I'm getting back on board VIA's flagship service, the 'Canadian', and it'll be carrying me overnight from Edmonton to Winnipeg. This time I don't need to do any platform exercises to bring you the elegant sounding list of cars that make up our train; there's a magnetic board in the station which lists the long make-up of our train:
Locomotive, locomotive, locomotive, baggage car, coach, coach (that's me again), Skyline dome, Cabot Manor, Bliss Manor, Oscar Manor, Skyline dome, Imperial (restaurant), Wolfe Manor, Cameron Manor, Bell Manor, Chateau Jolliet, Chateau Cadillac, Chateau Richelieu, Skyline dome, Emerald (restaurant), Craig Manor, Christie Manor, Rogers Manor and Tweedsmuir Park car.
At every major stop, the population of the coach cars changes dramatically. As I board I spot the nervous looks on the remaining passengers, hoping to get a good bunch of new companions on the train. I sit down just a row behind where I sat on the last train, and watch as others board. The coach attendant warns that it may be necessary to sit more than one person on each pair of seats, and we all reluctantly (and as slowly as possible) re-arrange our possessions to be ready to share our precious space. But it soon looks like everyone is on board, and shortly after, the train begins to pull forward. I start talking to the the girl in front of me (a Vancouverite who is going to Quebec for a five week language course) that I am not sure whether I should be pleased or offended that no-one wanted to sit next to me...
I am happy to be back on the train. I have had a very relaxing few days break in Alberta, and have met many old friends it pains me to leave behind. The Albertan hospitality that first touched me four years ago is alive and well, and I have not been able to leave without a bag of food which will make the next day or two much more cost effective. I settle down into my comfy green chair, recline the seat back and lift up the leg supports. We're beginning to pick up speed over the prairies that just yesterday, we were exploring by car. Leaving the city, the engine's horn is almost constant, as we cross dozens of paved and unpaved roads, which divide the prairies up into their neat quarter-mile section fields.
The sun descends in the west, and I am content. I still have no desire to live in this part of Canada. But the landscape sooths me as we roll past. It is understandable, and I think that is why I miss the prairies so much when I am not there. Although intensively farmed, I can see the history of the landscape in what is extant on the ground. It's a tough, modest, but very honest place.