stop talking and hurry up, 'This is not a public library,'
she would remind us. I was afraid to, but did ask if I might please take
a picture of her and Darlene. She obliged and actually smiled. As she
gave us our bill and told us to get off our butts and pay it, she
commented that she couldn't believe I had eaten the whole burger. 'If I
was you honey, I'd be worrying about stretch marks.' She also noticed
that my salad was half eaten and demanded to know, 'What was wrong with
it?' We found ourselves staring at unsuspecting newcomers to hear what
Sue had to say to them, then peals of laughter at the looks on their
faces. Both Darlene and I agreed that they serve, without a doubt, the
best hamburgers we have ever eaten, that's 'ever eaten.' And we told
Regean the owner/manager as much when he came over to see how things
were. Because I had not finished my salad, and Sue found two hash brown
bits on Darlene's plate, we were both fined and had to donate to 'A
Loving Spoonful.' Sue explained that the fines went to support a local
aid hospice and a food bank. A chalk board tally showed 'A Loving
Spoonful' had raised more than $30,000.00 to date. You were a delightful
part of our adventure out west. An enjoyable dinner, guys, and we will
recommend you to anyone we know traveling to Vancouver as a 'must visit'
We went back to the Native Festival to enjoy an hour or so before
returning to the hotel to claim our luggage and call a cab. We were at
the train station by 3:30 p.m.
Our luggage by now was really starting to annoy us. Darlene's large
cumbersome brass parrot would never survive the baggage car so had to be
At the VIA counter Scott looked over our tickets and issued us a
boarding pass, reserved our dinner seating preference, showed us where
to check our baggage through to Brockville, or have it delivered to our
bedroom, and finally directed us to the first class lounge. He was so
helpful. The baggage attendant couldn't believe we wanted everything in
our room, but was very obliging, and jokingly gave us a 'hard' time. He
said that if there was any trouble with our bags not making it to our
rooms, 'just tell them it was the guy with the long black curly hair and
bushy beard in baggage who looked after you.' All these guys are helpful
and most have a twisted (but fun) sense of humour.
We took pictures of the station and visited the souvenir shop before
retreating to the first class lounge, then, outdoor patio to sit and
enjoy the live entertainment. Alex, our VIA host, served cold drinks and
joked with the passengers. he even posed with the parrot. The
entertainment was toe tapping sing along music enjoyed by all. We
boarded at 5:20 p.m. The baggage was in our room, and Rinaldo introduced
himself as our car attendant. We paid a visit to the park car where
champagne and hors d'oeuvres were being served. The train pulled out at
5:35 p.m. and we decided to walk the train to record the car numbers.
6434 - engine
6449 - engine
6446 - engine
8609 - baggage
8129 - coach
8125 - coach
8126 - coach
8501 - Skyline
8325 - Elgin manor
8330 - Hunter manor
8314 - Cameron manor
8502 - Skyline
8402 - Diner Alexandra
8341 - Thompson manor
8327 - Fraser manor
8318 - Craig manor
8332 - Laird manor
8303 - Amherst manor
8507 - Skyline
8414 - Diner
8307 - Blair manor
8311 - Burton manor
8322 - Drummond manor
8708 - Park Car
First sitting for dinner was being announced and once in the diner we
sat with Karen L. Vos, and Herminin Johnson, two good friends from
Corpus Christie, Texas, on their first train trip. They were not sure if
this was the diner they should be in or if they should have told their
attendant where they were going. They wondered about the showers, too.
We answered their questions and when we were about to order, their car
attendant came in with a relieved expression on his face. He had been
looking for them, worried that they didn't make it to the diner and
would miss their meal. See, they do watch out for the people in their
cars. For dinner this evening I enjoyed a soup entree, fresh red salmon,
whipped potatoes, asparagus and carrots with a wedge of lemon. It was
all done to perfection and mouth-watering cheesecake completed my meal.
We enjoyed our dinner dialogue with Karen and Herminin and assured them
they could ask their car attendant anything. They did say they felt
comforted that he was looking out for them.
We retreated to the park car to relax and meet some of our fellow
adventurers. This is where I first met Bert Hyland, a human
encyclopaedia of information, eagerly shared with us. He lives in New
York State and frequently travels by train. Bert always knew the correct
time, something I was still struggling with. Darlene became engrossed
in conversation with Bert, so I sat in the dome section to once again
feast on the scenic beauty of British Columbia. There were a number of
people in the car, each lost in their own thoughts. As a Girl Guide
leader years ago, my girls and I would go on a weeks-camping trip, and
during the week would have a little ceremony called a 'guides own.' This
ceremony might be planned and organized by the girls, the idea being to
get in touch with the spirit in ourselves, but the best ones were the
ones that just happened. We might be hiking, then all of a sudden find
ourselves in a field of wild daisies, or see a doe and fawn, or after
campfire look up and see a night sky full of twinkling stars. For a
little while we were a spirit of the daisies, or spirit of the stars,
and when I glanced around at my fellow travelers, in this moment, we
were all spirits of this incredible landscape around us.
Darlene came up and joined me for a while. It had been a long day, so we
called it quits about l0: 00 p.m., disbelieving that we were already on
the return trek.
I was awake at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning, but not early enough to be the
first to the shower.
I decided to skip breakfast in the diner and instead enjoyed a muffin
and banana in the park car. Darlene and I headed for the dome car to
enjoy our last morning in the Rockies. We met cousins Joyce Watson from
the Isle of Iona, Argyll, and Sally Heathcote from England. They had
traveled through the States, and were now in Canada re-tracing their
grandfather's steps. He died in 1932 and was an Anglican minister. They
were beside themselves talking about their adventure to this point, and
were quite moved, when telling us, about meeting a few people who
actually remembered their grandfather. Now their adventure led to
Canada, and they would be exiting in Edmonton, hopefully to pick up the
trail. We enjoyed listening to their excitement over spotting the
different wild flowers, which they knew by name.
We arrived in Jasper shortly before 11:00 a.m. and detrained. We asked
Rinaldo if we could get a picture taken with him. He had been just
great, always so pleasant and accommodating. We meandered on down the
street and entered a shop that had beautiful Christmas decorations. I
purchased a few articles and decided to go back to the antique shop we
were in on the way up. I could not find it; it was as if they had moved
it. I searched as long as I dared, then walked back to our train. It
was wonderful to walk in warm sunshine.
We left the station shortly after 12:00 noon and champagne was once
again served in the park car. First call for lunch and were off to the
diner. Our seatmates were Cliff and Marilyn Ponnikas from Tacoma,
Washington and in no time at all it felt as if we'd known them forever.
It was evident that they loved their family, their grandchildren and
traveling, and we enjoyed hearing about some of their travels and
adventures, and some of their recommendations. For lunch I enjoyed
chicken soup, smoked salmon served on herbed focaccia bread with cream
cheese, Bermuda onion and caper garnish, Caesar salad, and the most
delectable orange cream cake that I have ever eaten, that's 'ever
eaten'. Of course coffee completed the most satisfying meal.
I walked back to my room after lunch and started to update notes, but
nodded off for fifteen minutes. In the forward dome car I joined
Marilyn and we sat and chatted about everything.
Sarah, the activity car co-ordinator was pretty busy getting the movie
ready for showing, and preparing some games. I overheard Sarah ask
someone how her foot was, and told her that she would be around later at
night with a bag of ice for it. People who used this car thought Sarah
was pretty special.
It would soon be dinnertime so Darlene and I meandered to the diner. Our
seatmates tonight were Vern and Betty Rhone of Pennsylvania. We
conversed over dinner with this pleasant couple. We each had the arctic
char, and it was cooked to perfection. Mixed vegetables, roasted
potatoes, and a salad completed the meal. I was simply too full to even
We took the parrot on our walk tonight, taking photos of him along the
way. Margot Acquistapace of Richmond, California got into the swing of
things by trying to find the perfect name for him. She had the most
infectious laugh. The parrot safely ensconced on his perch once more, we
sat again in the park car. The mountains were far behind us, and the
flat parched lands of Alberta stretched for miles in every direction.
Large beef herds and oil pumpers emerged as part of the scenery once
again. All along our trip in both directions, I noticed many rail-track
work crews in the rail yards or way out in the middle of nowhere; the
trucks were apparent alongside the tracks. Maintenance is an ongoing
part of rail travel that we don't give much thought about until
something happens, so it's nice to know they are out there checking on
We both retired early tonight; no sun sets for us. Maybe we were eating
Another great sleep: I awoke at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, and a great
beginning to my day was being first to the showers. By the time Darlene
finished I was ready and we both set out for the diner, but no one was
there. The clocks hadn't changed yet and we were an hour early. We went
to the activity car and met Cliff, who also was fooled. We enjoyed
chatting over a coffee while waiting for breakfast. Cliff seemed to be
in awe of the wheat fields, as he mentioned them a few times. The car
soon filled up, and when breakfast was announced we hustled like campers
at the sound of the dinner bell. Ron, from Victoria, joined us for
breakfast. He was originally from England and possessed the most witty
sense of humour. I had my usual toast and juice, but ordered some
porridge this morning. It was true, pure and delicious comfort food.
After breakfast we went looking for Rinaldo to convey our thanks for his
attentive service. His smiles and thoughtfulness were much appreciated.
He said he loved his work, loved his job, and loved the people; he also
told us to 'come back again.'
In the forward skyline car I met Eunice and Dick Wiseman, and Roy
Williams, all from Connecticut. They were soaking up the morning
sunshine and enjoying the panoramic view in the dome car. As we left
Portage la Prairie behind we approached our next stop, Winnipeg, and I
noticed the abundance of wild rose bushes along the tracks. You could
almost smell their phantom fragrance.
Passing through the diner on our way to the park car, we met Ricardo and
expressed our thanks to him and the dining car staff for the scrumptious
meals and exceptional service. Ricardo's humorous stories were a source
of enjoyment also. The kitchen staff were more than willing to pose for
a picture, and again we expressed thanks, as they would be leaving upon
arrival in Winnipeg.
We proceeded to the activity car for a rendezvous with Sarah who
mentioned yesterday that she would try to arrange for us to get up close
to the engine for a photo-op. We were to wait for her on the platform in
Winnipeg while she completed inventory and took on fresh supplies.
Meanwhile we met and chatted with Angel, Sarah's niece, and Angel's
daughter, Heaven-Leigh. A strong resemblance binds this family.
The train arrived in Winnipeg at 11:00 a.m., Darlene and I detrained and
eagerly awaited Sarah's arrival on the platform. A platform attendant
said, for safety concerns, we would have to wait in the station. We went
down the escalator and waited for half an hour, then walked around
keeping our eyes on the lookout for her. An hour and a half later when
we were about to re-board, Sarah spied us and said that she had been
running all over looking for us. (We must have been like ships passing
in the night.) We raced up the escalator after her but as we neared the
front cars, were told that one of the engines was having mechanical
trouble and was being switched around. No one would be allowed up front.
Sarah really wanted to do this for us, but it was not to be. Darlene and
I wanted her to know we really appreciated the effort, and the time
spent trying to arrange it.
After a few false starts the train departed the yard. It was 1:40 p.m.
and we were almost two hours late.
A new crew was aboard and we soon met Brenda, our car attendant. Because
our room was across from an emergency window, she detailed the procedure
in the event of an accident, and explained where the other emergency
exits were on this car. She pointed out her room and told us to buzz if
we needed anything.
Seated in the diner, we enjoyed the company of a lovely couple from Long
Island, N.Y. Darlene and I both ordered the Chefs choice, a most
delicious lasagne roll with Caesar salad. Of course, there was always a
breadbasket with a super selection of rolls and crackers and I found
some room for the three-berry crumble. Back in the park car we said 'hi'
to Bert who was in deep conversation with a fellow traveler. We
ascended to the dome car and relaxed after lunch. Every night lying in
bed we both made empty promises about skipping dessert tomorrow, or not
having any rolls before dinner tomorrow, foregoing a meal tomorrow, but
tomorrow comes and there we are, like pigs at the trough.
The train was flying along trying to make up the almost two hour delay
in Winnipeg. We chatted with Viv Whitcombe from Reading in Berkshire ,
England. Viv had been traveling since the 13th of May and remarked, 'I
want to go home now.' She has a young 10-month-old granddaughter and
knows she is missing many of her milestones. They are headed to Toronto
where they'll stay a night, then off to New York to catch a flight home.
We crossed into Ontario about 3:30 p.m. The trees are back. Hooray! This
is the northern cottage and fishing country. Back in our room we begin
to up date our notes and both promptly fell asleep in the chairs.
The powernap seemed to re-charge our batteries and we found ourselves
enjoying the view from the window in our room. The green lushness and
abundance of lakes is such a contrast to the parched fields of Alberta.
We proceeded to the diner when first call was made. It is always best to
get seated as soon as possible, as this simplifies things for the dining
staff. Servicing a car that is full is much easier than trying to wait
on tables while late comers arrive. Also, upon entering the diner and
noticing a table with one or two people seated, by asking if you may
join them, 99.92% of the time you will discover it is not being
reserved, and people are happy that you chose them as dinner companions.
It's a wonderful way to start a conversation, and 99.99% of the time you
will find yourself sitting with very interesting and likeable people. If
you find yourself sitting with that other .01%, well, it's one hour of
your life and you'll know who to avoid the next meal.
Our dinner mates this evening were Ron and Viv Whitcombe from England.
We were thoroughly entertained by this couple. Ron explained how he
booked this part of their trip using 'Scenic Rail Guide to Western
Canada' by Bill Coo. We talked back and forth about everything from
grandchildren to travel. I noticed Bert a few tables up and waved. It
looked like he was in deep conversation with a new acquaintance. Marilyn
and Cliff had the table beside us, they smiled and said 'hi.' For dinner
tonight I enjoyed succulent fried rainbow trout, fresh green beans,
oven-roasted potatoes, wedge of lemon and chopped tomato and green
peppers. Vanilla ice cream with a wafer cookie complimented my fabulous
dinner. Leaving the diner and walking down a corridor someone piped up,
'come on in and join the party.' It was Eunice and Dick Wiseman and the
couple in the next compartment. During the day their attendant had
opened the wall separating the two compartments making one, rather large
sitting room, and tonight the wall would be put back in place. Both
parties found this a wonderful solution to their small rooms. We
declined the invitation to party; it was time to walk the train.
We had a short stop in Sioux Lookout. Again we were greeted by local
tourism volunteers and handed souvenirs of the Sioux. I enjoyed reading
the booklet from the first leg of our journey. It was both interesting
and informative. The skies were once again cloudy and it began to rain.
We counted ourselves lucky that we had eight days of sunshine when it
counted. We enjoy relaxed conversation in the park car. Bert who must be
a light sleeper, said he was awakened whenever the train stopped during
the night. Fortunately, I don't have that problem. We retired after ten;
tonight would be our last sleep on 'The Canadian.'
I awoke at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, in time for a shower. We were in the
dome car by 6:00 a.m. and shortly after passed Hornepayne.
The conversation was animated as we joined Bert from New York State, and
Ron from Victoria, in the diner this morning for breakfast. I enjoyed
the usual toast and porridge. We were getting closer to the end of the
line and our thoughts were focusing more on getting things ready for our
arrival in Toronto, and what would follow. Ron was visiting family in
Toronto, and Bert was flexible, maybe Montreal or Halifax or, knowing
Bert, maybe the moon. We certainly had some interesting conversations
and many laughs on this trip.
In the dome car this morning we met two teachers from Ohio, (I hope it
was Ohio and not Iowa) Kristine Ferguson and Rebecca Heimlick. These two
ladies teach at Cardington-Lincoln Middle School, and they wanted to
say, 'Hi to all our students, and train travel is a great way to get to
know your country. It's like traveling into a post card, and your fellow
travelers become family.' We chatted a bit about teaching, geography,
and life in general. These two ladies were having the time of their life
aboard this train. Somehow I think they would have fun anywhere.
Joyce and I struck up a conversation and she told me that she was on her
way to Toronto to attend a 50th wedding anniversary. Joyce was the
matron of honour at this wedding and the whole wedding party would be
present. We talked on about everything and couldn't believe first call
for dinner was being announced. We strolled down to the diner and sat
with Ron and Viv. Viv is getting excited because in a few days she will
be home. Outnumbered, Ron sits quietly while the three girls enjoy a
good chinwag. For lunch today I had the Alberta Bison Burger with Caesar
salad and potato salad. A piece of caramel cake for dessert hit the
spot. At home I have dessert maybe once a month but these are so
palatable, there is no chance of resistance. Darlene and I have both
joked about our clothes shrinking in the dryers of Vancouver.
We detrained in Capreol about 2:00 p.m. to refuel. We had twenty minutes
to stretch our legs before the train pulled out of the station.
White birch dominated the hilly and rocky terrain therefore we must be
near Sudbury.. We were sitting in the Park car enjoying the view one
last time. Hors d'oeuvre were served at 4:00 p.m. and included smoked
oysters, cheese and mushroom rolls in flaky pastry, cookies and pound
cake. I skipped dinner, I should have skipped the hors d'oeuvres too,
but when someone went to the bother of preparing the trays.....
I returned to my room to double check everything, and searched out
Brenda to thank her for the great service she provided. Whenever we saw
her she was always emptying, re-filling, smiling, and asking if there
was anything we required. She gave me some very insightful information
about the different rooms in the manor cars. Each attendant in the
sleepers have a car and a half to look after, so it's no wonder they
were quite busy on the trains, but never too busy to answer questions.
It would be much easier if everyone awakened at the same time and were
herded out of the sleepers for an hour. They have to work around the
different waking patterns, making and putting away the beds, changing
the linens, and cleaning up in general. They all did a great job because
the cars always looked clean and tidy.
The train stopped in Parry Sound to let a few people detrain, then we're
on our way again, next stop, Toronto.
In the park car are some 'Brits' talking about the different accents in
their country. It was quite enlightening, and very entertaining
listening to them imitate the different accents for our benefit.
Darlene and I decided to retrieve our baggage from our room and put it
on the landing, but Brenda had already seen to it.
Viateur and Aurore were sitting patiently waiting for the train to
arrive at the station, so we sat with them and relaxed for the next
fifteen minutes. We asked them about their connecting train, and when
they showed us their tickets, we saw that we would be on the same train
together. We suggested that we stay together and find out where our
next train departed. The train arrived at close to 10:00 p.m. and we
said our final farewell to our friends. We had the full length of the
train to walk before we reached the escalator. Noticing that Aurore and
Viateur looked very tired, we took their luggage and just walked
We made it inside and inquired at the VIA information desk the
whereabouts of the first class lounge only to be told that it would open
in a half hour. We explained that the couple with us needed a quiet
place to relax, and the young attendant replied that it would be opened
immediately. The ice cold drink from the soda fountain tasted like
nectar. For some reason we were all so thirsty. One of the attendants
said that we would be on the new Renaissance overnight train which runs
between Toronto and Montreal, and this would be the second run, the
inaugural one being the day before. We came alive. I questioned the
attendant as to the possibility of boarding early. Viateur and Aurore
were very tired. It had been a long day for them and they needed to be
settled for the night. Darlene and I would also like to take pictures.
She took our tickets and accompanied us to the train and showed us to
our rooms. We got Viateur settled first, then checked our large bags
into luggage, and took our smaller ones to our room. A coded card was
needed to unlock the door. I found the doors a little stiff to push
open. Everything looked so fresh looking, very neat and tidy. The rooms
were smaller than the old manor cars, but were only meant for one
night's sleep. A pleasant surprise was the larger bathroom with full
sized toilet. The medicine cabinet was a useful touch. A hairdryer,
and a hand held shower were also provided. We would not be using them
so didn't ask how they worked. I really liked the concealed garbage bin;
I was always tripping over the wastebasket on the 'Canadian.'
We detrained and took pictures outside, but it was really too dark to
take proper ones. We boarded at the end of the train and walked forward
toward the engine. Glass doors separated the cars. A push of the button
and they silently slid open. At the end of each sleeper was a coffee
and breakfast station. This is where you would get your continental
breakfast and coffee, to be eaten in your room, I think, or maybe taken
to the lounge, I forgot to ask. We reached the first class lounge area
where coffee carafes were available for anyone who wanted a fresh cup of
perked java. Baskets of snack food (chips and peanuts) and newspapers
were sitting out, and there was also a bar/canteen.
Moving forward we came to the coach car, and the seats on a raised
platform looked quite comfortable. They were upholstered in a soothing
soft blue colour, conducive to relaxation.
It was getting late and as we walked to the rear of the coach car, who
did we see smiling at us, but Bert. What a nice surprise, he later
upgraded to sleeper. Murel (phonetically sounding), the car attendant,
took us to one of the un-occupied bedrooms and un-made it for us so that
we could see, and take pictures of what the rooms look like during the
daytime. She had also given us a quick tour of the train, which was very
kind of her because they were busy. It was late though, and we were so
tired after our marathon day. It was 1:00 a.m. by the time we got into
bed, and 1:01 a.m. when we were both sleeping. I awoke once, and could
not tell if we were moving or not. At 3:00 a.m. I figured I'd better
get up. The staff were all in the lounge area looking as bright as
daisies. We talked a bit about the train and I found out that the engine
is a 900 genesis. I'm sure they said that this train does not travel as
fast as the regular ones do, I should have double checked. At times you
couldn't tell of you were moving or not. The reason for the extremely
smooth ride is the cars are firmly attached to one another. There is no
movement; they act as a single unit. A VIA technical staff member is
riding the rails for a few months to iron out any problems that may
arise. The train was stopped now, waiting for 5:20 a.m. when it would
pull ahead into the Brockville station then continue on the final leg to
Montreal. Darlene was up now, and headed to the coffeepot. Murel readied
two breakfast trays for us, which in the last minute hustle we forgot.
It was very early dawn when the train began to move. Darlene and I
readied our suitcases and packages. The train glided into the station at
5:20 a.m. We detrained and retrieved our large cases from the luggage
car. One person boarded this morning. The crew waved as we walked to the
station. The train departed at 5:25 a.m.
The eagles had landed, our adventure was over.
In summing up my western adventure, I would say it was wonderful
traveling, at least part way, with Ray and Robert. And
Darlene, you were the great traveling companion I knew you would be.
Visiting old friends, seeing the great sights in Victoria and
marvelling first hand at the phenomenon known as the Rocky Mountains
was all part of the great adventure. Partaking of excellent cuisine;
realizing that someone else was doing the driving, being looked after by
people who really do care, and not hauling a trailer was a significant
part of the adventure.
But I reserve, as the ultimate part of my adventure, the train ride and
wonderful people I met on board.
The pleasure was all mine.
Photos from this trip:
- Set #01: Jun 16, 2002 - VIA Corridor Train
- Set #02: Jun 17, 2002
- Set #03: Jun 17, 2002 - Toronto
- Set #04: Jun 17, 2002 - VIA Canadian
- Set #05: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #06: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #07: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #08: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #09: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #10: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #11: Jun 18, 2002
- Set #12: Jun 19, 2002
- Set #13: Jun 19, 2002
- Set #14: Jun 19, 2002
- Set #15: Jun 19, 2002
- Set #16: Jun 19, 2002
- Set #17: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #18: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #19: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #20: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #21: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #22: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #23: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #24: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #25: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #26: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #27: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #28: Jun 20, 2002
- Set #29: Jun 21, 2002
- Set #30: Jun 21, 2002
- Set #31: Jun 21, 2002 - Vancouver
- Set #32: Jun 21, 2002 - Victoria
- Set #33: Jun 21, 2002
- Set #34: Jun 21, 2002
- Set #35: Jun 21, 2002
- Set #36: Jun 21, 2002 - Vancouver
- Set #37: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #38: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #39: Jun 22, 2002 - BC Rail Pacific Starlight
- Set #40: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #41: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #42: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #43: Jun 22, 2002
- Set #44: Jun 23, 2002 - Vancouver
- Set #45: Jun 23, 2002 - VIA Canadian
- Set #46: Jun 23, 2002
- Set #47: Jun 23, 2002
- Set #48: Jun 23, 2002
- Set #49: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #50: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #51: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #52: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #53: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #54: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #55: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #56: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #57: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #58: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #59: Jun 24, 2002
- Set #60: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #61: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #62: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #63: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #64: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #65: Jun 25, 2002
- Set #66: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #67: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #68: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #69: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #70: Jun 26, 2002 - VIA 1 Renaissance Train
- Set #71: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #72: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #73: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #74: Jun 26, 2002
- Set #75: Jun 27, 2002
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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