The Train

Sunset; Rocky Mountains.
Sunset; Rocky Mountains.

Between Toronto, Ontario (43º 38′ 38″N latitude; my southernmost point of travel), Victoria, British Columbia (123º 20′ 60″ W longitude; my westernmost point), some undetermined northernmost point on that section of track betwixt Bickerdike/Edson, Alberta (around 53º 34′ N latitude) and Edmonton, Alberta (at 53º 35′ latitude) and MacTier, Ontario (79º 46′ W; my eastern-most point of travel), I travelled by all modes of vehicle.

Frozen Lakes and empty rail car near Jasper, Alberta; Christmas Eve.
Frozen Lakes near Jasper, Alberta; Christmas Eve.

By Foot; Subway; City Bus (TTC); Airplane; Automobile; Coach Bus (Greyhound); Passenger Train; Ferry; Commuter Train (GO Transit); and Ski.
(Not included in the above list are: Streetcar, Snow Shoe, Toboggan and Bicycle, because they were only used for recreational and/or within-municipality trips during that period. All other modes (skiing included) were used as an essential and/or primary mode of transport between significant destinations — i.e. between towns.)

The one mode of travel which far surpassed the others in terms of actual hours spent en route, was the train.

Tunnel; Alberta.

I have taken many East to West by-land journeys on Highway 1, but this was my first experience doing the same by rail. I am sure it seems clear to the reader, but it was a real shock to me: The train is not the bus.

Taking pictures in the Dome Car near Jasper, Alberta.
Taking photos in the Dome Car near Jasper, Alberta.

By this I mean that while my experience of travelling by coach has generally been a quiet, retreat-like experience, with scarcely a word said either to quiet compeers or to prarie postcard purveyor, my trip by train was shared and social. Scrabble with sojourning strangers and sing-alongs to acoustic guitar in the dome car — the time was characterized by extroversion and not introspection (though there was certainly some quiet time for that, particularly on the return trip).

Sudbury, Ontario
Sudbury, Ontario.

I was thrilled to see hawks and bald eagles, a fox, many deer, herds of elk, mountain sheep and kilometre upon kilometre of not-the-side-of-a-highway. There are places where the tracks do follow the highway (or rather, the highway follows the tracks) but there are more occasions where the tracks follow the river, or the canyon, bringing one’s eyes to places otherwise unseen. Contrary to travel by air, travel by rail is a chance to embrace the journey rather than anticipate its completion.

Nightfall; Christmas Eve. (A view of one dome car from another.)
Nightfall; Christmas Eve. (A view of one dome car from another.)

I commend the train to you as the alternative to air travel.
More expensive than the bus, but –to me shockingly– different than the bus.

2 Responses to “The Train”

  1. nina Says:

    so pleased to see these photos, read these words… oh they are beautiful. i love the one of jp all bundled up too.
    i have been trying to email you, but get an error.
    i am ecstatic that you took the train, and much of your reflections definitely ring true to me too.
    hope you are well,
    send me a sign.

  2. auta ze szwecji Says:

    Very interesting article, i bookmarked your blog
    Best regards

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