A VIA Rail Engineer Makes a Friend for Life.

In my previous post, I mentioned that last summer my wife and I rode the VIA Rail train running between Jasper and Prince Rupert. It’s called the Skeena but, according to our car attendant, is unofficially if affectionally known to its VIA crews as the Rupert Rocket.

As I noted the other day, it’s a small train, with just one coach and one of VIA’s classic bullet-ended dome cars for the first-class passengers.

About halfway through the second day, just after departing one of the tiny towns in western British Columbia, a tall, rugged man climbed up into the dome and began chatting with the half-dozen of us who were relaxing there. He was wearing a handsome polo shirt with the VIA logo on the pocket, but I immediately noted that on the opposite side were the embroidered words Locomotive Engineer and, in French, Mécanicien de  Locomotive. He was, indeed, the engineer of our train.

(I should note here, for the record, that there was a dead-heading engineer in the locomotive cab along with the regular assistant engineer, so there were two men in the locomotive cab at all times.)

Of course, as a train travel enthusiast, I coveted his shirt and I asked where I could get one like it.  He drew himself up in mock indignation and said that was impossible … that only bone fide VIA engineers were entitled to wear that shirt and, certainly, under no circumstances would that be possible for a mere “civilian” like me.

We bantered back and forth a bit and when he found out that we were from Maui, he said that he and his wife had long talked about taking a vacation to Hawaii. I handed him one of my cards and said that if they ever got to Maui I’d be happy to serve as tour guide for a day.

By that time, we had stopped at another little village and he left to resume his duties in the head end.
Two weeks later, a package arrived at our home. In it, freshly laundered, was the shirt.