Toronto to Vancouver, B.C.

Saturday, 20 October, 23:15, Car 120, Cabin D aboard Train 1, the Canadian

After breakfast, we moved to the Parlor Car to watch our train snake around curves, rivers, and lake shores. Our passage was through scrub pines and tamarack, muskeg bogs and small lakes: The Canadian Shield. I kept an eye out for good photographs and hoped for a moose or a bear. Instead, I saw several abandoned cars, many beaver lodges, rock outcroppings, and water. In late afternoon, while we were talking with the Activities Coordinator, Michael, he spotted for us three, possibly four, moose.

Supper offered a choice of a veal cutlet, pickerel (walleye), or a vegetarian dish. Pat took the second, I the third option, nutritious but boring. We ate with a woman from Jamaica, on her way to visit family in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. We talked about food!

Monday, 22 October, 11:15. Still Car 120-D. Winnipeg Union Station

This is a four hour stop for service and a crew change. Our Winnipeg crew, with us since our origination in Toronto, has left and a Vancouver-based crew has come on. A few minutes ago, a handsome young gentleman in a blue suit knocked on our door and identified himself as Patrick, our car attendant.

We pulled into the station while we were eating breakfast at a table with a Swiss multi-lingual man who boarded the train at Montreal. He is an experienced world traveler who loves riding trains and photographing scenery.

We finished breakfast, tidied up our room, and set off to explore territory we saw several years ago when we did the Winnipeg Capital Cities volkswalk. Walking out the back door of the station, we crossed past a construction zone to the river path and walked to The Forks (confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers). Continuing to the stairs back of the Legislative Building, we exited to follow the road past the multi-colored polar bears to Broadway and our return to Union Station.

The major addition to the station area is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a Stephen Harper legacy, currently receiving bad press for contracting with some T-shirt manufacturers who turned out to be not so much into human rights. It is in an architectural style similar to that of the Experience Music Project at the Seattle Center. To this point, its major contribution is to block the view of the beautiful pedestrian suspension bridge, the Esplanade Riel.

Now, at 19:45 MDT we have finished supper. We ate with a couple from the north of England with whom we earlier spoke after the afternoon concert in the Parlor Car. Patrick and K. are recently retired–she as a primary teacher and he a meat inspector. After 30 years of vacations taken during a thirty day period beginning in June to match her teaching schedule, they are traveling in the fall, taking a Boston to Boston train trip on Amtrak and VIA Rail. They are delightfully pleasant, down to earth people, who haven’t traveled daringly, but who enjoy travel.

The music this afternoon was by an accomplished violinist who has experience playing a variety of venues including solo performances on VIA Rail along with a life-long accordion player of Scandinavian heritage, and a Russian-English percussionist (spoons, rattles, etc.). They played and sang Irish and fiddle tunes, polkas, and “oldies,” and are scheduled to play additional music sets in the other dome cars. The mixed audience was happy with the music and the cookies, muffins, and ice water. The violinist is from Jasper and the others from a small town in Alberta. The musicians get meals, a free ride, and a place to sleep.

To break the tediousness of the trip and accommodate those not wanting to miss anything of the ride through the Rockies, we begin tomorrow with a Continental Breakfast and then break into a Brunch available to 11:30.

Tuesday, 23 October, 20:20, Train 1, The Canadian, Cabin 120-D

Awake at 06:00 and having my day’s clothing ready, I was at the light breakfast room at 07:30 for coffee, muffin, apple, and banana. I sat at a table to eat, scan the Toronto Globe, and wait for Pat.

It seemed to me that both coming into and leaving Edmonton station, we were lost in the largest rail yard in existence. We moved through freight cars loaded with potash, coal, oil (tar sands?), container cargo, and other tankers. Tracks paralleled tracks that paralleled tracks, as far as we could see.

Finally on our way to Jasper, Pat showered, we ate, and found seats in the next door dome car.

As we gain elevation, the temperatures drop. Small ponds are frozen, and then larger and larger ponds are ice-covered and snow blankets the ground.

Winter has arrived and makes its presence felt. A walk back to our room shows snow drifting into the between car vestibules. The limbs and boughs of the evergreens hold accumulations of light snowflakes. And the sky is snow.

Stepping off the train in Jasper, a cold wind slaps our faces. Scheduled only for a half hour stop, our restart is delayed. The water inlet for our car is frozen and needs to be thawed to restock necessary water.

From Jasper, the route descended below the snow line as we passed Moose Lake, Pyramid Falls, and other landmarks announced on the PA system. In spite of the clouds and unpromising conditions, Mt. Robson unveiled most of its magnificent self for those ready with their cameras. I didn’t fight the crowd at the windows and we contended ourselves remembering the magnificent clear view and photos of the mountain from our earlier jasper visit via The Skeena.

While we were in the midst of the beautiful winter, we were given a musical score by our violinist, now a solo classical performer left from yesterday’s trio. It was a delightful fit.

We signed up for the first supper seating, gathering at 17:00. Pat had a tuna steak and I a rice stuffed Portabello Mushroom with a tomato salsa. Each was deliciously tasty. We left while Patrick made up our beds, going to the Parlor Car at the rear of the train. Pat read, I finished three puzzles from the Edmonton paper, and we ignored the other conversations.

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