Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Train 2: Skyline car

The real treat of the 'Canadian' can be found in the carriage behind me. On the long distance Amtrak trains I've ridden on this trip, you'll always find a 'Sightseer Lounge' car. These have extra large windows in the side, and smaller windows that curl up and over you into the roof along the length of either side of the car. While VIA Rail don't have any Sightseer Lounges, they do have a large fleet of 'Skyline' cars.

The Skyline cars are also original nineteen-fifties coaches that have been re-built and re-fitted to satisfy demanding tourists. While most cars are single level, the centre section of the Skyline is split level, with a lounge or cafe at each end, and a small staircase leading up to a viewing deck in the middle of the car. Although it's much smaller and sometimes more crowded than an Amtrak lounge, because the viewing deck is raised up above the roof of the car, you get to look forwards and backwards. We're not quite in the busy summer season yet, so it's not looking to get too busy, but I still head upstairs to sneak a peak at the suburbs of Vancouver as they slip away behind us. Right now it's not to busy up here, but that will no doubt change as we reach the mountains. There are a few people up here enjoying the evening sun (through the tinted windows and under the ever enthusiastic air conditioning) or taking photographs. During my trip I see a handful of train spotters using video cameras to record the rare forward facing view. Just a few cars in front of us, we can see our two diesel locomotives, puffing black smoke into the sky every time we accelerate. It certainly brings out the child in me... not quite like being an engine driver, but close enough. I collapse in a comfy seat and watch the head of our train forge our path out of Vancouver, passing green signals that somehow know to turn red once the front of the train has passed.

This Skyline car is one of three in the train, not including the streamlined Park car at the very end of the train, which has it's own domed viewing deck. They're scattered through the train, with one usually every four or five coaches. Ours is just for coach passengers; the others are for the sleeper passengers in the adjacent carraiges.

From time to time the train turns into a sharp curve, and our gleaming silver tail stretches out behind us. Craning my neck, I fail each time to count how many coaches there are.

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