It was no plain (plane) experience for this airline guy. In fact it was an amazing experience! Even though I’m an aviation geek, I have a very strong love of trains and train travel too. I know, I know how can this be? Just know that you get to a certain point in life where you stop asking why and just go for it.
My other “fascination” with transporting people started when I was in 5th grade. Back in the day, Palm Beach County Florida safety patrols would make an annual pilgrimage to Washington DC to see the government in action. Transportation was via Amtrak. I remember my trip quite vividly: the sound of the train, the swaying back and forth, big comfy seats, flushing the toilet and watching stuff drop to the tracks below (ewww!). Every since then I’ve been hooked. I’ll let you in on one of my bucket list item: to be at the controls of a speeding locomotive. Crazy, yet true.
So, what does an aviation geek do to satisfy the train geek in himself? Thanks to a good friend and an invitation to join that friend, he takes an excursion via the rails!
What a pleasure it was to ride VIA Rail Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. “The Canadian” is the flagship train route in their system. To put it simply: it was an amazing experience.
In 4 days aboard the train I met many wonderful, interesting, and fascinating people. There was the young couple who were actors/singers/dancers. They were wrapping up a Broadway touring gig and were heading out for some R&R and downtime around sightseeing and visiting friends. There was the retired older couple who were in the process of moving to the west coast to be near their children and grandkids. There was the politically astute and enlightened composer and graphic design artist couple that were returning to Vancouver to visit friends and their old neighborhood. There was another retired couple who had moved to Canada from England to be near their children and grandchildren. And then there was the couple traveling with their delightful twin autistic sons.
The staff working the train were a senior bunch. The average seniority was about 30 years. They had seen it all! Most of them were engaging, talkative and seemed to still enjoy their jobs. Most of them.
Being mostly disconnected from the Internet, twitter and Facebook updates, and my life had a profound effect. Being on the train allowed me to reconnect with people, learn about others, enjoy the spectacular views, learn more about myself, and ponder the experiences of life. Too many times we’re caught up in our own lives to realize that there’s a whole world out there full of interesting, thoughtful, kind people; beauty that can take your breath away, and conversations to be had. Too often it’s “easier” to tweet, text or email than it is to have face-to-face conversations with others. It’s a behavior that has to be practiced, utilized, be reminded of.
I can only guess that this experience is very similar to what air travel used to be like during the Golden Era. Relaxed Atmosphere. No overcrowding. It was all about the journey/experience. Polite, considerate fellow travelers.
I’m so intrigued by this experience that I now want to experience travel via train again very soon but this time on Amtrak. The last time was a long time ago and I’d like to see how it compares. I hear they’ve improved quite a bit. A good friend, who lives in Washington DC and travels often to NYC, regularly takes Amtrak’s Acela. He prefers this experience over the hustle and bustle of air travel on this route; says it’s more civilized.
Maybe train travel will become the “it” way to travel for those looking for an experience as oppose to just getting from A to B.
If you have any questions about my experience please contact me. Otherwise enjoy the pics!
Union Station - Toronto
Train #1 Toronto - Vancouver
Observation car "dome"
1950's observation car (last car of the train)
Abandoned station - Hornepayne, Ontario
It's not safe on the tracks!
Big wheels keep on turning...
VIA Rail Canada