Monday, May 08, 2006

Train 693: the first morning

For the first time in two weeks, I am able to sleep on board a train beyond 06.00. In fact, by the time I pop open my curtain and swing my legs down onto the step ladder to my upper berth, it's nearly 08.00. I could definitely get used to this. The mattress was comfortable, the ventilation adequate, and the sleep most rewarding. My dreams were much more balanced than those I have sleeping in coach class.

I dress and walk through to the restaurant car. I'm seated on a table to myself - there's no problem with space on this train - and offered the menu by my Service Manager. The car that I'm in is identical to those used on the mainline 'Canadian' services. According to a VIA employee who I spoke to later, for about five years VIA experimented with a fleet of cars called the Northern Spirit fleet. These had been imported from Florida, but were rejected after a few years because of their hopeless unreliability in the Manitoban winters. The major difference with the mainline service here is visible - no linen tablecloths and only the bare minimum of china. However, the menu reflects the more modest approach, and prices are reasonable: C$6.75 for three blueberry pancakes, which I take with some coffee.

As I start eating, we leave our last stop in Saskatchewan - the little town of Hudson Bay. No doubt named after the final destination of the railway line that passed through, this attractive prairie town now offers plenty of confusion for the uninformed train passenger. We continue on our way, now heading back into Manitoba and towards our first major stop at The Pas (pronounced The Paah). After a few delays during the night, we're about an hour late. A few passengers have also slipped away, leaving the train at small station stops during my deep period of sleep.

I enjoy a refill of my coffee, and look out on a sunny morning.

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