Day 1 on The Canadian

I write this, somewhere in the middle of northern Ontario, a couple of hours outside of Hornpayne (whose claim to fame is that the school and the liqour store are in the same building). I’m 12 hours into the journey and am enjoying the view from my roommette. Best described as a three foot by six foot space with large love-seat like seating and toilet cum ottoman, with a fold down bed, the shape of which resembles an ill-concieved puzzle piece.

Leaving Union Station last night, most headed to the dome car. The CN Tower blinked purple and read as we headed north out of the downtown, up through the city and into Vaughan, where we promptly reversed. Questions about returning abounded but it was just procedural as the train had to go turn itself east (along the freight line that parallels Steeles, before turning up the mainline, (which is part of the GO Transit line in Richmond Hill). Unfortunately, citing a number of accidents down darkened stairs, the dome car stays lit all the time, making it hard to see where you are. However, the company was good, the champagne reception was nice and we were on our way.

Taking The Canadian is definitely a pan-Canadian experience, as opposed to an Ontarian or Toronto-centric one. Breakfast is a first come, first served experience, and my dining companions this morning were a fellow teacher from Grand Prairie (returning home from visiting family in Bathurst NB) and a nely arrived IT professional from India,heading off to his new job in Regina. The IT professional was impressed by how clean and organized Toronto was. The teacher was overwhelmed by the size of Union Station. Others on board include a woman from Montreal who inexplicably took the bus from home to Toronto and a family of three sharing a cabin for two (small children take up a lot of space in the bunks. As we plow through northern Ontario, you realize that Canada is not Toronto or southern Ontario. It’s vast. It’s wilderness and birch trees. It’s river and dams and forest. It’s small communities with no cell phone reception, where the train is still a viable (and necessary) transportation option.

Off for my first “activity”, a talk on the rolling stock of the cars themselves. Then lunch, then a beer tasting and then a visit to Hornpayne. I think I like this train travel thing.

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