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19,000kms zig-zagging across the USA and Canada, April/May 2018


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#121 railiner

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 11:49 AM

I find it interesting what your idea of a "scary inner-city" neighborhood likes like....it looks rather gentrified, and touristy to me...at least what your photo's show.

You should see what a real ghetto "hood" looks like, in comparison... ;)

 

Still enjoying your commentary and photo's! :)


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#122 mcropod

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 10:55 AM

Vancouver to Toronto Train #2 (Part One) 13/14 May

Off at Last

After a delay of five hours, Train #2 set off from Vancouver a few minutes before 0130h on Monday 14 May. We were boarded well before then, so most were safely settled in, and perhaps already horizontal.

I slept well, and awoke before 0600h. When I checked my gadgets, I saw we were soon to pass by Yale. I went to the dome car to await the breakfast call and see how the landscape looked from that vantage point.

Two Spies on a Train

A few other passengers were of a similar mind to explore the dome car, but there were enough vacant seats for me to find a suitable spot. The car slowly filled up. After a time, I was joined by Percy, who asked if he could take the empty seat alongside me.

Percy had just visited family in Vancouver. It was the city of his early years, but he had since moved away as a consequence of joining the Canadian Army. He told me he was in Signals. I knew what that meant. The reason we had migrated to Australia from Scotland was because my father had been asked to join Australia’s then Defence Signals Directorate - effectively a spy agency, obtaining its intelligence from listening in to whatever radio transmissions they could find.

I mentioned my connection with the Australian equivalent and so we had an interesting discussion about how things worked across the allied nations. Percy had spent time with NATO forces in Europe, but was mostly posted to home soil.

We agreed that we’d try to meet up at the breakfast table and when the diner opened we did so. We were seated at a table already occupied by an Oz couple from Rockhampton - a coastal Queensland city on the Tropic of Capricorn.

We met Ray and Noeleen, elderly and retired, and travelling, as was I. Ray had worked for Queensland Rail as a stationmaster, and was now active in local community affairs. So too was Noelene. She was a JP, an honourary officer of the law who assists manage some of the state’s legal issues.

I did not out myself as a Aussie, nor did Percy blow my cover, and neither Ray nor Noeleen enquired. I suspect they thought Percy and I were an old gay couple, and that it would be rude and uncomfortable to ask too many questions. Perhaps it was when I fibbed I’d been travelling with Percy for a few years which put them off the scent.

Ray and Noeleen had just finished a cruise of Alaska, and a train ride on The Rocky Mountaineer. I think they went as part of a well-known Oz-owned travel company which specialises in putting together these sorts of high-quality fully-catered and arranged international tours. They were now riding to Toronto, to join another tour which would take them to see Niagara Falls.

They finished their breakfasts and Percy and I continued discussing spying issues for a little longer.


Along the Rivers

Our track took us firstly along the Fraser River, then the Thompson River when that joined, then the North Thompson River in turn.

We were ddefinitely headed north, quickly crossing the fiftieth, then the fifty-first parallel.

The landscape was vast. Huge scree-fields spilt towards the tracks, sometimes directed over them by a protective roof. The river was in full force, turbulent and overflowing into floodplains either side, and carving into the banks on the outside arc of its eroding course.

If you were designing the scenic portion of a model railway, and produced such a tableau, it would be thought overly-dramatic and fanciful: an figment of an overwrought imagination. But here it was, outside my window exactly as nature, with a little interference from the railway surveyors, had intended.

I was surprised to see we were still at an altitude either side of 250 metres. The rugged landscape felt as if we should be much higher. Our pace was a steady, if sedate, 50kph.

I had returned to my cabin and lowered the bed in anticipation of fallng asleep when the zeds hit. That happened a bit earlier than I expected, and I awoke an hour or so later to see a large-eared deer in a well-grassed meadow by the Lac du Bois looking back at me. If Australia had native deer, I could safely bet on its common name being the Large Eared Deer, but this was a different place, and I resolved to find out what it might have been once I could fire up the internet.

Anther research project was to find out the name of the bird I saw perched on a fence. It was shaped like a macaw, and only a little smaller. It had a blue-grey coloured tail, a darker body, and patches of white on its wings. I had never before seen such a bird.

We had climbed another 100 metres alongside the river.


The 2003 Fires

A train announcement was made to draw our attention to the scarring of the countryside due to the 2003 British Columbia wildfires, which had burnt large tracts, unchecked, for many weeks.

What had been thick pine forest stretching across the horizon was now charred sticks. There was regrowth, but it was still a long way from replacing what had been lost.

I remember that my state of Victoria sent fire-fighters experienced in forest wildfires in remote country to assist our Canadian friends in their battle for control. Not long after, in our summer of early 2005, it was our turn to request Canadian and USA assistance as a huge wildfire devastated our alpine forests and the communities which lived in them.

I like living in a cooperative world.


Multi-Lingual Dining

After a brief stop at Kamloops North, we were off again. Shortly after, came the call for my midday meal sitting.

I was third to a table occupied by Steve, from Chicago, and a Francophone couple from near Montreal: Suzanne and Chris. We introduced ourselves.

Steve was a retired Amtrak employee who had worked at Chicago’s Union Station for more than two decades as a telephone operator and station announcer. He was happy to discover I had covered so much ground in the USA on Amtrak, and that I had spent a productive day on Chicago’s many-hued L lines.

Steve was detraining at Jasper, taking his time with a few other stops to cross to Toronto, and thence back to Chicago.

Suzanne and Chris had boarded at Kamloops and were headed back home. Suzanne mentioned she had worked in aged-care, but was now retired. I got the sense that Chris was in academia, but couldn’t be sure as he spoke softly, and seemed content to remain silent.

When the waiter came around, I saw a disapproving look on their faces when he said he could not speak French. Another was beckoned to the table, and their orders were taken. I understand and sympathise with those who live in twin-culture nations who feel theirs is not being properly considered. I know that often there is a political issue at stake, and so insisting in relation to a language issue is also insisting on a political one.

Perhaps it was Chris who was the more militant of the duo, because after he left the table, Suzanne was more forthcoming.


Goods Trains and More Goods Trains

As we continued to ascend to Blue River we encountered mutiple goods trains. We were held in a siding for two to pass by in the opposite direction, but we were waved through on many other occasions as they were sidelined. Then it was us awaiting another two, and so on it went.

We were now at 650 metres, and when moving, steadily rolling along at 70kph.

Jasper, the crossing point from the western to the eastern side of the country was still 210kms distant. We were already 52 degrees north of the equator, and there was a fair chance we would get beyond 53 north along the way before moving south again.


A Lively Table

I lucked in for my evening dining companions. Cousins Ann and Mary, together with Ann’s partner Bob, were making their way to Jasper. Their intention once there was to drive to Calgary, just because they wanted to go there.

I figured they were in their late 20s and early 30s.

Ann was once of Texas, and Mary still is. Ann and Bob now live in Pittsburg. They had flown from Pittsburg to Vancouver to join the train. They had also enjoyed Stanley Park during their brief stay there.

Ann was in IT, and Mary’s work put her in close connection with many secret and important aeroplanes.

They were interesting conversationalists. Both women liked the Oz TV show Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, as they loved the principal character, Miss Phryne Fisher. My only claim to that show is a highly incidental one - for a time in the mid-1980s, I worked with the spouse of the author who brought Miss Fisher to life.

Mary had a relative who she thought lived in Melbourne, but couldn’t recall where. None of the trio had visited Oz, but Ann expressed a desire to live and work in our neighbours New Zealand. She thought this would not come to fruition as she has three small dogs, and knows that both Oz and EnZed have very strict animal quarantine procedures.

The train’s delay meant that their scheduled 1600h deboarding was now not likely to be before midnight, a terrible time to have to get off a train when you’d planned for it being late afternoon.

But I figured they were resilient and flexible and would cope regardless. I wished them well as I left the table.

We had been halted at a siding, awaiting another passing movement, for quite some time. I went to the dome car and saw Percy, so I sat with him for a while. Ray occuplpied the seat in front and he told us Noeleen had been taken ill with the richness of the food.

After a while, as the evening drew in, some passengers on the lower deck were sure they had seen a bear alongside in the trees. We all scanned the area but could not confirm the sighting.

As there was still no sign of us moving off, I decided a stationary train provides an ideal opportunity to have a shower. I did so and called it a day.

Once we got moving again, we were above 800 metres, still headed north-west towards the Yellow Horse Pass, at which point we would turn east, and we had not yet made Valemount. We were more than nine hours behind schedule.

(Posted at Edmonton 15 May)
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#123 mcropod

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 10:57 AM

I find it interesting what your idea of a "scary inner-city" neighborhood likes like....it looks rather gentrified, and touristy to me...at least what your photo's show.
You should see what a real ghetto "hood" looks like, in comparison... ;)
 
Still enjoying your commentary and photo's! :)


I am with you. Gastown has an underserved reputation as the scungy end of town. There are many street people around, and this oasis of yuppiedom, was in contrast.

It does not compare with some of the ghetto areas of larger cities, but I have been around people who would be scared to venture n to places like Gastown.

Their loss, IMHO :-)

#124 cpotisch

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 11:10 AM

You in a Cabin for one?


Routes Traveled: Silver Meteor, Silver Star, CrescentLake Shore LimitedCalifornia Zephyr, Sunset Limited, Texas EagleEthan Allen Express, Empire Service, Maple Leaf, AdirondackAcela Express, Northeast RegionalKeystone Service
 
Wish List: Auto Train, Cardinal, CONO, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Crescent (overnight), Adirondack w/ Great Dome, Downeaster


#125 mcropod

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 11:29 AM

You in a Cabin for one?


I is. Although I’m currently outside it, watching some cars being removed from the consist and the locos being re-attached.
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#126 railiner

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:11 PM

I am somewhat surprised that being bilingual, at least English and French, is not a hiring requirement for On Board Services VIA Rail employees.   I could understand operating crews, engineers ("train driver's"), and conductor's working in predominantly English (or French) speaking section's of Canada not having that requirement, but passenger facing crew should have that ability... :unsure:


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#127 Bob Dylan

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 03:27 PM

The "Bad" area of Vancouver is East Hastings where the runaways,junkies and assorted persons of all types hang out.

Vancouver has a serious Homeless and Addicted population problem since it's Canada's version of San Francisco,LA,Seattle and Pottland rolled into one.

I too am surprised @ the inability to speak French by the OBS since Bi-lingual capability in the two Official Languages is required for Federal Jobs in Canada.

Edited by Bob Dylan, 15 May 2018 - 03:29 PM.

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#128 MikefromCrete

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 04:22 PM

Since the Canadian changes OBS crews in Winnipeg, I would imagine the western crews are less likely to speak reasonably fluent French since hardly anybody in western Canada speaks French, especially as a first language. 



#129 mcropod

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 02:13 PM

Vancouver to Toronto Train #2 (Part Two) 15 May

A New Day

I awoke again just before dawn. My GPS told me I was near Hinton.

The published schedule had us there at 1855h the previous evening, but it was just after 0420h, so we were now more than nine hours behind.

The train was stopped at a siding and I put on my ears to hear that we were to wait there until two west-bound goods trains had passed us, and that we would then have a clear run after that.

It took a touch more than an hour for the two trains to pass by and for us to start off again. As we moved off I saw an enormous industrial plant on the north side of the tracks, a refinery of sorts, and its lights were ablaze in the early dawn.

We were soon at what looked to be our top speed, 100kph, as the tracks levelled out and straightened. I decided to get up and check out the view from the dome.

After a while we went by a large lake with two first-light fishermen dangling their lines out of a small tinny. Across the water there were the large chimneys of another industrial plant, so their fishing site was as far away as was possible. I know that if there is any cooling-water discharge from such a plant, the fishing might be better in the warmer water, but that if it were an industrial discharge, even cleaned-up, it would be a good idea to steer clear.

I met Percy in the breakfast diner and we discovered we also had a joint background in model railways.

This topic came about when I made reference to points, which he told me he understood, but few others in this part of the world might. I then said I knew the local term was switches, and he replied he’d become aware of points as a descriptor when reading UK modelling literature.

He had developed his interest in model railways when in Germany as a father of young children. I had been on the other side of that arrangement when my father brought home a whole bunch of gear from a hobby retailer about to close his doors.

In both our cases, we were OO operators. Mine was Hornby, one of the then dominant brands in the UK. Percy’s was Fleischmann, as you would expect from someone who took up modelling in Germany.

Percy was about to pass his equipment on to his grandchildren as he had no space to create a layout for himself any more. I mentioned the Inglenook layout which does not require a great amount of space, and the puzzle a modeller using it can pose and then solve. Percy said he would check it out.

In the light of my experience with Chris and Suzanne the previous midday meal, I asked about the politics of language in Canada. I remembered reading about and seeing news footage of the major political issues of Quebec separatism in the 70s and 80s, and wondered whether the language divide was still as strong. In Percy’s view it was not. He explained that as an Anglophone in the military, he needed to undergo French language lessons in order to proceed above a certain rank, but that in school in Victoria, his French lessons were taught by a native English speaker.


An Edmonton Break

Soon we were on the outskirts of Edmonton. There was a chance to do a platform walk and check to see what connectivity existed.

It was a warm and sunny late-morning. The Edmonton approaches showed the area to be prosperous and neat. There was evidence of much new residential construction. The working day was beginning and there were many school busses amongst the traffic.

Edmonton is a sizeable city. Along either side of the railway line were industries and services for the extractive, transport, and farming sectors. It is clearly a major hub for the region.

The train reversed into the station at Edmonton by way of a Y as the station is quite separate from the huge marshalling infrastructure at its northern edge. We were advised the stop would be at least half-an-hour, and would involve us losing three cars from the consist. The platform would be shut down for that operation.

The station had wifi, so I was able to send a few messages home, despite it being around 0100h the next day there and unlikely to be responded to immediately. I happily discovered I was also still solvent, and I attended to some banking activities.

The three cars which were disconnected were the farthest forward coach car and the following two sleepers. My sleeper was now seventh from the locos.

The operation gave me a chance at last to identify our two locos. It had not been possible before. I found out we were pulled along by loco #6436, led by loco #6420.

When we got underway again at 1040h, we were down by almost eleven hours. That delay was likely extended by a long wait in the yards for permission to proceed beyond the station.

We continued to make slow progress through goods traffic over the next hours, barely getting above 40kph when moving.


An Official of the Supreme Court and the CIA

It was time to dine again and I was joined by Alan and Linda from Ottowa. Both boarded in Vancouver and were bound for home via Toronto. They had arrived in Vancouver from Hawaii after setting off from there on a sea-cruise. It seemed Linda was suffering the effects of travelling. She thought she contracted it on the fly-out to Hawaii, and she had a bad chest cough.

They lived near the city of Ottowa in what they described as a French-speaking suburb very close to the main government precinct.

Alan was retired, Linda was not. Alan had previously worked in the Supreme Court as court security.

I might well have been the only person in Vancouver to have searched the hotel’s TV channels on one of the evenings I was there and decided to stop on a channel which was broadcasting proceedings from the Supreme Court. I am interested in how a country’s legal and governance system works, so I sat with it for a while.

There was a hearing being broadcast, obviously delayed rather than live, given the time of night in Vancouver I was watching. It centred around a challenge to a law which imposed a victim surcharge fine or levy on someone convicted of an offence to help defray victim-issue costs.

I heard from one of the barristers making the case that the law was unjust because of how unfairly it impacted on those with fewer financial resources, and then from the barrister representing the Crown in its defence.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was a woman who asked a question of the first barrister at one point.

The barrister for the Crown had a nervous twitch or tic, but that did not distract him from his eloquent submission. He also responded well to a query from another Justice.

I enjoy hearing deate and discussion between bright minds.

I asked Alan if he remembered the case, and if there had been an outcome. When I described the Chief Justice as a woman, he let me know that she had retired in December the previous year, so the case was at least five months old. He was unaware of whether there had been a decision handed down, so could not tell me what it was if it had been made.

Linda was still working for the CIA, but unlike Percy, had never been a spook.

Instead, Linda was working for the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. One of my nephews is an actuary with a major firm in Melbourne, so I was aware of what they did, and what the function of Linda’s CIA would involve.

A similar abbreviation ambiguity exists in Oz with the Catering Institute of Australia.


Meeting Train #1

After scallops and prawns, I went back to the dome car. Shortly, we passed sister Train #1 at Irma. There had been no announcement on our train’s PA of that beforehand which I think was a missed opportunity.

From looking at its and our schedules, we were both now running about twelve hours late.

For a while, our train had been rocketing along at 120kph+, hitting an Amtrak-esque 130kph at times, rocking and jolting all the while.

At one stage, but at much slower velocity, we were mobile between two goods trains, us taking the centre track when it split into three. The train to our northern side was a mixed goods and oil train. The one to our south was comprised of double-height boxcars.

Percy pointed out one of the Army Bases he had been stationed at for a time at Wainwright, just east of the Battle River trestle bridge which spans a length of almost a kilometre.

A bar attendant visited the dome and spruiked the benefits of a mojito able to be made by one of his drinks colleagues. Three passengers raised their hands in response.

When the drinks attendant came by with the three, only two were claimed, the third requestor having departed. Not wishing to see good work come to nought, I did the honourable thing and stepped in to claim the abandoned third.

We had crossed another border and were now in Sakatchawan. On the Empire Builder I had met Brian who was leaving that train for the seven hour drive north to his home in Saskatoon. He promised to wave to the train as I went by. I would have to keep my eyes open.


Evening Table with a PhD in Horse Anaesthesia

I had a little snooze in my cabin as we travelled through the western part of Saskatchewan and awoke in time for a short session in the dome, awaiting the call for second sitting in the diner.

When it came, I was the third on a table occupied by Sherill and Dick from Spokane. No sooner had we introduced ourselves than our fourth - Danielle - arrived.

Sherill and Dick were enjoying their time on the train and their interaction with the Oz and Kiwi contingent aboard. They liked how we took the mickey out of each other, and didn’t take life too seriously. They were travelling the full length of The Canadian but hadn’t taken into account its terrible timekeeping record, and so their connecting travel arrangements were already shot.

Danielle started life as a horse vet, then moved to become a horse anaesthetist. Later she had completed a PhD in the anti-inflammatory properties in horses of the anaesthetic drug Ketamine. She subsequently left practitioner work for a deeper involvement in the drug research aspect of the medical profession.

She travels frequently, and especially to Canada where she has covered quite some ground. It is always good to travel with someone better travelled than yourself, to pick their brain and gain an understanding of places you have not yet been to.

It is also always a joy to travel with someone who is very smart.

I spoke of my exposure to horses on the neighbouring Scottish farms, and to my most recent encounter in the Amish fields near Philadelphia. She has a great affinity for horses, especially working ones, and show-jumpers and dressage horses which she said were very well balanced and strong, and which recover their feet from being under at their first attempt.

I asked her what she was going to do with herself this northern summer now she no longer had a national team to support in the football World Cup. The Netherlands had failed to qualify in one of the big surprises of that phase of the tournament. It is a sore point for supporters of the Oranje, and I knew it would be (which is ,of course, why I raised it). I helpfully suggested that she turn her allegiance to the Australian team which had qualified. Again.

I don’t think that made her feel any better, somehow.

Dick and Sherill continued simultaneously to apologise for the state of their current government, for which neither Danielle nor I held them personally accountable, as well as to say that they were going to speak of politics at the table no longer.

It must rankle with them, as this went on for several kilometres, several repeats, and two courses.

Eventually, the catering staff threw us out, just in time for our arrival in Saskatoon, and the promise of a wifi connection inside the station.


Saskatoon Disappointment

Our late arrival, by half a day, coming in around 2100h rather than 0800h, meant we entered a desolate station building. There was no wifi available to connect to, and even if there had been a station signal, no sign advising of, or person in sight to ask about, the password.

I decided I would then put some of the station’s services to good use. For the first time on the trip the platform was on my side of the train. This gave me an opportunity to wash the grime from the window at least enough to get one clear spot from which to take some pix.

I went in search of the toilet to see if there were any paper towels available, but both dispensers were empty.

Toilet paper was however still there, so I took a metre or so and wet it under the tap.

The toilet itself was in a very poor state, likely blocked. The decrepit condition of the station was unbefitting the national passenger carrier. It was not being looked after the way it should be.

Saskatoon needed stationmaster Ray on the job. He’d soon have things put right.

I took my damp paper and managed to clear the bottom two-thirds after requisitioning the train’s portable steps for a better reach. There wasn’t a spare basketballer in the vicinity, so the top third was beyond me. What I removed wasn’t the brown dust I had expected, but a black thick oily sooty residue. I hadn’t factored in that most of it was probably from diesel particles.

Job done, I was asked by some fellow passengers to do theirs, and I replied that my fee was five dollars a window.

I thought about all the times I’d been driving, and the number of occasions I’d been approached at traffic lights by a bloke with a windscreen squeegie. What if their Saskatoon, and Edmonton, and Kamloops cousins took up this business opportunity on Via Rail platforms along the route? They’d be rolling in it.

My disappointment at not being able to make contact with Niki at a very convenient time for her - it was her early afternoon the next day - was leavened marginally by the fact that I might now have a clear photo or two to show her.

We departed unloved Saskatoon station at 2150h, more than thirteen hours behind schedule.

It was time to call it another day.

(Sent from Winnipeg 16 May)
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#130 mcropod

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Posted 16 May 2018 - 02:15 PM

Our locos at EdmontonAttached File  09348F9D-7C9C-4409-A13C-653E48B8E7B0.jpeg   126.02KB   6 downloads

40 ans logo Attached File  175A4F54-4390-4E25-8FD9-05A4AE78D014.jpeg   83.62KB   6 downloads
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#131 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 05:07 AM

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.


Departing Winnipeg

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.


Another Evening

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.

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#132 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 05:08 AM

Vancouver to Toronto Train #2 (Part Four) 17 May

Last Day

This morning, at 0930h, was scheduled as the time to arrive in Toronto.

The revised forcecast time was announced the day before variously as between midnight and 0200h of Friday 18 May. A small group of fellow passengers and I made our own calculations, and assessed our arrival would be 0200h or later. We believed that would be the case as long as we lost no more time, and there had been no history of that so far.

An earlier arrival time would be possible only if we picked up time, and that was considered fanciful.

I awoke around 0600h approaching Nakina. The sun was peeking its way through the tops of the pine trees. We were still around sixteen hours late.

I breakfasted with Percy as we were directed to a table alredy occupied by Donna and Bill who were on their way eventually to Montreal.

Bill had been a signalman for the railways and had been posted to various parts of the network, including Saskatoon which they were quick to tell me should not be judged by its unkempt station. They said Saskatoon was a lively place with a thriving community, and a well-regarded arts culture.

They had visited Australia and had stayed with friends near Melbourne.

I later dined with them and discovered they were taking to travel in a big way. On their visit to Oz they had taken a number of domestic flights which allowed them to criss-cross the country from Perth to Cairns, including a visit to Uluru in the red centre, and Port Arthur in Tasmania. They had also visited Brisbane and the two coastal resorts to the south and north of that city: Surfers’ Paradise and the Sunshine Coast. They had travelled by road from the nation’s capital, Canberra, to my home city of Melbourne.


How do Two Trains Pass Each Other when Both are Too Long for the Passing Loop?

I requisitioned a number of the single-use spreads from the table to work out a train puzzle I had heard of and which I thought I had worked out in my head, but needed physical proof. I wanted to check to see if traffic management expert Tony was aware of the puzzle, and thus the solution. I was confident his thought processes would work it out if neither was the case.

I had also purloined a discarded newspaper page and drawn up a crude railway grid to use as the base of the puzzle.

It comprised an infinitely long main line to the west and east of a small passing loop. My trains each comprised a loco leading a three car train, so four vehicles long. The passing loop could only contain three vehicles on each arm, otherwise the through line would be blocked.

I saw Ben in the dome car and asked if he knew of the puzzle and answer. He said he did not. But we gave it a go, and after a while saw the principle behind its solution. We had managed to get the two trains to pass each other and continue their journey, each still headed by their original loco.

I then saw Tony in the downstairs section and asked if he could find a more elegant solution. We ran through the problem and our solution. Tony said his traffic-management background was in pedestrian safety, and reducing vehicle-connected road deaths, by applying various engineering and traffic design systems.

He had a go and came up with a similar solution to ours.

I later revised it to its simplest form. I suspect what had taken us a few goes would be the first solution a railway engineer or shunter would see.

And then I photographed the sequence, but substituting milk containers for the jam sachets for space reasons.

Tony and I then discussed some of the road-safety initiatives taken in Australia, and specifically Victoria as road-safety was a state, rather than federal, responsibility in Oz. He recognised that the USA was badly trailling other OECD countries and getting worse, compared to places like Australia which was already more highly-ranked, and still improving.


A Battery Purchase in Hornepayne

I had stupidly assumed my scanner’s batteries were being re-charged when the scanner was drawing mains power. I was puzzed that when I took it outside my cabin, it was showing a low batteries warning, and shutting off as a protective measure.

It finally dawned on me that I had single-use batteries in the beast. At a stop at Hornepayne I spotted a hardware store about 150m away from the track. It was just past 0900h on a working day, so I thought I was a fair chance to be able to source some replacements.

The shop was open, the battery display was the first sight to see upon entering, and I quickly made my selection, hoping the “All Aboard!” call would not be made before I could return.

There was no sign of a shopkeeper until some minutes passed, but I was soon able to conclude the transaction and make a return trainside. My heart leapt a little when every car I saw was without its yellow steps, and had its doors closed. But as I neared, I saw there were many steps still out and doors open, so I knew I would not be left until the next Train #2 came through.

New batteries installed, I could take my headphone-equipped spy ears into the dome car.

I was therefore able to hear a lengthy conversation between an Irish-accented electrician and a colleague who I assume was elsewhere on the train, about a power issue they could not immediately diagnose and so were unable to resolve.


Midday Meal with Donna and Bill

I met up with Donna and Bill again in the diner at which time we had a conversation which detailed their travel history and hopes for future trips.

They wanted to take a river cruise in Europe. I had recently been on one, run by an Oz company, and travelled from Budapest to Amsterdam. I highly recommended the experience, but counselled them on one issue I had become aware of when on my trip.

The southern-hemisphere and northern-hemisphere ‘flu seasons are at different times. On my August trip, populated mostly by Australians, but with a sizeable Canadian contingent, it seemed that a number of Aussies had the ‘flu and quickly passed that on to our unsuspecting northern hemisphere cousins. To be fair, it was an unexpectedly bad ‘flu season in Oz, and led to a number of deaths there of those whose resistance was reduced by age or illness, but that was of no matter to those others on the boat who were affected.

I had taken a ‘flu shot before my departure, and been lucky to get one, as most innoculations are performed months before and the vaccine was then hard to come by.

My suggestion was that they seek to take the shot prior to travel, regardless of where in their domestic ‘flu season it is.


Capreol and a Delay at Sudbury

We were given time off for good behaviour and allowed to leave the train at Capreol for some fresh air. I had plenty of time to do a platform walk. I say platform, but that is giving it too much credit. It comprised what was a mixture of old track-bed and train-supply roadway.

This was a working train location. The Capreol yards were full and busy. There was an accommodation train parked across a few tracks, possibly ready for assignment to summer track crews now the winter had broken and better working weather was upon us.

With new batteries now installed, I could be better warned about refuelling progress and so a likely re-board call. I ventured to the rear of the train to capture a look at the parlour car.

Immediately after recommencing, I heard an exchange between driver and controller that there was a problem that needed to be attended to at Sudbury Junction, our next stop. The exchange indicated that we would have to move off the main line to attend to it. This was done by passing the station, then reversing the train into the siding to let off two passengers as the matter was sorted.

We were off again at 1855h, a little more than seventeen hours behind. My 0300h forecast was still looking better than Via Rail’s continued assertion that we would be in by between 0130h and 0200h.

We travelled through the Ontario lakelands and wetlands, picking a path through the larger bodies of water, through little railway encampments, and lake-side cottages. It was a peaceful and restful on the eye.


Last Meal and a Very Interesting Family

I was third-seated at a table already occupied by a trio. They introduced themselves to me as Oliver, Lucy, and Evito. They had joined the train at Vancouver after taking a sea-cruise through the inside passage to Alaska.

They now lived in London, but had a very interesting backstory.

Oliver was the son to Lucy and Evito. Lucy and Evito had been born in Kenya, but had left for India in the late 1960s. They had not felt in peril as Kenyan Indians, but this was at around the same time as the forced exodus of Ugandan Indians by Idi Amin. But they thought it prudent to leave regardless.

They moved to Goa, part of India then under Portugese rule. The Portugese departed, and Goa was subsumed into India.

All three are now based in London where Oliver works for Coca-Cola.

As a result of their multi-national history, we worked out they are eligible to carry the passports of Kenya, Portugal, India, and the UK. I proposed that they do so, just for fun.

After the UK removes itself from the EU, having a Portugese passport would be an advantage for EU work and travel purposes, but even being able to produce four passports for which they are eligible when asked for their papers at a border crossing would be a hoot.

With the meal over, it was time to quickly arrange my belongings in order to have a quick sleep before our unceremonius eviction at stupid-o’clock.


Arrival the Day After the Final Day

We were awoken just before our arrival at Toronto Station close to 0200h. Some time had been made up in the final stretch. Via Rail’s final prediction of arriving between 0130h and 0200h was correct, and mine was wrong.

We were de-boarded and found ourselves in the otherwise deserted and serviceless station.

We were now left to our own devices.
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#133 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 05:13 AM

View from one of the three the dome cars Attached File  3139CCD0-586E-457C-85E7-F34E86AC2074.jpeg   125.14KB   3 downloads

Early morning in Ontarios lake-land Attached File  3850D417-4A3F-4B32-B1CC-876FC632D912.jpeg   71.17KB   3 downloads

Railway workers encampment Attached File  B6081E4B-14D9-43DC-8A1D-D3515C4EEC4A.jpeg   190.34KB   3 downloads

Mobile accommodation awaits deployment Attached File  4D2681F0-E402-435D-9925-6D1C655D215A.jpeg   80.94KB   3 downloads

The Parlour Car Attached File  A8F302D1-5344-4644-B5D7-2B130F966956.jpeg   147.52KB   3 downloads
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#134 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 05:30 AM

The Train Puzzle - How to get two trains, each longer than can be accommodated in a passing loop, past each other to continue their journeys. Each train has a loco lead and three cars. The passing loop can only hold three units without fouling the other line.

1 - The Blue Train going west, meets the Green Train going east, either side of a passing loop
Attached File  E767CAA3-09A7-4043-AB65-34FC68EFAD0F.jpeg   48.38KB   3 downloads

2 - The Green Train detaches one car, leaving it on the mainline, and fully occupies one side of the loop
Attached File  91108A2B-E729-46EC-B00D-DED3D4B2B1B0.jpeg   41.33KB   3 downloads

3 - The Blue Train passes through the loop and attaches the Green car to the front of the Blue Trains loco
Attached File  63D94816-364A-47EC-8B16-8A5CA79AE5DB.jpeg   40.15KB   3 downloads

4 - The Green Train exits the loop and moves on sufficiently far enough ahead on the main-line.
Attached File  EF02EA5E-CD64-4CBE-A3DC-F0FE05397D0C.jpeg   42.04KB   3 downloads

5 - The Blue Train reverses through the loop, pulling the Green car with it, leaving it in the loop Attached File  D07C3C29-A209-433E-ABC8-A3AE4B494480.jpeg   41.12KB   3 downloads

6 - The Blue Train reverses clear of the loop ready to advance through the other (clear) side of the loop
Attached File  65E4263E-1F78-4734-9FAE-0A1BA0C6880A.jpeg   46.2KB   3 downloads

7 - The Blue Train clears the loop and heads off west as the Green Train reverses into the loop to pick up the Green car
Attached File  B182BC69-E4B5-40C7-B230-C63D8BED6743.jpeg   44.64KB   3 downloads

8 - The Green train moves off east on the main-line
Attached File  DF792B07-65B4-431B-86DB-1E1DF9E53C2E.jpeg   43.07KB   3 downloads
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#135 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 06:33 AM

Dawn in west OntarioAttached File  F397C439-BC8E-4C6D-B955-B189620D891F.jpeg   120.8KB   3 downloads

Two trains passing Attached File  13D8031C-DF4D-463B-B798-FCB1CA0E10BC.jpeg   126.58KB   3 downloads
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#136 cpotisch

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 08:13 AM

So are you enjoying the Canadian? How does the food and service compare to that of the Zephyr or Builder?


Routes Traveled: Silver Meteor, Silver Star, CrescentLake Shore LimitedCalifornia Zephyr, Sunset Limited, Texas EagleEthan Allen Express, Empire Service, Maple Leaf, AdirondackAcela Express, Northeast RegionalKeystone Service
 
Wish List: Auto Train, Cardinal, CONO, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Crescent (overnight), Adirondack w/ Great Dome, Downeaster


#137 railiner

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 11:02 AM

Brilliant report!  You have a great gift of observing and writing.  You could probably be a successful travel journalist, if you so had the inclination.

 

One sentiment that you expressed especially hit me:

 

"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."

 

 

If we could all recognize that, the world would indeed be a better place....

 

Right On!   and.....write on!    :) 


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metroblue?

okay on the blue!

#138 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 11:26 AM

So are you enjoying the Canadian? How does the food and service compare to that of the Zephyr or Builder?


The basic service a transport organisation should provide is to safely get you from one place to another, and, within reason, on schedule.

In this matter, Via Rail’s The Canadian is a fail.

The catering is in a different class to that of Amtrak: restaurant quality tableware, catering, and service. In that aspect, it is well ahead.

But catering should be a secondary focus for Via Rail, IMHO.

Via Rail also dumped us into an empty station this morning, with no services available, and only poor wage-slaves as uniformed representatives of the organisation.

I was prepared because I’d been following the various trains on the live trains website. I reckon most of the passengers I spoke with on the journey had not, and were caught completely by surprise.

The country The Canadian goes through is spectacular. But its timekeeping is such that you can’t plan on seeing any particular bit in daylight.

The on-train staff are great, doing much more than their duty-statement and interacting in a very positive manner with the passengers.

I’d be happy to ride it again, with the only codicil being that I need to be aware Via Rail does not care about me after it has reached its destination, despite knowing its schedule cannot be depended on, even within a seven or so hour range.
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#139 mcropod

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Posted 18 May 2018 - 11:27 AM

Brilliant report!  You have a great gift of observing and writing.  You could probably be a successful travel journalist, if you so had the inclination.
 
One sentiment that you expressed especially hit me:
 
"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."
 
 
If we could all recognize that, the world would indeed be a better place....
 
Right On!   and.....write on!    :) 


You are very kind - thankyou indeed for your comments.
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#140 mcropod

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Posted 19 May 2018 - 07:40 AM

My photo of the river at Winnipeg I thought I would miss, as I was in the diner at the start of a meal-time. However, the train stopped on it for around an hour after leaving the station, 300m earlier. I was delighted to be able to capture the scene from my room after the meal service had concluded.

Dont you agree it was worth the delay?Attached File  26AD328F-9CD5-4B0C-98F1-14A83912E99B.jpeg   68.44KB   5 downloads
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