All aboard The Canadian Train: Toronto to Jasper

The Trans Canada train experience has begun.   The train was booked to leave Toronto at 10pm.  I received an email during the day saying it was going to be 2 hours late.  We ended up leaving the station at 245am.  Luckily, there were a few jovial people to chat to, and they bribed us with bottles of water, pretzels and chocolate snowmen to not be angry.

We finally boarded the train and began a odd “quick find a good seat without seeming weird” dance.  Everyone had similar goals – find two seats, secure both of them, good sized chunk of window, not facing any one else.  I am happy in my spot and have unpacked for the three days.  The staff then came and checked who was sitting where and marked the seat with my name.  There is a surprising amount of space to spread out.  The train isnt full, so I have my two seats with both foot rests up to spread out.

We all found our spots and the staff told us where everything is.  Lights out and I felt very much like I was 12 again and at a sleepover where we had been told to go to sleep.  I felt giggly and noisy, so went off to explore the train with one of the other guys I was chatting to.  There is a 24 seat pod with views outside and above, a little dining car and a lounge car.  We have seat menus and can get food to eat in lounge car or take back to our seats.  I brought a blanket and pillow with me, and bagels, cream cheese and ham so that should see me through a few meals.  The girl accross the aisle from me has a duvet with her – this is not her first sleep train experience – she looks cosy.

I will be here for 3 nights until I reach Jasper.  I will have no wifi.  

For now, I feel excited, a bit delirious, very tired and pleased that the staff man told me I can get up however late I want in the morning.  See you at midday Ray.

Time to snooze. 

Day 2 and it is morning aboard the still tardy train…

So much for sleeping until midday.  It was so cold my nose was cold, everytime I moved and touched any plastic or metal it was freezing, managed about two hours sleep.  At 7am I found the lady to ask for the air con to be adjusted.  Other people were huddled for warmth.  Bought another blanket ready for night time.  I was surprisingly comfy and, if not for the cold and the 8am tannoy about breakfast, I would have slept reasonably I think.  About that tannoy…. you said I could sleep til midday Ray…. apparently not if we are going to be tannoying whenever we feel like it.

I feel like I am on board the train version of the Titanic.  The people who paid for private cabins are in the next carriages – I heard they were still cold despite their superior lodgings.  

Anyway, I have had a wash with a baby wipe and put some clean underwear on, got a cup of tea and its warm enough to get cosy with my kindle….

….I never did get cosy with my kindle.  The day has passed surprisingly quickly with lots of chatter to my train companions.  There seems to be a really diverse selection of people on this train – I feel like all the characters would make a great whodunnit plot.  At some points, I felt that conversation has reached a point where I almost expect hidden cameras to tell me it was all a joke and this isnt real.  There is the guy who retired and a week ago decided to get rid of everything and get on a train – he makes model villages like the ones with army men, only his villages are called “Nakedville”, a really sweet mum with her son, the girl with the duvet – she is the train expert who has crossed Canada one way and is on the way home, the friendly german couple, the lovely couple from Vancouver, the well spoken English lad who is fresh off the boat and full of intelligent conversation and banter and a girl who wears a tiara and is off to meet a guy she met on Facebook who doesnt know she is coming.  

The scenery has been pretty, though fairly unchanging – various spreads of trees with lakes.  Lots of lovely reflections, especially at sunset.  Photos dont do it justice.

The food was surprisingly tasty – I had chilli with garlic bread.  We stopped three times for ten minutes, but tomorrow we get to get off for 1-3 hours at Winnipeg depending how we do overnight.  There are lots of freight trains and we have to pull over to let them pass.  We are still way behind schedule – at least 5 hours.

It is the second morning on the train.  Apparently not everyone is recognising social cues and boundaries – I am not a morning person.  Time to retreat to my seat until ready to integrate with other humans.

We must be starting to smell by now, there hasnt been much air in the past 30 hours and no washing.  Noone even attempts to do hair or makeup.   Im not even sure everyone is cleaning their teeth given the air quality during conversations.

We stopped at Winnipeg.  It was supposed to be 3 hours, then an hour and we ended up with 45 minutes which was about enough time to look at the market and buy some food.  

One guy on the train said he saw the Northern Lights the night before, so a few of us stayed up in the hope of seeing them.  Some new people had got in at Winnipeg and we had a new Irish chap in the gang – we ate all his chocolate, and a sweet girl from the station who was off to meet a boyfriend.  We stayed up until 3am and gave up.  It was around this time when I returned to my reclining bed chair in the other carriage that, unfortunately, a snorer had been allowed to board the train at the Winnipeg stop.

Day 3

Aching. Last clean clothes on.  Some more stops at random places with no facilities for ten minutes at a time.  Each time we get off, there is a sense of delirium in the air, cabin fever sends us out into the air like excitedly children.  We lost a few people from the train gang today at Edmonton.  Today has been lazy, we have been sitting around all day waiting for scenery, chatting and hoping the train would make up some time – it is around 6 hours behind schedule still.  I have given up on my plans for this evening as by the time we get there, the sky tram will be closed.  There was a guitar player on board who played each day in the lounge carriage which I enjoyed.

We arrived in Jasper 6.5 hours late.  The excitement levels were high as we saw the mountains.  We were running from side to side, different windows, up to the roof pod carriage and back down changing views and trying to see it all.  It was tiring.  The way the trees opened up to reveal the mountains was incredible.  The scenes that we had all seen in the brochures, the pictures and post cards was before us and everything thing it was cracked up to be.

It was actually really sad saying goodbye to everyone on the train.  As someone who is a big fan of personal space, not a fan of socialising in the morning and with significantly low tolerance levels, I am amazed how much I enjoyed this experience.  When people come out of Big Brother, they say they got to know people really well and friendships advance quicker because you are together 24 hours a day.  Although most of the people, I will never see again, it will always be a fun memory to look back on.  We laughed so much, really laughed.  There were times I laughed until I cried.  I enjoyed spending time with the guys from the UK – the three of us shared a pretty similar level of humour, silliness and coconut and caramel Cadburys.  I don’t think I could do this train trip again because I couldn’t beat the company. 

Tonight I will sleep full length in a bed instead of a in a ball on two seats.


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