A little unsure what to expect I woke early grabbed my bag and set off on the short walk from The Canadiana to Union Station.* It was a nice morning and it was nice to be walking across town alongside the workers and residents of the city rather than other tourists.* I quickly arrived at the station and was ushered into a private lounge where we were checked in and offered a complimentary breakfast buffet.* A quick glance around the room had me worried - there was a mix of train spotter types, retired couples and crazy looking cat ladies, all of them considerably older and smarter dressed than me.* I had a horrible feeling I wasn’t gonna fit in but decided, hey, what can I do about it now… might as well make the best of a bad situation and enjoy it.
Our time came to board the train and headed straight to my cabin to inspect what I’d got for my money.* It really didn’t take long.* I guess that’s because - at something like 6′ by 3′ - it was somewhat smaller than a prison cell.* I’ve never had to spend time in a cell and didn’t intend to start so I figured I’d be spending most of the journey in one of the glass-topped dome cars.
I spent the morning exploring the train, checking out the scenery from the glass topped dome car and waiting for my turn to visit the dining car for lunch.* It would become a familiar routine for the following three days where we would look forward to stopping at a station as if it were Christmas.* Invariably there was nothing to do at the stations bar get off and stretch the legs along the platform, watch the crew servicing the train and, on the rare occasion that the town actually had facilities, run to the shops to try and pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels.* I never did succeed.
There was absolutely nothing to do but sit, watch the scenery change outside the window, take naps, eat, drink and chat to the other passengers.* There was no phone, no TV and no internet… in short it was absolutely fantastic and I loved every minute of it.* After two weeks of racing round the maritimes - with no one for company other than the Winnie The Pooh bear that had been given to me as a lucky mascot - it was great to relax and let someone else do the driving - then again I really wouldn’t have minded having a go at driving that huge beast myself…
Since stepping off the plane in Montreal I heard precisely two English accents - just the way I like it - so it was quite a shock to discover that getting on for half of the 300 passengers on board were Brits on organised tours.** A number of us became regular fixtures in one particular dome car and between us we gained quite a reputation for being somewhat boisterous and enjoying ourselves.
At Edmonton we said goodbye to the (excellent) crew who had bought us in from Toronto and a new crew stepped on board.* Other than the occasional shout of ‘bear to the left’ or ‘moose to the right’, followed by the train being stood on its nose by the driver, that was the most exciting thing to happen until the Rocky Mountains came into sight on Thursday afternoon.* After the endless big puddles’ of Ontario and the prairies of Manitoba they really were quite a sight.
At Jasper we all got off the train; once again I went looking for a liquor store (once again without success) before standing in the station watching the increasing pandemonium as the station crew rushed around aimlessly trying to service the train whilst the majority of the Brits boarded a convoy of buses waiting to take them to their hotels.* It was a shame to break up the party on board but I looked forward to meeting a few more characters as I climbed back on board for the last (overnight) leg of the journey to Vancouver.* With another tour group - mainly consisting Australian tourists - stepping on board it didn’t take long.
We arrived three hours late and it took an absolute age for my bags to be unloaded but I had loved the whole experience.* I had relaxed, opened up to people and learned a lot about myself.* The person who stepped off the train in Vancouver was very different to the one who’d stepped on board in Toronto.