Vancouver to Toronto on Train #2
All things considered, the ride from Vancouver to Toronto on VIA Rail’s Train #2 was fine. There was a lot of freight traffic and it certainly seemed as though it was we who stepped aside and let them pass almost every time. Twice we sat on a siding to allow not one, but two long freights to pass and once we waited for just over an hour for THREE to go by. All that took its toll: we arrived in Toronto almost six hours late. No problem for me, but quite a few of the passengers were scrambling to rebook on later eastbound trains.
I don’t think this trip was typical. For one thing, two of the car attendants and two of the servers in the dining car were brand new employees literally working their first trip on a VIA train. My car attendant, Ali, was an immensely likable young man in his mid-20s. He was born in Belgium to parents who had immigrated there from Tunisia. He got a work permit and is here in Canada to make some money and improve his English.
The Vancouver crew left the train in Winnipeg and a new bunch–all veteran employees–brought us the rest of the way to Toronto. The comparison was interesting. I wasn’t awake when the new crew boarded in Winnipeg after midnight, but from the time I woke up on Monday morning until leaving the train in Toronto this afternoon, I never laid eyes on my new car attendant. He was there, all right–the berth was made up, the trash basket was emptied and I got fresh towels–but I never saw him and don’t know for sure that he was the one who lowered the steps and let us out when we reached Toronto this afternoon.
Ali got a $25 tip; while I didn’t tip the guy who opened the door for us. You would think the long-time employees would know better. The attendants in the Park Car that traditionally bring up the rear of these long-distance trains were outstanding, especially an attractive 30ish woman who was charming, gracious, attentive and very knowledgable about VIA and railroading in general.
There was also a 3-and-a-half-year-old girl who pretty much had the run of the Park Car lounge area for the entire trip. She stopped being cute about the time we left Jasper.