Saturday, May 13, 2006

Train 2: into Toronto

I'm not the only one who is keen to get off. My English acquaintance decided earlier today to stay on board with her bike as far as Toronto to visit friends there. Her decision was made by the rain we were travelling through this morning. Now, of course, it's a sunny day, and as we pass through warm Parry Sound and Washago about half an hour behind schedule, she's regretting her choice. Card and number games are getting boring.

But there is hope on the horizon. The landscape has opened up into the hinterlands of Greater Toronto. We're running past highways and through suburban towns, picking up speed and rattling over more and more level crossings. I spy the first 'Go' train station, marking our arrival within the region served by Toronto's urban rail system. We are getting close. Soon we're racing under busy road bridges and through residential areas. The industrial units that are strung along the city's arterial routes begin to get denser and denser: more and more units are surrounded by fenced yards that cram old cars and shipping containers up against the tracks.

Our line suddenly descends into (or rather the land around us rises to form) what I think is the Don Valley. High rise apartment blocks gather close to the edges of this wooded valley, and I begin to recognise bridges that span the wide expanse above us, including one double deck bridge that carries a TTC subway line beneath the roadway. It's easy to spot because of the complex and vaguely elegant suicide guards that prevent anyone from jumping off this fifty metre high bridge. We're definitely back in the big smoke.

At one point we slow to allow a GO train to pass. Briefly our windows pass by, and tired Friday evening commuters exchange glances with tired trans-continental tourists. This ride from Winnipeg has not been particularly long, but I am feeling eager to get off the train because everyone else is: our entire train is reaching it's grand terminus. Some of my fellow passengers have been on this train since Tuesday night. I have re-packed my bags and I am wearing my coat, ready to jump off and descend into Toronto's underbelly to catch (ha!) another train to carry me the last few kilometres to a horizontal sleeping surface. What luxury...

The train line crosses industrial wasteland that is the process of being prepared for development. Toronto's massive rail marshalling yards are preparing for a new life, as condominiums and office developments lure developers and eager denizens to live and work in the core of the big city. A view opens up on our right, and suddenly I can see the silhouetted skyline of the city. A cluster of shining skyscrapers mark the culmination of mile upon mile of suburbs, while towering over them stands the unmistakable shape of Canada's most famous tall building - the CN Tower. I'm told that despite the altitude reached by the Petronas Towers, the CN can still lay claim to being the tallest free standing structure in the world.

Another 'Go' train causes us to pause just outside Union Station. Pushing my anxious face up against the window, I can see the dark train shed ahead of us, preceded by dozens of criss crossing tracks. We are so close, waiting on the threshold of our destination.

The train starts to edge forward, and we arrive.

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