Facebook Page

First Trip Across Canada or How I Drank My Way Across Canada

by Chris Guenzler

After my first train trip across the United States on Amtrak, my mind headed north across the border to Canada. Why not go from Vancouver to Halifax and return, making a cross Canadian journey. It would take me to parts of that country that I have never been to plus let me find out what people think about Quebec's idea of leaving Canada. Being that there was no 800 number for Via Rail of Canada the operator of passenger trains in Canada, I went to Pacific Travel Services and over the course of three weeks they booked me on my Canadian dream journey in sleeping cars, the only way to take such a trip. I called Amtrak to get me to and from Canada before going to the Automobile Club of Southern California to get my hotel rooms. The months passed by quickly and my departure day finally arrived.

San Diegan/Desert Wind 36 6/23/1991

I boarded the San Diegan for Los Angeles so I could have my choice of seats instead of fighting for one at Fullerton. It was summer time and our weather had been extremely warm so I was glad to be heading to the far north. Being on the Desert Wind is a route I know like the back of my hand. It ran on time and was a nice relaxing trip with a very mellow crowd going to Las Vegas. Leaving Sin City, the train settled into its night time routine and after a good night's sleep, I arrived at Salt Lake City at 5:30 A.M. my destination.

Salt Lake City 6/24/1991

I detrained and walked to find someplace to get some breakfast. I returned to the depot and waited for a decent hour to arrive to call Ralph Bowman, the former coach, teacher and good friend of mine from MacArthur who had just retired to Salt Lake City. Ralph came down and picked me up then proceeded to show me Salt Lake City along with some of the places he grew up with the stories that went along with them. We went to one of his clubs to have lunch and some drinks before we went to a second club for more drinks. He then showed me where he lived and allowed me to shower before dropping me off in the late afternoon because he had a prior social engagement, I had to wait at the ex DRGW depot until 9:00 P.M. So before sunset I went outside and had a few drinks from my supplies I had brought. At nine, I was taken by bus to Ogden where I would get on the Pioneer for Seattle. We arrived early which allowed me time to look at the railroad museum at Ogden Union Station.

The Pioneer # 25 6/24/1991

I boarded the train and off we went into the night. I decided to stay awake until Pocatello so I would not miss seeing where my brother Bruce used to work. I got off in Pocatello as we had arrived early for a quick look around the depot before returning to the train for a nice long rest.

6/25/91 I woke west of Nampa, Idaho before crossing the Snake River three times into Oregon and crossing the Blue Mountains. We arrived at Pendleton, OR early so everyone had twenty minutes to get off of the Pioneer and stretch their legs before a very quick trip down the Columbia River Gorge. We arrived Portland early, crossed the Columbia River into Washington followed by an on time arrival in Seattle. The entire day had been clear and sunny reminding me of my previous trips on the Pioneer. I took the Thruway Bus to Vancouver, BC which dropped me off at the Sandman Inn my hotel for my first night in Canada.

Vancouver 6/26/91

I slept in late, checked out then walked over to the Via Depot to pick up my tickets. It was here I got introduced to GST or the General Service Tax. It's a tax with some strange rules. If you buy unsalted peanuts you do not pay GST but buy salted peanuts as this is a luxury item so you must pay GST. If I purchased my tickets {or picked them up} 24 hours before I leave I would have to pay GST but since I am picking up my tickets under 24 hours I do not pay GST. With tickets now in hand, I walked twelve blocks to a liquor store to purchase a large bottle of Canadian Club for my trip. I went to the I-Max Theater for a couple of movies followed by a round trip on the Skytrain before returning to the Pacific Central Station to await boarding of my first Via Rail of Canada train.

The Canadian VIA 2 6/26/91

Via boarded the sleeping car passengers first and I was on the rear sleeper named the Bayfield Manor which was right in front of the Evangeline Park, the Dome, observation, lounge and sleeping car. My attendant who was about my same age led me to my roomette number two where I found a whole packet of information about the Canadian. I got myself settled in for the three night trip to Toronto as I watched the coach passengers board our eighteen car train. My attendant then suggested I go to the rear Dome to watch the train's departure from Vancouver. The bartender came up into the Dome to take orders and within minutes returned with a tray of drinks in very nice glasses. As the train departed, we all drank a toast to the beginning of a safe and wonderful trip while the train left the station with the lit up I-Max theater shown in the night followed by the skyline of downtown Vancouver. It had to be the most impressive departure that I had started a train trip yet. I took the glass back to the bar and settled my tab. $4.50c for the liquor and a $1c for the mixer. "Do you want to put your tab on a credit card?" the attendant asked. "No!" I said, knowing I had a supply of liquor in my room. I did order one more but this one came in a plastic cup and went up to enjoy the night time ride in the Dome out to Matsqui {Mission City} where I returned to my room for a few nightcaps before I went to bed for my first night ever on Via Rail of Canada.

6/27/1991 The next morning came with the Canadian in the Rocky Mountains and with me going to the dining car for an excellent meal of pancakes and sausage. The car itself is elegant with table clothes, china and a fresh flower decorating the top of the table. The service staff was all smiles and the meal was a great way to start my first full day on the Canadian. The train made a stop at Clearwater, BC which is a farming and agricultural community. The valley then began to narrow and about an hour later, we came to our first scenic highlight of the morning as the train entered Little Hell's Gate with the North Thompson River descending through it in a series of spectacular rapids. The train twisted and turned before it passed through a tunnel. The hillside was rocky dotted with trees and given the name must have been a difficult area to build through. We passed a steep waterfall prior to the next valley opening up and minutes later we arrived at Blue River. I have been spending the morning in the front seat of the Dome in the Evangeline Park and planned on staying there the rest of the day. We passed the high Pyramid Falls on the right, a tad bigger than many of the smaller ones I saw earlier this morning. We were traveling along the Upper Thompson River and the size was rapidly shrinking as we climbed north. The bar Attendant came up to make sure we all saw the Albreda Glacier with its massive snowfields. They are located in the series of mountains called the Premier Range which were living up to their name and the range on the right was the Selwyn Range, another beautiful chain. The train pulled into Valemont, our last stop in BC. From here the Canadian would cross the Continental Divide and into Alberta.

Ahead of the train was Mt Robson, the highest mountain in Canada at 12,972 feet and was absolutely magnificent on the perfectly clear morning. The train headed for it then passed along its southern flank. The train drifted through a snowshed which seemed out of place until I looked back and saw the evidence of avalanches hence it's placement on the railroad. We next came to the connection with the line from Prince George and Prince Rupert. The CN built a second mainline off this route to near Valemont to eliminate a major bottleneck to their freight traffic. We had stayed on the higher and shorter of the two lines. The line to Prince Rupert is the line Via's Skeena takes and I hope to ride that train one day. We passed Moose Lake with no signs of the namesake creatures and minutes later crested Yellowhead Pass and the Continental Divide at 3,718feet, the lowest railroad crossing of it in either Canada or the Continental United States. It is amazing to have a pass this low surrounded by peaks over 10,000 feet. Such a low crossing would seem to be impossible but isn't the impossible what nature does best. We descended the eastern side of Yellowhead Pass with the slide detector fences towards our next stop of Jasper. As we neared town, I went to my room for the camera and my sleeping car attendant came by and said, "Jasper, five minutes. Forty five minute stop. Liquor store two blocks west, one block south!" Thanks for that information so now I knew what to do in the beautiful Canadian town of Jasper, with brilliant views of the Trident and Victoria Cross Ranges.

I walked to the store and then photographed the train in this setting. The town was named for Jasper Hawes, a fur trapper in the early 1800's and is located in the heart of Jasper National Park. Jasper also a division point on the Canadian National and a major servicing stop for the Canadian as the train gets cleaned throughout its interior and all of its windows washed by an automatic washer. On a station track sat the Skeena waiting to depart for Prince Rupert later this afternoon. Jasper was always a favorite Canadian town when I was a kid as the Super Continental seemed to be always here when we visited. I also liked the Canadian National which I would be traveling on all the way to Halifax on their railroad.

The train left going east down the valley of the Athabasca River which we will cross after we run alongside Jasper and Brule Lakes. As we headed out of Jasper National Park, I walked to the diner to have a salmon dinner which was of course excellent. On the Via menu were two items, one of which is always fish which is a popular meal for Canadians. After dinner, I went back to my room and had my rounds of drinks before I went to bed. We were now running late after going into a siding twice during dinner causing us to be an hour fifteen minutes late so I was asleep as the train backed into the Edmonton Station down a branch line into downtown. Edmonton is the home of Hockey's Edmonton Oilers and my favorite player, some guy named Wayne Gretzky. He played there along with Mark Messier, Jari Kuri, Paul Coffey, Glen Anderson, Grant Fuhr and a cast of others. What a great team they were when they all played together. The train left Edmonton and after watching the night time scenery, I called it a night sleeping soundly aboard the eastbound Canadian.

6/28/1991 Awakening the next morning, I found myself rolling east of Saskatoon, SK with me in the province of Saskatchewan for the first time ever and later today I will be in Manitoba also for the first time so today is a day for firsts. Saskatchewan is an agricultural province with a rich mineral called Potash. Its landscape is flat and if you did not read the names on the grain elevators, you might think that you are in Kansas. We passed a couple of large Potash plants then passed Lake Manitou before arriving at Watrous. Leaving town we crossed first Boulder and then Peter Lakes before running through the Touchwood Hills which provided a little diversion to the morning's scenery. Talk about a surprise when out in the middle of nowhere we ran by a horse track and large buildings. The conductor walked by and when he saw my notes asked, "How far are you going?" and got my now usual response of, "Halifax!" He then told me that this part of Saskatchewan was settled by the Ukrainians and to look for a Mosque style church in Hubbard and the domed churches in Goodeve. Upon seeing them, I realized that Canada has a much larger diverse population than I had thought and one of the joys of train traveling is always seeing and learning something new!We arrived in Mellville, SK which was a forty five minute servicing stop for the Canadian with my attendant saying, "Two blocks to the north!" I detrained, walked to the liquor store and returned to photograph the train. Mellville is like so many other places that I visit that first starts out as a name on a timetable, then a map and finally comes to life as I step off of the train to become a lasting part of my memory. On the platform word spreads throughout the train that I am going to Halifax and that I am a major train rider. This led to all sort of questions of where had I been and what have I seen. When it comes to train riding, I always have something to say on that subject. Before leaving town, I decided to take a sponge bath since it had been two days since my last shower. I am riding on the last steam heated consist of Canadian trains sets as VIA had been rebuilding all of them to HEP {head end power}. The HEP Manor sleeper is unlike the one I am riding in had a shower installed where one of the open sections was. Since we do not have that feature on the train, it is a sponge bath for me and I must say I did a really good job as I felt really refreshed. I hope I get a HEP set going home back west but since I am riding a true Canadian train set before the HEP program is complete, I am glad I am doing it the same way as the hundreds of thousand passengers who rode the Canadian before had done.

Heading through the CN yards there is another domed church to the north before we headed back out into the agricultural dominated landscape with me sitting in my room. Another Potash plant came into view before we crossed the Cutarm River on a large trestle. I wondered how it got its name? The nearby Cutarm Creek I learned later got its name from a young Native boy who fell off his horse in the valley and broke his it got the name Cutarm. Would it have been named the Cutfinger if that would have been the case? We passed the largest Potash mine of the day sitting south across the valley before we crossed into Manitoba. Just inside the new province for me, we crossed the Assinibone River. Later we crossed the high bridge over Birdstail Creek and then Minnewashtack Creek on a long 1,500 foot trestle. We are traveling along the edge of a mesa top with the Qu'appelle Valley below.

Our next stop of Rivers, MB is the first of the many wheat farming communities in Manitoba. Departing Rivers we crossed over the Minnedosa River ninety feet over its waters and twenty minutes after meeting a freight train we arrived at Brandon North and the smallest Via station yet. As its name implies, it is a stop several miles north of Brandon which is Manitoba's second largest city. Leaving that brief stop, we were traveling on the flattest landscape of the trip as this section used to be an ancient lake. As we approached Portage La Prairie we crossed the Assinibone River and came to a stop after crossing the Canadian Pacific mainline which used to be the route of the Canadian until the cutbacks of a few years ago.

My attendant came by to announce dinner is served so I headed to the dining car for a late afternoon meal and found myself the only hungry passenger on the whole train. The Steward seats me and then joined me at the table saying that, "No passenger should ever eat alone on his car!" The waiter took my order then returns and sat with me with the conversation being differences in Amtrak and Via dining car service. He returned to the kitchen and brings me my Filet of Sole and a bottle of red wine. I had ordered a glass but this is Canada so they brought me the whole bottle. The chef then joined me at the table and said, "It is rare that I get to sit with a major train rider and talk shop. Oh yes, how is your meal?" In one word I said, "Excellent! This is my very first Filet of Sole." I had a very excellent meal before returning to my room. My attendant came to my room thanking me for letting him serve, gave me directions to the liquor store and a restaurant along the banks of the Red River during my three hour layover in Winnipeg. I thanked him and tipped him twenty dollars for being the second best sleeping car attendant that I had ever had. He and the rest of the on board crew will leave the train in Winnipeg leaving the through passengers with a Toronto based crew. We pulled into Winnipeg on time thanks to the padding in the schedule.

As I detrained at Winnipeg I heard "Chris!" I turned and saw the Alberta wheat farmer I had been talking to earlier in the day. I really liked his hat which had a picture of a cow and a moveable tail. It's called an, "Accurate Alberta Weather Forecast." If its tail is dry-Nice weather. If the tail moves-Windy. If the tail is wet-Rain. If the tail is stiff-Below 0 degree C. If you cannot see it-Snow Storm. I really thought it was a cleaver hat and as we said goodbye to each other, he took his hat off of his head and gave the hat to me. I was truly touched and once more the friendliness of a Canadian person was shown to me. I walking down the tunnel and out into the lobby where there was a model railroad layout operating so I enjoyed the surprise of it for a few minutes. I was in no hurry during my three hour layover in Winnipeg. I exited the station out into the nice warm Manitoba sunshine and followed my sleeping car attendant directions to the letter. I walked down Main Street crossing both the Assinibone and Red Rivers to the liquor store to replenish my stock. I returned towards the station and after crossing the Red River, I stopped at an outdoor bar along the waters of the Red River. I spent the next hour drinking and working on my California suntan under a Winnipeg sun before I walked along the River Walk to the east of the Via station where I discovered a railroad exhibit. With now only forty five minutes to departure, I returned to the train to wait for our early evening departure with the sun still up in the sky even at 8:00 P.M.

The Canadian left Winnipeg on time with me back up in the Dome as the train crossed the Red River before crossing high above the Seine River. I could now understand why the location at the junction of these rivers became the location of a Fort Winnipeg. Looking back at the city skyline, Winnipeg is just a large city that is not too built up. Thinking of its people, I found them as friendly as any other Canadian city that I had visited. I really like the Canadian people I have met so far on this cross Canada journey. The train stopped at Transcona which is a suburban station for Winnipeg. We picked up the speed as we headed east out into the rich farmlands on a route which is perfectly straight. We crossed the Canadian Pacific mainline which was the former route of the Canadian and I wished I had ridden it before they took the train off of it. Looking at my timetable I could see that we had almost crossed all of Manitoba so I figured I would sit up in the Dome for the remaining miles looking for Winnitoba which is just inside the border. I located Ophir as the train passed through it and realized that we were four minutes away from Winnitoba and minutes from Ontario.

The train sped through Winnitoba after which I noticed a marker and I had entered Ontario, a new rail riding province for me until just short of Montreal. I am going to get to experience just how large Ontario is. We also made a major change in scenery at the border as we left the prairies of Manitoba for the rocks and trees of the Canadian Shield which we will travel across for the next twenty six hours. As we entered Ontario the sun had finally set and after a day of riding across the Canadian prairies with me wondering what tomorrow will bring as we travel across the Canadian Shield.

6/29/1991 I woke up the next morning at the servicing stop of Armstrong and checking the mileage the Canadian had traveled 303 miles so far since we entered Ontario last night. I dressed quickly so I could step off the train into the cool morning air of Ontario with sunlight warming my face along with the nice fresh smelling air. Reboarding I was off to the dining car for an excellent breakfast of pancakes, sausage and grapefruit juice. It is surprising how much I enjoy grapefruit juice with breakfast and it is something I wished Amtrak would offer with breakfast on their trains. What a change in scenery from when I ate breakfast yesterday from the miles of open prairies to the rocks, trees and lakes of the Canadian Shield. We headed east through the rocky landscape with me sitting in my room. My new attendant who had gotten on at Winnipeg came by and said, "No matter where you sit on this train today you will see nothing except trees so your room is as good as any place to be sitting! It is too bad that we do not go the CP route anymore, it was so much more scenic." I responded with, "Yes, indeed too bad!" We did cross the Mud River on a sixty foot trestle which momentarily took my mind off of the forest scenery. We made our next stop at the lumbering town of Ferland before crossing Jackfish Creek on a high trestle with a view of the northern end of Lake Nipigon, a lake which is sixty miles long and forty miles across at the extremes. We passed by a fire lookout tower and I had only seen them before on mountain peaks but I had heard of the wildfires which burnt out of control in the Canadian wilderness and mostly caused by lightning strikes. I can see the purpose this tower serves. We stopped at the flag stop of Nakina to detrain some hunters to this sportsman's paradise. The Canadian will stop at anyplace along its route to drop or pick people up at remote locations since there are little or no roads in many parts of the Canadian Shield. The train returned to the forest passing the small lakes along the train's route along with the rocky outcroppings before arriving at Longlac. Just to the west of town was the junction with the CN line that goes down to Thunder Bay. With any rail line which goes off out into the forest I always wonder what is along that route? By now you all know that curiosity has not killed the Chris yet. Leaving Longlac we passed the northern end of Long Lake which is Longlac in French. I am slowly becoming bilingual. The train then returned back to the rocks and forest of the Canadian Shield after passing a large mill on the outskirts of Longlac. I decided at this point of the trip to go back and ride in the Dome to our next division point to get a different view of the shield as we headed east. We passed through Caramat without stopping and then for the first time today, we went into the siding for a westbound freight reversing the trend of the freights taking the sidings for us. Returning to the mainline, we sped east through Hillsport another small town whose main stay is lumbering before continuing east parting the forest until we arrived at our next division point of Hornepayne, a large regional town of over 2,000 people that looked like a normal city with a small railroad yard.

As I detrained we were met by CN personal who informed us that because of a storm as he pointed to the east where in the sky were some very large cumulonimbus clouds were all across the eastern skyline that our train would be held for at least three hours at Hornepayne. We would be turned lose on the town and when it would be ten minutes before we would leave, the engineer would blow the horn for ten times, then nine for nine minutes, eight for eight, etc and to just make sure we were back on the train before we left. Listen for the horn in Hornepayne, I think that would make a good song title. The gentleman named John who was in the room across from me was going to find a liquor store and offered to pick up anything I needed and I gladly accepted his kind offer. This allowed me to do some photography around the yard on this really warm and humid afternoon. There were a couple of CN locomotive types here that I had never seen or knew about before so this stop was truly worthwhile. I then decided to go into the CN offices in search of an employee timetable. The girl at the reception desk sent me upstairs to the district superintendent who listened to my request before producing a set of timetables covering from Toronto to Edmonton. Once more the friendliness of the Canadian railroader showed why I love these people and this country. My time in Hornepayne was so much fun and so memorable for me. I returned to train side to work on my suntan and when John returned we went into our room and had a drink toasting our success at Hornepayne and our Canadian trip. After ten minutes of air filled with the music of the train's horn, we departed Hornepayne to continue our trip across the Canadian Shield. The bedrock of the shield is 500 million to 5 billion years old and covered one half of Canada's total land mass. These are some of the oldest rocks in the world and I got a good lesson in Canadian geology during our delay at Hornepayne from a Canadian geologist during my sun tanning session on the station platform. Being six thirty my body was craving dinner so after checking my two choices in the dining car, I decided to walk forward to the Skyline Dome car to see what was for dinner there. Teriyaki chicken breast with rice sounded good to me so I sat down and ordered it without the rice. The waiter said, "Let me see if we can get some regular potatoes with that?" so he went off to the dining car. He returned and said, "No, luck!" and I said, "That's ok, the chicken will be just fine." and he went back to his duties. When he bought me my meal it had not one piece of chicken but two large breasts. "Just our way to make sure that you don't walk away hungry!" Once more, another Canadian rail employee shined out brightly making for another great Canadian memory. After my excellent dinner, I bought a drink and sat up in the Skyline's Dome for a while. We arrived at Oba, the junction with the Algoma Central another railroad I want to ride someday. After about twenty minutes we crossed Lower Minnipuka and ten minutes later crossed the Fire River. The speed of the train slowed as we reached the destruction area of the "Storm" which is how I will refer to it from here on. My first encounter with the "Storm" was downed trees and railroad line wires. There was a little boy counting the fallen trees and he counted from one to three hundred sixty eight which was the last number he knew. He finally with a sad look on his face almost in tears said, "Mommy, that's as high as I can count can I please stop?" "Ok," she said, "But you could start over again at one if you would like." So he went, "One, two, three, etc" and I returned to the solitude of my room and the last night on the Canadian. I sat back with my feet on the toilet and drank a few nightcaps thinking what a wonderful day I had of Canadian train riding before I pulled the bed down for another night of peaceful sleep on the rails of the Canadian National.

6/30/1991 I woke up to another bright sunny Canadian morning and made the trip to the dining car for my last Canadian breakfast of this train's trip of pancakes, bacon and grapefruit juice. While I was eating the Canadian made its stop at Parry Sound so I had traveled 852 miles in Ontario which is almost the distance across Texas but still had 426 more rail miles until we reached Quebec sometime this afternoon. Ontario is by far the largest state or province that I have crossed by rail in all of my travels. I stopped by a vestibule on the way back to my room, opened the top latch and got a face full of very humid air which made me think of the mechanics of weather and the "Storm." I closed the vestibule back up and returned to the peacefulness of my room. I took another sponge bath and returned to the rear Dome for the rest of the Canadian's trek into Toronto. We are running four hours late which was allowing me to see scenery that we would have passed by in the dark. We are still passing lakes and the first one of the day is a rather large one called Lake Joseph.

The countryside was now rolling hills with tree cleared farms and dairy pastures. We came to our next station stop of Washago having finally left the Canadian Shield behind us followed by the crossing of the Trent-Severn Waterway. This is a system that is over 240 miles long linking Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay on Lake Huron which we crossed before arriving at Orilla. The countryside was becoming more populated as the train was closing in on Toronto, the Canadian's final destination. We ran west of Lake Simcoe and as we came into Barrie one arm of the lake made a nice marina. One thing I had noticed about Ontario was how many lakes are located here and I would make a safe bet in saying that I had never passed this many lakes on a train before this trip. Barrie itself sits on Kemperfelt Bay of Lake Simcoe. The Dome was warming up from the intense sunlight and high humidity that's beginning to take over the interior of the Dome. We made our next to last stop at Newmarket. Leaving town the train was on final approach for Toronto when the city's skyline came into view. We passed a large chemical plant before passing through a maze of railroad junctions prior to passing below the Sky Dome, home of the Toronto Blue Jays and the CN Tower, the world's tallest free standing structure at 1,821 feet high. We pulled into Toronto Union Station four hours late after traveling 2,776 miles from Vancouver as my first Via Rail Canadian train ride was over.

Toronto 6/30/1991

As I detrained I was met by Via Representatives who informed me that since I had missed the La Salle for Montreal by us being four hours late, I would be taking the Meridian instead and to go down into the station to wait for that train to board. The temperature was in the low ninety degree range with the highest humidity that I had ever encountered in all of my travels to date. I was not feeling at all well and was sweating like a pig. I do not think I could live in the deep south of the United States feeling this way. With all of this sweating taking place, I knew I was losing body fluids and needed to replace them very fast. I noticed a store in the station and walked back to the cooler and found two large bottles of Gatorade, the first I drank while standing in the back of the store and the second after I had paid for both of them. It did not take me long to drink both of them and within minutes I felt like my old self. Gatorade is always the best solution for any case like this. I returned to find the line for the train to Montreal when I heard, "Chris!" and from the right line was a group of people I had met on the Canadian asking me to join them. I answered train questions for the next thirty minutes that they threw at me. One lady asked me, "Why a train?" and with that one I came up with the title of my future book. We finally boarded the air condition train which liberated us from the hot sticky air of Toronto, Ontario.

The Meridian VIA 64 6/30/1991

I was aboard the 12:50 departure from Toronto to Montreal giving me a chance to sample one of Via's Corridor Trains. My coach is a LRC, meaning Light, Rapid and Comfortable which had nice clean windows and left right on time. All of us Canadian passengers sat together in the same car and once our tickets were taken we went off in search of the lounge car. We walked through five cars before we encountered a French Canadian attendant who first spoke to us in French which none of us understood and then in very rude sounding English and said, "The only time you are permitted to leave your seats is to get off the train or to go the bathroom, that's it. We serve you at your seat but only if you are nice! So get lost!" I think I just met my first ever rude French Canadian but if I spoke my native language in my country and no one understood me would I be mad? Of course not and I would be pleasant and try to help the person so I led the parade back to our seats where we would try to be nice!

The train was traveling down the multiple track mainline at a very high rate of speed through the eastern side of Toronto where we made our first stop at Guildwood. Leaving the station we passed Frenchman's Bay followed by the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant with Lake Ontario behind it and the US border with Canada out in the middle of the lake. We arrived at our next stop of Oshawa after which we became a limited stop train. We sailed by the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant and it dawns on me for the first time that Canada does use nuclear power. I always had assumed with all of the available water to use for making power that Canada was all hydroelectric. Well we all know what it means to assume. You make an ass out of U {you} and me. The service cart from the rear of the train {the way we did not go} appeared with the attendant, a very nice attractive blonde with big blue eyes and a nice smile. She was passing out complimentary meals which today were roast beef sandwiches, chips and a choice of non alcoholic drinks so I ordered mine with a CC and Seven. As a meal goes, it was no worse than any deli made sandwich but better than the store bought off the shelf.

We sped east through Port Hope then out onto the 1,232 foot Ganaraske River Bridge with a nice harbor below. We flew through Corbourg before we lose the view of Lake Ontario that I had been viewing for the last hour. The countryside we are traveling across is mainly agricultural with dairy farming. We continued our rapid pace east passing through Trenton Jct before crossing the Trent-Severn Canal for the second time today. We are accurately crossing the east end of it which back in the time when it was in use saved having to travel up the Niagara River, the length of Lake Eire, the St Clair River to Lake Huron. The train's speed was outstanding as the CN dispatcher was keeping everything out of our way so we could maintain our schedule. This is high speed corridor Canadian railroading at its best and these LRC cars along with the welded rail gave a really smooth ride. We flew non stop through Belleville where we crossed tracks to run around a freight train and then crossed back over all very smooth. The scenery was now rolling hills as we crossed the Napanee River with the waterfalls just to the south of the bridge. About twenty minutes later we came to a stop at Kingston. The train quickly returned to speed as we sped through Brockville with its junction of the line that goes to Ottawa and then on to Montreal. I once read an article in Railfan and Railroading on Brockville and it came across as a hot spot for rail activities. One of the things I remembered about the article was to beware of the high speed trains that do not stop just like the one I am on. From Brockville east we will follow the St Lawrence River downstream to Montreal. We were headed into a very dark stormy looking sky and I wondered if we had caught up with "The Storm." We zipped through Prescott with the wind really whipping things up outside of the train. I saw the high highway bridge that must led back into the US over the St Lawrence. By the time we reached Cornwall it was pouring down rain and it was so dark that on the highway the cars had their headlights on at 4:30 on a June afternoon. It is just down right dark as it was one of the few times I have experienced such an event but as a geographer I love it. I love it most because I am inside a nice warm and dry train. There is nothing like a train in the rain.

We entered Quebec when a funny thing happened with the train announcements. From Toronto to here they were made in English first then French but from here on they were only made in French. An Attractive lady asked if she could share my seat with me as she had gotten on at Brockville and had been looking for a seat ever since. We got to talking and when she found out that I was going to Halifax she asked to see my left hand. I showed it to her and she said, "Single are you? You better be careful in Halifax because the women there will try anything to escape Nova Scotia. They line up at the train station waiting for the train to arrive waiting for possible victims to trap sexually and you being from California would make you the prime target. You do not want to get married do you?" I respond with, "Not to someone from a place I have never been before!" She said, "Smart lad you are and maybe I can help you!" She slide off her wedding ring and put it on my finger. "Wear it until you return to Montreal and then mail it back to me. Save you it can!" So far here on I am a married man as we talked and got to know each other as the sky was really dark and it was hard to see anything out of the train's window. We arrived at our next stop of Dorval which was the first stop in Quebec. Dorval is suburban stop and located right next to Montreal International Airport. There was an announcement only in French that our next stop was Montreal. The clouds broke momentarily as we slipped under a highway overpass and pulled by the Via coach yards before the clouds rejoined and we were back in darkness. The skyline of Montreal is dark and in French it was announced that two-thirds of Montreal had lost power due to a storm or as I know it, "The Storm!" The railroads signaling was out so we crept along at a slow speed through the late afternoon darkness until we went underground to enter Montreal's Central Station.

Montreal 6/30/1991

I walked up into the main hall of the station and spotted an ATM and decided to get some more Canadian currency. I put my bank card in and got a screen full of French words and under them four little stars. Not knowing French but knowing what the stars meant, I entered my PIN number and the screen changes to choices. Once again not knowing the language but I know that in every ATM I had ever used the bottom choice is the credit card I pushed that button. I chose wisely and next the dollar amounts came up which made this transition easy. The machine gave me my money and I felt very proud pulling this one off. The next guy in line asked me where I was from and when he heard California he told me that it is illegal to have any sign or display in English in Quebec. As I walked away, I thought that in the United States where I live you get a choice of English or Spanish. I can go to Garden Grove and find an ATM that has fourteen languages to choose from but I came all the way to Quebec to find a ATM with only one language French. While Canada hasn't felt like a foreign country to me, Quebec sure has!

I checked to find out about the departure of my train and learned it would not get into the station for forty five minutes after departure because "The Storm" had knocked out all of the power at the yards and the workers were finishing putting our train together by flash lights which was taking a lot longer than normal. I walked over to a deli and got a very good plain roast beef sandwich for dinner. Just as I had returned to the gate where we were boarding, they started allowing sleeping car passengers to board and when I presented my ticket, my attendant who was French actually pronounced my last name Guenzler better than most people do in English. I said, "Si!" and walked down stairs to board my next train the Ocean.

The Ocean VIA 14 6/30/1991

As I viewed the Ocean for the first time, it looked like a baby Canadian. My room was in the same position in the consist as it was on the Canadian. I entered the Chateau Viger and found my roomette number three just as elegant as on the other train but without a train guide. I walked back to the Park Car and up into the Dome where I found a CN Atlantic timetable. I went downstairs and asked the bar attendant whose it is and he said, "You found it, it is yours!" I took my new found prize back to my room before returning to the Park Car to get a drink for departure.

The train left Montreal one hour twenty minutes late. The cause, "The Storm" that has delayed me for the second time on this trip. We pulled out into the darkening evening sky past by the Canadian National yards before crossing the Victoria Bridge over the St Lawrence River providing a great night time view of the Montreal's skyline and the former site of Expo 67 with its Geodic dome lit up in the night's sky on St Helen's Island. With our arrival at St Lambert, I decided to return to my room and spend the rest of the evening in solitude to enjoy a few nightcaps before calling it a night. During my private drinking session the train stopped at Saint-Hyacienthe and Drummondville which by that point, I called it a night and fell asleep in my roomette abroad the Ocean.

7/1/1991 While I slept, the train was affected again by "The Storm" for the third time. We made our way basically across from Quebec City where "The Storm" knocked out the railroad's signaling system which meant we could only travel at ten miles per hour and had to stop at all dark signals and ask for permission to pass each one of them so for four hours we proceeded northeast in this manner. I was totally unaware of any of this until I woke up not knowing where we were. I went up into the Dome and when we came to our next station stop I could read the sign with us stopped in Amqui, QC. Looking at my timetable and talking with the conductor we were now running five hours late. The good news about being late this time I will get to see some of the scenery that we will normally pass through of a night. Today I will see eastern Quebec, all the way across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Halifax in daylight so it is going to be an exciting day in these two new provinces that I had never been to.

Leaving Amqui, we crossed the Amqui River and a few minutes later passed Lac-au-Saumon, the first lake of this new morning before arriving at Causapscal, QC. Outside of town, I spotted a covered bridge, the first of three that we passed in this forest. We came to our last stop in Quebec at Matapedia. The town is a major junction for two reasons. First the CN line up to Gaspe leaves the mainline here and is the route of the Chaluar which I hope to ride one day. The other junction is of the Matapedia and Restigouche Rivers into Chaluer Bay, the body of water that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. We crossed the Restigouche River as we left Matapedia and entered New Brunswick my next new province to travel through. We passed through a tunnel. Something that surprised me and not what I expected to find in New Brunswick. We arrived at Campbellton where the train was serviced and off to the left is the high bridge that crosses Chaluer Bay to reach the Gaspe Peninsula. From here the brief trip along the shoreline was interesting as I always find marine environments that way. As we continued to the northeast, the Gaspe Peninsula increases its distance from us as Chaluer Bay becomes larger and out in the bay there are many islands of various sizes. We cut inland and soon arrived at Bathurst where I decided to go back to my room and put my legs up. I thought about how far I had traveled across Canada and the miles I still had to go today. We crossed the Nepisiqut River which flows into the bay with the same name. The landscape was heavily forested all the way to Newcastle. I got a great view of the town which the name reminds me of Newcastle, England where the Nice with Keith Emerson wrote the Five Bridges Suite. As we arrived at the Via station, I could not get that song out of my head. "Five bridges across the tide, ......," kept going around and around in my mind.

We left town and later crossed two rivers, the Miramaichi and Southwest Miramichi before we entered a siding for a freight train. After the freight passed, we pulled into Rogersville before we continued our forest trek to our next stop at Moncton, NB, our next servicing stop for this trip. This stop allowed me the time to photograph the train and to buy a newspaper which had a headline of "Earthquake Strikes Los Angeles!" The article said a 7.5 quake hit but nothing about where or what time. I am on the other side of the continent, but I am thinking about home so I will call home to Santa Ana after I arrive at Halifax. Leaving Moncton, the trees had given way to fields with dairy cows and sheep. My sleeping car attendant came by to tell me that since we were running four hours late Via is offering a free meal in the dining car. I walked forward for my first trip in the dining car on this train and had a lunch of North Atlantic Cod with steamed potatoes which passed the time until our next stop of Sackville. Between here and our next stop, we crossed some wet low lands before entering Nova Scotia with our crossing of the Misssaquash River into my final province of the trip and the last of the new Canadian ones on this cross Canada journey.

We came to our first Nova Scotia stop of Amhearst and I walked forward to the lounge for the coach passengers and had a CC and Seven. I enjoyed my drink until we reached Springhill Junction, NS where I returned to the Park Car for another drink. Upon finishing it, I started walking down the hall along the car's wall under the Dome when I noticed a car was closing in on the train on a road I thought crossed the tracks. The road got closer with the driver speeding up. Now I knew he was trying to beat the train across the crossing, when all of a sudden, the train went into full emergency braking and I went flying down the hallway through the air like Superman. Luckily, I managed to get my arms outstretched because I flew right into the wall where the hall bends before rolling backwards stopping even with the entrance with the bar as the train came to a hard stop. The bartender who had been thrown over the bar came over to me to make sure I was ok. "All I saw was you flying through the air and then I heard a loud bang then I went flying up and over!" I responded, "I am alright. I always wanted to fly but I knew I would hate the landings!" He said, "Let Via buy you a drink, ok?" I said, "Yes, but let's go the vestibule first to see if we had hit anything!" We went to the front of the car and looked down both sides of the train. We did not nail the car so I remained grade crossing accident free. I took the bartender up on his offer and received two more CC and Sevens. I returned to the Dome for the remainder to Halifax following my imbibing. We crossed the Folley River eighty four feet above the water another surprise of this trip before our second to last stop of the trip of Turo, NS.

Turo is located on the tip of Cobequid Bay which is the upper reaches of the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tidal range in the world. I learned about the bay in my geography degree. The train returned to the rolling landscape as we passed Shubencadie Grand Lake with its nice waterfront housing. As we close in on Halifax, we passed the Bedford Basin which has all of the harbor side actives. On the far end of the basin is the Suspension bridge to Dartmouth. The train cuts through the hills before running along Halifax Harbor with its docking facilities and pulling into the station past the line of stored RDC's and coming to a stop. Thus ended my eastbound cross Canada trip at the end of the rails at the Halifax Station. I had come all the way across the entire North American Continent from Pacific to Atlantic Ocean finishing one of my goals and dreams. Now I would rest a few days before I returned west.

Halifax 7/1/1991

I detrained off of the Ocean wearing my wedding ring and walked down the station platform to the door of the depot where I found a line of women that I had been forewarned about. I was getting some really serious looks especially with my California tan and curly hair which stood out among the crowd. As I walked up, I flashed my wedding ring and said, "I am sorry!" with a smile and as I walked into the station I heard a bunch of "Ohs!" I wondered if these women found me attractive or were just desperate enough to use me as part of their escape from Nova Scotia! I checked into the Hotel Nova Scotia which is adjacent to the train station for my two night's stay. The room included my first mini bar and a great view overlooking the train station, Halifax harbor and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. I called home to Santa Ana to find out about the earthquake which was located in Landers, CA near Joshua Tree National Park no place near Los Angeles, in fact my brother Duane said it was just a rocking motion that caused no damage. We both laughed at how newspapers could lead one to a conclusion that had nothing to do with reality. I decided to go to bed in a non movable bed for a well deserved restful night of sleep.

7/2/1991 The next morning I arose and had a good breakfast before I hiked to the Citadel which was a good walk. The Citadel is a fort that was built on the top of a hill affording a great view of the harbor and surrounding lands. As I stood and looked out at the view, my mind kept returning to the Jethro Tull song, "Rocks on the Road" and how much train travel has in common with that song. It is plumbing lyrics for example, "Tired plumbing wakes me in the morning. Shower runs hot, runs cold playing with me," {Ian Anderson} always makes or breaks my day. Walking back to the hotel, I noticed all of the shops were closed before I read a notice that stated, "Closed Canada Day Holiday" which just happened to be his day. I stopped to get some lunch before walking back to the hotel the long way via the train platforms allowing me to view the RDC's in storage. Before the Via cutbacks they ran all over New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but today they rest awaiting an uncertain future. I returned to my room for an episode of the Guiding Light the only soap opera that I watch before I headed down to the platforms to watch the Ocean leave for Montreal. As it pulled out it seemed funny to see my sleeping car leave without me. It was like watching a dear friend leave with the feeling of sadness in my heart. I returned to the station's lobby. The women were beginning to line up for the arrival of today's Via Atlantic from Montreal with me still getting looks but I still had my ring on so I know I am safe. Taking a good look at those women, a few were quite attractive but I did not need a wife at this point of my life. I attended the hotel's High Tea which was quite an experience before going to the hotel's dining room to have my first ever full Lobster dinner. I walked out full and satisfied after eating a huge Lobster. I returned to my room, watched a very tardy Atlantic arrive before I spent my final night in Halifax with the television and the mini bar.

7/3/91 I slept late the next morning before having a nice quiet breakfast and taking a nice morning walk on an overcast morning. I caught another episode of Guiding Light before I checked out, got an envelope to mail back the wedding ring with a stamp on it and paid for my mini bar madness. Waiting in the station's lobby, I thought about the trip coming here, all of the people I met and all of the things I had seen. I thought about the Quebec leaving Canada issue and remembered what people had said to me about this subject. Here are what a few of the people said. The people in British Columbia feel that they are across the mountains and a long way from Ottawa and feel closer to the northwest US than to the rest of Canada. If Quebec goes, fine maybe the rest of Canada would pay more attention to BC. The prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba feel there is no border with the United States. We farm, they farm. Same economies, same language, same religion and same culture. "We do not have anything in common with Quebec so let them go," said one Alberta wheat farmer. Ontario, "We could be our own country if they go. We have everything that they have but more," from a dentist in Toronto. We all know what Quebec wants although it was fifty/fifty between staying in Canada and leaving Canada from the people I talked to there. The Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is where you found people scared on the subject. "Keep Canada together" was said by many and I could see their point. If Quebec leaves Canada, they would be cut off from the rest of the country and being economically poor they do not see much of a future in Canada if the breakup happens, "Would Maine be willing to expand to take us over?" seemed to be the question everyone wanted the answer to. Remember these views were just from a few of the great many Canadian people and these discussions helped pass the time on my eastbound transcontinental Canadian trip along "The Storm." What would be awaiting me as I headed back west?

The Atlantic Via 11 7/3/1991

Via had two routes that ran between Montreal and Halifax, the Ocean which I took eastbound is the all Canadian route that rides up and over Maine and the Atlantic which cuts directly across upper Maine and is an international train. Amtrak does not serve Maine so this is my chance to ride a train in that state. While this route did survive the Via cutbacks of a few years ago, there is serious talk of the Canadian Pacific selling off this route and that would end passenger service over it, so I am getting my chance to ride a route that may not exist in a few years and I am excited about my journey ahead.

The Atlantic's consist is almost a carbon copy of the Ocean and was still steam heated. I boarded my sleeper Chateau Dollard and after my ticket was taken, I went back to the Park Car to have my farewell to Halifax drink as the Atlantic departed from the station to start its journey to Montreal. The route is the same as the Ocean's back to Moncton so I took the next four hours to explore the train and to meet my fellow travelers. When they learned that I had traveled all the way across Canada by train, they had question after question about what their country is really like and I fielded all of their questions with very detailed answers. The conversations then turned to train travel in the USA and they we all happy to have an Amtrak expert on board to provide the answers to all of their questions. With all of the good conversations and passing scenery, it seemed like we had arrived in Moncton in no time and I detrained at this servicing stop.

It is another beautiful warm New Brunswick afternoon as I enjoyed photographing the train from both ends. Upon the "All Aboard", I headed to the dining car and had a meal of Atlantic Coast Salmon while the train passed through the countryside of dairies, farms and forests. Just as my fish arrived, we crossed the Petitcodiac River and by the time we had arrived at Sussex, NB I was paying for another wonderful Via Rail meal. I went back to the Park Car and decided to ride the Dome for the rest of the evening before I would turn in for bed. The train departed Sussex and traveled through more forests with some interesting homes within the trees. We followed the twisting course of the Kennebecasis River and passed another covered bridge with two churches in the view. This river flowed into the bay with the river's name and some very nice looking homes along its shores. The train passed through Rothesay before arriving at the very modern looking station of Saint John, NB.

Departing St John, the train crossed the St John River and underneath the bridge and something strange was happening. There were rapids with the water following up the river called Reversing Falls. This I learned is because the high tide that occurs heading up the Bay of Fundy creates a higher than normal water level than on the river thus we had rapids going up the river. That means that the only time the boats can pass under the river is between the tidal flows. There is a lot of boat activity during those non tidal periods during the day or night. At low tide the water flows down the rapids out to the bay. This was a very interesting place and sometime I would like to return here to enjoy this natural feature.

The train ran along the edge of St John River's Grand Bay, past the Moosehead Beer Brewery before the train climbed towards the setting sun. I sat in the front seat of the Dome watching the train run into the first Canadian sunset of the trip since I am on a westbound trip you are always chasing the sun. With the sun set, I returned to my room for a round of nightcaps while the train stopped in Fredericton Jct and McAdam, which was our last stop in New Brunswick. I love to sit in the darkness of my room so I can see out into the night. We crossed into the United States and I was now aboard a train in the state of Maine and a Via Rail train at that. Once we left the border, I walked to the vestibule and noticed a plastic clip that the Canadian Custom people had put on the door so they know no one had entered or exited the train during its passage across Maine. Through passengers are then left alone as the train crossed Maine and only those passengers boarding or detraining in Maine were checked by US Custom officials riding the train. I went back to my room and turned in for the night sleeping mostly in the state of Maine and never seeing the United States as we passed through its northeast tip. Most importantly, I never saw any of Maine in daylight.

7/4/1991 The Fourth of July in the United States found me awakening to the farmlands of Quebec in Canada and I just moved the pillow so I could sit up since I am in a very lazy mood this morning. We arrived at St Hyacinthe, QC and looking in my Via timetable I could see that we were running an hour late thus making for some good news as I was spending less time in French speaking Montreal. My mind shifted over to my layover in Toronto and started to think of ways to spend my evening there in the busy metropolis. By the time I was up and dressed, the train had arrived at St Lambert. We crossed the Victoria Bridge over the St Lawrence River before we backed into Central Station ending my journey in the Atlantic and the Maritime provinces.

Montreal-revisited 7/4/1991

My first concern was to get some breakfast so I went to McDonald's looking to get hot cakes and sausage. I looked up at the menu and it was entirely in French. Now I knew what milk was but did not have a clue of what hot cakes and sausage was. I was being watched by a little girl behind the counter who motioned me to come to her. When I arrived at the counter she whispered very silently, "I can get fired for speaking English but what do you want?" I whispered back, "Hot cakes, sausage and milk," just as the manager came towards us. I just smiled and two minutes later out came a tray with my breakfast on it. I mouthed, "Thanks!" to her and she gave me a big smile then went back about her duties. Following breakfast, I returned to my friendly French only ATM and spent some time looking around a book store before picking up copies of Railfan and Railroading as well as the Hockey News. I mailed the wedding ring back to my lady benefactor with a long letter of thanks and what I had seen. I found the gate for the 12:15 PM departure of the Meridian for Toronto before sitting down to read the Hockey News before they let us board the train.

The Meridian Via 61 7/4/1991

I sat on the opposite side of the train heading towards Toronto to gain a different perspective of the route and countryside I travelled through. I found a Toronto newspaper on the seat next to me and when I got to the sport's page, I got an idea. The Blue Jays were playing the Twins at 7:30 at the Sky Dome and since it was within walking distance of Union Station if I could get a ticket that is how I would spend my Toronto evening. The train left Montreal on time so I got caught up reading the news, the Hockey News and then Railfan with an occasional glance out of the window. We made our suburban stop of Dorval before making our high speed run to Kingston. The service cart made its rounds with another roast beef sandwich along with a mix drink. The ride in these LRC cars was surprisingly smooth at the track speed of ninety five miles an hour. In no time we were making our stop at Kingston where half the passengers detrained to be replaced by the new arriving passengers. I put on my headphones listening to Jethro Tull's Catfish Rising tape while the train sped down Via's corridor to Toronto. We ran nonstop to Oshawa where a group from Montreal detrained. The service cart made two more rounds between Kingston and Guildwood before we made an on time arrival at Toronto Union Station.

Toronto-the encore 7/4/1991

I went into the station, stored my bags in a locker before taking the CN Tower walk from the station over the tracks to the base of the CN Tower and the ticket office for the Sky Dome. I asked for a single seat ticket and got one along the third base line behind the dugout on the lower level. I walked around the outside of the Sky Dome past the hotel built into it and then all the rest of the way around it. The doors finally opened and I entered the Sky Dome.

I walked inside and found my seat when I noticed an almost gear like connection in the floor behind my seat. I investigated it and I believed that was how the seats were moved from a baseball setup to a football arrangement. I then heard, "Hello, what are you looking at so intensely?" from a man in a uniform who just happened to be the assistant director of operations of the Sky Dome. We talked for a few minutes about the stadium and my cross Canada journey then he asked if I would like an unofficial tour of the Sky Dome with me giving an answer of yes. He took me first down on the field so I could get the visiting team's perspective which I must say was incredible. We walked around the edge of the entire field before returning to the stands where we went upstairs to the control room for closing the dome's roof before ending up in the Hard Rock Cafe where he bought me a drink. He escorted me back to my seat where I thanked him and he wished me a safe and wonderful trip on the rest of my rail adventure.

I watched the game between the hometown Blue Jays and the visiting Minnesota Twins not caring who won or lost, so I finally enjoyed a baseball game for just the pure fun of it all. They sang both national anthems and I must say I like singing "O Canada" a whole lot better than our "Star Spangled Banner" because "O Canada" is so much easier to sing. It was baseball just like in the USA except that they do not sing, "Take me out to the ball game." That was not Canadian enough for them. Instead, they sing "The Blue Jay Song," with thirty women dressed up in tight fitting baseball uniforms who gets everyone up and dancing to "The Blue Jay Song!" It was a wonderful experience and something every baseball fan should enjoy at least once. I left in the 8th inning with the Twins ahead by two runs. With a train to catch, I gave myself an hour to get back to the station and retrieve my bags from the locker. That whole process took only fifteen minutes so being a sleeping car passenger I got to wait in the Via First Class Lounge and enjoy a soft drink before we boarded the Canadian twenty minutes later for the return trip to Vancouver.

The Canadian Via 1 7/4/1991

I found my room in the Chateau Riguad although this time I am in the third car from the rear on this twenty one car train and I received my wish, an all electric set of equipment complete with having a shower in the car that I was riding in. I felt lucky and blessed to be having this equipment set going west instead of what I had traveling eastbound. Four nights going west with a shower every morning nothing could be finer but I still had over three thousand miles to go to Vancouver. The Canadian left Toronto on time but on a different route than the one I had traveled east into Toronto on. I was in the Park car when we left for my departure from Toronto drink before taking a can of mixer back to my room in order to fix my nightcaps. The train headed east from Toronto Union Station on the same route I had arrived from Montreal before it turned north followed by heading west to McMillian yard where we backed onto the Newmarket subdivision at Synder before we were in the right direction to head west to Newmarket and points west. Once we were moving forward, I decided to call it a night and fall fast asleep heading northwest into the night.

7/5/1991 Waking up the next morning just as the Canadian made its stop at Sudbury Jct, ON where I checked to see if the shower was free and took a stand up shower just like the kind I take at home and it was wonderful. I always had said that plumbing determines how my day starts and this day had started perfectly. I put on a fresh set of clothes and was ready for the servicing stop at Capreol. I detrained to find a Canadian National steam locomotive on display, a 4-8-4 6077. I took pictures of it and both ends of the Canadian while the train was being serviced. As I walked back to my car, I kept hearing the words, "Thunder Bay" being said by the Via servicing people. The only Thunder Bay I knew of was on the old Canadian Pacific route that this train used to travel on before the Via cutbacks, so I began to wonder if we were going to be rerouted. I returned to my room to look at my CN timetable and yes, CN does have a line from Longlac Jct to Thunder Bay. I went back outside and a car man walked up so I asked, "What is with all the talk of Thunder Bay?" He looked surprised but then said," Oh, how did you find out about it?" I said, "What happened to the CN line?" He said, "CN piled up a freight train outside of Sioux Lookout where it ran into a mud slide so your train will follow its regular route to Longlac then be rerouted to Winnipeg. You should feel very lucky to be going that way as that branch line is really scenic, but do not tell anyone that I told you, ok?" I said, "Sure! We never had a conversation, in fact I talked with no Via personal in Capreol." He said, "Thanks," and I asked. "Are you talking to me, sir?" We both broke out in laughter before he went back to work. I am going to be riding part of the Canadian's original route, plus a CN branch line to boot. I felt really excited, extremely lucky and eternally blessed.

Leaving Capreol in a very good and excited mood, I realized that we would be passing through more of the scenery that we had passed through during the night on my eastbound trip. The landscape changed over the next few miles from the gentle rolling hills to the very rugged and rock cropping scenery of the Canadian Shield. We have entered the pine forest with many other types of trees thrown in. Almost every low spot on the shield contains one of the over half a million lakes to be found over its broad expanse. I went to the dining car and ordered side items of bacon, toast and grapefruit juice paying only $3.50 Canadian Dollars. I had a very leisurely breakfast just watching the Ontario scenery pass outside the window. We made a brief stop at Laforest, a fitting name since its located in a forest and I returned to the Park Car's Dome for a morning of riding. Twelve minutes later we stopped at a place called Key's Cap to unload passengers and a canoe for an outdoor adventure. Like on the BC Rail, Via will drop you off and pick you up anyplace in the wilderness along their routes. Once everything was unloaded the train sped off not stopping at any of the timetable locations so we skipped McKee's Camp and Felix before stopping at Westree. West of there, we crossed the Muskegama River and a long trestle with the aspen trees beginning to make an appearance.

The next large lake I saw was Minisinkwa Lake where we crossed the river with that same name west of Gogma. Just to the west of there, we crossed the first paved highway since Capreol which runs the hundred miles from Sudbury to Timmins before we crossed the Macaming River and returning to the forest and rocks of the Canadian Shield. As we sped west, I went downstairs to have my first ever Moosehead beer and sat in the observation area in a rear facing seat in the bullet end of the car watching the miles fade into the forest. We did not stop at Foleyet or Elsas but I did enjoy the view of Lake Kapuskasing. We rolled west continuing through the forest before crossing the Fire River. Ten minutes later, we stopped right where the tracks crossed the Lower Minnipuka Lake to detrain another party with canoes. For the next half hour we sped through the downed trees the "The Storm" had destroyed right before our eastbound trip through here. It looked like either wind shear or a severe down drift but from the nature of the mass destruction I would rule out a tornado. The train arrived at Oba, the junction with the Algoma Central with no sign of their trains. We made a rather quick dash to Hornepayne after crossing the Kabinakagami and Skekak Rivers before we arrived in town forty minutes early giving me a full hour in town. I went to the liquor store to pick up enough supplies to get me to Vancouver before I leisurely shot pictures of trains and equipment around the yard. Once more Hornepayne was a nice experience. When I returned to the train, our new crew officially announced the detour plans and explained our route to Winnipeg which I already knew.

While we were still in Hornepayne, I poured myself a drink and pulled out the CN Prairie Region timetable I had gotten on my eastbound trip. I looked at the place names on the Kinghorn Subdivision and noticed that the top speed on this branch line was thirty five miles per hour and its length was 195.5 miles long so it should take us six and a half hours to traverse it's route. Being it was 4:30 in the afternoon, it should take us a little under two hours to reach Longlac with Thunder Bay being reached sometime after midnight. With the late sunset of early July, we should see quite a bit of the branch line in some kind of light. Leaving Hornepayne, I was sitting in the front seat of the Dome for the trip through Hillsport and Caramat at a rather fast pace before we arrived at Longlac making our passenger stop and transferring anyone going west on the CN line to a bus before pulling down to the junction with the Kinghorn Sub. The Canadian stopped at the junction as a pilot engineer climbed into the engine and a pilot conductor boarded the front coach since our crew had never operated over this line before. We pulled onto the Kinghorn Subdivision starting a journey of a reroute that was not even in my wildest dreams when I had planned this trip. I am going to get to see where this line goes after all, like I said I wondered where it went on that eastbound trip.

We started off our detour journey with Long Lake off to the left side of the train and quickly left the rural Long Lac to return to the forest. To get better pictures and so that people will believe me that I was in fact detoured, I decided to ride in a rear facing seat for better photo opportunities. The first place in the timetable that is listed was Octopus. I wondered what a sea creature's name is doing in the middle of North America? I watched the mileposts go by and we came to a station sign that read "CN Octopus" in the middle of the forest.

No roads, no buildings or sign of humans, just the sign naming the place as Octopus so I clicked off a picture of this unique location. We passed along the shoreline of Long Lake before continuing down a perfectly straight piece of track. It is just the line poles, ballast and rails cutting through the forest. High clouds had been floating over and were rapidly cutting down the available light for photography. We came to our first siding and I found the sign at the middle point called Geraldton, again with no signs of humanity except for the railroad. Something that I had been wondering about began to take place. We started to see all sorts of wildlife on and along the tracks. We first spotted some elk and moose along the tracks then scared a flock of geese that were on the track. Further on near Keemle we saw two bears hurrying off into the forest. We later came to a stream where the beavers were busy at work and saw other types of wildlife as we continued our journey down this line. If I was filming a documentary of Ontario wildlife today's trip would have been the perfect opportunity to make one. The only way I could figure that all these animals were here is that they are used to the times the freight trains come by on this line and then we show up totally unexpected and we got a bonanza of wildlife.

A passenger saw my CN timetable and he had a map of Ontario trying to figure out where we were. He looked at my timetable while I looked at the map and can not find any of the railroad places on it. While we were looking at them, we crossed a paved highway and figured out by its location on the map that it had to be Canadian Highway 11. We came into more rugged countryside as the train came to Kinghorn which was just another place in the middle of nowhere which this subdivision was named for is not even on the map. With all the usable light gone for photography, I headed to the dining car for a late meal. I had my usual two choices of meat or fish so tonight I went with the chicken breast, small potatoes and a glass of white wine. It was my only meal with a Toronto based crew who would get off tomorrow in Winnipeg and they provided another excellent Via dining car experience. By the time I finished, the Canadian was heading towards Thunder Bay under the cover of night. I returned to my room, for a few rounds of nightcaps before falling to sleep to the sound of the wheels clicking on the jointed rails.

7/6/1991 The next morning I awoke to the sound of the Canadian rolling on the smooth welded rails and immediately realized that we were riding on the rails of the Canadian Pacific. I opened my window shade to a bright July morning. The first order of the day was the shower, where I washed my hair and changed into some nice fresh clothes. Since I was on the original route of the Canadian in an original Canadian train set, I decided to have a full Canadian breakfast. I ordered pancakes, bacon, sausage, toast along with grapefruit juice and enjoyed this full meal as the train passed through but did not stop at Ignace, ON. I returned to my rear facing seat in the Park Car as we sped down the well maintained double track mainline of the CP Rail. Off to the right hand side about ten minutes later is Pinafore Lake and at Raleigh we crossed the Little Wabigoon River here before crossing it again about twelve minutes later. The terrain was extremely rocky and jagged. As the train passed through Dinorwac, I saw a lake to the south of the train which curved to the west. According to the conductor, this was Wabigoon Lake which made a turn to the west and we would follow it until it ends at Barrit Bay which has a lot of tree covered islands in its waters. Just past Dryden, we crossed the Wabigoon River, the main river of its system heading for its headwaters. It felt funny as if I had been transported back in time, riding the Canadian on the rails of the Canadian Pacific as it was meant to be across southwestern Ontario. I am seeing what thousands of passengers before me had seen. In reality it is 1992 and Via trains have not run this way since the Via cutbacks when the last Canadians left both Toronto and Vancouver on January 14,1990, so I guess I am living a piece of history with the return of the Canadian to these historic rails of the first line across Canada. I am riding on a natural high feeling like I never have before.

We crossed the Eagle River before coming to Vermillion Bay of Eagle Lake. The train passed the smaller Edison, Stewart, Clare and Trout Lakes over the next hour as the train sped west down the CP Rail mainline. The forest is a combination of pine and birch trees with homes interspersed throughout. We pulled into Kenora for a crew change and were surprised to find TV cameras. I went to the vestibule and heard one reporter referring to us as the, "Ghost of the true Canadian!" The station area was full of people who I guessed just wanted to see a passenger train in town since there has not been one here since the Via cutbacks. As we pulled out, everyone was waving wearing friendly smiles. Kenora seems to be a friendly town and a place I would like to come back to someday under normal circumstances. Leaving Kenora, we crossed the Winnipeg River and then had the Lake of the Woods in view on the south side of the train. The lake is huge and stretches down into Minnesota in the United States with the border out in the middle of the lake. In fact there is a bump in the US/Canada border northward which was caused by the Red River Indians Reservation located on the west shore of the lake electing to be in the United States and not Canada because they felt the Americans treated them better. Their reservation is in the northern most point in the continental United States. We passed through a tunnel as the tracks separated and further west the eastbound track plunged into a tunnel where we did not. I did not expect to see any tunnels on this route but I was proven wrong. We passed several smaller lakes near Ingolf as we passed our first eastbound freight of the day. We went past a sign that indicated the Ontario/Manitoba border and with that, the Canadian had finally left Ontario.

We left the Canadian Shield of rocks, trees and lakes and entered a low marshy countryside before returning to the prairies crossing the Bog River {a fitting name for this stream} at Whitemouth where I saw my first of the many grain elevators that I would see today in Manitoba. We crossed the Whitemouth River with the train heading north-northwest and ran this direction across the flat surface until Molson where we turned to a southeast direction and I had one of that kind of a beer. We crossed high over the Canadian National tracks then sped through the towns of Lydiatt, Cloverleaf, Hazelridge and Oakbank. The train crossed over the Red River Floodway before going through Pine Jct and returning to the Canadian National which took us down a branch line to our regular route at Beach Jct before we headed into Winnipeg on the normal Canadian route. This ended a once in a lifetime detour over a scenic CN branch line and the Canadian Pacific mainline. We arrived in Winnipeg for a shorter two hour stop and I stayed on the train electing to take a nap after one of my best train riding experiences of my life.

With our servicing stop completed, new crew on board, train cleaned and my nap done, we departed Winnipeg on time mostly thanks to the higher speed running of the CP line. We were actually on the old Canadian route because the Canadian used the CN trackage out to Portage before the cutbacks. The train was headed directly into the afternoon sun so I returned to my favorite rear facing seat to watch the miles fade into the rolling landscape. We got to Rivers with the landscape beginning to develop bluffs on the north side of the train with the streams flowing off to the south. We rode the north rim of the Qu' Appelle Valley which as prairies go is far more scenic than the rest of it. We crossed some of these streams on high bridges which I wrote about on the eastbound trip. The train crossed the Assinibone River before crossing into Saskatchewan where hunger took over this passenger. I went to the dining car and this night on the menu they had steak, baked potatoes, corn and a dinner roll along with a bottle of wine. I enjoyed my meal as the train passed the Potash mines and sailed over the Cut Arm Creek bridge. It was another excellent Via Rail meal. I returned to my room for an after dinner drink before our arrival at Mellville and the servicing stop where I enjoyed a nice evening walk.

I returned aboard, put on my headphones, fixed a few nightcaps then fell asleep as the train traveled across Saskatchewan.

7/7/1991 I woke up the next morning west of Edmonton, Alberta and took a nice relaxing warm shower followed by a trip to the dining car for an order of sides: bacon, toast and grapefruit juice. When I was done with breakfast, I went back to the Dome to enjoy the morning ride towards the Canadian Rockies. We passed Wabamun Lake on the south side of the train followed by the smaller Isle Lake further up the tracks. We passed through Entwistle before crossing the Pembina River. After passing through Evansburg, we ran along Chip Lake then crossed over Lobstick River, Wolf Creek and the McLeod River all on impressive bridges before the train came to a stop at Edson. We curved over Sundance Creek then climbed a short divide to get our first look at the Canadian Rockies. As the train continued to climb, the view of the mountains got better and better. We entered the valley of the Athabasca River and came to our next station stop of Hinton. After Entrance we crossed the Athabasca River then ran along Brute Lake with the Basche Range to the north and the Miette Range to the south. The lake ends and we followed the river to where it ran out of Jasper Lake. We followed the lake to its headwaters in the U-shaped glaciated valley then along the Athabasca River into Jasper with its train yard and our next servicing stop. I went to the store, photographed the train and watched the train get a bath and all of its windows washed by a portable window washing machine during the stop of over an hour. It was a beautiful cloudy cool July afternoon in a town surrounded by magnificent mountains as the train departed Jasper to head for British Columbia.

The train headed for Yellowhead Pass running along the Miette River which we will follow in between the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies across the lowest pass of them all. We passed along the shore of Yellowhead Lake and the sky had been invaded by clouds which have in turn blocked out the views of the peaks of these beautiful mountains. We crested the summit of Yellowhead Pass then followed the Fraser River, the same river we will follow in the wee hours of the morning to get us down to Vancouver but the Fraser takes the long way via Prince George where it rejoins our route at Lytton, BC. We followed the Fraser River from Moose Lake to Red Pass where the line to Prince George takes off and there was a freight train waiting for us which took the lower grade line from near Jackman to get here. We crossed the Fraser River in order to keep our elevation above the descending valley below. We passed through a tunnel then crossed Glacier and Snowside Creeks before plunging into another tunnel. I felt lucky to have seen Mt Robson going eastbound as today it was almost completely hidden by layers of clouds.

We made the turn to the south where the Premier Range came into view but only the base of the range could be seen. Near Jackman, the low grade line rejoined the CN mainline as the train continued in the Canadian Rockies to our next stop at Valemont. After about twenty more minutes of travel, the clouds lifted with the Albreda Glacier coming into view. I started to feel hungry, so I first went to the dining car to see what was on the menu there and then checked the Skyline Coffee Shop to see what was for dinner there. They had the Teriyaki Chicken Breast and I repeated my eastbound meal in Ontario. It was another winning Via Rail meal. After dinner, I sat up in the Dome above the coffee shop and ordered my last drink from Via of this trip from the attendant below. The train stopped at Blue River and I enjoyed the last of the daylight as the clouds had taken over the sky and so I took a few minutes to reflect on this entire Canadian cross country round trip. It was my last night on the Canadian so as I traveled through the canyons and forest, I think back to all of the fine people I met and the incredible scenery which I had seen. When darkness took complete hold of the night, I walked out of the Skyline Car with a nice warm happy feeling that I had really accomplished something special plus lived a little bit of history. I returned to my roomette for my last rounds of nightcaps on my last night abroad westbound Via train number one. I fell asleep and dreamed my night away.

7/8/1991 The next morning, I awoke and took a nice warm shower before returning to the Dome for the final miles into Vancouver. The Canadian stopped at Port Coquitlam, our final stop before Vancouver. Within the hour we would be at the end of my trans Canadian rail journey. As we closed in on our destination, I got a strong feeling that I did not want this journey to end. When something is good in life you want to cherish it until the last final second. As the Vancouver skyline came into view my train pulled onto the wye to turn the train so it would be facing east thus I got the reverse view of what I had when we left Vancouver. The train backed up slowly until it finally stopped and with that my cross Canada train journey was officially over on time. I took my time packing up and was the last passenger off of the train. I stepped off and stopped to look at the magnificent train. I walked to the station gate, stopped and looked back for my last time at my friend and got a big smile on my face. I turned and walked through the station and out onto the streets of Vancouver.

The Trip Home 7/8/1991 I walked back to the Sandman Inn and got a day room to rest for a few hours and to take a nice hot bath. I took the Amtrak Thruway Bus back to Seattle and managed to get a room at the Travelodge even with the Toronto Blue Jays in town for a series against the Seattle Mariners at the King Dome.

7/9/1991 I taxied to King Street Station where I boarded the Coast Starlight in coach for the trip to Los Angeles. It was really hard to get use to the Amtrak dining car staff again after being spoiled forever by Via Rail.

7/10/1991 The next morning with the Starlight over an hour late, I got my ticket back from the conductor so I could travel down the San Joaquin Valley to save some time getting home. I got off at Davis, visited with my brother Bruce before boarding the Thruway Bus to Stockton via Sacramento. I took the morning San Joaquin 712 south down the valley to Bakersfield. I took the Thruway Bus from Bakersfield to Los Angeles and was almost home. An on time San Diegan home to Santa Ana. The Canadian Odyssey had ended and I slept in my own bed for the first time in three weeks