The following narrative describes a trip that I took across Canada upon my retirement from Hughes Aircraft Co. in Fullerton in 1996, after over 30 years of service. The trip was sort of a retirement present to myself. I went by myself; my wife did not seem interested in train travel at that time, and she looked at my obsession with trains as kind of a harmless eccentricity. (We have since gone on several long distance Amtrak trips together, and she is now much more appreciative of train travel.)
This narrative was written recently based on notes and photographs that I took on the trip. The photos were taken with a film camera, and I have digitized them with my cheap Canon scanner, so the quality is not terribly high. I met several interesting people on the trip, but, at the time, did not envision publishing a trip report, so I don't have any photos of the people involved, nor do I remember their names. So this report is pretty much a chronology of the events of the trip, without much human interest input.
Note regarding photos: Apparently I had the date set incorrectly on my camera. The dates on the photos are all one day ahead of the actual date.
Sunday, November 17
Using an American Airlines frequent flyer award, I got an open-jaw itinerary, going from Orange County to Seattle on Reno Air (at the time, one of American Airlines frequent flier partners), and returning from Toronto on American Airlines. I left Orange County on Reno Air, changed planes in Reno, and arrived in Seattle in the early afternoon. I took a Greyline bus to my hotel, the Pacific Plaza, in downtown Seattle. The Pacific Plaza is an old hotel, built in 1929 as the Hotel Hungerford, but it is clean, reasonably inexpensive, and fairly close to King St. Station. I had dinner in the Red Robin, a hamburger joint occupying what appeared to be the original lobby and public rooms of the hotel.
Monday, November 18
I took the free downtown bus from my hotel to King St. Station, and checked in for my trip to Vancouver on train #700, the Mt. Baker International. The train consisted of 12 Talgo cars, including a dining car and café car, pulled by Amtrak F40 #200. The train traveled along the coast, at times only a few feet from the waters edge. We arrived at Vancouver's Pacific Central Station at 11:27 a.m. The Pacific Central Station was formerly known as Union Station, (1917 - 1962), and was the terminus for the Great Northern RR, shared with the Northern Pacific. I checked my bags with VIA at the station, and then walked to the SkyTrain station and went to downtown Vancouver, seeing the Port of Vancouver, and the Waterfront Station, formerly the Canadian Pacific Station which is now the SkyTrain terminus.
I arrived back at the Central Pacific Station in the late afternoon, and waited patiently for train boarding, which began at 7:00 p.m. I was in roomette #4, car 220. My bags that I had checked earlier arrived in my room shortly after I boarded the train.
Our train departed about on time at 8:00 p.m. I went to the Park Car (the lounge car for the sleeper passengers, at the end of the train), where snacks and drinks were being served, and spent some time viewing the night scenery in the dome. At 10:30 p.m., the train was stopped due to a frozen switch, and I went to bed.
Tuesday, November 19
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. when the train again had stopped. I turned on my scanner and found out that we were stopped due to a broken rail. At 6:15 a.m., I went to the dining car and had breakfast: bacon, eggs, potatoes, toast, and tomato juice.
At 7:45 a.m. I went up to the dome to take some pictures. We had been stopped here for about 30 minutes. We were told that the crew had died on hours, and we were waiting for a relief crew.
A highrailer showed up at about 8:55 a.m. with the relief crew, and we were soon on the move again. At that time, we were over 5 hours behind schedule. An advantage of being so late was that we were getting to view the scenery along the Frasier River in daylight, which is usually in darkness during this time of year.
Just east of Ashcroft, we passed a derailment which, we were told, had occurred last Sunday due to a landslide. Two locomotives and several freight cars were involved. Luckily, I was in the front right seat in the dome car, and was able to get some pictures.
I went for an early lunch at 11:00 a.m. and had minestrone soup and a chicken Caesar salad, with pastries for dessert. The train had stopped again, this time alongside Kamloops lake, due to another frozen switch. At 12:20 p.m. we started moving again, and arrived at Kamloops at 12:45 p.m., over 6 hours behind schedule.
We departed Kamloops at 1:10 p.m., continuing our journey through the cold, snowy landscape.
For dinner, I had salad, halibut, carrots, brussel sprouts, and linguine, with pastries for dessert. The food so far has been excellent. We arrived in Jasper at 9:20 p.m. (central time). Two deadhead cars were removed, and our remaining consist consisted of the following:
2 F40PH2, 6443, 6449
After about one hour and 25 minutes in Jasper, we started moving again. I went to bed shortly thereafter.
Wednesday, November 20
Upon waking the next morning, I went to the Park Car for a continental breakfast of cold cereal, croissant, sweet roll, juice and coffee. I took some pictures of the train interior while most people were still asleep. We continued on our trip toward Biggar and Saskatoon.
We left Saskatoon at 11:27 a.m., approximately 7 hrs. 30 minutes behind schedule. I had made a reservation at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto (connected to the station) for the night of our scheduled arrival, but Maurice, our Director of Services, said that there is no way I would make it in time, and he was kind enough to call the Royal York on his cell phone and cancel my reservation. He said that if the train is more than 5(?) hours late (I don't remember the exact number), then we would be allowed to stay on the train in the station until 7:00 a.m. the next morning.
We arrived Melville, SK, at 2:25 p.m., departing fifteen minutes later, making us 7 hours, 10 minutes late.
I went to the dining car for dinner about 6:00 p.m. Dinner consisted of pepper steak, carrots, potatoes, salad, and berry pie for dessert. Again, the food was excellent. At 8:40 p.m. we were waiting outside of the Winnipeg Station for train #1 to leave so that we could enter the station. Within a short time train #1 departed, and we entered the station, which is a crew change point for much of the crew.
We left Winnipeg at 10:05 p.m., 8 hours 30 minutes behind schedule.
Thursday, November 21, 1996
I slept late, and soon after I woke up, we were passing through Auden, at 8:20 a.m., still over 7 hours behind schedule
We arrived at Hornepayne at approximately 12:00 noon, where we were scheduled to have a 30 minute stop. Several of the passengers went to the local liquor store to replenish their supplies.
We left Hornpayne at 12:45 p.m., and continued through the frozen Canadian Shield, on our journey to Toronto. I went to the dining car for dinner at about 6:00 p.m. Available selections were turkey, wild rice, soup, salad, roast pork, carrots, braised cabbage, potato pancakes, rolls, and strawberry yogurt. The food has been excellent.
I went to bed about 11:00 p.m., and woke up at 2:30 a.m., as we were pulling into the Toronto Station. The power went off for a short time as, I assume, they switched us from Head End Power to station power. I went back to sleep, and woke up around 6:00 a.m., when I went to the Park Car where a continental breakfast was available for the sleeper passengers. I asked our new Director of Service who had boarded at Winnepeg, about using the sleeper toilets (which dump on the track) in the Toronto Station. He said "do what you have to do". My conscience got the best of me, and I went into the station proper and used the restroom, rather than using the toilet in my roomette. They kicked us off the train about 7:00 a.m.
I left the train with my baggage and went to the front of the station, where I caught a bus to the Toronto Airport. Upon reaching the airport and going through customs, I called Hughes Aircraft, where I was working as a consultant following my retirement, and was told that my presence was required at a meeting in Dallas on the following Monday. I boarded my flight from Toronto to Orange County and spent the weekend at home.
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