Upcoming Rail Journey

This Thursday I am leaving on a rail odyssey that will take me from Bellingham to Seattle, to Chicago, to Buffalo, and finally to Toronto. Four days of trans and layovers crossing Washington State, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York before crossing into Canada and arriving in Toronto, Ontario.  The trip is quite inexpensive, at less than 300$ for the ticket, and it’s no good to assume that either the price or the train itself will be in operation indefinitely. Spending so much time on the rails should allow me time to read and write, and prepare for the upcoming term – but I’m also very much looking forward to the spontaneous conversations which other train-travelers say tend to spark up along the rails.

Taking the train today can’t help feel nostalgic, or at least this has been my experience riding the rails in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor. Despite trains out there being quite practical (and profitable for the operators), there is something old world about getting onto the silver liner in the grand central stations (Ottawa’s suburban nightmare station aside). The other side of that nostalgia is, however, that trains fit uneasily into the mainstream of contemporary travel in North America. One thing I hope to learn on this trip is how does Amtrak fit into the American transport psyche – since unlike Canada’s Via it is properly subsidized so it is not more expensive than flying. It cannot, however, be considered a serious alternative to flying – no one who really values the convenience of getting on a round machine and getting out again 5000 miles away 5 hours later would seriously consider spending the same amount for a trip taking ten times longer. Because of the time commitment, the train can only be taken by those who seriously value something about the train journey or trains themselves. What is this value? Hopefully I will have something to say about this during or after the trip.


8 thoughts on “Upcoming Rail Journey

  1. I look forward to reading about your train experience,

    I remember reading a book called “The Timbit Nation”. This title may be incorrect or the subtitle. The author was a reporter for the Globe and Mail. I believe his beat was foreign affairs. He hitchhiked across Canada. He accepted rides for no longer than one hour. During that time he interviewed the persons in the car to find our was important to them .

    I enjoyed reading the book.

    I expect you may also have interesting conversations and find out various new information from your fellow riders.

    If you are in downtown Vancouver during the day in the next two days perhaps we could get together for a Double-double and a timbit.

    All the best riding the rails.

  2. Regarding my comment above, the book was entitled “Timbit Nation: a hitchhikers view of Canada”. The author was John Stackhouse. It was published by Random House in 2003.

  3. The character, “Vivian” is a virtual person. According to the Vivian website, they exist only on the internet.

    A spambot crawls through blogs to post comments on posts with certain keywords to advertise some website.

    So, I think what we have here, is someone posing as a Spambot.

    As for X (I’d rather not call them Vivian because they are merely pretending to be this character), the only way for Via to play the same role in Canada as Amtrak does in the U.S. is to have similar pricing.

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