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Reclaiming Canada for My Sobriety

by Chris Guenzler

I decided to reclaim Canada for my sobriety in the summer of 1999. I would go back over all the routes I drank on except where the train no longer ran and add as many new routes as I could. Since I had ridden every mile of the Amtrak system, I needed a new goal. I was now going to ride every mile of Via of Canada then set my sights on other passenger routes in Canada. I started planning the trans Canada trip last November by using 3x5 cards putting down the schedules that I wanted to ride on them and arranging them in a long process of trial and error. After many errors, it all came together thanks to an Intercar Bus to Jonquirre. My friend Barry wanted to go but when he saw my final itinerary he thought that it would cost too much in August so he decided to do a slim down version in May when it would be off season. On February 5, 1999 I made my reservation with the North American Rail Pass Desk and that same night I purchased it from Karen in Solana Beach. Unfortunately Solana Beach didn't have any of the Pass Books so Karen called Julie in Oceanside and one was bought out to me when I stopped in Oceanside on San Diegan 589. With all the Amtrak and Via route ticketed, I had to wait for Amtrak to add the Heartland Flyer schedule to Arrow which they did the last week of May so then I had all my Amtrak tickets in hand.

Once I had my North American Rail Pass, I next had to get hotel reservations for all the overnight stops. I went to AAA and we booked everything except Senneterre since it was not in the tour book. When I got home, I did not like the price of the hotel in Chicago and since I had toyed with the idea of staying in Milwaukee so I could ride the Hiawatha Service, I canceled Chicago and booked Milwaukee myself then called Amtrak to get the round trip to Milwaukee added. With that done it was time to get a room in Senneterre so I called the Quebec Tourism Board who sent me an Alibiti regional guide book. I received it in the mail a week later so I called the motel that I wanted to stay at and managed to get someone whose only words of English were "Can I make a reservation for you!" I said yes and he just kept repeating his one line. Trying my best to get him to change his line, I could not so I thanked him and realized I needed someone who could speak French. One morning at work I was talking with Anne Divine and I told her my story of calling Senneterre. She said that she spoke French and offered to call for me. About a week later I went to her 7th period class, used my calling card, got the hotel on the line and she took over speaking a language that I can not manage and was having great success. She got to the room choices and I had a choice of Bad, Good or Very Good. I choose Very Good but was dying to know what a Bad room looked like. With that done, all I had to do was finish the school year out at McFadden, go do Railfair 1999 with the NRHS Convention trips in Sacramento then worked six weeks doing a pair of SH Classes at Santa Ana High School.

The Bakersfield Bus 8/7/1999

It was twelve forty five when that bus finally arrived at Santa Ana. There was a van waiting in case our bus broke down as it had come from Long Beach not San Diego. It was a non sleeping bus trip due to the excitement of the trip. With my headphones on the ride passed very quickly and when I arrived in Bakersfield, it was a nice cold morning making me glad I had bought a jacket. Who else but me would have thought of bringing a jacket to Bakersfield in August.

The San Joaquin 711 8/7/1999

I boarded a California Baggage Car taking the single end seat for the five extra inches of width. I enjoyed the predawn speed of the train after having a Belgium Waffle without any syrup because the Oakland commissary did not bother to put any on the train. Makes me wonder if that would happen on a Via train? I made due though using whipped cream in place of syrup as a way to improvise the meal. North of Fresno I was sleeping until the attendant bell ringing from the bathroom woke me up. After the almost constant ringing, I went down stairs assuming that it was some kids just having fun. Well that was what I get for assuming. It was a lady and she was trapped in the bathroom. I forced the door open to get her out and she told me that she had helped someone get out who was trapped before her. I used the PA to get the conductor to lock off the offending door before any other passengers were detained by it. We all shared a good laugh about it when all was said and done.

The only delay of this first train segment was at Riverbank when the wheel chair lift on the last car had some kind of a problem. It was another nice trip across the Delta and brought back the memories of that NRHS trip to Richmond that I took in June. There is no longer any reason to wish to go over the tracks through Franklin Canyon because I have already done that. We arrived in Martinez on time with the town having an antique street fair which to me is funny as all of this part of Martinez is nothing but antique shops. They had a nice tri tip sirloin stand set up and knowing that this would be better than anything on the Zephyr's lunch menu, I decided to have a sandwich. It was excellent.

The California Zephyr 6 8/7/1999

The CZ arrived in Martinez fifteen minutes late. For the last week I had been tracking the Zephyr. Best trip eighteen minutes late, worst trip six and a half hours late. I wonder where we will end up as I board the train. Causes have been brush fires, CTC out in Nevada and just plain being out of its normal time slot on the railroad. It just shows how much Amtrak is at the mercy of the operating railroads and the forces of nature.

Once on the move the mothballed fleet has grown since my last passage in June. We passed four freights on the way to Sacramento. The CAL P is once again a busy freight railroad. The ex Railfair grounds in old Sac are empty of people and equipment, a major change from the festivities in June. We left Sacramento thirty nine minutes down and were passed by two more freights while we did our station work there. Elvas Tower is still standing and the Swift road railer train is waiting for our passage through this important junction. Even in August, the American River is running full as we crossed over it. Along McCullean Air Force Base we were passed by two more westbound freights. As the Zephyr made its way by the Roseville Yard complex, it dawned on me that this would be my first sober eastbound train trip over Donner Pass. I am so grateful for the freedom I have now instead of being the slave to the bottle. The new JR Davis yard is very impressive. Trains are ready to go in all directions from this important hub of the Union Pacific Railroad.

As the CZ climbed the eastbound tracks, I see horses (I always think of Karen) running away from the tracks. Llamas and ostriches also stand guard. We entered the first of the many tunnels followed quickly by a second. The train gained elevation very quickly giving me a grand view of the Sacramento Valley below. We reached Colfax before crossing the Long Ravine Bridge prior to rounding Cape Horn with that great view of the North Fork of the American River a thousand feet below. At Gold Run we were stopped for thirty minutes by a freight train having to set out a box car with a hot journal. We then headed east to Midas and waited for Amtrak 5 before we threw the hand thrown switch to reverse onto the other track to get by the now very disliked UP9134E, the train which caused all our delays. During all of this I won the trivia game. The question was "What four state capitals are named after Presidents?" The answer is Madison, WI, Lincoln, NE, Jefferson City, MO and Jackson, MS. The American River is now two thousand feet below us. Despite all of the delays, I'm happy and relaxed as the California Zephyr continued to cross historic Donner Pass. My favorite part is from Yuba Gap to Soda Springs especially around Shed Ten.

I received a 5:30 dinner reservation and after the CZ exited the Big Hole (Summit Tunnel) I went to the lounge car to wait for dinner. Donner Lake looked absolutely beautiful in the late afternoon light. For my first dinner of the trip, I had the New York Strip with a Turtle for dessert. We passed the location of the old River Inn where I once stayed as a boy shooting SP trains on my way to Expo 74 in Spokane. We left Reno two hours down and headed for Sparks and the servicing stop for the CZ which allowed time for an early evening walk. The CZ headed away from the last rays of sunlight of my first day and out into the Nevada night. The colors along the Truckee River were beautiful in the last light of that day. I slept soundly all the way to Salt Lake City, UT.

8/8/1999 It was going to be a great day as we did not lose any more time during the night so I had a daylight trip through the Salt Lake and Provo Valleys plus over Soldier Summit on a beautiful clear Sunday morning. Crossing Soldier Summit in daylight is always a joy. I saw what was left from the 1993 Thistle Landslide and the lake that had formed behind it now dry. The CZ ran up the Gilluly Loops, over Soldier Summit down past Castle Rock before it arrived in Helper, UT. Helper still looked like a DRGW town with all the units there in the Rio Grande paint scheme even though the merger took place over ten years ago with the Southern Pacific now Union Pacific. The CZ then ran fast across the Utah desert with the Book Cliff to the north and the wonderful barren views to the south. We crossed the Green River which was the lowest point on today's journey and raced over the divide to Thompson passing two large herds of antelope running away from the train. We descended to Westwater for the run up Ruby Canyon, my favorite canyon on the entire Amtrak system. A group in a raft mooned the train and someone remarked "Moon over Ruby!" Impressive as they were, no one can top the Mugs Away Saloon's "Moon the Amtrak Trains" on the second Saturday in July in Laguna Niguel. I have seen two hundred people bent over cheek to cheek as the San Diegan trains pass by. You will always find me on the train on that day as I reserve mine for private showings. What else will today's 232 mile trek along the Colorado River produce?

We left Grand Junction with what should be the hottest temperature of the whole trip. After the CZ passed through Fruita, the train entered De Beque Canyon with its reservoirs to keep the mighty Colorado River in check. We left Glenwood Springs two and a half hours late and entered the ever breath taking Glenwood Canyon. Right after Dotsero we slowed for a slow order of tie replacement caused by a derailment of a coal train last week. Add in another mooner in Red Rock Canyon and a much more late running westbound CZ at Dell where I was thinking I hope what happened to them does not happen to us. I had a double course for dinner, a Prime Rib to eat and another mooner on the Colorado River while passing through Little Gore Canyon with a turtle for dessert.

I was back in my coach seat for the much more larger and impressive Gore Canyon with its major rapids in its upper end. The CZ got stopped by a red signal at the east end of the canyon and had to wait for a freight train to go into the siding at Gore. Byers Canyon was completely in the shadows giving a very different character to it. Granby came and went before another Trivia game was played. "What was the highest grossing soundtrack of all time?" Answer, Body Guard. At Tabernash we waited for another freight train. We did a double stop at Winter Park/Fraser due to the train's length. To pass the fifteen minutes inside the Moffat Tunnel I did one word fill in puzzle and still had five minutes of darkness to spare. In the twilight the Zephyr made it through Rollins before the darkness took hold. The lights of Boulder were seen from above tunnel six and then those of Denver before tunnel four. A great lightning show took place in the south sky as we rounded the Big Ten Curve. Arriving in Denver, we pulled into the BNSF yard before we reversed into Denver Union Station, two hours forty two minutes late.

I detrained long enough to buy a new cassette player since the new one bought for this trip had already died as well as some post cards which I quickly filled out and mailed. I reboarded and managed to keep the two seats to myself which allowed me to stretch out. On this trip I was listening to Chicago from Chicago Transit Authority to Chicago 17 which has one of my favorite singers Peter Cetera on them plus a few of his solo albums. I have my tapes hidden away better after last summer's give away by the conductor on the Empire Builder. We left Denver the same amount of time late as we were when we had arrived. I went to sleep wondering how much more time would we lose during the night.

8/9/1999 I woke up at six thirty Central Time not knowing where I was and headed to the dining car for pancakes followed by my usual sponge bath and change of clothes. We arrived at Lincoln just as I was finishing up and we left three hours late. Riding east to Ashland, memories of the Milwaukee Road 261 steam trip I took last summer from North Kansas City to Minneapolis came flooding back to my mind. At Omaha, I stepped off for a picture of the train while the train was given its 500 mile inspection. I saw two workers under the rear truck of the 2nd sleeper and then an announcement came over the PA that the brakes on that car had to be replaced. This is a first for me in all my miles of riding but like I always say Every trip is an adventure." I went into the station for a look around. We departed Omaha, three hours and eight minutes.

Within a mile of leaving Omaha we came to a stop by a CN/IC transfer train with Grand Trunk motive power on it. Just shows you where engines can end up at after mergers have taken place. We crossed a very brown and muddy Platte River before crossing the Missouri River and entering Iowa. The CZ crossed Iowa on some of the roughest tracks that I have ever ridden on. We passed fifteen coal trains and lost another hour and thirteen minutes before exiting the state with the train's crossing of the Mississippi River. The Iowa highlight was the crossing of the Des Moines River, the low point was the small corn stalks caused by the drought of 1999.

The CZ glided through the Illinois forest and across the rolling hills before reaching the farmlands and our first Illinois station stop at Galesburg where the passengers for the Texas Eagle would be taken by a bus to Normal to catch their train. Upon departure, it was announced that all Michigan passengers would be bused to their destination and all other connecting passengers are to report to lounge G in Chicago. For myself, I will just catch the last Hiawatha to Milwaukee on train 341. We sped to our next station at Princeton and made a twenty second stop, the quickest on the whole trip so far. While I am thinking of the positive, Mona Lisa' Dining Car Staff did an excellent first rate job and Mr. Long ran the best lounge car ever with all the comic relief, trivia and good service. Mr. Long is a one and only on the entire Amtrak system and to honor him this sentence is reduced from ninety nine dollars to the cost of this book to honor him.

We made our final approach to Chicago through the outbound commuter rush as I listened to Aerosmith's A Little South of Sanity since I am arriving on the south side of Chicago and sometimes people wonder about my sanity with my train riding hobby. Like I tell people, there's never a bad train ride just an adventure to live through. We dropped the mail cars and pulled into Chicago Union Station three hours and five minutes late. I must have heard thirty people say that they would never take the train again. You know that I will.

Chicago 8/9/1999

With thirty-five minutes before Train 341 was due to leave, I ran upstairs to Gold Coast for my traditional Char Dogs before attempting to get my Via tickets. There are times in my life when food comes before trains. It ended up taking too long to print my tickets so the agent says "Come back in the morning and give yourself thirty minutes." I made it aboard Train 341 with three minutes to spare.

Hiawatha Service 341 8/9/1999

I boarded a two car Amtrak train with a locomotive on the point, a cabbage car behind followed by the Wisconsin Southern private train deadheading back to Milwaukee. The train was full and we raced to Milwaukee with me listening to the rest of Aerosmith and eating my Char Dogs. When I was done, I sat back and counted the minutes to my first hotel room of the trip, a hot shower and a nice large bed. We arrived in Milwaukee on time. I made the three blocks walk to the Ramada Inn where I checked in, made a few phone calls and called it a night after having added another Amtrak service to my riding career.

Hiawatha Service 330 - 8/10/1999

I was sound asleep when that alarm went off. A long shower preceded my walk back to the Amtrak Station. A full three car train departed on time for the Windy City and a daylight trip down this corridor. Other than having to dodge a couple of Metra trains, we made it to Chicago early. I walked straight through a sea of commuter madness armed with a newspaper to get my Via tickets. Imelda Sajna solved the problems of last night and in mere minutes I had all my Via tickets for this trip in my hand. I went upstairs to McDonald's for breakfast before I was pre boarded on the International due to my Canadian destination of Toronto.

International 364 8/10/1999

The Superliner train left Chicago on time led by a Via F40PH-2 with a Via attendant in the snack coach (panic box). The train was delayed at Hammond-Whiting by freight train interference and the crew read a letter of Apology by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern who had just acquired this part of Conrail on June 1, 1999 and was experiencing a major growth in traffic because of it. I took a nap through the worst of it and awoke once we were on the future Amtrak high speed Michigan line from Niles to Kalamazoo.

Leaving Battle Creek both the Post Cereal and Kellogg plants were passed with no signs of Tony the Tiger as in a popular TV commercial. We were stopped by track work this time grade crossing replacement at least it was not rails and ties like the last time I came through here westbound. If you like stone stations this route is for you with excellent examples in Niles and Durand. Outside of Flint we passed the large GM plant. It seems the kids in Flint have nothing better to do than throw rocks at the train. I counted twenty five, and graffiti walls. I should have said a few kids as in every town you only see the works of the town's low life not that of the excellent children who live there as well. That goes for every other place in North America if not the whole world. Leaving Flint the first rain of the trip occurred as the Canadian Custom Forms were being handed out to all passengers going to Canada. At Port Huron the Via train crew arrived minus the engineer so we were allowed off the train for the forty minute delay until the rain sent everyone back on the train. We backed onto the mainline before heading through the tunnel and into Canada.

Customs went well with me explaining what a North American Rail Pass is and how much it cost. The agent was impressed with my homemade itinerary. We headed towards Toronto under overcast skies with the ground fog trying to form as we leave Sarnia. I have a seatmate for the first time on the trip, a real nice man going to Kitchner. At MP 12.2 we stopped to let a long CP Rail freight cross our path. By the time we had reached London, we were only a minute late. At London Jct, we switched onto the rails of the Goodrich Exeter Railroad who operates this line to the junction of the Halton Sub at Silver. The last time I rode this line it was still a CN line. Just another spin off of a major carrier of a lightly used freight line. Night took over and at St Marys we sat for ten minutes waiting on departure time. We stopped outside Georgetown to let a freight train by with not a single light anywhere in view just pure darkness outside my window. We took a thirty minute hit and arrived in Toronto that late. I took myself to the ATM for some Canadian funds before taking a taxi to the Executive Motel Inn with a light rail line out in front on King Street.

Via 40 The Capitol 8/11/1999

Following another taxi grab and a MacDonald breakfast at Toronto Union Station, I stood in a line to board my first official Via train of the trip the LRC Train to Ottawa. We left Toronto on time and after our first stop of Guildwood the train flirted with the shoreline of Lake Ontario on a very cloudy morning. At Port Hope the train slowed from its usual 95 mph pace to 30 mph allowing me a good photo of town with the lake in the background. What strikes me is how good my memory is from my drinking days especially on a train. I am just amazed of how much I remember about what is along the line. I started to nod off after the pace of this trip and the last two short nights caught up with me so when the service attendant wheeled her cart down the aisle, I purchased a Coca Cola from her which woke me right up. The train left the lakeshore and headed inland across the fields and through the forest of eastern Ontario with the sun trying to break through the few blue patches in the now opening sky.

At Brockville we leave the CN Kingston Sub and took the ex CP Rail now St. Lawrence and Hudson Railway that will take me to Smith Falls and is my first new mileage of the trip. To my surprise the train maintains its high rate of speed so it was a quick run through the forest to Smith Falls. From here we were back on the CN Smith Falls Subdivision to Federal which Via owns from MP 34.4 to MP 13.0. As the train headed to Ottawa and as I stared at the trees I was thinking "Get used to it Chris, there's so many more miles to pass through them on this trip." My mind then came up with an idea. "Use the West Texas idea, look for the unusual to make the trip more fun." Now that's the plan. The gray skies returned and it got gloomier as we approached Ottawa, the capitol city of Canada. We got back into civilization on the outskirts of the city and for our last six miles there we travelled over CN Beachbury Sub.

Ottawa 8/11/1999

The LRC Train arrived in Ottawa six minutes early which allowed plenty of time before my next train. I bought a post card, had a Burger King lunch before I stored my bags in a storage locker and walked to the mall to buy postage stamps to last for the rest of the trip. I had a nice walk back to the Via Station and wrote Heidi a nice long letter which I planned to mail later on during the trip

Via 34 8/11/1999

I boarded the exact same train set to Montreal that I had rode from Toronto. This way Via does not have to turn train sets in Ottawa. The train left right on time traveling down the CN Alexandria Sub which CN still owns out to MP 72 and Via owns the rest of the way to Coteau Jct. As the train sped through the eastern Ontario countryside, I was handed a Via Rail Canada Summer 1999 On-board Survey of Coach Service. My only question was why does a can of coke cost a dollar on Train 40 and a dollar twenty-five on Train 34? Looks like Via has the same problem that Amtrak has, different prices on different routes.

Near Alexandria the countryside became more rolling in nature before it flattens out again. At Glen Robinson Train 35 is in the siding on its way to Ottawa. Next it is our train's turn to be stopped at Coteau Jct to wait for a CN freight to clear on the CN Kingston Subdivision the same one we left back at Brockville. When we entered that line it ended my new mileage for now. We rode the very eastern end of the Kingston Sub to Dorval before running the final miles on the CN Montreal Sub to Central Station. Prior to the crossing of the Ottawa River the train announcement switched to French first then English as is the custom in Quebec. The train arrived in Montreal with a great view of Mt. Royal and the downtown skyline. We pulled into the station eight minutes early. I went up into the station to a deli for a plain roast beef sandwich and was surprised by the cheese roll which I really liked. I started the boarding line for a train that I wanted to ride for years, the train to Gaspe.

Via 16 The Chaleur 8/11/1999

I first learned of the Chaleur in the Video "Black Diamond to Gaspe" a Revelation Video that made me want to ride the route after seeing it. My walk to my coach was the all time longest about three quarters of a mile all the way out on the platform that extends out into the open so I had the downtown skyline to look at as I waited for departure. The train was so long today that it had to be broken down into three sections. The Chaleur is really the front part of the Ocean for Halifax that is broken off at Matapedia into a separate train for Gaspe. At departure time they put all the sections into one train. Today's combine train is twenty four cars. Leaving Montreal twenty four minutes late we crossed the St Lawrence River and the train did my first triple stop ever at Saint Lambert. This kind of stop would be common the rest of the way to Matapedia tomorrow morning. I rode the Skyline dome in the Chaleur section of the train for an hour until after the lit up view of Quebec City across the St Lawrence. I returned to my ex Richmond Fredrickburg and Potomac coach for the night. One fun thing about Via is the history of the cars one gets to ride in. On Amtrak it was only the baggage cars, low level dinners, a few coaches and the odd 10-6 sleeping cars in the east and the Hi-level coaches on the Oklahoma trains.

8/12/1999 After a night of tossing and turning my usual deep sleep was either spoiled by hotel beds or the rough track despite the fact that Via supplies coach passengers with pillows and blankets on their overnight trains to make the passengers more comfortable. I woke up right when the train was pulling into Matapedia over another CN spin off line the New Brunswick East Coast which operates the line from Riverre-Du-Loop, QC to Catamount, NB. Here in Matapedia the Chaleur is cut off from the Ocean into its own eight car train. This day's Chaleur was F-40PH-2 6400, a baggage car, three sleepers, a diner, a skyline car and two coaches for the trip to Gaspe. We waited for the Ocean to depart before we ventured off onto another set of CN spin off lines, the Chemin De Fur Baie des Chaleur Railway as far as Chandler East then ride the remaining miles to Gaspe over the rails of the Cooperation Du Chemin De Fur De La Gaspesie with all of this being new mileage for me.

It was a rainy morning as the Chaleur started down the Gaspe Peninsula on its eastern side. As the train departed Matapedia, I was in the dining car having breakfast. The line to Halifax crosses the Restigouche River and we followed its west bank until it turns into Chaleur Bay with New Brunswick across the waters. My meal is finished before Nouvelle and I went to the Skyline's dome for most of the rest of the trip. The view of Chaleur Bay is never far away on this route and is very stunning at times. The Chaleur crossed the first of the many high bridges this one over Stewart Brook. The train made its first solo stop at Careleton. The train crossed the Cascapedia River prior to stopping at New Richmond where we met two NBEC Alcos. The tracks make many twists and turns along the train's route and as the train returned to Chaleur Bay the rain stopped. There is a great view of the bay right before Caplan. The Chaleur then runs along the top of the cliff in a beautiful setting. "It does not get any better than this" a regular passenger says.

A view of a small quaint boat harbor is seen next in a nice coastal setting. The next town we passed through was Bonaventure before we crossed the river with the same name. Our next station stop was New Carlisle followed by a waterside view which is breath taking. The train crosses the high Shigiwake Viaduct followed by a great view of Port Daniels as we circled into town. The Chaleur then runs through the only tunnel on the route named the Cap a L' Enfer Tunnel with a length of 630 feet cut through the solid rock of a headland extending into the bay. The Chaleur continued to run along the cliffs with the waters of the bay far below before it crosses a bay with a sheltered harbor located way down below. The train next crossed the Gulley Viaduct which is the highest on the line at 106 feet above the stream.

As the Chaleur approached Chandler, out in the bay stands a Peruvian freighter which became grounded and then split in two back in 1983. I was told an interesting story about it. The harbor master ordered the boat out of the harbor thinking it would damage the other boats during a storm and sent it out of the harbor. The storm then grounded it right in the middle of the harbor. The cost of salvaging the boat was more than the cost of the boat so the owner left it there as a reminder of that harbor master's choice. Rumor is that the residents ran the harbor master right out of town.

As the Chaleur continued down the peninsula it crossed the Grand River and soon Bonaventure Island came into view before the train headed inland to the station at Perce which is outside of town. Perce is the town with the famous off shore rock that can't be seen from the train here. The train's route takes it over a headland that protrudes out into Chaleur Bay. The train next ran over a three mile long causeway with a great view of Perce Rock looking back. One of the best views of Perce Rock is from the station stop at Barachois.

The bay now to the right is Gaspe Bay and the large land mass across it is the Cape Gaspe which makes up the northernmost end of the peninsula. The Chaleur heads inland one last time crossing the L' Anse-a-Brillant Viaduct before it returns to water level running and crossing one last causeway before we arrived in Gaspe forty minutes late.

The Chaleur at Gaspe at rest.

Gaspe 8/12/1999

With a layover of two and a half hours, I walked across the bridge with Sandy from Sydney and had lunch at Tim Hortons. Sandy videotaped the trip up here from Matapedia and has offered me a copy of it. During lunch he recharged his camera's batteries. Lunch was followed by my usual post card shopping and telephone call back home to my mother. The sky had a very threatening look to it of impending rain so we made a run for the train and got back just as the sky let loose with full fury. I was so glad that the crew let me leave my bags on the train during the layover. Proved once again just how friendly Canadian railroaders are.

Via 17 The Chaleur 8/12/1999

We left Gaspe right on time for the return to Montreal and by the first causeway we had escaped the Gaspe storm. We crossed the high trestle which would make a good picture of the train on it if I ever come up here again. Nearing Barachois, one minute I was looking at Perce Rock clearly, I turned to talk with Sandy for a minute and when I looked back it had been swallowed up by a wall of clouds. Crossing the second causeway the wind had whipped up some pretty good size white caps out on the bay. The Gaspe Peninsula is now completely hidden by a wall of clouds with the day now turning very dark again. The Chaleur headed straight into that curtain and that wall of rain. The train plunged through giving the dome's front window a good cleaning. Returning through Perce I could not even see the harbor as the rain was so heavy. It was a good thing that I did all my photography on the northbound trip. "Look at what a difference four hours makes!" I said to my fellow Gaspe day trippers.

If almost on cue, I went to the dining car for dinner and the rain stopped. I had pot roast with my first ever maple cakes for dessert. It was an excellent meal. I returned to the dome for the rest of the trip to Matapedia enjoying the coastal scenery and a sky that looked like a water painting. Maybe someday I will paint again when I get around to it. I met a family from Jasper who are going to a farm outside Brandon North and just happen to be scheduled on the same westbound Canadian when I go through Jasper. Small world is it! We arrived in Matapedia early and when the Ocean arrived we were made into that triple stop twenty five car train.

8/13/1999 I slept soundly through the night and at Mont Joli I got up to use the bathroom and came back to a new seatmate. New rule, "Never go to the bathroom during a station stop while new passengers are boarding." I slept through the reverse move at Charny which is necessary because the tracks through Levis were abandoned from my previous trip on the Ocean. I went to the Skyline's dome for the rest of the run to Montreal with the kids from Jasper joining me. It appeared to be a nice day brewing in Montreal. The train was wyed into the station just as a future train that I would be riding for Jonquirre and Senneterre was leaving town combined. We were split into two sections which caused us to be twenty minutes late. All in all, the Chaleur to Gaspe is one train I would recommend to anyone. With the outstanding Via service and some of Canada's most beautiful scenery, it has all for you on the Chaleur.

Montreal 2 8/13/1999 The Commuter Train Day

After I checked in my bags for the day with Via for two dollars, I ate a McDonald's breakfast before going out to spend the day riding commuter trains, all of which would be new to me. I walked right across the street from Central Station into the ST CUM {Montreal Transit Headquarters} Building and picked up all the timetables that I would need for the three lines I had planned to ride. Trains magazine had reported that the line to Blainville had been closed. The truth was that due to construction and track upgrading it stopped its inbound run at Jean Talon, close to the Parc subway station. That made me really happy as now I would be able to sample all three of Montreal's commuter train routes.

My first stop was Windsor Station where the Canadian Pacific's Canadian once departed from for Vancouver which is right behind the Molson Center where the Montreal Canadians play ice hockey. I had bought a one way ticket to Dorion and walked down the platform to shoot a picture of the low level train. The engineer Peter Smith saw me and asked if I wanted to ride up front in the cab car. He said "All you can see from the windows are trees, up here you can see the world!" I told him that I was from California, about my trip and my train riding experience. We hit it off and instantly became friends. We left on time with Peter pointing out things as we headed west.

I am riding the same route that the Canadian once did leaving Montreal. A Via corridor train passed us then stopped at Dorval where we passed him and then we did six station stops before he passed us for good on his way to Toronto. We crossed off the Island of Montreal to our final stop of Dorion with only a few rush hour trains going further to Rigaud.

As we pulled down into the overnight storage yard to switch ends of the train, Peter asked if I would like to ride up in the engine back to Montreal. We climbed abroad the ST CUM GP-9 for the trip back. He told me about an Amtrak F-40 that they were testing which had air conditioning and that the engine crews fought over it in order to operate it. He told me that they have new power on order and the next time I come here to ride the conductors will no longer be selling tickets as you will get them from a machine. We had a really nice trip back to Windsor Station. Peter gave me three subway tickets and directions on how to use them. We shook hands, he wished me well and a safe trip before I was off on my first Montreal subway ride.

I descended down stairs far deeper than the ones on the Los Angeles Red Line Subway and finally reached the platform. Not seeing a map, I asked a passenger which platform that I should be on for Jean Talon. Thanks to the Internet I know the route that I need to take just not the lines end points. Pointed to the right platform, I found a map and counted my stops to Jean Talon since I knew that all PA announcements would be in French. What sounded more like a jet airplane taking off was the approach of the rubber tired subway train. I boarded and sat in a position to be able to see the onboard map so I could count off the stations and see their names as they were pronounced in French. Everything went smoothly and I even learned the line's end point of my connecting train to Parc. I made a prefect connection and three minutes later I had detrained at Parc. I followed the signs with a picture of an "F" unit on it which led me to my next bi-level commuter train.

I now used my first Montreal commuter train ticketing machine and thanked God that they were just as easy as the Metrolink machines back home. I managed to get a one way ticket to Blainville and minutes later we were off. It was a thirty minute trip that passed backyards and industries, apartments with triple spiral staircases and I was off of the Montreal Island once more. All the stations seemed to be temporary so it will be interesting to see if this service does truly last. Arriving in Blaineville I purchased a ticket back to Parc with the train returning me there in the pouring rain. I made a mad dash back to the subway station dodging raindrops before I took the subway back to Central Station to continue my commuter train adventure

Now a true veteran of the new ticketing machines, I purchased a one way ticket to Deaux Montagnes. I wished that these machines had a round trip feature on them. I went downstairs to board my first totally electric mued train. We left on time and spent the next five minutes in the Mt Royal Tunnel. The Via trains that go to northern Quebec used to be pulled through here by electric box cabs which we retired a few years ago. Now they go the long way around like I would do in five days. We popped out of the tunnel at the Grand Moulin Station which started the afternoon entertainment of people detraining, running and covering themselves up as the rain poured down on them as they made their mad dashes for their cars. The electric trains move very quickly and quietly as they pass the houses and apartments along the route. I noticed the use of spiral staircases from the second and third stories of these buildings in use here much more than any other place that I have traveled in North America. The rain continued heavier and the commuters played the dashing game with more intensity. Maybe one out of five walked slowly not caring if they got wet. The train crossed off the island for the third time for me on this day before it arrived at Deaux Montagnes. It was now my turn to play the game. I made a mad dash for the station for a picture of CN Boxcab 6710 on display before going into the station to purchase a snack. The train had gone down to the overnight storage area to change ends before it returned to the station to pick me up to go back to Central Station. I picked up a chicken nugget dinner to go, retrieved my luggage from the baggage room and became the sixth person in line to wait for my sober return to Halifax as I sat eating my dinner.

Via 14 The Ocean 8/13/1999

Following watching people who truly needed special assistance and a vast many others who did not as well as others who saw that line moving then joined it were all boarded first. After about ten minutes they allowed the rest of us to board. Another one of my rules is to always be one of the first ten people in line. You can always pass up those people who walk very slowly. Because of the phony pre boarding for this train, I took the last end seat in car 8147, which was an ex New York Central car.

We left Montreal like we did two days ago and did triple stops which made us all that later. The main difference from the other night was tonight I was on the Ocean section of this twenty six car train and it was raining out. We headed off northwest into the storm with me doing some dome riding until darkness took its hold on the outside world. Inside the train they had turned off the lights so people could go to sleep and a group of French Canadian students got very loud and boisterous so much so that I had to ask them to be quiet, suggesting that they return to the lounge car to continue. My fellow passengers thanked me and the leader of the students stopped by to say he was sorry and now knew that anytime the lights were out they would be quiet realizing that meant that people are trying to sleep. If only it could have been that easy on the Zephyr two years ago. At Charny after we did our station work, we backed the 1.7 miles to West Jct and then headed up the CN Diamond Sub to St. Charles then back onto the Montmagny Sub all because the line through Levis that I rode last time on the Ocean was removed. I slept all through this on the Chaleur but tonight I stayed up for it. I went to sleep and during the night the combined train lost even more time.

8/14/1999 I slept soundly all the way to Matapedia where the Chaleur was split off from our Ocean. We were three hours late and I was thinking "Thank God I went to Gaspe on Thursday when I had a chance to enjoy Gaspe not today when it would be get there and turn right around!" I tried the Buffet Breakfast and I must say that it was the worst railroad breakfast of my life. It was cold, soggy and without the proper syrups, etc. I can not believe that this was a Via meal. With just that one meal and talking with other passengers, I decided to avoid the dining car on the Ocean. There are shades of my last trip on the Ocean as we were running three hours late but unlike last time I am sober! It was still raining out and the low clouds hide the Gaspe Peninsula from view. At Campbellton, NB the clouds lifted enough for some pictures of the New Brunswick Eastern and the last bridge that leads to the Gaspe Peninsula. I tired of the Skyline dome view of trees and low clouds so I returned to my seat to read Last Train to Toronto by Terry Pindell. I read steadily to Moncton where I detrained in a heavy rain storm for a picture of the train after which Via cuts off two sleepers to be sent back to Montreal this afternoon adding the beds to that train since they are not needed anymore on this train.

The Ocean crossed the lowlands to Sackville before twisting and turning over the ridge to Turo. If I ever get a chance to do a fall color trip through here, this is the ideal section. By Turo the rain has stopped and the coach empties out. The last hour and a half I spent relaxing and when we reached the Bedford Basin my memory kicked in. It almost seems like only yesterday that I was here. It is a de ja vu feeling more than anything else. Everything is the same except the locomotives and the now ever present graffiti. We arrived in Halifax only an hour twenty minutes late. I have now reclaimed this line and two more provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Halifax 8/14/1999

I stayed above the train station at the Westin Nova Scotian. Same Hotel, different name from the last time I stayed here. Following check in, I went and did my laundry before I went to the Atlantic Super Store for some dinner which I took back to my room to eat. I took an after dinner walk to the Citadel then down to the harbor where there was a festival going on in my honor, not! They was a man playing the bag pipes who reminded me of Woody Lambrith the great Amtrak conductor back home. One man dressed like Fred Flintstone jugged fire and was quite entertaining. I returned to my room to write twenty five post cards and to watch Wayne's World on TV before calling it another sober day and thankful to be that way. Later shades of Boston, the fire bell rang after a chef in the restaurant who was preparing a flaming dish of some kind set off the fire alarm and the hotel's loud speaker announcements. With all this going on I decided to take a hot bath since I was staying in the lap of luxury, so I decided to treat myself that way.

8/15/1999 Sleeping in late until eight thirty, I walked to Tim Hortons for some donuts and to a store for coca cola and cookies for my next trip. It was raining again so it was a good idea that I had packed my umbrella for this trip. I returned to the Westin to buy a Lighthouse of Nova Scotia T-shirt as a souvenir and then went to my room to watch an NFL preview show before doing a quick check out. There was no mini bar madness on this trip and I walked into the Via Station being the person that started the line to board the train.

Via 15 The Ocean 8/15/1999

Watching someone's luggage fall off of the baggage cart is just another reason why I never check my bags. I followed the accident prone cart to car 8116, an ex CP Rail coach. This car features a model of a CN F-unit in the glass separation in the middle of the car while the other side has a model of an Atlantic Coast Line GP-35. The seat behind the glass separation is one of the best coach seats on the train. It was in the middle of the car, a place that you can put your feet up against it and there's no way that someone can recline a seat into your space. That is why I am sitting here. On my last westbound trip from Halifax I did not take the Ocean. Via was still running the Atlantic at that point so I took it through Maine and that was how I got the state of Maine on my rail map.

We left Halifax five minutes late in the August rain and passed the Bedford Basin with the low clouds hanging down at water level. Since there was not anything really to see, I got caught up on my writing. Doing it while I'm living it is such a better method than waiting until I get home. It is funny how all my systems for doing things have gotten better. Examples, I number my pairs of white socks so pairing them together is no longer a problem. My daily system of staying sober is my best. A prayer to God each morning thanking for my sobriety, the number of day it is, the gifts that he gives me, to take away my character defects and to guide me through the day sober. Today is my 1670th day of sobriety and it's a new personal record for me.

We arrived at Turo after meeting the eastbound Ocean. There is nothing like a train ride on a rainy day so while it is lousy for picture taking, I still enjoy the view out the window. I went to the dome for the climb to Folly Lake followed by the twisting descent. I tried the automat food machine in the Skyline car. The lady in front of me tried to get a cheeseburger but got a hot dog instead. She tried the next machine but her chips got stuck so she had the attendant open the machine for her. My turn and no hot dog came out of the machine for me. For the second time in less than three minutes the attendant had to open the machine again. I cooked it in the microwave and I will never complain about another Amtrak's hot dog again. It was barely edible. Later I tried the popcorn with better success. Why have an automat when you have an attendant? While I was enjoying my popcorn, the attendant walks through as an ice cream lady this time. Makes me think of Jethro Tull's "A Passion Play". At Moncton we loaded the front coaches first before picking up the two sleepers that had been set out this morning by the eastbound Ocean to go back live to Montreal with us. It was still raining out while all of this was going on.

West of Pacific Jct., we switched off the CN and onto the New Brunswick and Eastern with the rain stopping and the clouds lifting producing a beautiful water colored sky. It's a perfect name for this sky since clouds are nothing except dust particles and water vapor, with the amount a water vapor in the cloud of determining its color. We passed through miles of forest and you always have the option to look up and when you do unless it was a perfectly clear day, you will be rewarded with some kind of art show.

At Rogersville, Via had a drunken man in my car thrown off of the Ocean. The police had to board to remove him. He was so wasted that he had trouble getting into the police car. As someone said "It is a long walk to Montreal!" Made me think of how many miles that I ridden in that same condition and only got thrown off the train once in New Orleans. Guess I was lucky as I was always quiet as loudness is not one of my character defects. I feel so happy that all my drinking days are behind me with God's help and that I was sober here in New Brunswick to witness the whole event. The sky to the north clears, while the clouds to the west makes the best reddish orange sunset of the trip so far and the end of another great day of train riding. At Campbellton I got a female seatmate who was going to Brockville. We both tossed and turned. When the car got really cold, I woke up and used the bathroom. When I returned I took the Amtrak blanket out of the bag and when used with the Via blanket I became nice and warm before sleeping the night soundly away.

8/16/1999 The next morning dawned perfectly clear and so I went to the dome for the rest of the trip from Charny. A group of Canadian Exchange Students returning from Halifax to their hometowns had every seat taken except the one I took. Via sent a Student Exchange Newspaper up and it was interesting to listen to their stories that went along with each one of them. I also listened to their wide topics of jokes. Some good, some not. One of the boys spotted the flying saucer at one of the parallel freeway exits and no one believed him. I saw it but did not want to spoil their joke on him. At Saint Lambert I returned to my seat to pack up and since we did not have the Chaleur today we pulled straight into Central Station.

Montreal 3 8/16/1999

For my second brief stay in Montreal, I had my usual McDonald's breakfast before taking the electric commuter train back out to Deaux Montagnes where I worked on my sun tan, did some paperwork and just relaxed

What a beautiful August day with bright sunshine, pleasant temperatures and a gentle breeze. Everyone once in a while should stop and enjoy their surroundings. It is such a simple way to enjoy your day and be grateful to where you are on God's great blue planet. I returned all too soon to Montreal and started the line for my next train to Quebec City with new mileage from Charny to Quebec City.

Via 22 8/16/1999

My train to Quebec City was pulled by an LRC locomotive. The train route retraced the Ocean's route to Charny that I have already traveled over four times on this trip but this time all in daylight. After crossing the St Lawrence the ancient volcanic hills come into view to the east. The train speeds across the Yamaska River right after we stopped at St. Hyacienche. Upon leaving Drummondville the St Francis River was next. Outside of the towns there is nothing except farmlands and forest. The next two rivers were the Leonard and Becancour which were crossed at top LRC speed. About thirty minutes later, the train crossed the Henri River and three minutes from Charny the Chaudiere River. At Charny we had fifteen minutes built into the schedule which allowed for a picture of the train.

Upon leaving Charny I was on new trackage as the train made a wonderful bridging of the St. Lawrence River although the view of Quebec City is blocked by the parallel highway bridge. The train stopped in Sainte-Foy before looping around the bluff to the west to approach Quebec City down a valley. Many great views of Quebec City's skyline before we arrived on time at the Gare du Palis, the most unique train station in all of North America.

Quebec City 8/16/1999

I stored my bags and bought my Intercar Bus ticket to Jonquirre before having my first fresh meat sandwich which I downed with a local root beer. I then walked down several streets soaking up the local charm. I visited a hobby shop before going to the mall and a T-shirt shop where I had a Quebec shirt made.

Intercar Bus 8/16/1999

Being the only way that I could make this trip work, I forced myself to take the bus from Quebec City to Jonquirre. While I am not a bus fan and only use them to get to or from trains, I must say that it was a very beautiful trip over QC Highway 175. We crossed over the Laurentian Mountains and passed twenty lakes. The bus did allow me to see more of Quebec than I could see from the train. We passed right in front of my hotel in Avida on the way to Jonquirre, so I had to take a taxi for ten dollars back to it since the hotel's van does not pick up after eight P.M.

Jonquirre 8/16/1999

I checked in at the Holiday Inn. I was resting peacefully in my room. Suddenly the fire alarm went off on the third floor while I was on the fifth floor so I exited down the stairs to the lobby. I spent quite a bit of time in the hotel's lobby while the hotel, the police and the fire department all tried to figure it out. Once they did it was back up the stairs since the elevators were shut off and as I lay in bed I thought about the joys of being a traveler. I had an excellent night's sleep.

Via 600 The Saguenay 8/17/1999

Staying at the Holiday Inn was to my advantage. I rode down to the yard with the train crew who also stayed at the hotel during their layover and then got to ride the extra distance from there to the station in Jonquirre. My train had Via FP-9au 6300 which is my favorite type of engine, a baggage car, with my coach being an ex Southern Railway Car and another coach of Atlantic Coast Line heritage bringing up the markers. At Jonquirre I had the time to write a couple of postcards then walk the two blocks to a mail box finding it all by myself. The train is named for the region of Quebec that it serves. It's another overcast day with more rain expected. After watching the Canadian Weather Channel last night I knew that I would be getting into more wet weather today. It always takes my mind a few seconds to realize that being 26 degrees C is a warm day.

The train left Jonquirre on time and with 24 possible flag stops on today's trip to Montreal, it will be interesting to see how many of them that we make. The Saguenay heads due west slicing through a ridge before the landscape opens up with wheat farming and other agricultural pursuits taking place. At Herberville we boarded eight more passengers to our train. With this being a new route for me, I expected nothing but trees but this section looks more like Kansas and is quite enjoyable for how far north I am. The train runs along the south shore of Lac St Jean one of the largest lakes in all of Quebec but behind a slight ridge. Once you reach the top of the ridge the lake comes into view. Photography is bleak this morning as it was a very dark day out with the pouring rain. I decided to have a cup of tea and I used a brand new 1999 quarter with a train on it to buy it. We curved away from Lac St Jean to our next station stop at Chambord where nineteen more passengers boarded. From Chambord the train's route turns south towards Montreal.

The Saguenay route makes a giant "S" in its attempt to gain elevation with a lumber mill and a lake to the east. The sky had ceased raining and I was back into the forest that I had expected. We stopped at our first flag stop of Lac-Bouchette where we boarded two passengers. The train's route has entered an area with no roads so that's the reason the train still exists as it is an essential service as deemed by the Canadian Government and thus can not be cut like the Alibiti that I will be riding tomorrow. After passing the Lizotte Club the train passed Kiskissink Lake and a few miles further an outstanding beaver dam. Next on the east side of the train was Lac Long with a siding with the same name. At MP 119 I was totally impressed with the size and different kinds of trees that were there. When we reached Brook, I found that the land had been cleared on both sides of the tracks bringing a brief reprise from the continuous forest. We stopped at the Summit Club where we ended our climb from Lac St. Jean and started our southerly descent. We passed Summit Lake before the train suddenly stopped at MP 105.7 to pick up a woman passenger with no signs of where she had come from.

The train came to a stop for eight minutes so I examined the ex CP Rail baggage car while we waited. We passed Lac Edouardo as the rain picked up and then made a brief stop along its shore line to pick up a troop of Boy Scouts. Within a few miles, the Saguenay started to follow the Batiscan River into its canyon with beautiful cliffs and major rapids. As I was enjoying all of this beauty, I met the man who was at Triton who did not come out of the shelter until the last moment so we went by him, crossed a bridge before we backed up to get him. We had a good laugh about it. I went to get a hot dog, small can of Pringles and a coke for lunch from the food service area of the car. The hot dog was excellent and very tasty. My car's interior has been remodeled to resemble an LRC car. I enjoyed the Batiscan River Canyon even with the clouds. It has some of the best scenery of this trip. What is surprising is that with all the rapids on the river there is no one out there enjoying them. This is truly an unknown scenic rail line in North America.

Following the trek through the canyon, we made our next stop at Rivierre-a-Pierra with the lovely service attendant Manon assisting passengers with their luggage to their vehicles. We crossed the Batiscan River on a large bridge before running between the hills to Hervey Jct. At Hervey Jct. we added the Atibiti from Senneterre to our rear plus their F-40PH-2 to the point of our train. I am hoping tomorrow that maybe the F unit will go to Senneterre. I was just out shooting our combined train in the rain when a CN freight train came in from the south and the term junction lived up to its name.

We crossed a landscape of low hills with farming, dairies and forest along with houses scattered throughout. Suddenly out of nowhere CN's Triage Garneau Yard appeared. It was a rather large yard with an engine facility. I would have expected it to have been at Hervey Jct instead of here. The train crossed the St. Maurice River on a rather high trestle over its gorge before we passed the large Grand Mere hydro-electrical plant. Just prior to Shawnigan we passed through a large steel plant that was located on both sides of the tracks. We run through the 610 foot tunnel the only one on today's trip and within a few minutes crossed both the east and west Yamachiche Rivers. The train next bridged the Riviere-du-Loup on a long span before soaring above the Maskinonge River. Dairy cows dot the landscape along with fields of corn with low forested hills also present. At St Justin we took the siding for CN 5748 west. From here to Montreal there is very little land that man has not altered from its natural state.

With the train flying through the last flag stop of the day, we stopped at only five of the twenty four possible stops. We crossed onto the Island of Montreal and made a stop at Pte-Aux-Trembles followed by the one at Ahuntsic where the troop of Boy Scouts who had been riding in the rear car from Lake Eduardo detrained. We crossed over the Blaineville commuter line and at Jct. De L-est we crossed the Deaux Montagnes commuter line. In past years the train would have turned onto that line then coasted through the Mount Royal Tunnel to Central Station. We traveled the long way around Mount Royal through the middle of CN's Triage Taschereau Yard. The Saguenay crossed under the Dorion commuter line and turned east onto CN's Montreal Sub ending my new mileage for the day. We retraced our route from Ottawa into Central Station and arrived back in Montreal only ten minutes late. Special thanks to Manon and Sebastin for an excellent day of train riding.

Montreal 3 8/17/1999

As usual when I am in Montreal I stayed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel which is attached to Central Station. I had received a Via 1 upgrade card from Sebastin who thought that I might like to include the experience for my book. I went to the ticket counter at Central Station and upgraded my ticket to Toronto in two days with the help of Slyue Roy the wonderful ticket agent who helped me. It was a night in the lap of luxury. I watched Martial Arts on CBS before retiring for the night and receiving nine hours of sleep.

8/18/1999 I felt so good the next morning that if I did not have a train to catch that I could have stayed in bed all morning. I forced myself to get up and caught the train at eight thirty for Senneterre and new mileage from Hervey Jct to there.

Via 603 The Alibiti 8/18/1999

I boarded coach 4119, a 1948 ex C&O car and after an on time departure, I noticed the motive power for our train was a pair of FPH40-2s. No F units today so I felt blest that I had the one yesterday. New day, another trip and another rail adventure. The Alibiti rode on the tail end of the Saguenay to Hervey Jct. the same route I rode south yesterday so I just sat back and relaxed. To enjoy the ride I sat on the opposite side. Today's total possible number of flag stops is thirty so we will see how many of them we will make. We made our first at L'Assomption to pick up a lady and two kids. Before leaving Triage Garneau we waited for the CN 5768 east to enter the yard and at Hervey Jct we waited for the CN 5454 east as the train crew picked berries from the track side bushes. They split the train into two sections and we then waited for our departure time and for my new trackage to ride over.

We left Hervey Jct. where my fun would begin with me riding on the rear vestibule platform. We quickly entered a river canyon and made a steady climb northward passing several lakes including Lake Chat.

We climbed high on the valley's south slope and at MP 95 crossed over the Riviere du Milleu Viaduct the highest bridge in eastern Quebec with it being 196.1 feet above the river. It reminded me of the Clio Viaduct in the Feather River Canyon in California. At MP 117 the Alibiti went through a seven hundred foot tunnel. A few minutes later we pulled into La Tugue where we picked up more passengers, their backpacks and a canoe. It is here where our route turns to the west.

As we left La Tugue we passed Lac Tague then climbed a line relocation and through another 769 foot tunnel before passing as seen through the trees the Barrage Buenomont, a large hydroelectric plant. We followed its lake for many miles with it again reminding me of the ex Western Pacific route through the Feather River back in my home state of California. We crossed over the lake on a truss bridge and later in a few miles we crossed the river again on a high bridge where we stopped to let some backpackers off at a very good fishing hole so I was told. We passed several more lakes and stopped at McTavis to drop off and pick up a few more passengers.

The line then runs along a three mile long causeway right down the middle of the elongated lake.

Once back on mother earth about eight minutes later we slowed for the Rapide de Coeurs which is a beautiful set of waterfalls. Further along at Sanmuer we dropped off a family and one of their little girls waved at the train until we were out of sight. The Alibiti then passed through a brunt area caused by a fire about three years ago. No one knows if this one was caused by a lightning strike or man. Either way I saw firsthand how nature begins to bring back the landscape after a destructive fire. Miles later at Hibbard we were lined into the siding around the CN 9469 east. Just before Casey we came to a halt as there was a work train doing some work ahead and we waited for him to finish. I wondered just how much work that crew thought they could get done between the passage of the CN 9469 east and our Via 603. I passed out root beer barrel and cinnamon disks to anyone who wanted one which allowed me to meet some of our passengers. Our engineer for our westbound trip out of Parent and I talked for some great length with him inviting me up for a cab ride when we stopped at Parent.

Following some picture taking at Parent, I was led through the baggage car and the engine compartment to the cab of Via Rail 6422. There is not many differences from the Amtrak units that I've ridden in down in the states so I felt right at home in the fireman seat. The line was straight for most parts and curved to align itself around lakes. In every single low spot there is a lake. The train is named for this region that we have been passing through since La Tugue. The train passed through another fire area this one from four years ago. This area of Quebec is still so wild and with so few roads that once a fire starts it was almost impossible to put it out quickly. The engineer gets his orders from the dispatcher in French which was fascinating to listen to. We passed a track side detector that only gives out its information in French while on other parts of the CN in Quebec the detectors are bilingual. Since this line runs almost dead west I kept on having to adjust the shade to keep a clear view down the tracks ahead. I rode up front until MP 200 so this was my longest Canadian cab ride at eighty one point one miles. I thanked our engineer for the unique experience and returned to my coach. It was a memory that I will never forget. Two road crossings in eighty miles my engineer friends back home may never believe it. The day ends with a beautiful reddish pinkish and orange streaked sunset with darkness coming before we reached Senneterre where we arrived an hour late on a very interesting day of train riding. Total flag stops made were nine of the possible thirty on this day. This was a trip of surprises. I would never have guessed tunnels, high bridges, a causeway, rapids, a cab ride and beautiful scenery when I boarded in Montreal this morning. It is an unknown gem of Canadian passenger train routes.

Senneterre 8/18/1999

Armed with good directions I took the ten minute walk to the Gestian M-O-T-E-L Senabi which was all decked out with neon green lights. Following check in and a lesson on how to use the phone to make a wakeup call I took a most wonderful Quebec shower as all the showers here have the most intense water pressure that you wouldn't believe. It was like standing under a waterfall. It was the best shower that I will ever take. From here on this kind of shower will be known as a waterfall shower. I guess with all the water they have here in Quebec they do not have to worry about wasting it. It is absolutely quiet here so I fell fast asleep.

8/19/1999 I stayed that way until four thirty when the phone alarm went off. I took another waterfall shower and walked under a star filled sky with a temperature of 10 degrees C to a restaurant where I had the largest pancakes that I ever have had. After breakfast, I boarded the train for my last visit to Montreal on this trip.

Via 604 The Alibiti 8/19/1999

I took a four seater in the ex New York Central coach as this is what I call a day of rest as I have now been out over the line and shot enough pictures yesterday. I started off the morning sleeping most of the way back to Parent with that four thirty wakeup call and knowing that I would not get to Toronto until eleven thirty tonight I thought it a good idea to get the additional rest. I slept so well that I was in dreamland when we passed a CN freight. Once awake it was like a painting every time the train past a lake with whatever was on its shore reflected into the water. With all the lakes on this route it was a continuous art show. It was a clear day with just a few bands of high clouds. I stepped off at Parent for a quick picture before sitting back and watching Quebec's scenery fill my window view.

We were running late from that earlier meet with that freight so the train sped by Rapide de Coeurs and did track speed across the causeway. We lined ourselves into the siding at Duplessis and waited for CN 9467 west to pass. I bought a Chemin Forestier map from Patricia our tourist guide which really assisted in writing about this trip and made all these locations more real in Quebec in terms of having a point of reference. Patricia learned her English in Jonquirre. At La Tugue, Patricia leaves the train and is replaced by Guy, another female tourist guide for the reminder of the trip to Montreal. We slowly crossed the high bridge over the Riviere du Milleu so that everyone could enjoy the view before descending down to Hervey Jct. The train from Jonquirre sat on the mainline in front of us so our engine Via 6145 cuts off and pulls beyond the switch. The Saguenay then backs onto our train before the 6145 backs down onto the train to remain the lead engine for the rest of the trip to Montreal.

The reminder of the trip back to Montreal is pleasant and relaxing. Since this is my third trip over this segment I now know where everything is. I played six games of solitaire and won two. I passed some of the time talking with a husband who had boarded at Colva with his wife. He told me about fishing there and why the train is a better choice than driving and after he described the road conditions in the area I would not want to drive there either. They detrained at A'Huntic so I decided to move my bags up to the front of the next car. Guy helped me with that before we discussed Canada's present political situation of provinces wanting separation. She thinks that Canada should stay together and I totally agree. It is one great country that needs to stay a great country. We arrived in Montreal twenty eight minutes late after one of the most relaxing train rides that I have ever had. A special thanks to service manager Stephanie Lauzon who made my two days on the Alibiti most enjoyable.

Via 69 Via 1 Service 8/19/1999

I went in and enjoyed the Via 1 lounge for a few minutes before going down the stairs to my waiting train to be greeted by attendants Allan Farrell and Daniel Bourque. I boarded the Via 4005 which started out its life as a Louisville and Nashville coach. With all the history to these cars I feel like I am making an historical trip. Via converted it into a Club Gallery with fifty six LRC first class seats. Since my seat is at one of the emergency windows, I got briefed on how to use it and then had to demonstrate how to use it in case there was a real emergency.

As Via Train 69 pulled out of Montreal with me all settled in for my trip to Toronto, Allan came by and took my dinner order before returning with his cart with potato chips and drinks from which of course I took a 7-UP. At Dorval a Dorion bound commuter train came by with the Amtrak 318 pushing its train, the same unit that Peter Smith had told me about. The train sped into Ontario with the sky turning into a beautiful sunset. Daniel came next passing out hot towels and when each passenger is done he collects them. It was my first time doing the hot towel thing. It funny how much I remember about the countryside from my last trip across Canada with me reclaiming this route for my sobriety as far as Brockville.

We made our first Ontario stop at Cornwall as the appetizer was served with everyone else having wine and myself enjoying bottled water. Since I am a very finicky eater I settled for the dinner rolls. A few minutes later that was all picked up as the colors of the sky continued to improve. My main course of Tenderloin on a bed of noodles came with me of course only eating the meat which was very good along with another dinner roll. I finished my meal with a cup of tea and a chocolate dessert that wrapped up my first Via 1 meal. With the end of a beautiful sunset, we pulled into Prescott after a freight train cleared. Allen takes my tray and offers me a liqueur to which I reply "I do not drink may I have another tea please?" with one being brought immediately. As the train pulled into Brockville where my reclaiming of the route came to an end, I think of all the places I have been since I was last here with all the people that I have met and everything that I have seen. I feel very lucky at this point with Via 1 service just adding to it.

The rest of the trip is a sprint through the mostly pitch black night with the only lights being the occasional lights of a passing town, a true night train experience. At Kingston we arrived early and had to wait for our departure time. We next stopped at Cobourg, Oshawa and Guildwood before we arrived back into Toronto five minutes early ending my Via 1 experience. I took a taxi back to the Executive Motor Inn with a room for two nights in the other building with the walls shaking every time a streetcar rolled by on King Street. I slept very soundly after such a relaxing day of train riding.

Via 71 The Trillium 8/20/1999

I awoke to another rainy day with my luggage for one day of this trip staying in my motel room. I walked outside, opened my umbrella and with my day bag walked to the streetcar stop. A gentleman explained to me that for two dollars and a transfer that I could get back to Toronto Union Station. Now that beats the cab fare there easily. I jumped onto the heavily loaded streetcar telling the motorman where I was headed who in turn pointed me in the right direction when we got there and I took the subway one stop back to the station. It was so easy to do. I enjoyed my usual Big Mac breakfast before joining the line for Train 71 to Windsor, my last new route of this trip.

I boarded the all LRC consist about a half hour before departure time and took a large south side window seat watching the procession of GO Transit trains into the station before we departed on time. We headed out into a very rainy Ontario morning. Looking up, the top of the CN Tower was obscured by the rain and clouds. The parallel freeway was bumper to bumper as the GO Transit trains flew by towards Toronto Union Station. We made stops at the commuter stations of Oakville and Aldershot passing through the Toronto suburbs until we reached Bayview Jct and the first of my two new mileage segments for today. From Toronto to Bayview I had ridden on Amtrak's Maple Leaf. I would now be riding CN's Dundas Sub to London which would all be new except for the portion from London Jct to London which I had ridden on the International so the next seventy six point seven miles would all be brand new.

Leaving Bayview if you looked back you could see Hamilton through the rain. We left the city landscape behind and headed out into the southern Ontario countryside of low rolling hills. As we closed in on Brantford the rain stopped. Brantford with its unique station is the hometown of the all time hockey great Wayne Gretzky. It was his playing that made me a hockey fan when he was with the Edmonton Oilers and I was in Heaven when he was traded to the LA Kings where I saw him play a few times. He sent a picture to our classroom at McFadden that we put it in our classroom window about people who care for education. When he went to St Louis and New York I still watched him on television when I could. I saw him play at the LA Forum both of his years with the Rangers. If it were not for you Wayne, I would have never taught street hockey at MacArthur Fundamental in Santa Ana and turned all those kids onto hockey. Thank you Wayne for all the great memories. I always wanted to see his hometown and thanks to Via now I had!

The train continued its race across the countryside to our next station stop at Woodstock with its own unique style of station. The low hills are covered with trees and after passing through a very large gravel operation which takes place on both sides of the tracks, we arrived at Ingersoll where they are using a newer station building while the old one rots away. We passed through London Jct. briefly ending my new mileage and with a return to familiar tracks into London fourteen minutes late. While I sat there I looked at my Via timetable and noticed that it took only two and a half hours to get here over the route that I just traveled on versus three and a half hours over the route the International takes. No wonder why Via uses this route for its corridor trains.

Leaving London we headed southwest just like the International does to Komoko before veering of onto the Chatman Sub on what should be my last new mileage of the trip. The landscape is absolutely flat and the sun came out for the rest of the trip to Windsor under a beautiful southern Ontario clear sky. Glencoe is nothing more than a shelter with its original station up on blocks being ready to be moved to a new location. We entered Via owned tracks from MP 63.9 to 99.2 and at Chatman our next stop there was a Norfolk Southern freight waiting for us to clear. The station building was a nice large brick building. Near Tecumseh, Lake St Clair became visible through a single line of houses. The lakeshore scenes were very peaceful until the train reached the industrial landscape near Windsor. We arrived on time right next to the Hiram Walker and Sons and Canadian Club distilleries as the train glided to a stop at the Windsor Via Station.

Windsor 8/20/1999

Detraining at Windsor the air reeks of the smell of Walker's Liquor so much that it was making me sick to my stomach. I never liked the taste of it when I was drinking and now I can't stand its smell. Why could not the Canadian Club plant be leaking as I used to love their product. I bought a post card and then wanted a picture of Detroit and my home country across the Detroit River. I walked for a good mile passing the entire Walker distillery with its foul smell before I found a waterfront park and climbed down to sit on a rock at the water's edge to enjoy a wonderful view. Thoughts came to my mind of home but it will be five more days before I am back in the United States again. That could make a good song title. So close but yet so far. I sat enjoying the clean air, sunshine and wrote my post card. I walked back to the Canadian Club gift shop and asked them to mail it for me with me thinking it was the least that they could do for me after all of their product that I drank. Returning to the train station, that smell is really making me sick again so much that I asked to be pre boarded and my request was granted. As I walked onto the train I thought "Tempt me with all you want Windsor, tempt me with your evil vice, I will not succumb to any or all of your pressure. I am in control, sober and free!" I left Windsor as sober as I arrived. Another victory!

Via 76 - 8/20/1999

I sat on the north side of the train so I would have a great view of Lake St. Clair. Following that I enjoyed a huge cumulonimbus cloud with its accompanying rain shower and lightning show. My seatmate a female teenager is reading one of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mystery books that I had read as a kid growing up. We were already a full train when we arrived at London so I did not know where they were going to put all the new passengers. We had a Key Tour Group who had boarded at Windsor taking up a car and a half of seats. As we headed northeast back into a very dark sky I wondered just where it would start raining again and by Brantford it was raining cats and dogs. It did that all the way back to Toronto where we arrived during the peak of the afternoon commuter rush. We passed five outbound GO Transit trains between Bayview and Toronto. With the completion of the trip, I had now ridden every mile of Via's corridor service and every mile of Via Rail east of Winnipeg. I was totally impressed with the way Via runs their service, with their LRC cars and their operations. Via I give you my highest praise!

Toronto 3 8/20/1999

Upon detraining, I went straight to the Ontario Northland Office which was still opened to get some information about next summer's trip. I picked up some Church's Fried Chicken to go before returning to the subway. I learned how to do it on this end, paid the machine, got a transfer from it and took the subway one stop to King Street. It was pouring down rain when I emerged on the street. My umbrella now decided to have a major problem and would not open. It only happens when you need to use this thing. I waited to board the second of the two streetcars that came along running together and I was off to just past my motel where I made a mad dash to the dryness of my room for the night.

Toronto 8/21/1999

The next morning, a Saturday, I repeated my rail trip back to Union Station on the plan that had worked so well yesterday this time with my luggage on the lightly used early morning transit service. As I detrained at Union Station, I was thinking "I love it when a plan comes together!" After another Big Mac breakfast, I was third in line and given a seat check for my final Canadian train ride on the trip where on this world renowned train, I would reclaim its route for my sobriety.

Via 1 The Canadian 8/21/1999

Being boarded fifty minutes early does have a few advantages. First, I got my luggage to the assigned seat and then second I walked the whole length of the twenty one car train from the engines all the way back to the Park Car. Every car was of CP Rail heritage so other than the Via locomotives we had a historical accurate version of the fabled Canadian. Now if we could only take its original route. We left Toronto on time, heading out onto CN's Weston Sub for only a few minutes before we turned onto the Newmarket Sub. On my last trip during my drinking days on the eastbound trip we came all the way down the Newmarket Sub and westbound left Toronto on the Bala Sub. As the Canadian National streamlined their railroad system, it abandoned the middle fifty miles of the Newmarket Sub so that the Canadian can no longer go to Washago that way. We ran up the Newmarket Sub for thirteen miles before we backed around a connection onto the York Sub. Sitting in the dome of the Skyline Car I could see all of the twenty-one cars of the Canadian. We took the York Sub for over five miles to Doncaster where we curved onto the Bala Sub to take us to Capreol.

The Canadian headed north escaping the urban landscape of the metro Toronto area out into the rolling forested countryside where farms have been cut out of the forests. We passed Lake Simico to the west while the kids in the dome played with their yo-yos. Near Washago we reached the edge of the great Canadian Shield which we will be crossing for over the next twenty four hours. Its rail distance is greater than what Amtrak's Sunset Limited does when crossing Texas by over five hours. There were the rock outcroppings covered with trees, exposed rock cuts that the train will past through and lakes in almost every other low spot to be found. Most of the rock formation of the shield range from 500 million to 4 billion years old. Everything from Doncaster is a new daylight experience for me as my last westbound trip left Toronto over twelve hours later than this morning's train. At Washago there was an old coaling tower right before the station. While loading the new passengers at Washago it became apparent that Via had oversold the coach section of the train on this trip. I managed to keep my dome seat as Via used it for additional coach space but I wondered for how long?

We met a CN freight at Washago and then two more at Woodward and Medina. From there we ran uninterrupted until our next station stop at Parry Sound. We sped along before we slowed for a met at Discourtesy then made great time to the CP Rail crossing where we were stopped by a red signal where a long CP Rail inter modal train crossed our path. The dome conversations ranged from sports, mainly baseball and hockey to computers, politics, Weird Al, horror movies and Jackie Chan. We arrived at Sudbury Jct. where a music student that I met got off to start her final year of college at Sudbury. The landscape had changed to a more rock faced bluff bare of trees from the acid rain produced by the nickel plants at Sudbury. After passing another lake, we arrived in Capreol, a servicing stop for the train. Here some people made a mad dash to a store a half mile away for cigarettes. In my old days I would have been making my dash for alcohol but God willing those days are over forever. I did have a good laugh just the thought of me doing that.

Leaving Capreol, I met Dino a CN conductor from Hornepayne and Nick a rail fan going to Edmonton. Dino and I shared our troubles with the bottle with each other in an instant AA meeting. We discussed so many interesting subjects that one passenger commented "This is better than any talk show on TV!" We talked through the sunset and three hours later we had killed off most of my first evening on the Canadian. I wished that it had killed off all of it. I returned to my full coach to no bathrooms, lights out with people talking or playing music through headphones full blast. My seatmate who was going to Winnipeg was already out so being prepared something that Boy Scouts had taught me, I whipped out the ear plugs for the first time on the trip in an attempt to get some sleep. I might have gotten five hour's worth during the night.

8/21/1999 Morning came all too quickly with us still in the rocks and trees of the Canadian Shield as the Canadian headed due west from the morning's sunrise.

The morning started with a find the bathroom game and a breakfast in the Skyline Car of pancakes, sausage and grapefruit juice all for a very reasonable price. It appears that Via does not stick it to its riders in economy service. I followed breakfast with a full day of dome riding which started with the fog rising from the lakes of the Canadian Shield. At Lamure we passed the first CN freight of the morning. We proceeded to Armstrong where everyone waved to Dad and Betty, the father and a friend of a family who had just boarded the dome car due to there still being a lack of coach seats. We went into the siding at Onaping for CN 166, the very hot Vancouver to Toronto inter modal train. I have been seeing trees attempting to change into their fall colors and learned that these are birch trees. It is only the trees on the outside of the forest so I wonder if it is because they are not insulated from the night's cold air like their brethren are. I learned that the red flowers that I have been seeing are Mountain Red Ash Berries. We stopped at Allanwater Bridge where there is a small Barnabas Anglican Church. A building not needing to be big to be a place to worship God. This dome car that I am riding in will do just fine as I thanked him for this trip, all the people that I have met, his great planet and my sober life. West of Allanwater Bridge we passed another fire zone from three years ago. Passing through Ghost River, I saw no signs of ghosts, Jacks in the Green, Vampires or Beasties. The Canadian made its way to our next servicing stop of Sioux Lookout where I detrained for some well deserved fresh air. I walked at a brisk pace to the rear of the train for a picture before reboarding the dome car to continue my Canadian adventure west.

Leaving Sioux Lookout we passed a couple of impressive lakes as the land took on a more rugged character. The rock cuts that the train passed through became deeper and we passed through our first tunnel of the route at MP 41.3. At Morgan we held the main for another eastbound inter modal train then waited twelve more minutes for a green signal to appear so we could continue west. We ran along another lake and passed through a pair of tunnels in a CN mini version of the CP Rail route along Lake Superior. Remember because of the schedule that this train is on, I passed through all this eastbound at night on my drunken trip and westbound I was rerouted via Thunder Bay from Longlac Jct to outside of Winnipeg so this is my first time seeing this scenery in the daylight. I am very impressed with CN route across the Canadian Shield but could have done without the signal problems that added to our tardiness. Continuing west, the Canadian traveled into a sky full of clouds so I wondered where the rain would begin today.

At Etna Lake, the Canadian is stopped dead in its tracks by a rail problem so our entire crew is out looking at it. We all wondered why all those CN freights could go over it and we could not. In all my miles that I had traveled to this point, this is another first for me. The Via crew announced that we could be here for at least an hour or will it be more? Good conversations with my fellow passengers including a mother and two kids who boarded at Sioux Lookout and are refugees in the dome because of the lack of coach seats. They have been told that they would have seats at Winnipeg. An hour and eight minutes later, we crossed the slow order at twenty miles an hour for a mile before we passed through the last two tunnels of the day. We made some additional flag stops and when the Canadian reached Decimal the rains began and lasted to Nouree.

We left the Canadian Shield and Ontario with everyone happy to be in Manitoba. I was having a pot roast dinner in the Skyline's coffee shop while all this was going on. The train ran straight as an arrow towards Winnipeg and another line of storms which was approaching it. We stopped at Transcona to depart a few passengers before we crossed the Red River and arrived at Winnipeg two hours late.

I was off the Canadian to buy and mail a post card as well as to use a nonmoving bathroom. I went out into the thunderstorm to mail the card before I called home to my mother. Turns out that she had gone and picked up the new Jethro Tull Dot Com CD for me and J is also the band's web site address. I can not wait to hear it but right now I am in Winnipeg watching a wonderful thunderstorm complete with brilliant lightning and loud claps of thunder. Nature was sure giving me a one of its best shows ever as I stood at the station's back door enjoying it. The call over the PA to reboard came next and after a thirty minute wait they boarded all the returning and new coach passengers. I believed why it took so long was because of the pouring rain and when they loaded the sleeping car passengers they did it through one of the vestibules which was under the station cover and the passengers may have had to walk through many cars to get to their rooms. This way they kept all the first class passengers dry. We the coach passengers all boarded and that is when the problems began.

The crew from Toronto got off in Winnipeg and a new onboard crew got on to take the Canadian to Vancouver. The Toronto crew told anybody who was getting off in Winnipeg just to look around to take their boarding pass (hat check) with them to show when they got back on the train. Myself knowing that my hat check saved my seat, left mine right where it was above my seat. People who had taken theirs came back onboard to find that their seats had been given away and in some cases their luggage had been moved with no idea where it had been taken. The mother and two kids had been assigned seats by the Toronto crew who did not tell the new crew that they had been given seats. The Vancouver crew then assigned their seats to someone else and when they came back onboard finding that someone was sitting in their new seats, the fireworks went off. She came back up to the dome one very hot mad mamma and rightfully so. The new attendant tried to calm her down but she told her that she and the kids would stay in the dome until they got to Saskatoon where they were moving to.

The train left Winnipeg two hours and twenty-three minutes late and headed out west into another wonderful thunderstorm with a reddish sunset in the far western sky. Lightning cracks right above the dome which put me in the center of the storm. The mother came back and with the help of the storm I managed to calm her back down and in a few minutes we were laughing about the whole stupid situation. A group of Japanese tourist were minding their own business and speaking in their native tongue when a twelve year girl named Jade from Edison, AB who had been bugging people all day now turned her attention to them. She got right into their faces and told them to stop speaking French. She then got right in the mother's face and I told her that was not a good idea. She went downstairs to bother people and I told the mother that I had an idea and that everyone in the dome to just follow my led.

Sure enough, she came right back up to me and said "Tell them to stop speaking French!" I responded with "Auk, auk auk!" and every time she responded to me, I used hand gestures to "Auk, auk, auk!" "Auk, auk!" She looked at the mother who got into the spirit of things with "Auk, auk, auk!" and then the two of us carried on a conversation in the language of "Auk!" She turned to the first two Japanese students who responded with "Auk, auk!" and we returned with "Auk, Auk!" Now to everyone in the dome that she tried to talk to they responded with "Auk!" She kept saying that she could not understand any word that was being said and was greeted with a chorus of "Auk!" from all the dome passengers. She finally stormed off and everyone thanked me and said that was some of the most fun that they had ever had in their lives. It could only happen on a train.

I spent most of the evening with the mother talking and watching the green over red signals reflect off the stainless steel roof of the train. The roof would turn all red once the engine had passed the signals. We talked about where we both lived and all the differences between the two locations. She said good night before she went back to the rear of the dome to get some sleep before they arrived late in the night at Saskatoon. I was then joined by two female students going to Vancouver and they had all sort of questions like "How does the engineer run the train?" "What do the signals mean?" and "Who controls them?" So I taught railroading 101 and answered all of their questions. We went into a siding to meet a freight train with me explaining all the steps it took to make that happen and what it took to get us back onto the mainline and up to speed. They thanked me and told me that they both hoped to see me tomorrow. I was honored. I checked with Nick to make sure to wake me if he sees the Northern Lights. I headed back to my coach and fell fast asleep.

8/22/1999 I woke up in western Saskatchewan just before a beautiful prairie sunrise which I photographed. I had a pancake and sausage breakfast and while dining the Canadian crossed into Alberta. Six miles west of Wainwright we crossed over a high bridge then continued our journey to Viking where we held the main for our second track inspection truck of the day. When you are late and out of your operating window, the railroad continues on. We crossed the Saskatchewan River and off to the south the skyline of Edmonton came into view. I can see the Coliseum where Wayne Gretzky used to play for the Edmonton Oilers. We backed into the new Via Station and I stepped off the Canadian for the first time ever in Edmonton.

The new station is just south of Calder Yard and a few miles from downtown. Interestingly I got a short new little piece of mileage on the Canadian that I hadn't expected to get. This station eliminated the long back up move required to reach the downtown station. The train was refueled, watered and cleaned during our layover. The watering was done by employees on roller blades and it was interesting to watch them preform their jobs. The weather outside is shorts weather with a nice breeze blowing. I used my time to check out the station and walked to the rear of the train for a picture. We left Edmonton one hour thirty-two minutes late.

West of Edmonton at a grade crossing, Allision's father, brother and grandfather held up a sign that read "Goodbye Allision" for her and her mother named Allision. Everyone in the dome car waved. I hope that they had better luck than the family from Sioux Lookout. The Canadian has already entered the rolling hills and forest except where cleared by man for his farming pursuits. Near Wabamun we ran along the north shore of a very large lake. At Gainford, I saw the Yellowhead Highway for the first time since Edmonton. West of Leamen across a field I got my first sober view of the Canadian Rockies since I was a kid. At Hinton we went into the hole for a freight train and had a good view of the Rockies. I was paid a visit from the kids from Jasper. They had a lot of fun on that farm at Brandon North. They can not believe all the places that I have been since they last saw me on the Chaleur. I even find it hard to believe. At Edson as Jade was getting off I said goodbye to her and threw in a couple "Auk, auks!"

We made an extended stop at Hinton with a full view of the Rockies to the west. From Hinton the scenery is breath taking as the Canadian enters Jasper National Park. I was seated in the rear seat of the dome knowing that the Canadian would be running straight into the sun that all the best pictures would be out the rear dome windows.

That is the reason that I had been riding here since breakfast. A little planning goes a long way. A couple from Victorville switched sides with me allowing me a better photo angle. I think that I took some of my best pictures ever.

You can not go wrong with a great train, great landscape and with me in the midst of it all. It does not get any better than this!

We arrived in Jasper and were told the stop would be for thirty-five minutes. I bought the usual post card and a roll of film just in case, mailed the card, got a sandwich to go before photographing our train and the end of the American Orient Express as it goes by. I have dreamed of riding that train someday.

Since we were going to be here for more than thirty five minutes, I ran across the street for an ice cream before reboarding the dome and having Via wash the windows clean. Via does take pride in their operation. We departed Jasper one hour eighteen minutes late.

Climbing Red Pass we passed the eastbound Rocky Mountaineer another train I want to ride but to Calgary. It was followed closely by the Skeena which runs from Prince Rupert and Prince George, a route that I could not work in on this trip but most certainly will on my next trip to Canada in December. I was still taking pictures from the rear of the dome, putting the rear of the train against a background of mountains. It's a battle of my patience versus the trees that have chosen to grow up in their spots. Makes me think of the Rush song "The Trees". We passed Moose Lake with the unique greenish color when one looks at it sideways from the train. At Red Pass we took the original line as the Skeena route takes off from the CN mainline. I shot a few pictures with my camera of Mt. Robson with my camera batteries giving me problems. I looked in vain though my bags for my spares that I had packed. God I surmise does not want me to take anymore pictures on this trip and that is fine with me. I returned to my seat and read the history of British Columbia in Last Train to Toronto before talking with the couples from Victorville and New Zealand. The peaks with their glaciers still shone in the very late day sunlight and after sunset Via slowed the train down to walking speed so all aboard could see Pyramid Falls which was very beautiful in the low light of twilight. My eighty-two year old seatmate found a seat somewhere else in the car and that worked well for me. I went to sleep for the final night on the Canadian.

8/23/1999 I awoke to the moon over the Thompson River and once again when we got to the Fraser River Canyon I was up for good. I started my last day in Canada with my usual breakfast in the west end of the Fraser River Canyon. I walked back to the coach thinking that it had been so much more interesting in the coaches with the real people of Canada than being hidden away in the sleepers. The short hauls with their stories to tell, people coming or going to school, the families coming and going, people who boarded in the middle of nowhere and low budget tourist just like me out to see a great Canada. It was a clear morning out and I was thinking just let me get through this day without rain.

At Matsqui Jct. we left the CN and crossed the Fraser River onto the CP Rail Cascade Sub. I rode for a few miles on the original route of the Canadian Pacific in a set of all CP cars. It does not get any better than this. Being sober and having my Canadian Trackside Guide has been a real plus to taking this journey throughout Canada. The great views to be had on the CP route here is the Fraser River to the south and the Coast Mountains to the north. We are traveling the same route as the West Coast Express Trains as far as MacAulay. We passed through several of their stations. At Pitt River the Canadian crossed a drawbridge with log bundles tied together which is so common here in the northwest. We ran along the south side of CP Rail's Port Coquitlam yard and passed another Rocky Mountaineer Train, the long version before it splits at Kamloops for Jasper and Calgary. It reminds me that I have not mentioned the model that has been sitting in front of me for the last three days. The model of a Via E-9 nicely painted. It was too bad that Via never had any of them on its roster. We switched off the CP main at MacAulay then headed down the CP Rail New Westminster Sub to Sapperton where we took the BNSF New Westminster Sub to Vancouver Jct. where we wyed the train and backed into Pacific Central Station five minutes early.

The Canadian crew west of Winnipeg did a much finer job with the train and service with the exception of the family going to Saskatoon. The toilets have all been working and the whole train was a happy train. Well now that I have reclaimed Canada for my sobriety and with all the new routes that I had ridden, maybe I should start planning my next trip north. Maybe I will do that on the Coast Starlight. What a trip on Via Rail with all the things I have seen and all the great people I met. How about all those surprising things that happened to me? Which one was the best? Me, it is just being here sober and living through it all. What a trip!

Vancouver 8/23/1999

After checking my bags in for the day with Via, I walked to Science World to buy tickets to two different I-Max movies, Wolves and the Greatest Places and I learned something new watching both of them. I took the Skytrain to Granville and had lunch at the White Spot. After lunch I took the Skytrain to the Waterfront Station and the Seabus round trip before riding the Skytrain out to King George and back to Science World stop. I visited the Rocky Mountaineer office before getting my bags back, a custom's form and then proceeded through pre customs to my first coach ride on the new Amtrak Talgo to Seattle.

Mount Baker International 761 8/23/1999

They boarded everyone early, so I got a hot dog and a rest of forty minutes before the train left on time. I bought an Amtrak Cascade Service Shirt. This is my third time that I have been over this route and after a short introduction video about the Talgo, the car's video monitors show our Seattle arrival time, current temperature, our next station stop and a map that displays our exact location. This is something the older Talgos did not have. These new sets also have a baggage car. Different seat styles, attractive interior colors, improved bathrooms and the state of Washington has a winner on its hands.

Its back over the same route the Canadian was on as far as Sapperton before we paused at New Westminster and crossed the Fraser River after a barge pulling tug passed and we waited for the draw span to close. Listening to Night Ranger made for a quick trip to White Rock and the US Border. We passed the Peace Arch and I am back in the USA, the land I love! At Blaine, the custom agents boarded for their ride down to Bellingham and I had the quickest inspection of anyone in our car.

We arrived in Bellingham and the movie for the trip was "Lost and Found" was then shown on the video monitors in the car. I enjoyed the movie with the occasional look out the window at the sunset and Puget Sound. I put on Emerson, Lake and Palmer for the rest of the trip to Seattle. We had been slowly making up time on the Global Positioning Satellite Relay System. Our improved running became all for naught when we got stopped at the Ballard Locks Drawbridge on the north side of Seattle. Remember that water traffic always has the right away. We finally arrived in Seattle twenty-five minutes late. I enjoyed the new Talgo very much and it's a very fine train well suited for the route that it serves.

Seattle 8/23/1999

A quick taxi cab ride to the Vagabound Inn and a shower. I wished that it could have been a Quebec waterfall shower. That would have felt so good but at least at this point, four days without one, this low water pressure shower makes me feel good. I hit that nice flat bed and was out like the light for a solid eight hours of sleep.

8/24/1999 Waking up to a clear and extremely breezy morning, the first morning like it on the entire trip, I had a couple of donuts given free by the hotel. I played the taxi cab waiting game for thirty minutes before one arrived and took me back to the Amtrak Station via the waterfront freeway and the new Safeco Field where the Seattle Mariners now play. Sometime I will have to go there as it looks like a great ballpark. I arrived at the King Street Station in the midst of construction. It has been in need of it for years and with the new Sounder commuter train service to start soon they are now going full steam ahead. I started the line for the Coast Starlight and now waited for what I thought would be my final long distance train of this part of the trip.

The Coast Starlight 11 8/24/1999

The train was late in arriving to the station. It turned out the a coupler on one of the sleeping cars would not lock in place and they decided to put it on the rear of the train, inconvenient for those passengers to use the Parlour Car but at least they got the rooms that they had paid for. This is to be a trip to sit back, eat and sleep my way to Los Angeles. We left Seattle just five minutes late and I ate a lounge car lunch around Auburn with no sign of Mt. Rainier. Leaving Tacoma the Puget Sound was beautiful and upon leaving its waters I napped all the way down to Vancouver. We crossed the Columbia River, entered Oregon and arrived at Portland Union Station on an eighty four degree day. During the train's servicing, I took a few pictures of the train and just enjoyed the day.

As the Starlight headed down the Willamette Valley, I continued my reading of Last Train to Toronto. While getting my dinner reservation, the northbound Starlight passed by and by Eugene I was sitting in the dining car having Beef Tenderloin and a Turtle ice cream cake {Turtle} for dessert. I chose to skip the movie, been there, done that before and finished reading the book which had even more meaning after visiting some of the places in it. For the first time since Seattle the end coach door of our coach has closed and with the silence I stretched across both seats and slept the night away.

8/25/1999 In the morning, I awoke and find that the train was running close to its schedule right outside of Roseville. I went to the lounge car for a cup of tea from Cory, my LSA on this trip who I knew from the San Diegans before sitting down for breakfast in the dining car. Just as I sat down, the train stopped and while I ate three eastbound freight trains went by. I went back to my seat and listened to some music as another eastbound freight train passed and I watched a tractor in a junkyard go on about its chores. Finally after two and a half hours they announced that "A freight train is having problems and that we would sit here as the Union Pacific owns the track." The usual chorus by the passengers was "If a freight train can get by why can not us?" is heard throughout the train. As we sat I pulled out the timetable and found that I could take the third San Joaquin 714 down the valley and with the bus to the San Diegan connection I could be home by eight instead of who knows when and being bused around the LA Basin in the middle of the night. I found the conductor who thought that it was a very good idea so when the Starlight finally started moving, I packed up and detrained at Sacramento wondering what time the Starlight would get to Los Angeles?

Sacramento 8/25/1999

Once in the depot, I learned that my brother Bruce had a dental appointment and would be back in forty minutes. A called the North American Pass Desk. It took twenty-five minutes on hold just to get the agent to do my bus/train/bus thing to Los Angeles. She asked me where I had been in Canada and was amazed by all the places that I had traveled to. She said that she never gets to hear how passenger's trips have gone. I thanked her and then went to the ticket counter to get my new tickets. I met Bruce and after an all too short visit, I boarded the Thruway Bus to Stockton for the trip through a smoky, hazy and cloudy south Sacramento Valley. Turns out that there had been a wildfire caused by major lightning strikes in the Sierra Nevada foothills that was causing all the smoke. Shades of Canada.

The San Joaquin 714 8/25/1999

While waiting on the platform in Stockton I learned that my train would be at least thirty minutes late. Why do I have a bad feeling about this. Turns out that they took hits on both the UP to Port Chicago and the BNSF to here. When the train finally arrives I was thinking at least I am not on the Union Pacific. Once on board I had a hot dog and a large piece of chocolate cake. We stopped at Denair waiting for a northbound sister train and a westbound freight before we backed onto the main then pulled forward to do our short station work. From Denair to Fresno we took hits from four more westbound freight trains and I believed my chances of connecting with San Diegan 784 went the same way that the great white buffalo went. We sped along as a very late running train as far as Angolia where we met San Joaquin 717. It was extremely humid outside with the train passing through sprinkles and out west by Interstate Five there looked to be a good dust storm swirling. With no more delays we arrived at Bakersfield one hour nineteen minutes late. Call this whole segment by one phrase, freight train interference! I detrained and made a beeline to the San Diegan bus with everyone else following me as usual. I took the front seat and put Rush on the headphones with me settled in. Bring on the bus ride.

The Southwest Chief 4 8/25/1999 - The Unexpected Train

The bus driver did an excellent job of driving up and over the Grapevine and we arrived in Los Angeles twenty minutes after Train 784 had left. Train 4 had not even arrived in the station to load and so when they loaded I made my way with the crowd to the platform and after telling my dilemma to the conductor he let me ride to Fullerton. A lady on the train with a cell phone let me call home and I paid her three dollars for the use of it. My father met me at Fullerton thus ending the major part of my first North American Rail Pass on probably the worst train riding day of my life. If I did not like the train so much I might have been echoing those voices in Chicago who said "I will never ride Amtrak again!" Yet in three days, I would be off for Oklahoma on the train again and I am already planning my next trip to Canada.