Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Train 693: Dinner

Since I'm going to be on this train and the return service for a total of nearly eighty hours, I've packed a fair quantity of food and snacks. However, I find it's all part of the experience to try and take at least one meal a day in the on-board restaurant car. I could quite easily get by on sandwiches, tinned sardines, fruit and other snacks, but over four nights that would get a bit boring.

There was no meal service leaving Winnipeg last night. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served today, and breakfast will be served tomorrow before we arrive in Churchill. The same pattern works on the southbound return trip. The restaurant also acts a take out snack counter, and sandwiches or other over priced odds and ends can be bought for consumption at your seat. The tariff for the take out counter is published online here. You can read all of VIA Rail's restaurant car menus here.

I'd not taken lunch here, but I had promised the ever friendly Tara (my chef and sleeping car attendant) that I would be back for dinner. As we pulled away from Thompson I sat down to eat. Only three or four other passengers (all travelling the full distance from Winnipeg to Churchill) had taken a sit down meal, although many of the coach passengers were coming through to buy snacks or beer. The menu on the 'Hudson Bay' is much like the restaurant car itself: compared to the 'Canadian', it's pared down for more modest journey. But that also means it's much more reasonably priced. Since I wanted to stick to something appropriate for my trip, I chose the Grilled Arctic Char. The menu describes it as: "From the icy waters of the Canadian North, grilled with fresh garlic and seasonings and finished with fresh lemon." It costs C$11.50, and I had a beer (C$4.75) with it.

Char is much like salmon, only somewhat lighter. It was served with potatoes and green vegetables. Overall it was good; maybe not the most impressive sea food meal I've eaten, but then the fish would have had to have been frozen to brought this far. I was happy to pay this price for it, and I have lots of respect for anyone who can prepare a meal while bouncing along this notoriously rough track.

After dinner, I stayed in the restaurant car and chatted with the crew, including one of the Hudson Bay Railway employees who was working the train. We talked about my trip and my career, and then I asked him about how he found life up here. He lives in Gillam, about mid-way between Thompson and Churchill. It can, he admitted, "be very depressing" being so far from other towns and living in such a small community. He seemed to be considering returning south in the future, but as for his job, enjoyed working on board the trains. A good team of colleagues seemed to help.

I made my excuses, and head to bed. Before leaving I'm advised that one of the coach passengers has chosen to pay a 'night fare' and upgrade to the berth below mine for the ride up to Churchill. I'm slightly disappointed about having to share an entire sleeper carraige with another paying passenger, but then one can't travel in absolute luxury all the time... :-)

The track is too bumpy for a shower or a shave tonight, so I wash quickly, haul myself up into my bunk, and pull the curtains closed. Thinking of all the nights I've spent roughing it in coach class makes it easy to curl up beneath the thick duvet. I read a bit more of Johnny Fedora's exploits in Trieste. He seems to lack the intelligence, style and subtlety of James Bond, which leaves him particularly laughable. Still, he always has time for a drink and has amazing luck with the ladies. Some men get away with everything...

Good night.

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