Notes Taken on VIA’s Train #2.

I carry a skinny reporter’s notebook when I travel, jotting things down as I go. Some result in entire posts, but most are just snapshots of something that strikes me as unusual or interesting. Here are a few from my recent trip on VIA Rail Canada from Vancouver to Toronto.

My car attendant is Ali, a delightful young man in his mid-20s. Born in Belgium, after his parents emigrated there from Tunisia. He’s in Canada for two years to improve his English. This is his very first trip since being hired by VIA and he begs me to overlook any mistakes. Clearly, a quality young man.

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For the enjoyment of passengers, VIA has a folksinger performing on Train #2 to Toronto. She’s singing several of her own songs about her home town in Canada. Her audience, mostly older Americans, seems to prefer more familiar material.

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We’re going to be at least five hours late into Toronto. It probably would be 12 or 15 hours late were we running on the old schedule. It’s all the freight traffic which gets priority. Last night we sat on a siding for well over an hour while not one but two long freights rumbled by.

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The on board crew changed in Winnipeg. The new people—car attendants, lounge car attendants and dining car staff—will take us the rest of the way into Toronto. The new bunch is good, but the Vancouver-Winnipeg crew was better—more genuinely friendly. Interesting that many Amtrak passengers (me included) make the same observation about Amtrak crews … that is, those on the western trains are friendlier than their counterparts on eastern trains.

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I have only one serious gripe when it comes to this trip, although I suppose it’s a system-wide policy: The bar in the Park Car doesn’t open for business until 10:00 or so, depending on the province the train happens to be passing through at the time. That effectively rules out an early morning Bloody Mary. Other than that, the trip is perfect, as always.

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