Over and over again, a long-distance train ride has provided the unexpected pleasure of meeting and getting to know interesting people.
Take for example the British couple my wife and I met while traveling on VIA Rail’s train, the Skeena, several years ago. It’s a glorious trip, by the way, and very much underrated. The train runs daily between Jasper, Alberta, to Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia, with an overnight stop in Prince George, BC. (Everyone gets off, retires to a hotel room for the night, and meets at the station for an 8:00 departure the next morning.)
The Skeena is a small train—at least it was when we took it in late May a few years ago: a locomotive, a baggage car, two coaches and a Park Car, the bullet-ended lounge car with the viewing done that traditionally brings up the rear of VIA’s long-distance trains.
The view from the dome was spectacular, almost like looking over the engineer’s shoulder to the track up ahead. There were only seven of us riding in the Park Car and, of course, almost all of the time was spent up in the dome. That’s where we struck up a delightful friendship with the very-British and very distinguished, Robert Rogers and his charming wife, Jane.
We chatted on and off during the two days and discovered almost immediately that Robert and I had a common interest in politics. He was especially interested in American politics, specifically in how Barack Obama was coping with the hostility and the stonewalling he was facing in the U.S. Congress. I remember being surprised at the time that he was so well informed.
We arrived in Prince Rupert after dark on the second day and, since we were staying in different hotels, exchanged cards and urged each other to stay in touch. It was only after my wife and I had checked into our hotel room that I looked at Robert Rogers’ card. His title was:
Clerk and Chief Executive
House of Commons
He has since been knighted and has taken a seat in the House of Lords. See? You just never know who you’ll run into on a long-distance train ride!