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Almost the Rest of Canada or Everything Works Out If You Let It!

by Chris Guenzler

This trip's planning started right after the Churchill winter trip and took me about three weeks to finally put the routing together. In Canada it was dealing with Via's tri weekly schedules on the Canadian and Lake Superior trains, Algoma Central's schedule, Ontario Northland's daily except Saturday Cochrane to Toronto and the ONR Big Bear schedule of daily except Friday along with the schedule of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador and finally Via's Bras D' Or once a week schedule. All this caused me to put each schedule on a 3x5 card and until I had the Ontario part figured out, I came up with a creative drop down into the northeast United States that would make the rest of the trip work out. I called the North American Rail Pass desk to book the Via and Amtrak and each of the other railroads for my tickets on their trains. I called the Montreal Expos for a baseball ticket for a layover in Montreal. I used the tourist guides that I had called for to get my hotels that I would be using and Avis for a rental car for the Quebec City to Sept Iles portion of the trip instead of the bus. I finished all this after I had returned from the Vancouver Island trip. My Starlight portion would be a sleeper care of Alaska Airlines mileage portion that would allow this trip to be 33 days instead of the 30 allowed on the North American Rail Pass. I finished the school year at McFadden then worked a SDC class with Rod Stevens for five weeks of the summer before I left on what would be the longest train trip of my life. The week before I left the ex SP Coast line had a sinkhole/landslide that closed the line down north of Santa Barbara. I waited until the day of the trip to find out if the first segment would be all train or a train to Santa Barbara and a bus to a waiting Coast Starlight at San Luis Obispo.

Pacific Surfliner 769 - 8/6/2000

As the train pulled into Santa Ana and came to a stop only one door on the unreserved section of the train opened which forced all detraining and entraining passengers to use the same door. I walked through a Cal Car whose door did not open into a Superliner Coach and took a rear facing end seat so I could store my luggage which was on wheels for the first time and waited for Conductor Randy Wylie to take my first ticket of the trip. I went to the cafe car for a cup of tea and found Cynthia Weiss one of the most unique LSAs that I have ever met. To know Cynthia is to love her. As we headed to Los Angeles I noted two things. First the Highland Avenue underpass in Fullerton should be done by the time I get back and the new flyover bridge at Redondo Jct should be more on its way towards completion when I return. A sad note, the longtime standing Redondo Jct. Roundhouse is now a pile of rubble having been knocked down last week. Another piece of history lost for all the ages. We arrived in Los Angeles on time and I was surprised that our coach door got opened. I walked through a sea of undirected people to my sleeper on the Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 14 8/6/2000

After stowing my bags in my room, I went to the Pacific Parlor Car where I found the always friendly Larry working the car. We departed Los Angeles on time and I rode in my room working on a lyric called "Reaching that Feeling" that deals with my drinking saga. I'm hoping to write an album worth of lyrics on this trip as I would love to make an album on that subject. I was done by Simi Valley and rode the Parlor Car until lunch when I had a Train 14 Burger and a turtle for dessert. I enjoyed the fresh air at Santa Barbara then rode in the Parlor Car to Guadalupe since I had an east side facing room. I left only to go downstairs and get some pictures of the sinkhole at Tajeras. The line will be shut down again in four days while the Union Pacific finds a more permanent solution to this problem of nature. The Coast line was beautiful on this day with a fog bank playing games with the mainland. From Guadalupe to San Luis I returned to my room thinking that this is just the first of the 33 day train trip and that I have already been lucky on this train and not a bus for this segment.

I enjoyed the climb over Cuesta Grade from my room as they had the wine tasting going on in the Parlor Car. I listened to Sweet Live until dinner which was a Prime Rib aka Texas Eagle not Coast Starlight quality and Chocolate Thunder for dessert. Following a fresh air stop at Salinas, I watched the "Skulls" in the Parlor Car theater. San Jose to Oakland was spent in conversation upstairs before I called day one of this trip a night at Emeryville with an excellent night's sleep.

8/7/2000 Day two started with me hearing voices in the corridor outside my room right before the Cantara Loop. I was in the Parlor Car right after dressing and was having a glass of orange juice as Mt. Shasta came into view on a perfectly clear morning. It was going to be a great day. I had a pancake and sausage breakfast with Mt Shasta right outside my window. I then had tea and a cinnamon roll for dessert in the Parlor Car. I met my second honeymooning couple of the trip as I had dinner with the first one last night. We past the time talking to Dorris, CA and passed through the tunnel under the state line of California and Oregon. We pulled into Klamath Falls early which allowed for a nice long walk in the fresh air.

The morning was spent napping until Lookout Reservoir. I hadn't slept to well the nights before the trip in the warm humid air of Southern California so I used this well know portion of the route for a long cat nap. It was a beautiful clear morning as we made our way down into the Willamette Valley. Fresh air was taken at Eugene on a very pleasant afternoon. Leaving Eugene I watched Madonna in "The Next Best Thing" and then received a clear view of Mt. Hood as I returned to my room. The rest of the way to Portland was spent listening to the Rolling Stones. Other than the sinkhole aspect of this train trip, its feeling like I have been there done that. Since last December this is my fourth northbound trip on this route. Enough said!

The rest of the trip was after I had the Coastal Classic dinner of Grilled Pork Chops and the usual turtle for dessert for my last Amtrak meal for a while. I listened to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and then the soundtrack to "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". Great views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier on what must be the clearest day that I have ever had in the Pacific Northwest. We arrived in Seattle fifteen minutes early and I was off into the first taxi cab to the King's Inn who had lost my reservation and their computer showed that I had never stayed there. Once in the room, I got a good night's sleep.

8/8/2000 I taxied back to King Street Station to wait to board my next train.

Mt. Baker International 760 8/8/2000

This Talgo trip could be described as the foggy journey through Washington and the breaking cloud trip through British Colombia. The movie was Return to Me which broke up the same old Talgo route again. I always do enjoy riding the Talgo on one of the most unique train rides on the whole Amtrak system. Passing through New Westminster the Skytrain extension is much more complete than back in April. It will be a new line for me to ride in the future. The Talgo arrived in Vancouver fifteen minutes early.

Vancouver, BC 8/8/2000

Following a long line at Customs, I took less than a minute and I was first to the ATM for a supply of Canadian currency. I stored my bags for the day in a locker for two dollars and took the Skytrain to Granville so I could go to Radio Shack for a new tape player as the new one that I had bought for the trip already had given up the ghost. Back on the Skytrain to the Waterfront and I had lunch at the A&W. I went back to Science World for an I Max movie called "Above Canada". After the movie, I went to the east end of the Skytrain before I returned to Pacific Central Station and my bags to wait for the loading of my next train to Sudbury Jct, ON.

Via 2 The Canadian 8/8/2000

I boarded coach 8106 an ex CP Rail car and took my usual right hand large window seat. We left Vancouver thirteen minutes late and followed the usual route to CP Junction but instead of turning onto the CN routing like I always did in the past, The Canadian now travels an all Canadian National routing out of Vancouver. We stayed on the route of the Talgo across the Fraser River to Fraser Jct. and then thirty three new miles of the CN Yale Subdivision to Page. I took pictures of our train crossing of the Fraser River and of our train entering our new route. The train proceeded through CN's Thornton Yard before it picked up speed and headed east. I had the Salmon for dinner and ice cream for dessert in the Skyline Coffee Shop as I enjoyed this new route. The Fraser River runs alongside of the train to the north and is a beautiful sight as is Mt Baker across the US border to the southeast. The Canadian ran fine until Page where I saw a stack train heading off to the east in front of us.

After sitting still for about ten minutes, we received a red over green signal and the Canadian diverted onto the CP Mission Sub which could mean only one thing, that the Canadian would be running over the famous former route but for how far and that every mile of it would be new. The train crossed the Fraser River and stopped at a red signal just before we entered the CP Cascade Sub. I went downstairs from the dome to inquire with our LSA why we were doing this. I learned that the CN and CP are now operating their mainlines in one direction. CP eastbound and CN westbound so we would be running east on the CP to Basque one hundred fifty-two point six miles of new trackage for myself. I felt very excited and lucky to be doing this. I was loving every minute of it happy and sober.

We passed through the West Coast Express Station at Mission City and I was then back onto new trackage that went past the WCE shops and maintenance facility. We were headed east over the CP Rail Cascade Subdivision and a while later past a place called Suicide Creek with me wondering about how that place got its name. We crossed the drawbridge at Harrison Mills before we caught up to and went past that CN container train I saw back at Page. We were in the shadows as we entered the Fraser River Canyon and the rugged terrain within its steep walls. It is the CP route on the west side of the Fraser River and the old CN route on the east side. Even in the low light it was a very beautiful and spectacular place. The Fraser River tumbles far below as the railroad was built way above its reach. The tunnels and bridges are incredible as we headed deeper and deeper into the canyon. Thanks to Via for having the Canadian leave Vancouver two hours earlier. I just made a decision to take the Rocky Mountaineer next April so I could see the whole route in daylight and then go on to Calgary.

As it got dark the lights in the dome were too bright to be able to see outside so we asked the attendant to turn them off and after a second request he did. I had a great view from the front seat both forward and out the side with this night time ride truly incredible. The headlight showed the train the way along the rock face and through the tunnels with the river shown by the half moon while its in view. We stopped at North Bend and I wondered what they do with our passengers from Matsqui, Chilliwack, Hope and Boston Bar. The Canadian then continued east into the night crossing the Fraser River at Cisco before I called it a night at Lytton knowing that I would fall asleep on the CP and awake on the usual CN route in the morning.

8/9/2000 I was up early as we passed through Irvine, BC. and I found it funny that I pass through Irvine, CA almost every day on the Pacific Surfliner trains back home. I changed clothes and head back three cars to the Skyline Car to wait the hour for breakfast up in the dome. I had my standard pancakes and breakfast morning meal. We slowed for Pyramid Falls and I finally got a picture of it. I went back to my coach seat for a little writing time and relaxation. I returned to the dome at Valemont for the view of the cloud shrouded Mt. Robson later in the morning and the beautiful Moose Lake. The bright sun really heated up the dome so I returned to my coach seat for the ride down to Jasper.

My visit to Jasper was KFC strips and chips for a picnic on the rock wall outside my coach. I walked the length of our twenty-one car Canadian counting them this time instead of just walking past them like I did yesterday when I boarded in Vancouver. It was such a nice warm day that I walked over for an ice cream which used up all my pennies. The rest of today and tomorrow I am calling rest days as I have been there and done that before. I just relaxed in my coach seat and listened to some good music. We left Jasper four minutes late and had no animal sightings on this trip. This made for a nice and quiet trip to Edmonton. We pulled into the station on time and I made a bee line down the platform to the hot dog cart for two giant dogs. I shot pictures of the car waterers on roller blades and ate my hot dog on the very south end of the platform by the Park Car. I reboarded the Canadian to continue east and we left Edmonton on time.

The evening started with the backup move onto the mainline. If it is a short off peak Canadian like last winters then they wye the train in and pull out. We headed out onto the green Alberta countryside at a fast clip. We passed through Viking without stopping just as we did Blue River and Valemont this morning. If nothing shows on the Via passenger train manifest then the train does not stop but the engineer keeps a lookout for anyone and also for people who flag the train down to stop along the route. We crossed the Battle River Trestle right before sunset and reached Saskatchewan as darkness took hold. I went to sleep in Saskatchewan and woke up the next morning in Manitoba.

8/10/2000 Day five started off with me waking up in very eastern Saskatchewan after another good night's sleep on the Canadian. I went back to the dome to wait for my usual breakfast. The landscape is quite green for this time of year which means they have had some significant rainfall. We entered Manitoba with me still sleepy so I took a nap until after Brandon North before sitting back and enjoying the trip the rest of the way to Winnipeg. The sky is extremely interesting with the sun rays passing between the darkening clouds. The Canadian was heading straight into a squall line of thunderstorms and I received my first rainfall of the trip from MP48 to MP32 of CN's Rivers Sub before we reached the tail end of the storm. The Canadian arrived in Winnipeg twenty five minutes late and I chose to stay abroad while the train was serviced to view the servicing operations that Via does to the queen of its fleet. I was glad that I stayed on board as the Hudson Bay train first pulled past the station before it backed in on track five allowing me to get pictures of its F-units and ex Amtrak sleeping cars plus our train.

The train departed Winnipeg forty minutes late and I rode in the dome to Transcona where I had my worst luck ordering a plain hamburger. Should I had said "Solo!" like I had done in Mexico to get it cooked right. After the attendant asked if that was all that I wanted with nothing else on the plate, it came with everything which was a waste of food. I hate to waste food as I only order what I am going to eat. I returned to my coach seat to wait for the Canadian Shield which would mean that the train had reached Ontario. We made our first flag stop of the day at Rice Lake for two adventurers before we resumed our journey across the Canadian Shield.

We made our next stop at Reddit and swapped eight passengers for two. It was a beautiful sunny August Ontario afternoon as we headed to our next stop at Amesdale for a two for one swap. On the move again we made it to Sunstrom siding where we went into the hole for the very hot CN container train that was holding the main line. The thing that I am loving about this section of the trip is that I'm only having to shot a few pictures because I documented it so well last summer. We arrived at Sioux Lookout for fifteen minutes with me leading the mad dash of coach passengers to the Subway to pick up a sandwich for dinner. They had said twenty minutes but in reality I could have crawled there and back in the true station time of thirty five minutes. We left no one as the train departed on time racing away from the sun through the trees and rocks of the Canadian Shield. The sun descended behind the trees just past Ghost River and the Canadian sped off into its third and last night into the waiting darkness.

8/11/00 Day six began with me waking up just prior to the crossing of the Algoma Central the same tracks that I would be on day nine. I was grateful for the three nights that I had the two coach seats to myself which allowed me to curl up and sleep well. Three nights in a coach seat down with eight more to go on this thirty-three day odyssey. I had my usual breakfast in the coffee shop before I changed into some fresh clothes thinking how good a shower is going to feel in Sudbury later today as a sponge bath is only so good. We stopped at Elsas to pick up thirteen passengers and three canoes. Elsas is located on the north shore of Lake Kapuskasing. We made two more pickups near the siding of Missonga then dropped off most of these parties at Foleyet which has highway access. It was here that I was joined briefly by a man who was going to Washago. He paid his full fare then got up and left with me never seeing him again on the train. As we closed in on Capreol and after three nights I put on Aerosmith's A Little South of Sanity which fit my mood perfectly and perked me right up. It is funny what some good music can do to change your mood. Never travel without it. It is hard to believe that on my first drunken trip across Canada was done with only a limited supply of music at all. Just my former bottle friends that kept company with me. I do prefer the sober way of doing things and thank God that I continue to live my life that way.

Before we arrived at Capreol we stopped at a spot called Camp Grumpy where four passengers who boarded with a lawn mower which was a first for me to see being brought abroad a train. You never know who you are going to meet or what you are going to see on a train trip. For example, the way coach passengers sleep aboard the train. On Canadian trains seats are turned so that families can seat together. It is interesting to observe the methods they use to achieve sleep. End chairs have space where people can stretch out on the floor. In the two seaters one takes the seat with the other the floor. Some people will sleep behind the back of seats. Sometimes the luggage racks are used at the end of the cars. Some passenger's elect for the upstairs seats in the dome. In rare instances there are single passengers like me who get two seats all to themselves and that is as good as it gets in coach. We reached Capreol with me off to photograph a freight train arriving from the east and a walk over to the steam locomotive, a Canadian National 4-8-2 6077, on display in a track side park before I returned to the Canadian for the rather quick trip to Sudbury Jct. where I detrained on time from the Canadian after a near perfect journey on the flagship of the Via Fleet.

Sudbury 8/11/2000

A father and brother whose son had been on the Canadian from Jasper gave me a ride into town to the Howard Johnson that I was staying at. My room overlooked the station and the CP yard. I watched a little TV before I did my laundry in the motel's work room which was really nice of the hotel to let me use it. I took a walk around town to get acquainted with it before I went to Cactus Pete's Bar and Grill for a steak dinner. I went down to the station to wait for Via's eastbound Lake Superior to arrive from White River. First a CP freight came in from the east then a walk put me at the Holiday Inn's parking lot where a pair of Huron and Central freight engines were busy making up their train. Finally right before sunset, the RDCs from White River arrived at the depot and I called it a night.

8/12/2000 I slept in late before I took a long walk, got breakfast, watched Star Trek before checking out and walking down to the station.

Via 185 The Lake Superior 8/12/2000

The middle of the day found me aboard the three car RDC train Sudbury to White River on the last piece of Via published timetable that I had not ridden. It was a trip that I have been waiting years to make and I took a clean window right hand seat a third of the way up in the first rail car. Our train was made up of two RDC-2's and a RDC-4 which is the all baggage version of the rail car. Due to CP track work the departure was backed up three hours which to me was great as it allowed me to sleep in late on this morning and to enjoy Sudbury a little longer.

We left about eight minutes late to have a better meet with a freight train outside of town at Larchwood. We left the town of Sudbury, past the slag heaps from the nickel plant and went out into countryside where the acid rain from the smelters around Sudbury had killed off all the vegetation. To stop this problem the plant built the world's tallest smoke stack which can be seen for miles away and nature which always amazes me is slowly restoring the area. No matter how badly mankind screws up an area nature seems to always find a way to come back. After the meet at Larchwood we went past a few beaver colonies in the lakes along the tracks before passing Onaping Falls which is best seen from the turnout on the highway. At Levack we met a CP iron ore train before passing more lakes as we made our way to our first scheduled stop at Cartier.

Our stop at Cartier was longer than normal as our lead RDC wouldn't restart but after several attempts it finally started up again. The problem was an overheating engine and a call had been made down line to have an engine ready to pull us if necessary. Like I always say: "Every trip is an adventure!" The engineer knew not to pass throttle setting 3 and we could keep moving west. We had no problem making it to Starlak to meet another eastbound freight. Further west at beautiful Pogamasing we met another freight train and miles later at Sheehan we put off about half of the train's passengers who were met by an ex military all terrain transport called a "Duck" by the locals that would take the group across the Spanish River to their vacation locations where their adventures awaited.

We proceeded just short of the east switch at Forks where we dropped off all but four passengers left on the train with their canoes so they could start their adventures. We then met an eastbound CP freight that had dropped off a west facing unit for us in the house track at Forks. We pulled down to the west switch then backed down the siding coming to a stop next to the CP 6033 an SD-40-2 that would be added to our train with a throw of a switch and after an air test we would be off once more but at a greater rate of speed than before. Well that was the plan. The CP 6033 was dead as a door nail and our engineer repeatedly tried to start the thing but had absolutely no luck. The decision was made to keep going without it and make the best of it. We received our new orders, canceled the old ones then continued our trip west on CP's Nemogos Subdivision.

I have been riding up in the front of the lead RDC since Cartier and have been noticing how little straight track there is on this very winding mainline. At Sinker we left off a couple a passengers and just before the siding at Drefel I spotted a pair of black bears hurrying away from the tracks. We followed Lake Biscotasing for over thirty miles and detrained the rest of the passengers on the train out of the baggage car at the shelter at Biscotasing. The train then used the straighter tracks and picked up speed as we headed for Sultan where the crew picked up food from a track gang there. We ran nonstop to the fueling pads at Chapleau and were refueled by a truck prior to arriving at the station to change engine crews. I detrained for a picture of the train and of a CP steam engine 5433, a 2-8-2 that's in a park across from the station.

We left Chapleau and headed west on the CP White River Subdivision to Musk siding which is on the shore of Windermere Lake where we met a hot CP Rail container train. We continued west through the Canadian Shield twisting and turning finally reaching Dog Lake, a lake so big that I would be passing on the other side of it tomorrow on the Algoma Central. We ran to Misssanabie where we met another freight train and picked up more adventurers who are going to MP 88 which is right before the siding at Swanson. The engineer told me that the best time to see animals on this line is the third week in May and for best Fall colors are seen the third week in September. In the last fading light of day the train reached Franz and the crossing with the Algoma Central which is where I would be detraining at tomorrow. I returned to my seat and listened to some music as the new passengers that we picked up at MP 88 were quite rowdy. As we neared White River I went back up to the front end for the remaining miles into town. I detrained at the depot and found a phone that only took a credit card. A woman then asked me if I was going to the Continental Motel and when I said yes she offered to drive me there as she was here to get two canoes off of the train for a group who were going to ride the White River. I checked in and took a waterfall shower before calling it a night.

White River 8/13/2000

Starting the day with a waterfall shower is the best way to start a day of riding on a trip followed by a French Toast and Canadian bacon breakfast prepared me for an exciting day. I packed up, checked out and received another ride back to the Via Station. We stopped at the Winnie the Pooh Statue along the main highway for a picture as the town of White River is where "Winnie" all started so this town says.

Via 186 The Lake Superior 8/13/2000

The train crew is busy reshuffling the RDCs as we arrived so when the train pulled into the station I put my luggage in the lead RDC's baggage section for an easy drop off at Franz. We left White River twenty minutes late but my good Via crew called the Algoma Central to let them know I would be boarding in Franz and to wait if we were late. We cruised east down the CP Rail mainline and even with our passenger pickups along the way we would arrive at Franz right on time. Our Engineer told me that the Algoma Central would be in Franz at eleven thirty. I went back to my seat and opened the envelope with the Algoma tickets. I looked at the tickets and timetable and was horrified to see that their reservation people on three different occasions had given me the wrong information saying that they had a northbound train on Mondays. It became time for a new plan, quick! Ride south as far as I could until we met the northbound train and transfer to it. I would need to find a phone to cancel my room for tonight in Sault Ste Marie and call the Queen's Motel in Hearst to try to get an extra night there. My goal of finishing all the Intercity miles in Canada were flushed right down onto the tracks. If the new plan worked out the good news would be I would get a day of rest in Hearst. My everything works out if you let it motto was in for its greatest test so far. We pulled into Franz and I prepared to be dropped off at the most isolated destination of my train riding career.

Franz 8/13/2000

I got dropped off at the diamond of the railroads crossing and took the time to look around Franz. Down the CP main to the west is a track gang, to the north is a meadow, to the east is the rock outcrops of the Canadian Shield which have graffiti on them and to the south the remains of a water tower with the crossing right in the middle of the scene. It was nice and peaceful until a CP truck pulled up to let me know that the Algoma train would be fifteen minutes later than I had been told. Thanks CP Rail for taking such good care of me when I was on your property in the middle of nowhere.

Algoma Central 2 8/13/2000

I heard the sound of F-units from the north but first from down their tracks walked a trainman who came to the junction opened a box, pressed a button and the Algoma Central train came into view stopping right on the diamond and I was picked up to start this leg of my journey. My luggage was taken into the baggage car and I explained my dilemma to an understanding conductor. He was pleased that I have my itinerary so prepared with all the phone numbers that I would need and then we talked about my options. He admitted that this is not the first time their reservation department had screwed up but was truly sorry that it had happened to me of all people who had planned such a great trip. We talked about a Monday freight but that would only get me back north as far as Hawk Jct. so the trip down the line to meet Train 1 seemed to be the new plan. He then said that I could use the company phone at Hawk Jct. to change my hotel reservations. I was all set. Now if I could at least get to Agawa Canyon to see it would be great but am I asking too much?

I never took a seat but chose to ride the vestibule and I would take pictures as far as I could south. Train two picked up speed with me riding on the east side of the train. The day has gone from partly sunny to cloudy with a misty rain as we headed south. The train passed through Dubreuilville with the smell of wood burning from the lumbering operations there in the air. We surprised a bear that dashed off into large ferns and trees. More lakes were passed and could I have a dollar from you now for all the ones I have already passed on this trip? I was truly enjoying riding the vestibule and all too quickly we arrived at Hawk Jct. where I went into the station and used the company phone. First I called Hearst and the Queen's Motel was all too happy to have me as a guest for the extra night before I called the Day's Inn in Sault Ste Marie who were very understanding and just asked if I would stay there in the future. Everything works out if you let it.

Speaking with the conductor his plan is to take me to Canyon Siding so I will at least get to see part of Agawa Canyon and get off in the middle of it. We made our way south with me waiting for the sights ahead. We made several stops to pick up adventurers with me watching the mileposts as the numbers descend as we approached my new destination. As we reached the upper part of the canyon we stopped at Windy Lake Lodge and a few minutes later at the Chinese Bridge at MP 114 at a bridge made for China but was never delivered due to Cold War tensions. Once across it we entered the most scenic part of Agawa Canyon and the part the Agawa Canyon Tour Train passengers never get to see. It was totally beautiful as the train twisted and turned with my camera clicking away just in a vain attempt to try to catch it all. All too soon we arrived at Canyon where I must detrain if I am going to make the rest of this trip work. MP 114 from Sault Ste Marie will play an important part of a future trip.

Canyon, ON - 8/13/2000

I detrained having my bags handed down to me and left them on the ground running to the front end of the train for a picture. The engineer sees me and out of his cab window yells "Write a letter! That is not right! Write a letter!" I took a coming and going picture just as I see my northbound train coming into the siding. So much for having a chance to look around. I took a 360 degree view in very quickly before I returned to my bags. As I took a picture of my new train arriving I thought that at least I made it here! The train stopped and I boarded the baggage car for my trip to Hearst.

Algoma Central 1 8/13/2000

Maybe the number thirteen in the date had something to do with my bad luck. Maybe not! I walked into coach 3210 an ex CN/Via car and took a left hand window seat to enjoy the view from the other side of the train for the trip north as I listened to music and wrote the accounts of this day so far. It just goes to show you that no matter how well you plan a trip not every trip can come off perfectly right according to plan. I am already thinking of a winter trip from Soo to Hearst, bus to Cochrane, ONR to Toronto with Via/Amtrak home. I sat back enjoying the passing scenery as the sun tries to break through as we headed to Hawk Jct for a second time today.

At Hawk Jct I shot a few quick pictures then walked across the street to a store for an ice cream cone. Upon departure I went to the rear cars vestibule which I planned to ride all the way to Oba. I continued to retrace the route back to Franz where I shot some more pictures from new angles as we crossed the CP mainline and onto new trackage for me in the fresh Ontario air. We continued to pick up and drop off passengers as we made our way north at various bridges and lake sites.

We ran along Oba Lake for a good thirty minutes crossing two of its branches on floating bridges. Considering what should have been major disappointment over the whole incident, I know in my heart that God must not have wanted me to get to Sault Ste Marie on this trip so I'm enjoying every minute of my new plan instead. I am seeing the most straight track that I have seen in days and the train was making a good pace as it traveled north as I met members from the Bluewater Chapter of the NRHS.

That pace came to a halt at Oba where we crossed the CN mainline. There was a CN freight waiting and we crossed with no problem until we came to the north end of the little yard where a southbound Wisconsin Central freight train was on the single track main in front of us. We backed off the main into a yard track to let the owning railroad's freight train by on its way to Hawk Jct. While all this was going on, a westbound CN freight sped west through Oba making it one busy place unlike every other time when I have been through here on the Canadian when it has been dead.

Once under way again we continued north through the forest until just south of Coppel where farms dotted the landscape. We made a stop at Coppel where a track gang had taken up residence before we returned to the trees. As we closed in on Hearst the trees of the Tiaga began to be mixed in with the other species. We made a left hand turn where the former CN line to points west came in and entered the trackage of the Ontario Northland for the rest of the trip to the platform in Hearst. I rode the baggage car into town and was the first passenger off the train ending an improvised day of train riding.

Hearst, ON The Restful Stay 8/13-8/14/2000

The Queen's Motel was right behind where the train stopped and within minutes I was in my room. I walked over a couple of blocks to the John Restaurant as recommended by my southbound crew and had an excellent steak dinner. As I was waiting for my meal I called home and left a message about my change of plans. I went back to the motel and used the sauna before I called it a night.

The next morning I had planned on being at the southbound departure back to the Soo but I slept in instead. That was until the Ontario Northland started banging around cars so I got up and went outside to watch. I had the best French Toast of my travels at the Companion Hotel across the street before I went and found the bus depot where my 3:00 A.M. bus for Cochrane would leave from. I went shopping for post cards and after writing the cards, I mailed them at the post office. I spent the afternoon looking at all the reading materials I received from my southbound conductor. I feel really fortunate that I got to see as much of it as I did in spite of the snafu with the reservation department. I went to KFC for an early dinner before a dip in the sauna and pool. I returned to my room for a movie, music and word fill in puzzles as I waited for the ONR train to return. All day long I had been watching the giant gantry crane lift and move logs around the mill on the north side of the tracks. The giant clamp reaches down and grabs a group of logs and moves them about. The freight finally showed up and I was off to bed with a 2:00 A.M. wake up call so I can get up and walk to the bus station.

Ontario Northland Van 8/15/2000

With a shower and check out, I was off on foot for the bus station on a cloudy morning. The luggage cart was a brilliant improvement to my traveling techniques. A stop was made at Tim Hortons for a maple filled donut and a large chocolate milk. I arrived at the bus station and a family offered to go and get me coffee which I politely refuse. I learned that I am not looking for a bus at all but a silver van. Their daughter took the van yesterday but did not make it due to a major highway accident. I was glad that was then and this is now. The van pulled up with the two of us boarding and the driver joking that we should make it today. We headed out onto the highway with me in the rear seat trying to sleep. I might have gotten a few winks. The van arrived at the train station in Cochrane and I walked to the Northern Lights Motel about a mile down the main highway. The office did not open until seven but the restaurant was so I went and had another French toast breakfast. A picture had come off the wall last night and landed right on the beer dispensers which deposited their contents all over the floor below. The waitress said "Anybody suffering from a hangover, this smell would make them sick!" I laughed inside as that can not happen to me anymore. I was back in front of the motel's office reshuffling my bags when the owner sees me and opens up, checks me in and I leave my luggage in the room as I start another rail adventure.

Ontario Northland Polar Bear Express 423 8/15/2000

I first read about the Ontario Northland in Passenger Train Journal and after that I wanted to ride their railroad. I walked back to the train station, I paused for a picture of the Polar Bear Statue on my way. A freight train was getting ready for its day run and all the motive power for all the day's trains were bought up to in front of the depot. I walked over to photograph the museum train with a 2-8-0 painted as Temiskaming and Northern 137 on the point of that train. I received permission to walk down to the dead line in the yard and found an original Temiskaming 219 a 4-6-0 in really sad shape.

The power for the Polar Bear Express was an FP7au and a GP-38-2. They backed down to retrieve their train and then had to pull down a track, throw a switch, back down a track before pulling forward into the depot. Since my ticket does not have a car number on it, I had to find out which car they wanted me in. They said "Anyone you want!" so I boarded car two and found a large window seat in the ex CN coach. The car filled up quickly and departed right on the advertise we headed north for Moosonee. The conductor collected the tickets very quickly and I asked about vestibule riding with him telling me to go ahead of the smoking car because it had dutch doors. Excellent, as I now knew where I would be riding for this trip, we left Cochrane quickly behind and crossed the Abitibi River. The river is the name of the region that the Via train to Senneterre is named after. All major and minor streams are marked by signs on both sides of the tracks in both directions. We passed through Gardiner then crossed Sucker Creek, both east and west Jawbone Creeks followed by Trappens Creek right before Island Falls. As is so common on routes through Canadian forests we passed many areas that have been burnt and nature is reclaiming them. The first one we passed was from a forest fire back in 1976. Back into the unaltered trees, a passenger spots a bald eagle soaring up high from its nest when the train past. We paused at Ferndale as lunch was taken to the head end crew. I walked the train at this point and met up again with the members of the Bluewater Chapter of the NRHS from Michigan who were also on the Algoma Central with me. We shared stories and because I was wearing my Bananafish Tour shirt we discussed Mexico at some length.

At Otter Rapids our train crew dropped off the train to protect the last road crossing before Moosonee. From here there are no more roads. To the east is the Otter Rapids Dam and Generating Station. We next passed the location of the original James Bay Beach and entered one of the largest wetlands in the world. Passing through Corral Rapids there is a dummy standing in front of a resident on the east side of the train. At Ranoke we met ONR Train 622 the southbound Little Bear mixed train. They opened the bar car and showed Life Around James Bay video. A while later they let the kids got to go into that car for a sing along. A brief shower occurred as we neared Onakawana as the tracks were crossing over an area of a large lignite deposits. I wondered following that brief spattering of rain if more would be on its way later today. It began to get really dusty as the train kicked up the sand from along the tracks which was very hard on my face so I retreated back inside the coach until the worst of it was over.

We crossed the Onakawana River then entered an area full of Tiaga trees making me feel like I am back on the Lynn Lake Mixed Train. There is a whole lot of straight track on this railroad and the ONR takes full advantage of it with good track speed. We crossed the wild and fast moving Moose River on the longest bridge on this part of the railroad. Lesser streams were then crossed with those being the Okwagawana, Cheepas and Chemangan Rivers. The train passed over these rivers on upside down bridges that were installed that way so that the ice flows would pass freely beneath them. Maidsman Creek was bridged a short time later with me wondering about that name followed by Kotawagen and Hancock Rivers. The train crossed Stone Creek right on the edge of Moosonee and came to a stop at the ONR Station one hundred and eighty six miles north of Cochrane.

Moosonee 8/15/2000

The sky became threatening as we arrived and I knew it would be just minutes until the downpour. It came with a full vengeance complete with lightning and booming thunder. I put on my three dollar poncho that I had bought at Army Navy Store in Orange, CA just in case this would happen after seeing it do the same thing here on that video. I made my way in the downpour to the Two Bay Tours office to pay for my trip to Fossil Island at two thirty this afternoon. I ventured into a craft store for post cards and walked back to Mike's Chips for the best char boiled hamburger that I have ever eaten. Just think, I had to come all the way to Moosonee to find it. I returned to Two Bay with the sun out and was being eaten alive by insects until I put on the Muskol Insect Repellent that took care of that problem with everyone else standing there wishing that they had some. Be prepared is still a motto from my Boy Scout days that I follow.

Fossil Island Tour

Before leaving for Fossil Island we were given a water safety briefing before our group boarded three freight canoes. We set off circling around a sand bar before we headed up the main channel of the Moose River. We stopped twice to have things pointed out to us before we arrived at Fossil Island. We all went fossil hunting along the shore with me having the best luck of anyone at finding fossils as I had gone the furthest along the shore away from the group. We returned to a small fire where we each received a cup of traditional Indian Tea and Bannoch Bread. The sky was turning dark right before my eyes and the wind began to blow something fierce and I knew it would be pouring again within minutes. I put back on the poncho just before the sky let loose and I drank my hot tea as the largest raindrops that I have ever seen were falling from the sky. Our party raced back to the canoes although I was fine and we all got under tarps for the trip back to Moosonee via Moose Factory which is on the east shore of the Moose River. The rain ended a few minutes after our departure from Fossil Island. Weather sure changes fast in these parts as we were back in the sunshine when we stepped off of the canoes although there was a solid sky of black to the east. Back at Moosonee I headed straight to the Radio Shack for new camera batteries as my shutter was stuck open. I made that discovery on Fossil Island. I mailed the post cards that I had written at the post office before I toured the Museum Car and almost broke my neck slipping down the wet stairs as I exited. I visited the depot before boarding my train for the return to Cochrane.

Ontario Northland - Polar Bear Express 624 8/15/2000

I stowed my bag on my seat and headed for the dining car to get a table to work on this story and to wait for dinner which is served upon departure. We left Moosonee right on schedule and within twenty minutes I was eating the best Roast Beef dinner that I ever had on a train. It was as good as my mom's excellent prepared meals back home. I was given a pair of ONR dining car menus as I paid for my meal. I spent the rest of the trip writing post cards with the exception of going to the bar car to order a coke and to listen to the entertainer play Chattanooga Choo Choo before I photographed a beautiful sunset. It has been a great but very long day with me thinking of a shower and bed. We pulled back into Cochrane only about ten minutes late and after I mailed the post cards at the station I walked back to the motel. I called Maureen Angle that great science teacher I work with back home at McFadden to tell her of my luck on Fossil Island, about the piece of the Canadian Shield and the trout information from the Algoma Central that I was bringing her. She'll be doing the Trout in the Classroom Program again this year so anything I find about trout I always pick up for her. With that call done, I call it a night with a 5:00 A.M. wakeup call on tap. \

Ontario Northland The Northlander 122 8/16/2000

The wakeup call never came but since I was already up it did not matter. I showered in the waterfall, rearranged the luggage once more and called a taxi on this cold windy rainy dark morning. Since the northbound train was running late, an ONR yard crew would take our southbound train to the point where the two trains would meet and swap trains to get back to Cochrane. We left on time but had to stop to let off a mother who had helped her daughter on board. I curled up on my pair of seats and slept as all these early mornings had caught up with me again. We made the crew change as I rested and was wide awake by Matheson. I saw the first rolled hay stacks of the trip south of Matheson before returning to the typical Canadian Shield scenery of rocks, trees and lakes. At Swastika we met a northbound freight train.

I was at the rear door of the coach as the train crossed high above the Blanche River. I used this location for all my photography on this trip. Our train was made up of an FP7au, EGU (Auxiliary Power Unit), two ex GO Transit single level coaches with a snack car sliced in between. The bathrooms had needle disposing units in them the first one I ever have seen on a train before. I asked about the units and learned that a women car cleaner in Cochrane was cleaning up the trash and was pricked by a needle. She had all the tests and thank God that they were all negative so ONR came up with this system to deal with this problem. Makes you wonder just how many people are at risk for just performing their daily jobs.

We paused at Englehart before we passed through the yards and crossed high over the river of the same name. We left the Canadian Shield for the clay belt an area of agriculture. The rain had stopped, as I was napping so it was a very windy day outside the peacefulness of the train. It looks like a scene in Wisconsin at Milepost 130 of ONR Temagami Subdivision. We reached New Liskeard and upon departure the view of Lake Timiskaming came looking east with Quebec on its east shore. The train's route is away from the shore up on the rolling countryside. We stopped outside of Cobalt for track work. With all the slow orders that we had already had up to this point we were already an hour late and this would not help. I have a forty minute connection in Toronto for Montreal. If we miss that one there was another one an hour later but on a much slower schedule. The one that I am ticketed on runs the route as an express in 4:06 PM while the later one takes 5:02 PM making most of the stops. That's why I chose the first one. If we miss both of those there's always the Enterprise the new overnight service that Via has just started. I would have to cancel my room in Montreal and see about getting space on that train. The Good news was that my Angels were in town. Who knows what will happen. It is all the joys of train riding and everything works out if you let it.

We passed the station at Cobalt which sits on the west shore of a small lake in a nice setting. The Northlander has returned to the Canadian Shield. We went into the siding at Latchford for another northbound freight. The line up to Porquis is signaled but they were deactivated about eight years ago as a cost saving measure and the line is operated by the Occupancy Control System. Water, water everywhere. First a lake to the west then another one to the east. Could you pay me all those dollars for all the lakes that I have seen on this trip now? We arrived next at the beautiful stone station at Temagami and past Lake Temagami to the west as we departed town. From here to North Bay there was more Shield scenery to be seen and more sections of straight track for the train to deal with.

Our train arrived at North Bay with our ONR crew leaving and a new CN crew for the trip over the CN to Toronto. The pause allowed for me to take pictures of our train. We switched off of the ONR onto the CN tracks and about forty minutes later passed through Trout Creek whose church's steeple looks like an ice cream cone. We crossed Viaduct Creek on a lofty bridge and just prior to stopping at the boarded up South River Station we passed the remains of a coaling tower. Further south we crossed the Magnetawan River several times before Huntsville. We were following a freight train which was slowing us down even more. At Novar the dispatcher sawed him by us. He cleared the north switch being too long for the siding, we came into the siding and as we pulled down the siding, he backed up so that he'll clear the south switch so we can get by, then we were off to the races again. Three and a half hours to go one hundred fifty five miles. That six PM train is a maybe now!

I learned from the ONR lounge car attendant that when ONR bought these cars from GO Transit they gutted everything except for the car shells. This allowed them to completely redo the interiors in any manner that they chose. They made them into ten coaches and four snack cars. They did an excellent job as the cars are really enjoyable to ride in.

We crossed over the Muskoka River and continued to our next station stop at Gravenhurst. We did our station work from the siding as we were going to meet a northbound freight train. Could this be the nail in the coffin? We took a thirty minute hit and after Washago the CN conductor gave out fifty percent off coupons valid for your next Northlander trip. I guess that I will use mine on that now planned December trip. I now know not to try to connect with any train in Toronto off of this train. With all of the Rabis Voyagers being handed out I forgot to mention that once we reached the CN Bala Subdivision that it was the end of my new mileage for this part of the trip. We will take the Bala Sub right into Toronto Union Station. The only question left to be answered is: What time will that be?"

The sun is finally out as the Northlander runs along Lake Simcoe as its surface is very choppy from the wind. I went to the snack car and watched all of the movie "Jaws". I saw the downtown Toronto skyline from about twenty miles out. We waited for two GO Transit commuter trains to pass and I now know what to do in Toronto. We pulled in exactly two hours late. I detrained after a wonderful day of train riding and learned an excellent lesson. Never plan to do too much in one day. Spread it out so that it's relaxing and stress free.

Toronto 8/16/2000

I would now see if my overnight train plan to Montreal would work out. There were no customer service people to direct the detraining passengers. To use Karen Lizzi the Amtrak agent in Solana Beach favorite joke with me, it was "Go find it!" I lined up in the line at the Via ticket window and waited my turn. It all worked out with me getting my first lower berth of my train riding career at the third of the price instead of the room tonight in Montreal at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I called their reservation department, told the tales of my train journey on this day and they canceled that room. I checked my luggage for the evening in the baggage room and was free to go explore Toronto.

I had met Bill on the train that had come from Timmins and suggested that we go to the baseball game at the Sky Dome. We walked to the Sky Dome only to learn that the Blue Jays and Angels had played a day game. We walked down to the shores of Lake Ontario just to enjoy the view. As we walked about there were statues of moose all around the city with various corporate identities and design patterns painted upon them. The moose out in front of Union Station had train tracks painted all over it. Bill suggested that we go to Yonge Street so we did. On the way there we found the Hockey Hall of Fame which I would visit on a future trip. Our walk took us by Massey Hall a concert venue in Toronto before we had dinner at Burger King. We went to Eton Center looking for a movie theater but we had seen everything that was showing there. We headed back to the station where I reclaimed my luggage and waited inside the Via I Lounge until the boarding of my train. This was a welcome relief from the stale warm air inside the station considering how cool nice and windy it had been outside.

Via 50 The Enterprise 8/16/2000

I boarded the Lorne Manor and stowed my bags at the end of the car taking only my backpack to my lower section which was already made up for my night's rest. I walked back to the Laurentide Park Car and ended up giving a tour of its features to a few passengers. I went back to my section, buttoned up the curtain and was off on my trip to dreamland. During the night, the Enterprise traveled down the Toronto to Montreal mainline on a much slower schedule than the daytime trains. After Anatole the train pulled into a siding and sits for some time so that the train will get to Montreal at a decent hour and so sleeping car passengers get a good night's rest.


I woke up in the morning at MP 37 and walked back to the park car for my continental breakfast and rode the dome the rest of the way into Montreal noticing that our F-40PH-2 is one of the three painted up in the Kool Aid scheme. That was a nice early morning treat. I detrained and was now back on schedule. I was thinking how everything works out if you let it was true once again. I had a McDonald's breakfast and then a wait for my next train.

The Adirondack 68 8/17/2000

The rear two cars filled up with passengers and I have a seatmate, Sean a Canadian, who is working in North Carolina. We sat in total darkness for about ten minutes before we pulled out of the station and the lights came on. It was a dreary day out or so it seems until I discover that these cars have really tinted windows so I will have to take my pictures out the vestibule window or rear door. We crossed the St Lawrence River and stopped at St Lambert for a few more passengers. We headed down the rails to Cantic with Sean and I talking before we crossed the border into the United States and stopped for customs. The agents were very quick and to the point with me only being asked two questions.

Sean and I continued to talk to Plattsburgh where I decided to ride the vestibule all the way along Lake Champlain and photograph it really well so that in seventeen days I could just sit back and relax when I'm on this route again. The lake is beautiful today and it's clear all the way across to Vermont. The Adirondack proceeded to CP 132 where we took a twenty five minute hit waiting for our northbound sister train. Once on the move again I photographed all the way through Westport, Port Henry and Fort Ticonderoga. I returned to my seat after the south end of lake, I caught up with the news before putting on some music for the rest of the trip to Albany-Rensselaer. We crossed the Hudson River and pulled into the station where I headed to an ATM for some American currency.

We left Albany forty minutes late with me being on the inland side as the train headed south along the Hudson River. If you want Lake Champlain on your side of the train sit on the left side leaving Montreal or if you want the Hudson River then sit on the right. Boarding in New York, just reverse that last statement. The Hudson River looks beautiful across the train and I was enjoying the inland side totally as we sped south. After we left Poughkeepsie, I got tired of the tinted windows so I rode in the vestibule to enjoy the true light along the Hudson River. Leaving Croton-Harmon I went to see our conductor about my connection in New York with our tardy running on this trip. He said that once we were on the Amtrak connecting line to Penn Station he would call Penn Station and I asked for a PA announcement with a favorable response as soon as he found out. Train 148 would be holding on track ten. Now the only question is: "What track would the Adirondack pull in on?" Track five!

Northeast Direct 148 8/17/2000

The conductor told me to take the short escalator up and I did just that but at track ten there was not one going down. I struggled up the stairs when a black gentleman out of the blue lifted the back end of my cart and helped me to the top. I said "Thank you!" and he said "God bless you." I was totally awe stuck by his friendliness and helpfulness. Someone in New York City who did what I would have done in that same situation. To him I will always be thinking that God would bless him. Getting down to track ten was easy then and I boarded through a rebuilt Acela Regional car which I would examine later.

We left New York fifteen minutes late and after the conductor lifted my ticket I went to the cafe car for a cup of tea. There were two reasons why I made the trip to New Haven. The first was to get on the Twilight Shoreliner earlier to sleep and secondly to see the night time New York skyline from the Hell's Gate Bridge on the way there. It is something that all travelers should see. Stretched out in my window's view was the Brooklyn Bridge off to the south, the World Trade Center and the entire skyline of Manhattan Island. It was truly awe inspiring. I spent the rest of the early evening listening to music and relaxing while enjoying the miles as the train headed to New Haven.

Twilight Shoreliner 67 8/17/2000

Following a brief stay in New Haven with phone calls made and after playing with an Internet kiosk, I took the elevator up to track three and stood out in the night sky with the same crew that had bought me here from New York. The train pulled in about ten minutes late and I boarded Business Class in a dinette car. The Business end of the car had 2/1 seating so I took a single seat and settled in for the night. I used the little pillow like they are on my Pacific Surfliner Cars at home and managed to sleep for most of the night. I woke up only when the train stopped for a prolong period of time like in New York and Philadelphia.

8/18/00 I woke up at New Carrollton to a rainy morning with the train following a MARC commuter train to DC at a reduced speed. We arrived in Washington, DC thirty minutes late.

MARC 842/851 8/18/2000

I had wanted to make a Washington to Baltimore (Camden) trip on the ex B&O line but due to our lateness into DC a round trip was out of the question. I had a secondary backup plan just in case, a trip to Dorsey with a thirty two minute layover. MARC tickets are available by hitting the MARC button on the Amtrak self service ticketing machines. We left on time with me riding in a car that's about to be retired once MARC works out all the bugs with their brand new double deck cars. The train left the Northeast Corridor and headed up the valley to our first stop at Riverdale. Scenery wise there is nothing really scenic about this line but it is still new trackage for me. What caught my eye was the small CSX yard in Laurel and the large Laurel Racetrack that the train passed. All too quickly we pulled into Dorsey and my ride was over. I took a quick couple of photos of two trains in the Dorsey Station before I was off into the station to change my clothes. I was reading the MARC weekly newspaper when it started to rain hard. I waited for it to let up and made a mad dash to a shelter just before the next downpour. I boarded Train 851 back to Washington and read a Washington Post that I had found on a seat. We arrived back at Union Station all too soon and it was time to fix the first problem of the day.

Washington, DC 8/18/2000

The heel was coming off of my shoe and a shoe repair store would not fix it because it was wet. At the drug store next door, I bought a tube of Crazy Glue and then went to the bathroom using a hand dyer to dry my shoe's sole before I glued it back on. Total cost was two dollars and thirty seven cents versus the ten dollars the shoe place wanted. I walked by their store and had a good laugh. I next visited the post office in the station for stamps, a newsstand for post cards and the food court for some Buffalo Chicken Wings. I changed my Metroliner ticket to an earlier train to eliminate a five minute connection to Atlantic City in Philadelphia. I went to the waiting area to wait for the fastest train in North America, Amtrak's Metroliner.

Metroliner 110 -8/18/2000

As I walked out to the waiting train, I was about to live out another of my dreams. I had always wanted to ride a Metroliner and when I made my reservation well in advance it should have been one of the new Acela High Speed train sets but with all the problems in production along with on line testing all went into delaying the start of the Acela service. I was now really happy to finally be getting my chance to ride a Metroliner.

I found a seat, decided just to sit back with no music or any other distractions and just enjoy my ride. We left Washington on time and sped up only as far as BWI (Baltimore Washington Airport) before we followed a MARC Commuter Train at reduced speed all the way to Baltimore due to a lack of track space to get around him. Once past Baltimore, the Metroliner lived up to its name. I was now traveling at the fastest speed that I have ever attained on a train, 135 mph! I was really into it as we speed our way to Wilmington before we made a high speed assault onward to Philadelphia. We arrived just eight minutes late after a slow start. I was totally impressed and grateful that I got a chance to ride a Metroliner. In my future somewhere is an Acela Express and a higher speed ride.

Philadelphia 8/18/2000

The line out to Atlantic City was the next new line of the trip that I was going to ride. As I came up the escalator into the station, one of the wheels on the luggage cart broke and all I could do was drag it across the floor. Two Red Caps saw me struggling and when I asked for their help they said "We got better things to do!" and started laughing at me. I said "So that is how you treat your guests?" and they turned around with neither one of them wearing a name tag pointing at me then they burst into really loud laughter as they walked away. Since there were no luggage carts anywhere to be found in the station, I had to drag my bags across the floor leaving a nice scratching mark anyplace I went. I visited a Dunken Donut Shop before picking up some Septa timetables for future reference. I carried all my bags down the stairs to Track 5 to wait for my next train.

New Jersey Transit 4615 8/18/2000

I stood at track five only for about five minutes when the New Jersey Train for Atlantic City pulled in with me boarding it. I had to disconnect everything to put the luggage into the overhead racks. We left Philadelphia on time passing by the Amtrak yard with three future Acela train sets waiting there for their day to start service somewhere in the future. We crossed the Schuylkill River and the rain came down harder again with me glad to be inside a train instead of being out in it. We skirted the ugly area of Philadelphia and at Shore Junction we turned off the Northeast Corridor and onto some new trackage for me as we headed out towards Atlantic City. We crossed the Delaware River and entered New Jersey. We stopped at Cherry Hill with the Garden State Race Track to the north. At Lindenwold the train filled up with connecting passengers from Patco. Patco also has a stop in Lindenwold visible from our train. The countryside turned into forest as the train made its stops at Atco, Hammonton, Egg City Harbor and Abescon where a large group of the passengers detrained. We crossed the Intercostal Waterway and through the rain I could make out a few of the high rise hotels of Atlantic City. We pulled into the Convention Center train station right on time. I photographed the train before I dragged the luggage through the station and out to the taxi stand.

Atlantic City 8/18-8/19/2000

There was an overhang where Jitney Buses board but taxies are not allowed to use. Their stand is out in the pouring rain. One taxi came and went. When another one came a man and I headed out for it. We shared a cab first to his hotel, the Trump Marina and then we went to mine at the Flagship Hotel as the pouring rain continued. Everything fell apart as I took my luggage out of the trunk. A bell boy helped me get it all inside. I checked in then got no help with my bags to the room so I once more carried everything. I took out my poncho then walked ten blocks to a hardware store where I bought a hand truck and three bungee cords. It was a good thing that I bought those cords as future events would play out. I returned to my hotel with the weather improving. I took everything up to the room before I took a walk on the famous Atlantic City Boardwalks. I stopped to get Mrs. Angle some beach sand which I put in a film canister for her. I visited the Trump Casino where I got twenty dollars of quarters, played the slots, won a hundred and eight before losing all of it which was my plan. I had a buffet dinner before I took a lovely walk along the boardwalk back to the Flagship Hotel. I was in one of the best moods of my life until I returned to my room and found the long cord from my luggage cart gone. It was on the bags when I checked in and was tied on tight. I had only one thought in my head which was that some employee had ripped me off. I called the front desk to complain and they said to come on down. The hotel maintainer gave me a piece of rope to replace it. Thank God I had bought the three bungee cords. I packed everything up before I went to bed. Just as I had laid down the roof started to leak followed by the window opening by itself and I could not get the damn thing closed. The toilet then ran and the shower started to drip. I called it a night thinking I better warn people not to stay at the Flagship Hotel. It was the worst hotel experience that I ever had. Starting with the Twilight Shoreliner this morning to everything else, this might be the most unluckiest days of train travel in my life.

New Jersey Transit 4608 8/19/2000

I woke up early and checked out with everything falling apart as I waited for a taxi. When it arrived I just threw everything into the trunk and off we went. The traffic signals in this town at five thirty in the morning could drive a person crazy. All there cross streets get greens while the main drag gets a red. Stop and go and stop and go and etc..... I was glad I gave myself plenty of time to make my train. I got back to the train station and repacked the hand truck before rolling to an elevator up to the station. What a difference from dragging the bags to rolling the bags. I finally had some good luck as I made the 5:56 A.M. train and found a place for my luggage. The trip back to Philadelphia was relaxing and stress free with me even getting to watch the sunrise something I love doing since I have been sober. Back at 30th Street Station I enjoyed two vanilla cream donuts, dried my shoes and socks from yesterday's rain in the bathroom with the hand dryer and called my bank to check up on my finances.

The Vermonter 58 8/19/2000

I asked to be taken down the elevator to track five and I was standing at the end of a large crowd. I boarded the first coach and pushed my truck to an open space at the far end of the car before I took a rear facing seat. This route is the last one that I am going over for a second time on Amtrak meaning that I have been over every route at least twice. The train is completely full as many people are going to the Yankee Game or just a day in New York City. We left Philadelphia fifteen minutes late and made good track speed to Trenton where I see one of my favorite signs in all of America. "What Trenton Makes the World Takes." We continued north stopping at Metropark so at least I had a chance to see the old station before they build a new one. Newark came up quickly next before the conductor announced "New York, New York so good they named it twice!" I detrained briefly into the madness of a Saturday afternoon in Penn Station. Let us just say crazy for venturing into it at all.

Leaving New York twenty minutes late I shot a few pictures as we made our way up the grade to the Hell's Gate Bridge before napping most of the way to New Haven. I detrained for a few pictures at New Haven and our new engineer refused to take the cab car since it had a broken engineer's front window. They put F-40s on both ends of our train and we departed forty five minutes late. As we headed north up through Connecticut I bought my Linner (Lunch and Dinner) and enjoyed it most of the way to Hartford. We met the southbound Vermonter before we crossed the Connecticut River and ran along its east side into Massachusetts. We arrived in Springfield home of the Basketball Hall of Fame and our next crew change point.

We left Springfield and headed east to Palmer where we would be switched off of the ex Conrail mainline (CSX now) before reversing direction to travel north on the New England Central. Prior to reaching Palmer at MP 92 we stopped for a westbound CSX freight followed by the westbound Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited running hot on the freight's heels before we could cross over to the north track to be in the right position at Palmer where the engineer trades ends of the train. Since the last two cars are going to be closed at White River, I moved three cars forward at Amhearst. I found a Washington Post along with a New York Times and read them. I went to the club car and talked with an older gentleman about the demise of the Montrealer that ran through to Montreal on the same route that we were on. The border crossing and customs were a big part of that discussion. I moved up one more car at Brattleboro, VT.

It was a beautiful trip along the Connecticut River one that I hope to make someday when the trees are in their full Fall colors. Coming into Bellows Falls is very interesting. The Vermonter goes through a tunnel under town before stopping at the station with the Green Mountain depot on site. We crossed the Green Mountain Railroad's track then the Connecticut River into the State of New Hampshire and headed to Claremont, NH. Claremont is the only Amtrak stop in the state although when the Boston to Portland, MA service starts the state will get more Amtrak stops along its coast.

The Vermonter crossed the high bridge over Sugar Creek before it reached and crossed the Connecticut River back into Vermont for the last time on this trip. Looking north up the river I could see the longest dual line covered bridge in the world. Our next stop was the smoking stop at White River Jct which I used as a photo stop. I popped into the station building adding it to the list of stations that I had been in and saw the Boston and Maine 4-4-0 steam locomotive hidden under a trap being cosmetically restored.

As we left White River Jct. we followed the White River northwestward across Vermont with the clouds blocking out all the light needed for picture taking. We paused at Randolph as a group of senior citizens detrained slowly. If I reach their age I hope that I am still moving at least that well. The sun had set before we made our three remaining stops to St. Albans, VT which we arrived at five minutes late.

Thruway Bus 8/19/2000

I was first off the train with the help of Kat our conductor and onto the waiting Greyhound Bus with the bus driver making a very favorable comment about my luggage setup. We drove Interstate 35 to the border where we were ordered to take everything off the bus and inside the border station to be inspected. I got grilled like I never had been before. Obviously this agent had never met a train rider before. We headed north on QC 133 and passed Phillipsburg which bought back all the memories of that wild cab ride to catch the southbound Vermonter back when I was finishing up the entire Amtrak system. No need for any Quebec maps tonight as the rain started and lasted until almost Montreal. I had a beautiful approach to the lit up skyline of Montreal from the bus. I stayed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and had a problem with check in with the girl taking care of me never telling me why. I had a good night's sleep and the next morning I visited the ATM for more Canadian money followed by a McDonald's breakfast prior to waiting for my next train.

Via 620 8/20/2000

Today is my parent's 50th wedding anniversary and they are having a major party at my brother Jon's house at home in Santa Ana so I will have to call at five being a pre arranged time with my mother. As I waited in Gare Central, all the memories of last summer's trip flashed back to me. Gaspe, Halifax, Jonquirre and Senneterre all re warmed my heart and I feel really good once more at all the places I have been and all that I have seen. I boarded Via 620, sat back and enjoyed the high speed LRC train's performance. If you want to ride LRC at its best then ride the Montreal to Quebec City line of Via due to its many curves. We sailed along to Ashton Jct where we went into the siding for Via 621. The day had started out sunny but as we made our way northeast storms were brewing. I had hope for dry weather while I took care of things in Quebec City. We passed through one really heavy shower with the rain cascading down off the train but crossed the St. Lawrence and stopped at St Foy in bright sunshine. We arrived at Gare du Palais where new troubles soon would be awaiting me.

Quebec City 8/20/2000

It started when I could not find the rental car pickup phone number, but a very nice Via station agent helped me with that one. I called and was told that "We do not pick up people. Take a taxi to us and we pay the first six dollars!" "Ok, but that was not what your national reservation sales department said." I responded. I had to fight to get a taxi to the Quebec Hilton and Avis within. I walked out to a Chevrolet Malibu in the pouring rain. I drove to the hotel and that was where the trip's next major dilemma took place.

As I was checking into the Quality Hotel, I looked into my wallet for my bank card and it was gone. I had used it in Montreal and must have left it in the machine. Great! I got my room using another credit card and went upstairs to search my luggage for a card which I knew was not there. What would the person who found it do? I called my brother Jon for the phone number to cancel it and after a long wait with "Hot Cards" I managed to get the card canceled. If someone had found it they would have had six hours to run up charges with nothing I could do about it. It was Sunday so I can not call my bank. I called one of my other credit card companies who took up my credit line five hundred dollars which would get me through the rest of the trip. It became another case of everything works out if you let it.

Still upset but knowing that life goes on, I went to a French speaking laundromat and had to run to a store for detergent in the rain. I returned to do my wash. I had taken a tape to listen to and did a French word search in a newspaper that I had found that someone had left. Upon returning to the hotel room, I spread everything out so I could repack it once more. I walked back to the train station to see how long it would take me when I returned to Montreal next Sunday morning. I walked through a mostly closed up mall before I visited a Dunken Donut for a snack. At five, I called the party and sang the Flintstone's "Happy Anniversary Song" to both of my parents who were very happy to hear from me. I called Heidi in Oregon who was struggling with a decision that she had to make. She is always supportive of me wherever I am on a trip. Returning to my room, I was not feeling all that well. With all the early mornings of this trip and the stress that I had been under today, I put myself to bed and slept through to the next morning. I woke up feeling like my old sober self. I wrote down all the things that I had charged on the bank card so that these people would get paid and so it would be handy when I called the bank later this morning. Remember I am three time zones east of back home in California.

The Long and Winding Road 8/21/2000

I checked out and was heading northeast on Quebec Highway 138 for the six hundred fifty two kilometer drive to Sept Iles and my next train ride in two days. I stopped at Baie-Saint Paul at a McDonald's for breakfast and then drove nonstop to the ferry crossing of the Saguenay Fiord which was beautiful. Someday I want to take a cruise up this fiord

Back on the highway it was a nonstop trip to Bale Comeau for lunch, gas and the phone call to the bank. Whoever had found my card did use a rough total of two hundred sixty eight Canadian dollars damage. They put out a hold on all of those charges and we went through my list to make sure each of my real charges had been paid. They used my card at a jewelry store, as a phone card and for some other things. It just proves that no matter where you travel, you will find dishonest people and this was my time in Canada that I did. I hoped that it would also be my last. I was grateful that they really did not take me to the cleaners. Upon my return home I must sign a claim against all these charges. With my itinerary and train tickets I can of course prove that I was never in Montreal when all the fraudulent charges were made.

I drove down to the harbor when the call was over and found Donohue, Ince which is a rail barge service. The barge brings cars over from Matane Wharf across the St. Lawrence on the Gaspe Peninsula to the industries at Baie Comeau. These are the industries rail connections to the rest of North America. Back on the highway, I drove northeast passing through a tunnel before I stopped at a viewpoint and climbed the stairs for the view. Further north at Riviere-Pentecote, I found a sandy beach and took more sand samples for Maureen Angle. At Port Cartier there were no signs of the Cartier Railroad. Ten hours after leaving Quebec City, I arrived at Sept Iles and checked in at Motel Seven which took the American Express Card. My luck had changed. I found the train station, took a PFK {KFC] dinner back to my room, watched some TV and called it a night getting another great night of sleep.

To Havre St Pierre 8/22/2000

Sleeping in late by my standards, I back tracked to Clarke City to find the Arnaud Railway armed with only a map from the hotel. I found the access road with no problems and after about a forty minute wait, a train backed out of the plant with a pair of RS-18s spliced by a Quebec North Shore and Labrador SD-40-2GLC. After a quick photo session, I drove back to Sept Iles and Tim Hortons for a snack before I headed east down the highway two hundred twenty two kilometers to Havre St. Pierre. The two lane road flirted with the shoreline and for part of the way through virgin forest. It was open and unspoiled land and I can imagine it just as the first settlers saw it. About two and a half hours later, I arrived into Havre St Pierre with the tracks of the Romaine River Railway leading me into town. They had their S-4 4 display out in front of their offices. I took pictures of their passenger train that they use to take the employees out to the mine along with a pair of GP-9s off in the distance.

I drove back to Sept Iles stopping for some rocks for Maureen and dodging the thunderstorms that were all around me. The lightning was pretty spectacular. Back in town, I had another PFK dinner then shot a Quebec and North Shore and Labrador (QNSL from now on) wreck train leaving town with me wondering where it was heading to. I went to the QNSL depot more of a Quonset hut to wait for my next train.

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Monday Northbound Train 8/22/2000

I boarded the QNSL's RDC-2 which was leading two RDC-1s. We left right on time passing through the large QNSL yard. It took about twenty minutes to finally escape it and head out north up their mainline. We passed Arnaud Jct before entering the first tunnel then exiting right out onto the Moisie River bridge just as night took full control. A half moon cast enough light to make out rocks and trees. I had a pair of forward facing seats so I stretched out across them and slept my way to Labrador City. At three thirty Atlantic Time which Labrador is on, we arrived at the Labrador City where the train was wyed so we could pull straight out again later in the morning when we leave for Sept Iles.

Labrador City 8/23/2000

I walked off the train setting foot in Labrador for the first time. I walked looking for a hotel room first at the Two Season Inn which did not have a room so the owner called the Carol Inn which did so I walked to there. Not bad for not having a reservation. The train was scheduled into the depot at five thirty and if that would have been the case I would have just stayed at the station. By getting the room I could have a few more hours of sleep and then a shower. I slept until the sun had risen before I walked to McDonald's for breakfast. I found a drug store and went post card shopping. It was really good to hear just English spoken everywhere I visit here. One of the channels on their cable TV is Channel 5 from Los Angeles. I checked out and walked back to the QNSL depot on a delightful morning. All in all my brief visit to Labrador City was wonderful. The city is clean and I was real surprised. I am really impressed with what they have built out of the Labrador wilderness here.

Quebec North Shore and Labrador - Tuesday Southbound Train 8/23/2000

I boarded the same RDC-2 about an hour and a half early, photographed the train and tried to call home but neither of the phone cards that I had would work on the company's phone. A trainman gave me a route and history guide of the QNSL. I caught up with my writing while waiting for our noon Atlantic Time departure. Remember that Labrador is really part of Newfoundland.

The train left Labrador City on time and crossed an arm of Little Wabush Lake. We are on the QNSL's Northernland Sub. Off to the south is the Wabush Mine which was viewed before our train ran along Flora, Moosehead and Michael Lakes. We crossed the Trans Labrador Highway three times and at the last one at MP 24 it heads off to Goose Bay after we parallel it for miles. I will cross it further north tomorrow on my way to Schefferville. We zipped by Opocopa siding before running beside Denille Lake. The trees are my old friendly Tiaga. On the north side of the track is the old ballast pit used by both the builders of the railroad and Trans Labrador Highway. The train tracks rise fifty feet on a causeway above an arm of Lake Shabogamo which is to the north side of the train. Near MP 15 we passed one of that lakes bays. Next is Lac Grande Hermine a twelve mile lake shaped like a weasel on the north side before we crossed an arm of it on a fill. At MP 9 is Lac Emerillion. We crossed the Ashuanipi River on the only bridge between Labrador City and Ross Bay Jct. We came to a stretch of double track right before the junction with the line from Schefferville prior to making our first station stop at Ross Bay Jct.

The south switch at Ross Bay Jct is in a metal tunnel to keep it snow free in the winter. Off to the west is Ashuanipi Lake and to the east at MP 221 of QNSL's Wacouna Sub is a microwave site built in 1958/1959. The line from Sept Iles to Labrador City is all CTC controlled, while the line to Schefferville is OCS or Occupancy Control System. We came to Ashuanipi siding and we stopped by a dark signal which means on this railroad that the tracks must be inspected and a delay as much as two hours could occur. They use helicopters to inspect the tracks and our ordeal at MP 203.6 lasted two hours and twenty five minutes.

What did I do during all that time? I did three word fill in puzzles, read Rail Ventures system highlights, shot a few pictures, talked in the vestibule about hockey and just enjoyed the Labrador sunshine hitting my skin. We finally got a green signal and we were under way towards Sept Iles once more. Will those passengers who want to watch the season finale of Survivor get to see it? Only time will tell. Dry Lake next appeared to the east with Lake Ashuanipi still off to the west. We run near this lake for thirty five miles. We proceeded to Oreway where we went into the siding to get around a southbound loaded ore train. The remains of the main terminal of the railroad are here and are scheduled to be demolished soon. All this area of Labrador is muskeg with the stunted trees of the Tiaga that I have been seeing since Labrador City. There's a major brunt area between Dollivar and Seahorse, a place which I wonder how it got its name and where we met an empty northbound ore train. The train has been slowly climbing into the mountains. We reached the highest point on the railroad at Little which is 2066 feet above sea level which is on a sign on the east side of the tracks. All water that flows to the north goes to the Arctic Ocean and the water that flows to the south empties into the St. Lawrence. We crossed the border into Quebec at MP 142.

Eric Lake is off to the west. We went past the siding put in for Quebec Hydro whose substation can be seen through the trees. The Seahorse answer I learned is when you look at the tracks from the air they look like the outline of a seahorse. Remember this railroad wasn't built until the early 1950s and I will discuss that later on. We arrived at Mai old siding 128 to a collection of railroad buildings where we did a passenger stop. We left the first part of the mountains and were now in the hills. To the west near MP 122 is Defrense Lake where the train rolled through the hilly countryside. There was another fire zone near Chico siding. Just before MP 104 we passed the wreck site that the wreck train I had seen yesterday had been dispatched to. They are cleaning up an Arnuad Railroad ore train and we'll see how they come along with it over the next two days. This is mountain railroading with a constant downgrade all the way to Sept Iles and both railroads run really long trains.

We stopped at a river to put a passenger off before we passed Waco siding with the wreck train that I had photographed yesterday parked in it. We returned to the mountain for the most scenic part of this journey, the Nipissis River Canyon. West side viewing is the best through the canyon from MP 79 to MP 57. At Premio the south switch is covered by a steel tunnel. At Milepost 68 keep a good eye out for Tonkas Falls as I saw it twice but only photographed it once.

Milepost 65 brings the 1046 foot long tunnel complete with lights and with an abandoned tunnel closer to the river. The canyon rock faces are spectacular at MP 52 along the east side of the train. We got stopped for another northbound ore train at Nipisso. There's a notice in the vestibule that says:

Notice to Passengers:

It is strictly forbidden to stand in the vestibule or between cars when the train is moving.

In the local native language:


Of course, there was a French version as well. I wonder which native word is train. The things I do while waiting for a train to arrive like writing this all down.

The long delay is bringing the end of light to this journey. We were nearing the south end of the canyon past Nicman siding and a little further on the Nipissis River joins the Moisie River in its journey to the Gulf of St Lawrence. Just past Teller we exited the gorge we've been traveling through by crossing the Moisie River on the longest bridge on the railroad 785 feet long and 155 feet high before plunging into Tunnel 1 which is 2192 feet long and has a height of 186 feet. It seems that there was a cave there already when the QNSL built the tunnel. We crossed the causeway across Lake Emerillion then passed through Arnuad JCT where that railroad picks up its train to go to Point Noire. We passed under QC 138 and entered the QNSL yards where the train was wyed before it backed through the north side of the yard to the depot. I detrained knowing that I would be back here at nine in the morning. This ended a great round trip on the QNSL to Labrador City. It was PFK again for dinner, a check in back at Motel Seven, a shower, a little good TV and a well deserved rest.

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Wednesday Northbound Train 8/24/2000

I awoke to a rainy morning with me glad that I had shot so many pictures yesterday. Today's train is an SD-40-2 pulling four RDCs, an ex Wabash Dome Car reserved for a private group and two freight cars. Here is a bit of history of this railroad. Construction began at the docks at Sept Iles in 1950. To build this railroad everything was transported by air. Large machines were cut in half and reassembled by welding at construction sites. 6900 men from Quebec and Newfoundland worked on the line and were stationed at eighteen camps. As the construction moved north up the line, their camps were moved by tractors. The first hundred miles required blasting of the mountains and the filling of the valleys. Six hundred tons of dynamite was used just for the section between mile 12 to 17 to blast one million cubic yards of rock. After all the rock had been dealt with, the water and the muskeg was the next problem. They built 19 bridges as the railroad was built towards Schefferville. The railroad reached Ross Bay Jct. in the winter of 1952/1953 and the line was completed to Schefferville in 1954.

We left on time heading out into the rainy morning with so little light that it made photography impossible and the early shots that I had hoped to take on this trip will have to wait for an on time run tomorrow. I have some company at my seat today. Sam is from Minnesota and Bill is from Wisconsin. Both men drove up here from the states and are taking the QNSL to go caribou hunting. Sam used to work for the Missibi Railroad as a clerk and had a lot of interesting tales to tell. Both gentlemen later went on to become principals of elementary schools and have been long time friends. It's good to have some company on what looks like a long rainy day.

As the train exited Tunnel 1 and crossed the Moisie River, the clouds began to lower and intermix with the scenery which bought a new found beauty to this low light environment. By the time we had reached the canyon walls, the light had improved and I was once more documenting the trip with pictures. I would take fewer pictures to Ross Bay Jct on this trip. I would shoot just the things I either missed or didn't get a good shot of like Tonkas Falls, the highest elevation sign, the Seahorse station sign and Lake Ashuanipi which I shot right before Ross Bay Jct. I rode RDC-1 6115 which is an ex Boston and Maine unit almost all the way to Ross Bay Jct. except for a short ride in the ex Wabash Dome Car 13510 with the crews permission since it had a private group in it who were going to Labrador City. I only stayed a few minutes and what was really weird was that the rain stopped the exact same spot on the railroad that it had started yesterday.

At Ross Bay Jct, a short train from Labrador City meets the train and we swapped the rear RDC and dome car for QNSL 13509, an ex Southern Coach which was empty, so I went back and chose to ride in it the rest of the way to Schefferville saying adieu to Sam and Bill wishing them both well on the rest of their journey. This move allowed for peace and quiet with a chance to stretch out since there were only two other people who chose to ride in this car as well.

Leaving Ross Bay Jct, I entered a new stretch of trackage for me to Schefferville. The first noticeable change is around MP 238 where some of the poles have large falcon nests on top of them. This line has signals whose heads have been turned and deactivated for the first few miles of the line before they have been removed. To the west of the tracks for most of the rest of the trip is Lake Menhihek and the usual trees of the Tiaga along with the track side poles with their wires. Areas of Muskeg are passed along with the ever present Cariboo Moss. The sidings we ran by had names like Emeril, Shabo, Talzie and Sawbill. At MP 266 the sky is darkening up so I suspect more rain is due soon. At MP 270 it did just that. Out to the west a ridge of mountains appeared then a few miles further to the east another ridge appeared.

From MP 276 the railroad runs along the east shore of Lake Menhihek with an esker to the east and at the former siding of Eskers we dropped off some passengers. Also at Esker is an abandoned warehouse building along with a few set out tracks. There are cabins and residents here but you have to look hard for them. Lake Menhihek is almost always in sight, sometimes some distance away, other times at bays that come next to the tracks and even along the shore at times. It's one long lake. Sidings and place names we ran by were Cavanagh, Faden, Menhek and Astray. The rain stopped again at Faden. I want to put a "McF" in front of it and add a "D" and that would spell the name of the school that I work at, McFadden! At MP 320 off to the east I could make out another lake way off in the distance. At MP 329 the train runs right on top of the dam that was releasing incredible amounts of water from Lake Menhihek. The water shot out like a canon fifty feet out into the river below. Most impressive. We were met by a pickup truck just to the north of the dam where we dropped a passenger off. We crossed the first dirt road since Ross Bay Jct right before MP 331. There's another lake off to the east at MP 340 and now can I have a dollar for every lake that I have seen on this trip? The terrain then became hilly as we reentered Quebec after traveling north all the way across Labrador. The tracks circled into the north side of Schefferville and stopped at the QNSL depot about a mile from town. It was an eight fifteen arrival and I was first off into a taxi cab ($10c) to the Hotel Mount Royal and a room for a good night sleep.

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Thursday Southbound Train 8/25/2000

It rained hard during the night and was still raining in the morning as I had French toast in the hotel's restaurant preparing for my return to Sept Iles. Today is a day of rest with only a few pictures necessary. Taxiing back to the station where I read a notice that new passenger equipment would be arriving in December. It will be interesting to see what kind of equipment that the QNSL purchases for their unique passenger operations. The lesson that I learned about this railroad is be the first one to get to the station so you get the best choice of seats on the train. To anyone who wants to come ride the QNSL my best advice is to be at the station about an hour before the train leaves.

As we departed, I learned that Schefferville used to have a population of three thousand people when the mine was open. It was the quality of ore was a lower grade than found at the Labrador City area mines so when the mines shut down and the mine workers moved out with the native people moved in. Today Schefferville has a population of seven hundred fifty people. By the way, the QNSL food service on their trains is by vending machines which only one is set up to take the Canadian two dollar coin. A good system when it works or a bad one when it does not, like when the coffee machine is out and I can not get a cup of tea. The rain had stopped for now as the train returned into Labrador and I shot a good picture of water being released from the Menhihek Dam.

Now I just kicked back and listened to music down to Ross Bay Jct. At Eskers, a group of five adult Falcons were holding a meeting in a large nest atop a track side pole. Lake Menhihek appears to be about one hundred and ten miles long, stretching from the dam at Menhihek to almost Ross Bay Jct. The train from Labrador City was already waiting in Ross Bay Jct as we arrived and the dome car was on its train. I went to the vestibule to take some pictures and when I returned to my seat I found that the natives and friends who had been playing cards across from me had taken it over the seat in front of me. Now other locals came to the game to watch. Wanting me to move they did not ask me. Their way was to get the two fattest women to put their asses right into my face, not a great sight. When crew came by and saw what had happened to me I asked "If anyone could go sit up in the dome car?" With a "Yes!" he then helped me with my bag and took a much happier Chris back to the Dome Car where I took the front right side seat. This made for a grand finale for my final trip on the QNSL. Thank you natives! This car was built in 1958 by Pullman Standard for the Wabash as their Dome 203. With the merger into the Norfolk and Western, it became N&W 1613 and the QNSL bought it in 1979 as their Dome 13510. We stopped at Ashuanipi to pick up passengers from a camp along the lake with the same name. We traveled south as far as Oreway where we were held on the main for a welded rail train. The view from the dome is the only way to truly see this railroad with its 360 degree view. The rain returned at Pitaga but only to the forward windows of the dome and stopped all too soon with the glass clearing up. I really like this car as a beautiful rainbow came into view just to the south of Dolliver before we picked up another passenger. We ran through the siding at Seahorse where we met a northbound ore train. We had a red signal at Little which cleared just as the rain began again and stopped at Eric where another passenger was picked up.

We proceeded to Dufrense Lake where we went into the siding for an Arnaud Railway train pulled by QNSL power to the Wabush Railroad outside of Labrador City. The Arnaud and Wabush are owned by the same company and the QNSL just plays the middleman in getting the cars between the two railroads. It made more sense to do it that way than have another whole railroad built. That brings us right to the wreck scene before Waco. QNSL uses their equipment to clean it up and they do it in a way that the rail traffic does not get disrupted. It just shows what a great company QNSL's parent the Iron Ore Company of Canada is. We moved south to Canatiche to meet another northbound empty train before we backed up the main and went down the siding to get by another ore train. Amazing!

From the heights of the dome car, the rapids of the Nipisso River were better seen as was Tonkas Falls further on. The canyon is where the whole 360 degree dome view came in best. You notice how much rough terrain that the QNSL was built through better. We paused at Tika to pick up a track foreman and are now in the home stretch to Sept Iles in the last shadows of the day. It had been an incredible series of rides on the Quebec North Shore and Labrador, a railroad that I will never forget. It was truly a special treat to have ridden the dome car all the way from Ross Bay Jct to Sept Iles, something I will be telling people for years to come.

A brief stop at Saumon for another northbound Arnaud train and to pick up a few more passengers. We crossed the Moisie River and went through tunnel one. Some of the natives came up and blocked everyone else's forward view. We went into the siding one last time at Arnaud Jct for a northbound QNSL freight before we headed into the yard, wyed the train and backed the rest of the way to the station. I thanked the crew for a most wonderful four days of train riding on their railroad. I was first off and raced to the car. I stopped at PFK to pick up dinner, gassed the car and went to Motel Seven for my last night's stay in most wonderful Sept Iles.

The Long Drive Back to Quebec City 8/26/2000

I awoke at 4:00 AM and was on QC Highway 138 within five minutes. I had a beautiful sunrise over the St. Lawrence. I stopped for donuts at Tim Hortons in Baie Comeau and drove to the ferry for an enjoyable crossing of the Saguenay Fiord.

The next stop was for gas at San Simon before I found the Chemin De Fer Charlevoix Railway in Clermont. I then drove and toured Canyon Sainte Anne which is a place everyone should visit. It was fantastic.

I also stopped at Montmorey Falls where there is a charge for everything like the cable car to the canyon rim. I liked the Canyon Sainte Anne so much better although Montmorey Falls was featured in the Sunday River video "CN 6060 Steel In The Sky" so it was worth a visit. I drove the rest of the way to Quebec City where I checked back in at the Quality Hotel, gassed the rental car before I returned it.

Quebec City 8/26/2000

I walked over to the Walled City, entered through one of the gates and worked my way down to the base of the hill. I stopped at a doll store as I am always on the lookout for my mother. I exited and came out across the street from the Via Station. I visited a hobby shop for some reading materials before I walked through the mall for supplies and linner (lunch and dinner) at an A&W. I returned to the hotel, made a few phone calls home, repacked everything and enjoyed the rest of my stay in Quebec City.

Via 23 8/27/2000

It was raining again as I woke up and I went out to get some Dunken Donuts before I checked out. I walked down a narrow street to the Gare du Palais to wait for my train back to Montreal and a baseball game for a change of pace. After watching Expo Week last night and the owner giving up a downtown piece of property that they were going to build a new stadium on, there is major speculation that the Expos may not be in Montreal after this season. So I am glad that I am going to be seeing them in Montreal. I wonder where they might end up?

As we leave Quebec City, our LRC-2 locomotive is putting out smoke like a steam engine into the pouring rain. The timing of my walk from the hotel had been perfect as not a drop landed on me. We proceeded to Saint Foy, crossed the St Lawrence and made an unscheduled stop at Charny for a pair of passengers. We headed down the mainline to Laurier where we met an eastbound CN container train heading towards tomorrow's destination of mine, Halifax. The rain stopped as we burned up the tracks with our speed as far as St. Leonard where we were sidetracked for Via 620, the same train that I was on last Sunday. With all the adventures on the QNSL that seems like a lifetime away. Back on the main and up to speed, the train traveled to St. Edouard where we met another eastbound CN freight. This makes the sixth CN train that I have seen this morning. Business must be booming. Drummondville would make a good future location to come to shoot CN and Via trains. We were out on the main again and ran fine until we were holed up for another double stack train. The LRC-2 was still smoking it up as we passed the new commuter train stops for the service from Montreal. We paused in St. Lambert before we crossed the St. Lawrence and arrived in Montreal twenty two minutes late.

Montreal 8/27/2000

After paying Via to store my bags in their baggage room for the day, I was off downstairs and on the escalator to the Bonaventure Subway Station. With the subway map that I had gotten at the Via Information Center getting to Olympic Stadium was a snap. I moved my thumb with each stop and at Berri-Ogam, I transferred down stairs to a train towards Honore-Beaugrand with my stop being PIE-IX. Always find the line's end point stop on the line that you are going to be riding to make sure that you are on the right train. The station at PIE-IX is right at the home plate gate right where my seat was.

I always wanted to go to Olympic Stadium after watching the 1977 Olympics and a tape of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's 1977 tour with the orchestra which I saw in Long Beach minus the orchestra due to the high cost associated with it. I walked down to the field fence and heard all these French baseball fans trying to get the players attention in French. I said "Hey Valdimar" He said "Who said that." "I did and would you sign my book?" He said "What's your name." I said "Chris" He took my book and signed it then said, "Hey Teammates come and sign Chris' book" I managed to get almost the entire team. Valdimar Guerrero than asked me where I was from. "Santa Ana, California on a train trip across Canada." "Have a nice and safe trip" After the Expos finished signing my book, Valdimar handed it back to me and I yelled "Thank you Montreal Expos!" They all turned and waved and said "You welcome!" I walked back to my seat with those French baseball fans jaws dropped looking at me in awe. I then watched Houston defeat the Expos 7-3 with Scott Elarton pitching a complete game and catcher Tony Eusebio hitting a home run and two doubles to extend his hitting streak to twenty three games. Moises Alou had a home run and a pair of singles for the Expos. All food was reasonable priced and the Expo Magazine with scorecard was a true bargain. After the game, I took the rubber tire subway back to Central Station where I bought a chicken dinner, retrieved my luggage and waited to board my train to Halifax.

Via 14 The Ocean 8/27/2000

The train left Montreal on time and headed out into the evening's clearing skies. The train is crowded but as usual I managed to keep a pair of seats to myself. I retraced my route of this morning as far as Charny where I stretched out across two seats and slept fairly well through the night.

8/28/2000 I awoke at Matapedia as they were splitting the Gaspe train off. My memory took me back to that most beautiful trip that I took to Gaspe last summer. I went to the rear section of the Skyline Car to wait for breakfast to be served and had my entire meal of pancakes as the train was being serviced in Campbelton, NB. As the Ocean traveled east across New Brunswick I was in kick back mode. I wondered how Sam and Bill's caribou hunting above Schefferville went. When I boarded the QNSL there, I had met some hunters from South Carolina, one who had bagged six caribou. So Sam and Bill, I hoped you both had good luck and I wish you a safe trip on your long drive home. I have a beautiful clear day with not a cloud in the sky and with a good breeze blowing. I wonder what the weather is up north? We made our way to Moncton where I was given a tour of the ex CP Rail baggage car which was the last kind of Via car that I had not been inside of. It originally was a baggage-dormitory car with the dormitory section removed in 1980/1981. They cut off two of the Chateau sleepers so that they can return to Montreal tonight. We left Moncton forty five minutes late.

We continued east with me listening to music really loud to drown out these two women who had not stop talking since they left Montreal except to sleep. I pity the two Japanese students who kept on getting wakened up by their loud outbursts. The Ocean's next stop is Sackville that sounds like some town on a board game. We crossed the Missaquash River and enter Nova Scotia before our next stop at Amhearst. We did not make the stop at Springhill Jct and crossed over the ridge with me doing word fill in puzzles until just before Turo where we met the westbound Ocean. At Turo we boarded a car load of school children many of them making the second train ride of their life after their first coming from Halifax this morning. All too soon the Ocean was curving along the Bedford Basin and we arrived in Halifax just fifteen minutes late.

Halifax 8/28/2000

I walked and found the Wavely Inn, an excellent old hotel which lacks an elevator. I had to break down the hand truck making four trips up to the second floor with the luggage. The hotel is letting me store my luggage and hand truck while I go on the Bras de Or which is a major relief for me. It will be locked in a closet underneath the stairs while I am gone. I needed to do my laundry so I went back to the same laundromat that I used last summer when I was here. I visited the Atlantic Super Store for some dinner and the gift shop in the lobby of the Westin Hotel for two Lighthouses of Nova Scotia T-shirts, one for myself and one for my niece Stephanie who loves lighthouses. I relaxed the rest of the evening and got a good night's sleep before my last piece of new mileage in Canada on this trip and what should have been my last Intercity mile in Canada had the Algoma Central reservation department not screwed up. At least I will be finishing up all of Via tomorrow.

8/29/2000 I awoke to a beautiful cool sunny morning and following a continental breakfast, I walked to the Via depot to buy an Ocean T-shirt prior to boarding the Bras D' Or.

Via 618 Bras D' Or 8/29/2000

The trip began with my ticket being taken and a walk out to a four car train consisting of the baggage car, a coach, Skyline Car and the Park Car off of the consist of the Ocean that I had arrived on yesterday. The train departed on time and followed the Ocean's route as far as Turo. I went to the Park Car's Dome for the trip out of Halifax and along the Bedford Basin with our train in excellent light. A Continental Breakfast was served to the twenty passengers abroad on this trip. Our male guide Jeff Grey pointed out the location of the 1917 explosion of an ammunition ship which was the world's greatest man made explosion prior to the dropping of the atomic bomb. It happened when the munitions ship Mt. Blanc collided with the relief ship Immo. This event along with a snowstorm the next day killed 2,000 people and is known as the Halifax Explosion. It took place in the narrows between the harbor and the Bedford Basin. Boston sent relief supplies after the disaster and because of their actions, Halifax sends Boston a Christmas tree every year, a way of always remembering that city's generosity in their time of need. I wonder how many other places had explosions during the World Wars?

The Bras D' Or passed through the heart of Nova Scotia's dairy farming and milk industry. We crossed the forty fifth parallel which puts me halfway between the Equator and North Pole. All the rivers here flow into the Bay of Fundy, a place that I would like to come to and explore. At Turo we switched off the CN tracks for those of the Cape Berton and Central Nova Scotia Railway where we switched crews and headed out onto new trackage for me. The train traveled out into a very heavily forested canyon along the Salmon River, one of thirteen rivers with that same name in Nova Scotia. Downstairs our female guides Stephanie Hardy and Mary Rachelle Cherpak are singing Nova Scotian Folk Songs extremely well. Their music really puts you in the mood for the trip. The Park Car that I was riding in on this Bras D' Or trip is the Park Car 8710, Prince Albert Park. The train reached Lorre siding with a marsh to the north and shorty after we topped the grade at MP 31.3. The train passed through Westville before reaching Stellerton where we boarded two passengers who were members of our engineer's family. The CB&CNS has a local that works their lines out of here. We passed the Museum of Industry with locomotive 42 originally Sydney and Louisberg 16 on display outside their building. We crossed the East River and entered New Glasgow with a large smokestack at the Trenton Car Work Plant seen off to the north. This plant builds railroad cars for most major North American railroads.

Leaving New Glasgow the train started climbing the ridge that leads to Antigonish. On a high power pole near MP 49 I spotted the largest osprey nest that I have ever seen. We crossed an arm of Merigomish Harbor before we returned to the trees. As the Bras D' Or passed through Marshy Hope, a call came over the PA that all coach passengers should return to their seats for lunch. The attendant first brings a hot towel which is then picked back up after usage. A menu is then given. The cart is next pushed down the aisle and I got a seafood platter of lobster, salmon and halibut along with a dinner roll and a coke. A very tasty lunch before I returned to the Park Car's dome for more outstanding Nova Scotia scenery.

The train passed through Antigonish, home of St Francis Xavier University which is seen to the southwest and the old train station built in 1902. The town also hosts North America's longest running Highland Games. The train next crossed the James River before running along Antigonish Bay to the Bridge at South River. Along the route where trees have been cleared farming takes place and where they have not it was continuous forests. We crossed the Ponquet River with the bay to the north before the train runs to Afton siding. This brings the train to its first view of St Georges Bay. Just out past Tracaide Bay where the river of the same name dumps into it, we crossed a ridge of highland before running right above the shore of St. Georges Bay. This is a very scenic part of the trip as our guide Jeff points out things. We turned a corner and the Canso Causeway came into view.

We traveled over the deepest causeway in the world, two hundred and seventeen feet at its deepest point. We entered Cape Breton Island and ran along the Straits of Canso to our brief layover of Port Hawksberry.

We were told that our departure would be after the passage of a freight train. I visited a shop and bought a Lighthouse of Nova Scotia Sweatshirt at forty percent off. I photographed the freight train which stopped allowing me to buy an ice cream cone and for a walk to the end of the pier. Once I got to the end of the pier, the freight train started to move and leave town. The Bras D' Or then backed into the depot and I was the first passenger to reboard, storing my purchases and returning to the Park Car's dome for departure.

Departing Port Hawkesberry we started inland across a low divide and traveled passed McIntryes Lake before we climbed to West Bay and over the top of the grade at MP 28. We descended to River Deny siding. Right before Orangedale we caught our first view of an arm of Bras D' Or Lake and after passing the train station which is a museum, I got my second look at an inlet of the lake. Further along, we crossed the Ottawa Brook on a curved trestle built in 1915 followed shortly by a shorter bridge as we ran along more inlets of Bras D' Or Lake. We passed the location of the former siding at McKinnon and moments later we were running along the shore of Bras D' Or Lake. We traveled along its west shore passed cliffs of white before cliffs of red. Absolutely beautiful!

The train rounded a corner with a beautiful brick Roman Catholic church and graveyard to the west in Iona and the Barra Strait Bridge also known as the Grand Narrows Bridge which was opened in 1890 to the east. The train stopped for ten minutes so everyone could get off and enjoy the view prior to our crossing of the Grand Narrows.

Our train followed the St Andrews channel of Bras D' Or Lake northeast first passing through Grand Narrows where there is an ex railroad hotel now a bed and breakfast. Next we passed Christmas Island a town where Canadians send their Christmas cards to be post marked. We left the lakeshore running returning to the forest with the lake visible between the trees with off and on shore views.

Off to the west after MP 81 we passed Long Island, a less populated island than the one in New York. Minutes later across the channel to the west is Boulardeire Island before we bridged Georges River. The train passed a yard that had a sign that read "Welcome Back Via" and a gentleman who waves to every train that passes. We came to the north end of the St Andrew Channel of Bras D' Or Lake where there is a channel that connects it to the Atlantic Ocean. The train ran through Gannon before it crossed a causeway with a couple making love out in the open and who were surprised by the arrival of the train. Let us hope his performance was not compromised!

We passed through Sydney Mines before traveling through North Sydney. In the fading light of day, we circled the south end of Sydney Bay before we crossed a forested peninsula and then ran along the east side of the bay to our final destination, a new wooden platform built in a residential area and where the Bras D' Or would end its journey. I have reached the end of one of my goals of riding every mile of the Via Rail of Canada's system. A passenger took a picture of me by the Park Car so I would have a remembrance of this day. It's been an absolutely special day with the train, the scenery and the people all making it one of the most delightful days of riding trains in my life.

Sydney 8/29/2000

I walked the mile and quarter to the Cape Bretoner Inn. I checked in and then went off for dinner as well as some film. The Dairy Queen provided the food and the Walmart was one of three stores that I visited just to get a single roll of film. I returned to my hotel for a good night's rest.


I started my walk back to the train with a stop at the Comfort Inn for post cards where I discovered that my travel folder was gone which had my birth certificate in it. I stashed my bags behind some bushes and ran back to the hotel knowing that I had it when I checked in. They said that they did not have it and I got a key to check my room which was in vain. I returned to retrieve my bags and on the way to the train thought how I was going to deal with this rock on the road on my return to the United States. I wondered if Halifax had a US Embassy? Is this going to be another case of everything works out if you let it?

Via 619 Bras D' Or 8/30/2000

Once boarded, I told my newest dilemma to our service manager Ken Cairns who says he would help me with it and the car attendant Shamus McDonald bought me a Coke on my request. I started my westward journey home from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean all the way across North American to my home in Santa Ana. I wrote post cards and read the newspaper until departure time. Today's passenger count is a mere nine so there was even more space to move about. Sydney Harbor is fogged over until we reached the south end and I return to the Park Car dome shooting pictures of both station buildings in North Sydney and Sydney Mines. I enjoyed the causeway and shot the north end of the St Andrew Channel of Bras D' Or Lake before sitting back and taking the whole scene in once more listening to music.

We crossed the lake at Grand Narrows and I switched sides in the dome for the west side of Bras D' Or Lake. I am the only passenger riding in the Park Car so it was like having my own private car. When we reached Ottawa Creek, the train crew came back and told me several stories about the bridge with one person living and one engineer dying. We passed the Orangedale Depot museum and then descended down towards Port Hawksberry with me reading The Hockey News Ultimate Pool Guide. At our morning stop, I went to put stamps on the post cards that I was mailing and our guides want to know how I like my private car? What would you think?

Also during the stop, I bought Karen a sweatshirt like mine as well as four more post cards and filled them out leaving them with the store owner to be mailed before getting another ice cream cone. We left at our assigned time after meeting a switch engine and within minutes we crossed the Canso Causeway leaving Cape Berton behind for mainland Nova Scotia. At Havre Boucher three cuts of box cars in the yard prevented me from getting a shot of the lighthouse there. I had chicken for lunch in the rounded end of the Park Car rearranging the chairs for a rear view. At Afton we went around the CB&CNS Railway's eastbound freight train which was quite long today.

Following our passage through Antigonish, Ken our service manager let me use his company's cell phone and I got through to the US Consult in Halifax who was absolutely no help with my problem. Time for a new plan. I asked Ken for Via's fax number in Halifax and when he gave it to me, I called my mother Nancy after several attempts due to the loss of the signal in the low mountains I got through. With my good instructions on what I needed to help me with this problem, I told her to go to the Hall of records, get a copy of my birth certificate then fax it to Via in Halifax. I thanked her for all the trouble that I was causing her and she said that she would always help me in any circumstance in my life no matter where I was on the planet. It is sure nice to know when you are so well loved even when you are all the way on the other side of North America. Will this be another case of everything works out if you let it with a little help from my friends?

We continued south right into the sun. This route favors photography going east towards Sydney. With all the pictures that I took yesterday, it was just nice to sit back and enjoy the view from my private car. The Bras D' Or passed through New Glasgow and stopped in Stellarton to switch engine crews. The train crew then came back and shot the breeze with me all the way to Turo, where we switched engine crews again and headed back onto the CN mainline to Halifax.

Stephanie and Mary Rachelle came into my private car to perform for me. We sang "Song for the Mira" (Allister MacGilluary), they sang "Working Man" (Rita MacNeil) a song about a coal miner, then "Orangedale Whistle" (Rankin Family), "My Love, Cape Berton and Me" and "Farewell to Nova Scotia" with a Cape Berton Step Dance being done by Mary Rachelle. The women were excellent and I felt very honored by the fact they did it all just for me in my private car. I enjoyed the rest of the way into Halifax and returned to my coach seat as we pulled into the station with me thanking the entire Bras D' Or crew for an exciting two days of train riding in Nova Scotia with them all thanking me for coming. We came to a stop with me off the train for a final picture of the Bras D' Or.

Halifax 8/30/2000

In the depot I checked for the fax which had not come before I walked to the Wavely Inn when my luck started to change. The Cape Bertoner Inn had called and said that they had found my materials behind a chair on their side of the counter. The owner who was coming to Halifax on business would drop it off at my hotel. They said that since my itinerary had said where I was going to be on a daily basis, that it would be easy to return to me. I called home having to leave a message about my good news. I made a few phone calls before walking to the Atlantic Super Store for film which they had plenty of and dinner. I stopped at a local store for some ginger ale and a Hockey Yearbook then went to my room 120 to relax. The floor does not seem level and I feel off balance until I realized that the floor has sagged from the building sinking. About 9:30 PM I received a phone call that my materials had arrived in town and would be here in ten minutes. I went down stairs to the lobby and eight minutes later they were back in my hands and I was one happy person. I called my mother, told her the whole story and thanked her for everything that she had done for me. I told her that I would get her something (A Lighthouse of Nova Scotia T-shirt). I went to bed with the chance to sleep in for the first time since Hearst, Ontario.

8/31/2000 Sleep in that comfortable bed I did and I awoke one refreshed man ready to start the trip home again. Downstairs I had a continental breakfast before I walked to Pier 21 and saw a CN passenger car used to transport immigrates to other places in Canada. Pier 21 is to Canada what Ellis Island is to the United States. I walked back to the Westin Hotel gift shop for the present for my mother and to the Atlantic Super Store for some smoked salmon and Coca-Cola. I photographed my train, the Ocean, before stopping at Tim Horton's for some donuts to take with me later on the train. I walked back to the Wavely Inn for a couple hours of relaxation before checking out and rolling back to the Via Station.

Via 15 The Ocean 8/31/2000

Ken Cairns and I had a good laugh as he handed me the fax and I told him that the missing materials had been already returned to me. Ken walked me out to a coach behind the dining car for me to experience Via's newest innovation, Economy Plus. The cars main function is to transport sleeping car passengers from Halifax to Moncton to board the turnaround sleeping cars that are added to the Ocean there. Coach passengers may also pay an extra fare to ride in the car as well and have access to the whole train by doing so including the Park Car. Coffee and tea are provided as well as snacks and newspapers. I was told that after Moncton the car would be mine. We departed Halifax on time with me headed to the Park Car dome for the whole train length shot on the curve along the Bedford Basin. I returned to my seat to read the paper and the Hockey Yearbook as far as Turo. I returned to the Park Car for our meet with our sister train at Londonderry. We proceeded west with me watching part of Stuart Little in the bar section of the car before I had a roast beef dinner in Via's dining car Emerald while they added the four sleeping cars at Moncton.

I rode in the Park Car dome for about an hour on some really long pieces of straight track as the train really flew leaving the traffic on the highway far behind. I visited the bar and waited for Galaxy Quest to be shown with me really enjoying it this time. I returned to coach plus seat for the night and as soon as they turned out the lights, the attendant and a drunk who had no tongue from one of his major surgeries he had in his life told his whole life story that no one wanted to hear. I walked back to the bathroom and told the attendant that they were keeping the entire car up but they just kept on talking. After another lady complained, the attendant bought air plugs and eye blinders which were a first in my train riding experience. I slept soundly using my new tools.

9/1/2000 The next morning, after a continental breakfast was given, the Ocean had an on time arrival in Montreal.

Adirondack 68 as The Magic Bus 9/1/2000

I went up into Gare Central, visited McDonald's and bought a new watch to solve this trip's time keeping problems that I have been having since returning from Labrador. I checked my credit line and went to wait for the Adirondack to Albany when I learned that due to a chemical spill from a freight train accident, I was being bussed to Albany. I got on a bus following the directions of the train crew and sat for ten minutes listening to Jeff Beck. The conductor came on the bus asking where everyone was going and told me to get off the bus because he had a better plan for me so I went back outside and stood on the sidewalk. I am in my I just want to get home mood as I board Bus 4 and things improved as I took the front seat so I could at least enjoy the interstate view on what I called the Magic Bus to the Lake Shore Limited.

We left Montreal and headed across the St Lawrence River towards the USA border. US Customs were not set up to handle our five buses plus all the other regular bus traffic that entered the USA here. We were the sixth bus in line and waited twenty five minutes before we moved up to be next in line followed by another ten minutes before it was our turn. We had to take off any hand carried luggage, place it on a table and then I led the way inside the building to the custom officials. I was asked just three questions before I was sent to another counter to turn in my declaration form then I was sent to a waiting area until the bus was checked and we were allowed to reboard. We all returned except for one who had to come out, get his bag and was never seen again. An hour and twenty minutes later we were told to go on without him.

It was actually a nice drive down Interstate 87 as we made our way to the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station. The highway cuts through the Adirondack Mountains with only two views of the south end of Lake Champlain. We made really good time down to Albany with me giving the driver directions from another driver who had written them down for him. They were perfect and soon the New York passengers were on an earlier train to New York City. I ate a hot dog before I took pictures of one of Amtrak's Turbo trains and my Adirondack ready for its shorten run down to the City. I killed all the time before my next train to Chicago by reading the USA Today, doing word fillings puzzles and listening to music. I learned that the northbound buses were given food and drink for their trip while we were not given anything especially with the long wait at the border. That did not seem right to me.

One of the Rohr rebuilt Turbo Trains was at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station.

The Shore Limited 49 9/1/2000

I walked out in a light rain and was given Seat 60 in the coach of the Boston section. I have the end wall in front of me, the side way to my right and with the seat in full recline if I turn my head aka Linda Blair in the Exorcist I can see out of a corner of a window. So this is how Amtrak expects me to See America. I think a little false advertisement comes into play here. I asked about the open seats in the middle of the car but was told those were for short haul passengers. Don't give a passenger going 818 miles to Chicago a window and a view? The seat is also right over the truck which will make for an interesting ride along with that bright end of the car light that will be on all night. Once the two sections of the train are put together, I headed to the dining car for dinner. I had a New York Strip which was nicely done. I returned to my seat, remembering that I had ear plugs and eye blinder that Via had given me. I put them on and slept the night away never even noticing that bright end light. Everything works out if you let it indeed!

9/2/2000 The stillness of the Lake Shore Limited woke me up and I glanced out my tiny window to a view of Cleveland, Ohio. I went to the lounge car for a cup of tea and to wait for breakfast where I had pancakes with a Cajun flavor. They were the most unique pancakes that I ever had on a train. With breakfast done, I returned to my seat to relax the morning away. The train made its way to Toledo, Ohio where I stepped off for a picture, visited the station where I bought three coffee mugs for my collection (Lakeshore Limited, The Cardinal and the Pennsylvanian).

I returned to the train and asked Joe the car attendant if I could now switch to a seat with a large window with a positive response from him so I could enjoy the views the rest of the way to Chicago. That was until three of the most uncontrollable children returned to the seat behind mine so at Bryon I moved back to my old quiet seat. West of Bryon, the Lakeshore stopped dead in its tracks for a NS Freight, Amtrak's Pennsylvanian and two more NS freights. I took advantage of this lull for another cup of tea in the lounge car that had been rebuilt with a smoking lounge in one end of it. This could be what solves the smoking problems on low level trains. This arrangement could also work on Via's trains. The train passed through Goshen, IN the hometown of the parents of one of my best friends Bruce Fenton now living in Victor, ID. The train paused in Elkhart, IN with its railroad museum south of the tracks. We ran uninterrupted until just north of Comisky Park home of the White Sox before we pulled straight into Union Station for a brief rest before my train.

Chicago 9/2/2000

I detrained off the Lakeshore Limited and headed straight to Gold Coast for a pair of Char Dogs which were as delicious as ever. I went out into the city looking for an open drug store. First to a closed one on the weekend at Walgreen to the always open Osco Drug Store three blocks north on Madison. I returned to the station getting kicked out of one waiting area because the train caller wanted it closed. I had to pack everything up as I was repairing my bag with duct tape at the time. I found a quiet area, repaired the bag, filled out post cards, and did some word search puzzles. About four thirty, I had two more Char Dogs before I ventured into the Grand Hall and photographed it. I made a call home to make sure that all was well there. It had cooled off at home while being hot/humid here in Chicago. I could only be so lucky for so long with the weather here as in all my other trips here over the years, this is the first time that it had been like this. I returned to a proper waiting area to wait for the last new train of the trip, the Kentucky Cardinal.

Kentucky Cardinal 850 - 9/2/2000

All outgoing trains out of Chicago were delayed on this night and the crowd in the station was very hostile because of the delays, the heat and the humidity having a lot to do with the short tempers. The Texas Eagle was the first train bought into the station two and a half hours late after its departure time. The Cardinal was next to be bought into Union Station so I boarded the rear coach along with everyone else going to Indianapolis. The car is packed as it is Labor Day Weekend. There's only six of us going to Jeffersonville, IN so we will all have the car to ourselves after Indy. Our train is further delayed by the fact that food has not been stocked on the Cardinal whose cars we ride behind to Indy three days a week while the other four days the Kentucky Cardinal runs as its own train. We sat waiting until after the Capitol Limited had pulled out before we also headed out into the night. I was tired, so I put the eye blinders and ear plugs on and fell right to sleep only waking briefly before Indianapolis as people lined up to detrain. I fell back to sleep until it became light enough to see out the windows for the last few new miles of the trip. I saw a sign that said Jeffersonville seven miles so I started to pack up my things and fifteen minutes later I stepped off the three car Kentucky Cardinal (a coach and two express cars) in Jeffersonville having once again completed riding every mile of the Amtrak system.

Jeffersonville, IN 9/3/2000

I had tried to contact the Kentucky Railroad Museum to have someone here to meet me and take me to their museum but no one showed. I rolled my bags out the access road after seeing a Motel Six across the tracks a little way to the south. My walk took me to a street then a main drag which led me under the railroad where I found a Day's Inn where I managed to get a room for the day. I walked over to the shop of the Louisville and Indiana before returning to the hotel via a quick mart. I showered then slept for three and a half hours. I watched two full NFL games with a bath at both half times. I checked out after World News Tonight, walked back to the platform via the L&I shops and made a few phone calls from the public phone on the platform. I waited, sweated and occupied myself until my train pulled up from the yard about seven thirty. I noticed that the express cars had been made by the Trenton Car Works, the same plant's smoke stack that I had seen from the Bras D' Or. I had a nice sunset and I waited on the lit platform to resume my trip home.

Kentucky Cardinal 851 -9/3/2000

The train departed on time after all of the six passengers had met each other and I fell asleep to the rocking and rolling of our single coach, two express car train.

9/4/2000 I awoke as the train was sitting in Indianapolis with a great lightning show going on outside. The westbound Cardinal finally showed up and about six in the morning I ventured outside onto the platform and learned that a CSX freight train had broken down blocking the Cardinal's ability to couple onto our cars. I went downstairs into the station and across the street for a newspaper. I returned to train side just as new engines had arrived to move the offending freight train to finally clear it out of our way. The Cardinal backed down onto our equipment. Problem, the air brake line is attached to the safety bar on the car's rear door and that door can not be opened to release it. An attempted climb to reach it was futile. Where is Jackie Chan when I need him. Our brakeman gets a blue flag and after many chances finally gets the line down. The cars are then coupled and the power lines connected before the crew faces another problem. The door of our car that leads to the rest of the train would not open and after they try all methods to open it, we the passengers are forced to relocate two coach cars up with me leading the way after we were told we had two minutes to accomplish this feat with them offering no help with our luggage.

The Cardinal 51 9/4/2000

Leaving town about four hours late, I did see the RCA Dome and State Capital building from the end platform during my stay in town. I went to the dining car for French toast and had a delightful conversation with a couple returning home to Chicago and a woman going to Chicago to fly on Virgin Air to London. The meal hits the spot and I enjoyed a follow up tea back at my seat as I enjoyed the Indiana scenery. As the Cardinal approached Lafayette, IN it gave me a chance to see the railroad's relocation around town. I do miss going down the middle of the street through town with the stop at the station there. We stopped at the new station before heading straight out of town on the old Monon and at the town with the same name we curved off to the west to Rensselaer. Due to the padding in the schedule, we continued to make up time now only two hours and twenty minutes late.

We ended up with more unexpected delays. As we passed through Lowell we came to a halt because of a Labor Day Parade. We lost more time due to slow orders and bad signals on the CSX but the Union Pacific and Grand Trunk were both ready for us so we would see what happens the rest of the way to Union Station. It was a rainy and windy morning as we made the rest of the way into Chicago. I am glad to be back in Chicago and if all goes right, I am three trains from home.

Empire Builder 8/28 9/4/2000

Back in Union Station for a pair of Char Dogs and a call home before I boarded the Portland section of the Empire Builder. I was pre boarded due to my back feeling sore caused by that quick move they made me do in Indianapolis and my Red Cap did an excellent job of helping me. We left Chicago on time and proceeded to Milwaukee where the clouds parted and blue skies were seen for the first time today.

I had an excellent rib eye steak and a turtle for dessert before I returned to my seat to photograph Wisconsin Dells as we passed through it. I took an Excedrin PM, saw the crossing of the Mississippi River before I fell into a deep restful sleep not waking up until North Dakota.

9/5/2000 The next morning, I was having breakfast as the train stopped in Ruby, ND, the geographical center of North America. I had a very interesting tablemate, a man who lives outside of Helena, MT and had to deal with all the wildfires they had there this year.

The Empire Builder stopped for an hour in Minot our servicing stop. I went into town, bought another tube of Crazy Glue for my other heel, photographed a Soo Line freight train passing their old station in Minot and bought a local paper. In the Amtrak station, I picked up state maps for all the states this train passes through except for Montana. To the west of town, the Empire Builder crossed the always impressive Gasman Coulee Trestle before continuing west across North Dakota. I hopped off in Williston for a good picture of Great Northern steam engine 3059 on display in the park across from the train and I was back aboard five minutes before we departed. It felt really good to run and my back was feeling better after that long rest last night.

The train crossed into Montana normally Big Sky Country but today it was under mostly cloudy skies. I am a time zone closer to home being back on Mountain Time with our station stop at Wolf Point and another station closer to home. One down, forty one more to go and five states to go but who's counting on day number thirty one of this trip. After doing five word fill in, the train arrived in Malta under the now clear Montana Big Sky. The Builder gets refueled prior to its stop at Havre where I detrained for a phone call, an ice cream and a long walk around town. It was a beautiful late summer day and I truly enjoyed my walk off of the train. I needed some peace, quiet and time to myself.

The ride west of Havre starts getting me psyched up for the Rocky Mountains and the ride along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. I had a 5:00 PM dinner reservation. For dinner I ate the pork chops with a turtle for dessert and during the pleasant table conversations the Rocky Mountains came into view. We moved closer and closer to them. Just to the west of Browning, we passed a herd of buffalo. We crossed the lofty Two Medicine Bridge and I had a chance to step off into the fresh Montana air at East Glacier. I really miss visiting Glacier National Park and being here makes me want to come back really soon. The crossing of Marias Pass bought back a flood of memories and I remember right where everything is. As the train stopped in Essex, I wished I was getting off to stay again at the Isaak Walton Inn. Maybe another time as I am on the rails to home. I enjoyed the trek down to West Glacier before I called it a night. It's been another good day of train riding.

9/6/2000 I woke up as the Empire Builder started its journey westbound along the Columbia River just south of Pasco. As I always do on this segment, I ventured in the lounge car and took a riverside seat for the trip down the Columbia River Gorge. It is always a beautiful trip and after viewing Mt Hood from the east side, the train encountered clouds streaming into the gorge thus blocking off the sunlight and the great views of the Oregon side of the gorge. Upon exiting the gorge, we entered the damp world of Washington this morning before stopping in Vancouver prior to our crossing of the Columbia River with an early arrival into Portland Union Station.

Portland 9/6/2000

I checked into the Metropolitan Lounge in Portland Union Station, stored my luggage and borrowed an umbrella to go and ride the west end of the Portland Light Rail System from Chinatown to Hillsboro and return. Back at the station, my bags had been tagged with my bedroom number on the Starlight and I relaxed and watched CNN with an unbelievable Chinese helicopter accident. The Starlight arrived in Portland thirty minutes late and Eric the Red Cap bought my luggage out to the train and loaded it into my car. An excellent job done by the entire Portland station staff especially Michelle who was in charge of the lounge.

Coast Starlight 11 9/6/2000

We departed Portland and I went downstairs to take a shower which turned out to be the best one that I ever have taken on Amtrak. I felt like a new man. While they were having wine tasting in the Parlor Car, I went downstairs to watch Inspector Gadget. Out of Eugene, I had a Seared New York Steak with a turtle for dessert. I watched the History Channel video on "Streamliners" and called it an early last night of my journey with me getting a full night rest.

9/7/2000 My morning started with some ginger ale for a stomach ache and a little more sleep. I arose for breakfast prior to Davis, CA, a French toast and bacon event. I rode the Parlor Car along the Carquinez Straits and the rest of the way into Oakland where five road railers on the rear of the train were cut off. I enjoyed the morning sun at our extended station stop at the Jack London Square Station in Oakland. I napped to the Pajaro Gap before showering and starting lunch along the Elkhorn Slough and finishing at Soledad with all sort of train riding questions being asked by my table mates. I enjoyed the trip up the Salinas Valley working on a couple of more drinking song lyrics thus giving me thirteen done on this trip. The Starlight made another fantastic descent down Cuesta Grade, around the horseshoe curve before we arrived early into San Luis Obispo where the late northbound Starlight showed up and the final major problem of this trip took place.

We had arrived into San Luis Obispo with head end power (HEP) and while we sat there we lost it. When they attempted to restore it, an explosion and fire took place where our sleeper was connected to the next one ahead. They used a fire extinguisher to put it out. They did not do a thing and they were going to try to again, when I said "It is going to happen again!" and I was laughed at by the people in charge. The AC who knew me went and got another fire extinguisher knowing that I was right.

A second attempt and the same thing happened. They made a decision to cut the two sleepers off and put them on the rear of the train. What should have been a simple switching move took over two hours and we finally departed San Luis Obispo three hours late. My Surfliner ride from Los Angeles went up in that smoke of that HEP explosion and fire. I would now be forced to ride a bus to end this thirty three day rail trip.

Since our rear cars now had no HEP and were useless, we had to walk through the entire coach section of the train to the Parlor Car. The attendant gave an excellent description of our route until it got dark. I did not know that the set of the Ten Commandments still exist and is buried out in the sand dunes west of Guadalupe, CA. I had another Seared Steak with the trip's final turtle at a late dining time of eight P.M. since there had been no HEP for so long. I returned to my car where the batteries were running low and enjoyed the open downstairs window for my coastal night time ride to Santa Barbara and passed that area of slippage which was all lit up. The batteries then failed completely so I went back to the Parlor Car and watched the movie the "Skulls" which killed most of the rest of the way to Los Angeles.

9/8/2000 I rode in a coach seat the final miles to Los Angeles Union Station ending the rail portion of this trip at 12:03 A.M. on September 8th, 2000

The Bus 9/8/2000

By now I was in my I just want to get home mood so after the near comical loading of the buses, we left Union Station by way of the Pomona Freeway (the long way) to the Orange Freeway down to Chapman Ave then surface streets to Fullerton where the driver doesn't know where the depot is, so I have to take over and get us to the Fullerton Station. We learned that there is no agent in Anaheim thus no taxis would be there to meet us at its isolated location, so we decided to take everyone to their hotels. We stopped at the Ramada Inn then went to the Disneyland Hotel before stopping at the Comfort Inn on the way back to the freeway. Everyone who got off thanked me and several believed that I should be evolved in running Amtrak. I feel really good about myself. The driver says "Next stop is Irvine" until I pointed out that me and another person were getting off in Santa Ana with him saying that "Los Angeles said we had no Santa Ana's." We pulled up to the station and I found my dad had locked himself out of the van so I called home to my mother to rescue me again. She came and I was home in bed at two thirty to get up at six to start another school year at McFadden and I would finish planning that trip to the Algoma Central to finish Canada up in December.

Final Note:

I evoked the Amtrak Service Guarantee for the laughing red caps in Philadelphia, no food provided for the meal period missed on the Magic Bus Trip, the non window seat that prevented me from Seeing America, the Grand Move in Indianapolis due to equipment failure and that fiasco on the Starlight. The North America Rail Pass cost was $654 and I would be receiving $350 to be used on a future trip like the one now planned for December. This was all done by calling the eight hundred phone number and telling the service representative the problems that I had en-counted on my trip.