Vancouver to Toronto Train #2 (Part Three) - 16 May
Two Clock Times
When I awoke, my GPS told me I was just SE of Yarbo and it was 0520h. As we were still in Saskatchewan it was 0520h outside the train, but the train was now applying Manitoba time, one hour ahead. In the diner, it was already 0620h.
I had time to get ready for breakfast.
We sped through Gerald at near 100kph. We were still deep in wheat country. Last years stubble remained in the ground. Preparation of the paddocks for this years crop had yet to begin.
Three New Table Companions
I was the fourth to arrive in the diner and was directed to complete that mornings inaugural foursome.
Already seated opposite were Tony and Ben from Vermont, who I think were father and son. They were returning east after a round-trip on The Canadian and a stop-over in Vancouver.
Seated next to me was Scott, a Kiwi from Picton, who, together with his partner, was making a long surface voyage from Sydney to Toronto. The first leg was 11,000kms on a ship to Vancouver, and now the train. Later, he is flying across the Atlantic eventually to reach Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, where hell stay at a friends house for a while.
I knew Picton, in the northern part of EnZeds South Island, was both the southern port for the ferry which connects to Wellington in the North Island, as well as being at the heart of the world-famous Marlborough wine-growing area. Its savignon blancs are the worlds best IMHO, and Nikis go-to preference.
That looked to have touched-off a sore point for Scott, as he replied that thanks to people like us, lots of country around that part of New Zealand had been taken out of other useful production.
I can imagine how someone with a particular view of how their part of the world should be would be annoyed when things change around them. Especially when it happens in the service of others preferences.
So we discussed aspects of rail travel history including why gauges differed between neighbours. Their strategic and developmental purposes were of interest to us all, as was their co-option in times of conflict, and their lasting benefits today.
Scott told us of his and his partners need to re-arrange their carry-on baggage after they were advised their two suitcases would be too big to be comfortably accommodated in their cabin. As would be the standard approach for a couple travelling for an extended period together across a few different climatic regions, they had gone his-and-hers packing.
A quick alteration inside the Vancouver station had them co-mingle their train necessities into a single bag, with the other one then assigned to the baggage car.
Forewarned by advice I received before leaving home on this adventure from this site, as well as a check of a few video descriptions, meant that my aircraft-sized cabin bag fitted well enough. With a bit of strategic packing, Id also arranged what I needed for just the five or six days aboard separately, and didnt need to get into my bag for the duration.
I think some level of preparation and thought given to these matters can make for a very easy trip in the small space available, and Id strongly recommend it.
I left a tip on the table for the Winnipeg catering crew who were soon to leave us. I thought they did their job with care and courtesy and showed the right level of interaction throughout.
If the next crew is like them, itll be an excellent ride.
Geography Catches up with the Train
I took advantage of the breakfast period and visited the shower. Sometime during my ablutions we crossed into Manitoba. The clocks were now synchronised inside and outside the train.
Rivers was our next calling point, and we departed it at 0900h, sixteen hours behind schedule.
The timetable showed that Winnipeg was but another two and a half hours away, giving a projected arrival time of just before noon. As I was making the calculations, my spy ears picked up a conversation between the train and the despatcher which went along these lines:
Train: We are planning for lunch aboard but were running out of food. Can you tell me how the traffic is please?
Despatcher: Well it is not great, but it is not terrible either. We may be able to weave you through some traffic, but you might have to wait for a double at Moffatt. Well do what we can for you.
Not long afterwards there was a train PA announcement to explain we had lost about two hours overnight because of a broken rail. Our Winnipeg arrival time was forecast as 1230h, and that the two midday meal sittings would be observed with the first before arrival, and the second after departure.
As the holder of a ticket for sitting two, I was happy I would have the benefit of a re-stocked, rather than depleted, kitchen.
We sped, in excess of 115kph, to the next hold-up.
We were almost halfway. I was settling into the routine of things, and untroubled by events.
Travelling with Mother
I thought I would make my way to the dome car, but met Sherill and Dick in its lower level in conversation with two women who Id not yet met about their travel plans. Dick and Sherill had decided to detrain at Winnipeg and then fly from there. Dick had come up with that plan in the morning and they were both pleased at their solution.
The two women - Lori and Patti - were sisters, originally also from Spokane, but now living in Reno. They, and another sister, were travelling with their 89 year old mother who wanted them all to visit Montreal, a city in which their mother had previously lived.
They were anxious about how much later their train could be without it putting their Toronto plans in jepoardy. We did a quick calculation. On the present delay things would still work out. Were the delay to approach 22 hours, they would not. We were sixteen hours down and not yet halfway. Ten of those hours were after starting the journey. Their plans would hold only if the remaining half had an additional delay of less than another six hours.
That bet is one I would not like to wager a large stake on. They were considering their options without wanting to bother their mother, who was still resting in the cabin.
I razzed a bit Lori when she thought she would check up on her mother by sending a text message, rather than walking to her cabin and knocking on the door. She took it in good humour. She later told me she decided to call her by phone instead.
Lori had confused herself about what time it was. After last nights advice about advancing the clocks by one hour she did so on her phone, manually. The phone then advanced that time another hour automatically when it detected we had crossed into Manitoba. Lori now believed it was one hour later that we said it was, and it took us a moment to work out what had occurred and convince her about what time it really was.
We had a wide-ranging conversation about travelling with and without our respective mothers. I had taken an almost 4,000kms road trip from Darwin to Victoria with my mother when she decided to leave the Northern Territory after spending half of her life there. It was great fun, and gave her the chance to farewell the special part of Oz she had come to know and love over the decades.
Lori and Patti were doing something similar for their mother.
Lori left and Patti and I then went into the upper level. Patti and her husband had taken a 1920s A-Model Ford on a number of extended runs, including a three-month trek from coast to coast. She told me of the kind and friendly people she had met along the way.
Patti was a deeply religious person, who drew strength from her convictions, and relied on her belief for guidance.
I am an atheist, and I am convinced of the innate goodness of humanist values, as well as being very happy for anyone to draw whatever comfort and direction from whatever is their god.
We got on fine - the godly and the godless - as I knew two people with generous spirit would. She told me of her A-Model travels and the people she met who defied their initially worrying appearance and who proved decent and helpful. I said about the time on a trip to Turkey, the small group I was in was invited to welcome home our drivers sister and her husband who had just the day before returned from making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
We were greeted warmly, this bunch of strangers from a far-off country, given fresh dates they had brought from Mecca to share with their family and friends. More astonishingly and movingly, even to this atheist, was being given a small glass of water from the supplies they had brought back, which was drawn from the Well of Zamzam. It was Islams holiest water.
This human-to-human contact, across cultures, nationalities, religions, language groups, genders, ages, sexualities, and any other divide we have created, is the very essence of the type of travelling I enjoy.
Take away that outer layer we use to segregate ourselves, mostly human created, and we all have the same basic desires and hopes for our families and friends.
We are all happy for the opportunity to travel with our mothers.
Winnipeg and wifi?
After the blow-out at Saskatoon, the promise of connectivity at Winnepeg was exciting some of us. It was crew-change time as well, so there was a spring in their step as well.
Winnipeg was keenly awaited.
First though we had to pass Portage-la-Prairie, just over the half-way point of the journey as far as the in-train travel guide was concerned. As far as I could tell, Winnipeg is as near enough the half-way point for all practical purposes. According to my paper map, the road distance Winnipeg to Toronto was listed as 2,228kms, and the distance Winnipeg to Vancouver as 2,299kms. Wherever was 35.5kms west of Winnipeg is the spot. I was content to leave that level of precision to the surveyors.
Presently, we arrived in Winnipeg, slowly advancing into the station. As the train came to a halt we passengers lined up in the corridors to seek at least temporary escape from our confinement. But the doors were not opened for us. The train moved on another twenty metres or so and came to another halt. Still the doors were not opened.
Then we moved off again another short distance. The whole procedure took twenty minutes before we were released. It was 1340h, and we were now 17 hours behind.
I later discovered they had changed the lead loco. We were led for the remainder of the journey by loco #6441.
Re-boarding was announced for 1430h, and we were to take our tickets with us. Those departing the train also had to depart the platform and enter the station below. Those remaining on the train would then be locked in as the platform would b closed.
The stations wifi was not easy to connect to. Later, Danielle advised that she was able to gain a viable connection by going deeper into the station.
I decided I could do better elsewhere, so went outside in search of a good prospect.
I saw there was a Manitoba Visitors Centre about 400m away. I thought they might do the decent thing by visitors and have wifi available. They did. A very helpful young woman at the desk quickly advised me how to identify the service and connect to it and I was away.
With messages exchanged, some key data checked, I had done what needed to be done. It was time to return to the station. I had not seen much of Winnipeg. It looked interesting. Exploring even a part of it looked like it would be rewarding. But not on this visit.
We boarded at 1430h as requested but had still not moved away from the station until the call from the dining car at 1515h for the second sitting.
I was seated again with Alan and Linda, and a new passenger on the train, Ann from Germany, who was taking a train and bus trip across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax.
I could see we were to cross a big river immediately after leaving the station and thought I would miss my chance of taking a pic.
As the meals were set in front of us, we started off at 1535h, still 17 hours behind. The trains data on timeliness out of Winnipeg would be set by this departure from the platform. The Winnipeg authorities could legitimately claim no additional time was lost at their station.
We crossed the river. Or at least the locos did. Then the train came to a stop on this two-track bridge. Some of the train was still on the station side of it. There we remained, all through my soup, salmon, and apple-crumble three-course meal. And I even fully-drained my post-prandial pot of tea without the train making a centimetre more of progress.
It seemed a very odd place to park a train - on a vital river crossing, blocking one of only two tracks across it. But there we sat until we finally moved off again at 1652h. Within view of the Winnipeg station we had gone down a further hour plus. We were now more than 18 hours behind.
But I did get my river pic.
I went back to my room and had a doze, awakening just in time to hear the call for the evening meals second sitting.
As I was a car away from the diner, Danielle fell into step behind me and we agreed to be a pair for seating purposes. We found ourselves making a complete table with Alan and Linda.
Ann was at the table behind us and was now of a more interactive disposition.
Danielle had not previously sat with Alan and Linda, and so explained her wide-ranging travel in Canada to their amazement. Once travel stories in Canda had been raised, and Danielle recognised that every so often Alan and Linda would converse in French, we started to discuss other countries involvement in the settlement of Canada and the antipodes.
Alan mentioned hed been to the geographic area proximate to Canada which was French territory. A passport and visa was required, and the currency was Euros.
Danielle was intrigued an I expect will seek to go there soon.
We then discussed the French and Dutch explorers involvement in mapping and settling Australia and New Zealand. But for a short accident of history, both countries could have been claimed by either country, rather than the British.
Part of New Zealand, Akaroa, near Christchurch, still wears its French connection with pride.
A suburb of Sydney is La Perouse is named atter the French explorer who arrived in what is now Australia just days after the first british settlement under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.
Australias Tasmania was earlier known as Van Diemens Land because of its first mapping by Abel Tasman, a Dutchman, who was the also the first European ashore in the mid 1650s.
Dirk Hartog was one of the early European explorers who had drawn Europes attention in the early 1600s to what it had been unaware had existed in that part of the globe. For a time, the landmass was known in Europe as New Holland.
The Dutch interest in what is now Indonesia led to the north-west of Australia being mapped by the Dutch. And everyone in Western Australia knows of the horror story arising from the wrecking of the Batavia off the WA shore after a mutiny, and the rampage and killings done by some members of the crew on other crew and passengers as they sat marooned on some bleak rocky islands, hoping for rescue.
It was the practical application of chaos theory which meant Australians and New Zealanders have English, rather than Dutch or French, as their national languages, and British-based legal and government systems rather than Dutch or French.
Upon preparing to leave the diner, were advised to advance our clocks by one hour in anticipation of crossing the border into Ontario overnight.
I sat with Ben and Scott in the dome car for a sort while before calling it a day. There was a slim crescent moon and what I thought was Venus nearby providing the only illumination as midnight approached.
It was the end of another day. As I checked my place in the planet one last time before closing my eyes, we were at Sioux Lookout and it was 2315h.
(Posted from Toronto 18 May)
Edited by mcropod, 19 May 2018 - 07:23 AM.