DAY 2: Part 2 – Toronto and boarding The Canadian
|Oh hey, it's Toronto. Good thing that sign is there to let me know.
Well, here we go!
As I mentioned in the last post, I had a bit over 4 hours to kill in Toronto. I had dropped my carry-on bags at the baggage counter so as not to have to lug them around. VIA will do that for you at no charge if you have a connecting train within a certain amount of time – you get a little claim ticket, kind of like at a coat-check, and you bring that back to collect them later. I had opted to avoid bringing any checked baggage for two reasons: first, I wanted to have access to everything I brought during my trip (given that it was a pretty short stay in Vancouver, most of what I packed was for during the train trip!), and second, I didn’t want to have to pay stupid fees to check bags on the flight back from Vancouver. That limited me quite a bit, because VIA’s carry-on baggage limits are a lot more generous than Air Canada’s! In the end, I was able to manage it all in a small roller suitcase and a backpack, which worked quite well.
Anyway, after stowing those bags I headed off to check off my next important task: finding a new memory card. A visit to the Eaton Centre accomplished that, and also reminded me that the Eaton Centre is huge and chaotic. When a shopping centre is large enough that you have duplicates of the same stores inside, that’s pushing it in my books.
Memory card in hand, I wandered around and made my way back to Union Station. I caught a few sights on the way, and tried not to be too touristy.
|Classic articulated CLRV, still rolling on the streets/rails of Toronto.
|Streetcar: The Next Generation. At least some of these Bombardier Flexity Outlooks are in service. They sure are spiffy, though they lack some of the charm of the old CLRVs.
Once back at the station, I decided to wander around to the Skywalk and do what one does in Toronto, if one is a railfan – I set up in the conveniently located area overlooking the approach to the station, and pulled out my camera. Here are a few observations from up there – man oh man, how I wish I could go here every day!
|Hey look, it's that big thing that everyone goes to look at. What they're missing is that the *real* interesting stuff is in the opposite direction.
|Ah, that's the stuff! VIA's lone Canada 150-wrapped Business class LRC, with a more ubiquitous coach. I was through Rimouski and Amherst, but no London or The Pas on this trip.
|GO, GO, VIA!
|New and old looks on GO.
|The UP Express. Yes, they say "Up", not "YOU PEE". It ain't much to look at, but it's an amazing service. Super comfy.
|The even less interesting looking blunt-end cab cars on some UPX sets.
With a lull in the action (it was a Saturday evening, after all), I headed over towards the roundhouse park, where the Toronto Railway Historical Association has their museum. It was closed at this time of day, but I was impressed by how much was actually accessible outside even with the museum itself closed. The park was well used even at that time of day, and was a pleasant area to spend a while.
|Some big, black, steamy thing. I guess they're worried about it escaping.
|A lonely cab. I believe this is set up as a simulator inside.
|A classic CN geep in the middle of the park. Gotta love those flexicoil trucks! Despite the signs, it was a popular thing for people to climb and pose on.
|DANGER! THIS CRAB IS SANITARY! One of the fun little displays outside the Ripley's Aquarium. I would have loved to visit, but didn't quite have the time.
The Leafs were playing that night (in the playoffs, no less), so I figured I’d go check out Maple Leaf Square, where they broadcast the games outside for fans to watch without having to get tickets to go inside. There was a huge crowd there, but as it turns out, the Raptors were also playing (two Toronto teams in the playoffs at the same time? Gasp!), and they were showing the end of that game first. It was still a neat atmosphere, but it didn’t pique my interest the same way. I wandered back over to the Skywalk to catch the inbound Amtrak/VIA Maple Leaf, and then return to the station. On my way there I bumped into a random guy who seemed to have had a few drinks, who noted my camera and asked if I was visiting, and if so, where from? Turns out he was originally from New Waterford, Cape Breton! He seemed particularly impressed that I knew not only where that was, but actually quite a lot about the town (having a girlfriend from there and spending a lot of time in the town certainly helps!)
|The Maple Leaf - Amtrak service from New York, and VIA service from Niagara Falls.
|LRCs - one of these isn't quite like the others. All refurbished, but that VIA logo on the middle car has white text underneath. Looks like they used one of the logos intended for the Business class cars.
|GO 662 in new colours. Metrolinx...blah. I like the new scheme on the coaches just fine, but it looks pretty bland on the locomotives.
Returning to Union station, I retrieved my bags and headed to the Panorama lounge. Upon arrival I was asked to go speak to the dining car steward, who offered me my choice of lunch and dinner sittings for the next day – early, or late (whatever that would end up being). They were paired, so you either went for both early sittings or both late sittings. Breakfast would be first come, first served.
|Only one departure left on the board!! Not only would we leave on time - we actually boarded early.
The lounge is really quite nice – spacious, comfortable, and well kept. I discovered that there wasn’t much by way of food there – just some apples – though there was a good selection of teas, coffees, and other cold drinks. I did note that there is now a section in the rear that is blocked off exclusively for Prestige Class passengers. Those passengers get a more extensive selection of food and drink before departure.
|Panorama lounge. High-tables and drinks to the right, and a business-centre computer area back behind to the left. The Leafs game was on TV.
There was already a good crowd in the lounge, and it expanded as we got closer to departure. I started chatting with a friendly couple – Ted and Laurel – who I would ultimately end up spending quite a lot of time with over the course of the next 4 days. They were from Ontario, on Georgian Bay, and were heading through to Vancouver and then touring around. Ted identified me pretty quickly as a rail buff – I suppose the fact that I was wearing a VIA LRC “Metropolis” shirt helped! He asked me a trivia question, just to test me: “how do you tell the direction of a train from its number?” Easy! Even numbers are eastbounds, and odd numbers are westbounds. That seemed to prove that I knew my stuff, and Ted assured me that he’d have more questions along the way.
The excitement in the air as we waited for the boarding call was palpable. I still couldn’t quite believe that this was actually happening, and it helped that everyone else seemed very excited too. The boarding call came early, amazingly enough, and we were directed out to the concourse to head up to the platform where our train awaited.
|I've seen this sign before when I've been in Union, but this is the first time it was directing me to where I needed to go.
I rolled up the escalator, and there it was – train #1, the iconic silver and blue streamliner that is The Canadian. I’ve ridden VIA’s stainless steel equipment plenty of times (even that morning on the Ocean), but seeing it there on that track at Union Station, with “1” in the line numbers, it just felt different. This was something special. This was what I’d been dreaming about for so many years.
I was in car 113, so I was directed to the left down the platform. This would be the section behind the diner. As I reached my car, I was pleased to see that I’d be in Brock Manor for the trip. The car is named for Sir Isaac Brock, who is also the namesake of Brockville, where I went to high school and spent lots of time through my younger years.
I met my car attendant for the first leg of the trip (Toronto to Winnipeg), and it turned out that he was also a Dan. Another theme for this trip? He directed me up to roomette 3, and gave me the basic spiel about the various features of the car, where everything was, and let me know that there would be a champagne send-off in the Park on departure. He also showed me how to open the vestibule doors and designated me as his able-body for this part of the trip.
Just before departure I headed back to the Park and found a seat in the dome. The attendants served champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and there was a jovial atmosphere among the crowd as we waited for the wheels to turn.
My walk back to the Park gave me my first look at the newly refurbished Prestige class Chateau and Park cars, and I must say I was impressed. They are absolutely gorgeous. More on that in an upcoming post.
Right on time, at 10:00pm sharp, we started to move.
|The CN tower glows high above through the dome windows in Glacier Park.
The Canadian makes an unusual trip on its way out of Union Station. It starts heading west and north, following the GO Barrie line. Then at the junction with the York Sub (Snider?), the train backs up onto the York Sub, and then runs east until the junction with GO’s Richmond Hill line, where it heads north and onto its route into northern Ontario. This interesting routing is done so that the train doesn’t have to be turned when it arrives in Toronto. The eastbound #2 just comes down the Richmond Hill line right into Union Station, then runs out to Mimico for servicing, and is backed up to Union to depart as #1.
As we got underway the signs of civilization slowly disappeared, and we headed into darkness. After chatting a bit more with folks in the dome, I decided it was time to head for bed. I was pretty exhausted from the long day, and I was more than ready to sleep. I headed back to my car and got settled into my cozy little roomette.
It was still hard to believe I was actually, really, on that train. So much excitement for the days ahead – no doubt they would fly by!
I finished my journal entry for that day with: “Goodnight from Roomette 3 in car 113, Brock Manor! P.S. Manor roomettes seem larger than Chateaus…hope for a good night! I do hear a rattle, though…”
|Roomette 3 - my home for the next 4 days.