Saturday 18 September 2010

The Canadian 2: Melville to Toronto

Here are some images from the second part of my 4,466 km train journey from Vancouver to Toronto on VIA Rail's flagship service, The Canadian...

1. Heading east from Alberta, we crossed into the next province, Saskatchewan. Usually each day we stopped somewhere for half an hour or so for train maintenance purposes, often just a small town. 

It was a brief opportunity to walk in another direction other than simply forward and backward, so most passengers got out for some fresh air and a photo opportunity. Here's me at the front of our mighty engine during our stop on day three in Melville, Saskatchewan:

2. It's amazing the things you see from the vantage point of a railway line rather than a main road. This car junkyard next to Melville Station was filled with ancient but photogenic wrecks.

3. It was rare to catch the dining car in such a pristine empty state, so I had to take a snapshot of this scene. The food was very good considering the tight space the catering staff had to work with.

Communal dining isn't for everyone, but I enjoyed the changing company each meal. At one sitting a young rail maintenance worker going on leave joined our table, so we were able to hear some interesting stories of life on the railroad.

4. The impressively grand Union Station in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The city had the common sense to keep its train station located in the middle of town, unlike other cities we had passed through on the way (I'm looking at you, Edmonton and Saskatoon). This grand edifice was created by the same architects who built Grand Central in New York:

5. I'd tapped into my Canadian tourism contacts to ask the pressing question, "What the hell do I do in Winnipeg for three hours on a Thursday night?". Emails flew back and forth between my iPhone, Sydney and Winnipeg.

As a result I found myself in the Times Changed High and Lonesome Club, a friendly local blues bar just two blocks from the station (if you knew where to look for it). It was 'Campfire Night' at the bar, so a bunch of musicians formed a circle of chairs and played some good music while I sipped a bourbon on the rocks. When it hit 10.30pm, I pulled a Cinderella routine and vanished back to the train.

6. Each day on the train was characterised by a distinctly different landscape. We spent the entirety of day four passing through an attractive but apparently deserted section of northwest Ontario, full of greenery and scattered lakes. And there was no mobile phone signal for THE ENTIRE DAY (quelle horreur!).

7. We made our only and very welcome stop for the day around 5pm. By this stage I think most of us were getting a little stir-crazy and were looking forward to reaching Toronto, as enjoyable as the journey had been.

The tiny town, Hornepayne, was a no-nonsense hamlet full of timber and railway workers. I strolled to the general store, then had a look around the few public buildings near the train station. This fire brigade sign rather caught my eye:

8. Finally on the Saturday morning, journey's end - Union Station, Toronto. The main hall seemed a suitably grand place in which to finish the epic trip from the Pacific; and from which to commence the next stage of my mission, an exploration of the urban delights of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal...

[read the first instalment (Vancouver to Jasper) here]

Disclosure time... on this trip I travelled courtesy of VIA Rail.


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  2. Hmmm - I'm definitely checking out the Times Changed High and Lonesome Club next time I stop in Winnipeg! Glad you enjoyed the trip :)

    Vivian is Virtual
    VIA Rail's tour guide