Saturday, May 20, 2006

Train 15: end of the line

When I awake, we are racing along the smooth fast railway line between Québec City and Montréal. We are on the home straight. Outside, the flat fields of southern Québec are stretching out either side of us into a grey haze of fog and rain. Small towns flash past, and the slight changes in domestic architecture tell me that we are back in Québec. The houses appear to be more traditional; the porches are larger and the facades have more decoration on them. BMM and I take the remains of our food bag back to the service car, and along with coffee and hot chocolate, have a scratch breakfast. The café attendant has found some large sheets from which a cardboard train can be pressed out and assembled. They are busy making a long train of cardboard carriages and locomotives on the red couches. Eating yesterday's donuts and a bruised apple, it's strange to think that this is really the end of my trip.

We stop at Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe and finally Saint-Lambert. The pause here is slightly longer but within sixty seconds of leaving the station we are crossing the wide and fast flowing Saint Laurence river. Was it really a month ago that I began my journey crossing this bridge?. The grey weather has travelled to Montréal with us. It's a dark day, raindrops hitting the windows beside us under a solidly grey sky.

Montréal appears first on our right, through the fast moving steel griders of the bridge. When we land on the island of Montréal, the train makes a gentle turn to the right, and I catch sight of the rail yards where VIA keeps its Montréal fleet. An overnighting four carriage Amtrak train waits for it's journey to New York later this morning. Maybe it's the same set of carriages I took all those weeks ago?

We are now closer to the downtown skyline of skyscrapers, bounded to the north by the heavily wooded outline of the Mont Royal montagne, and these are now appearing on our left. The crew of the train offer their billingual welcome to Montréal, now speaking in French before English, rather than vice versa as when we left Halifax. The train slows to enter the dark underside of the Gare Centrale. In the last one hundred metres, the two diesel locomotives at the front of the train stop their engines, and the lights in our car dims. We coast quietly into the station, and come to a halt...

My journey has ended.

Train 15: the last night on the train

Not only was bringing my laptop a good idea for catching up on the blog, but with a couple of choice DVDs brought from England, BMM and I are able to spend the evening on board train 15 watching some British television comedy. We ate our own packed meals this evening, but share a cup of tea from the service car during the evening. Other coach class passengers go back to take dinner in the dining car - when they return I overhear positive comments as they talk to other passengers.

By Bathurst, we're running about twenty minutes behind schedule, but that's nowhere near enough to bother me. As the daylight dims outside, and the last night that I will be spending on the train sets in, blankets and pillows are distributed. I know this time to seek out an extra one from the sacks at the end of the carriage. Sorry if that makes me a bad passenger, but it's not half as cheeky as the coach passengers on board the 'Canadian' who sneaked back to the sleeper cars to enjoy the showers there :-)

And, as expected, with two people, it's a bit easier to get some sleep. We try a couple of different positions, and each time the attendant passes we get a smile and a joke about being young lovers. I suppose being young means we're more flexible to adopt strange positions to sleep in, and being lovers means we don't mind leaning on each other during the night. I have also made sure to bring more clothing, so I'm not as cold as I was on the way up. We've also chosen a pair of seats away from the noisy ventilation grilles, although it's still pretty noticeable as I go to sleep. We drift off to sleep as we enter Québec... for the first time in a long time, I sleep deeply and dream vividly for more than four hours in one go.