Running after the Train

Trip Start May 09, 2009
Trip End May 23, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Via Rail is now officially my favorite way to travel.  The comfort of it, the community feel, the scenic views and the food make traveling across the country a completely different experience.  The last nine hours have been very eventful.  I have run after my train, eaten an excellent dinner and picked up a temporary travel companion.  But let me start at the beginning.  Earlier today I was talking about the tree planters but there are more than just those young people.  They have started to gather at the observation deck.  So up I went to get a feel for the people who are traveling on the train.  I meet four tree planters, a couple of people my age who were traveling to other cities along the rail to find work and then I met my temporary travel companion.  This quick companionship is what makes VIA travel across the rail so appealing.  Everyone is open to sit down and talk with you.  About your lives, about the trip and about whatever comes up in conversation. The girl I met was a CTV producer so of course we started to talk about journalism.  I was fortunate to be able to apply for what's called the Travel Media discount.  This pass means that whenever I am on the train all the staff know who I am and make sure to accommodate every reasonable request I have.  Now as a CTV producer, also enjoying her time traveling across the rail she could have easily applied for the same discount, but she didn't know about it.  VIA Rail is a great service especially across the West and she is busily blogging like me and taking photos of everyone she comes in contact with.  Her name is Beth Macdonnell and she is part of the reason I had to run after my train in a small town called Hornepayne.  Although it is very comfortable on board the train there are times where the train stops to let passengers get off and stretch their legs.  For us it was at the town of Hornepayne, population 1200 who's pride and joy is their still operating lumber mill.  Now Beth and I were exploring the main street which most of which was closed down when we realized we were getting dangerously close to the departure time.  So around the largest building in town we went and as we turned the corner I thought I saw the train move from where it was parked.  I thought my eyes were paying tricks on me but sure enough as I got closer I realized that in fact the train was moving away.  I bolted after it along the rail with Beth trailing behind as she didn't exactly dress for a race along the tracks.  A person in town who saw us running after the train yelled to us, "If you don't catch it come back here."  Got to love small town hospitality.  So finally rounding the bend in the rail line I realized the train had stopped and the staff were still milling around the train platform.  So on we got.  It turned out the train moved forward a couple of dozen yards because it needed to circulate the water.  But either way it was quite a scare. 

 So Beth and I as she joking referred to it had our bonding experience.  Now she is apparently getting off and on at the next couple of stops I am staying at so we will see if we reconnect along the way.   Now our situation on the train is very unique.  The train is full.  The sleeper cars are full.  The coach cars are full there is not a real seat in the house so there is about 30 staff on board taking care of us.  Now also on board is what is called students.  First time VIA workers are taking their maiden voyage across the West.  I am hopefully going to interview one of them to get a feel of their experience as a VIA Rail worker. 

The last thing I have to mention is dinner.  Now many people say they prefer to travel across Canada on
the plane for the speed of travel and you get a decent meal.  But when it comes to food VIA Rail wins hands down.  Instead of warmed trays of food, they have full course meals prepared in the kitchen by chefs who are on staff.  If you have a week I would really recommend traveling on the Canadian for the food alone.  The dining car is very decorative, the servers are professional and very fast and the food is delicious and fresh out of the kitchen.  I had better service on the train then I have had at some fancy restaurants across Canada.  Now although I wrote in an earlier blog today that the food was expensive it turns out it is not a bad price considering the amount of food you get serviced.  I was fortunate to make reservations for dinner in the dining car.  I came in and I was immediately seated with a daughter, father couple from the United Kingdom.  There we talked about Canada, international affairs and our individual work while we were served professionally by a very friendly staff.   I ordered the prime rib of beef, medium rare, delicious, I got the soup of the day before which was perfect, the roasted red pepper with a side of whole wheat bread.  With the prime rib of beef I had rosemary roasted baby gourmet potatoes with fresh seasonal vegetables.  I have to say all the ingredients were fresh and the couple I was with agreed saying their steak at home couldn't do the prime rib justice.  At the end we got a crème brule cheese cake.  I am still so full.  We had full dining room sittings, alcohol was offered with the meal and the best part of all, the absolute best part was the view as we ate.  The scenery was constantly changing and was an absolutely beautiful backdrop to the evening. 
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virtualvivian on

close call...
Wow - great job travelling across Canada for under $1000! And glad to hear VIA was your 'favourite' way to travel :-)

ike bennett on

Ha Ha if you don't catch the train "come back here" I almost died laughing when I read that quote in the review. Great story. One day I'd like to visit Hornpayne.

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