No Canadian railway adventure would be quite complete without some kind of extended delay. A freight train broke down ahead of us which meant we were stopped between about 2 in the morning when I went to bed, and 8:30 when I woke up for the second call for breakfast. And then because of the delay, the head-end crew finished their duty-time cycle and we’ve been sitting here for hours waiting for a CN freight crew to take over. Also, there is a special speed restriction because at thirty below metal is brittle, and there is real danger of a rail breaking. The conductor has reported we are running 8 hours late, and given his personal opinion that we are very unlikely to make up any time. So, i suppose we will be arriving in Toronto in the evening rather than 9:30 in the morning. I’m not sure what the deal is with discounts from late arrival – but presumably this will mean I’ll get some kind of credit which I could use to make a corridor trip to Montreal or Ottawa.
It’s really not so bad being delayed in first class. The folks back here are a riot, everyone has been assigned roles from Gilligan’s island, and the bar car attendant we picked up in Winnipeg is friendly. Everyone’s been talking about Fred the Dog. His two handlers are back here, and they are quite interesting. They found it hilarious that my mother had texted me to see if I had seen Fred the Dog. I won’t go into the story, you’ve probably already read about it. IF you haven’t, just search “Fred the Dog” on Google News. Another perk of being in first class is the engineers have to come back to the Park car when the train wants to back up, and they are mostly quite personable with the passengers. In fact, the other day there was an engineer back here nerding it out without the railfans about all the old diesels which are still in service.
Having access the the entire train is quite excellent – after breakfast I went forward to the Skyline car, the other dome car on the Canadian. I expected it to be more crowded, since it is open to coach passengers. However, it was just as empty as the Park dome, and it seems to have slightly more legroom. I went into the coach cars to see what the legroom is like – it seems quite excellent, certainly as good as Amtrak’s long distance coach seats. And right now, the coach is mostly empty so people have two seats to themselves. I would do this trip coach class, especially in the off-season. The Skyline car downstairs is split into two lounge sections, and there is a power plug next to one of the tables (although if the coach were full, I can imagine it would be in high demand). It is certainly not as luxurious as the lounge in the Park car, and there is no free fruit, coffee, juice, cookies etc… It is certainly possible, however, to bring one’s own food on the train – and in WInnipeg there is a long enough stop to visit a grocery store.
I’ve been on this train so long now that I’m starting to lose track of time. I thought today would be our last proper day on the train, but being 8 hours late we will be on the train most of tomorrow as well. Hopefully we don’t get stuck in some kind of time-warp in which we travel evermore through the rocks and trees of northern ontario. But on the upside, if we do, we’ll also get stuck with a never-ending supply of mandarin oranges and bananas.
I’m imagining a sort of nightmare, in which a train of prisoners circulates indefinitely in a thousand mile loop around northern ontario. All the current first class luxuries would be afforded, but the trip would never end. There would be off course stops for train servicing, crew changes, and passengers could detrain but in the middle of nowhere there is nowhere to go. The food menu would, as on this train, circulate on a four day rotation (unless due to unforeseen circumstances it ran out of food, then it would do what this train apparently does and have pizza delivered to a road crossing). Always on the way, never to anywhere or from anyplace. I wonder if anyone has yet written this Kafka-esq story?