2014 Amtrak-VIA Circle Trip: Day 8

Most of Day 8 (Thursday, May 29, 2014) of my Amtrak-VIA circle trip would be spent in Toronto. The Canadian was running late, but we would still make Canada’s largest city by late morning.

The scenery was a replay of the previous day, only this time we were getting closer to civilization because I was able to get a cell phone signal and text and speak with my wife for the first time in more than a day.

Upon leaving Edmonton, the Canadian had shrunk to a 19-car train with an observation car that resembled a single-level Superliner Sightseer Lounge having been dropped.

Thus far I had not ventured beyond my car toward the head end. This being my last day aboard the Canadian I decided today I better do that.

But first there was breakfast, which was scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast and orange juice. It would be my last meal aboard VIA.

Once again I drew as table companions the Youngs, who I had first met in Vancouver as well as woman from Australia who I had met twice earlier.

The first of those encounters with the Aussie lassie had occurred during the service stop at Melville, Saskatchewan.

We both had the same idea of crossing over the track behind the tail of the Kokanee Park to get a photograph because the sunlight favored that side. We took turns photographing each other standing next to the car before a VIA attendant shooed us back to the platform.

I also by happenstance sat next to her during the wine tasting event the previous day. By now I had been on the train long enough that some of the people were looking familiar and I would even nod or say hello to them.

We talked a lot about photography during breakfast. The Youngs were interested in buying a new digital camera and asked some questions that I let the Australian woman answer.

After breakfast, it was time to explore the front half of the train. There were four dome cars on the No. 2, which included the Kokanee Park.

Behind the two locomotives was a baggage car and behind that were two coaches. The coach seats looked more comfortable than the typical Superliner or Amfleet II coach seat. But, still, I wouldn’t want to ride across Canada in any of them.

The first of the four dome cars was set up to cater to coach passengers. It had a café beneath the dome section that was similar to what you would find on the lower level of an Amtrak Sightseer lounge or an Amcafe. You order from a counter and take it with you.

The Canadian had two dining cars and I don’t know if the forward diner would seat coach passengers who wanted to buy a meal.

As I said in an earlier report, the dining car to which I was assigned had no prices on the menu and as far as I know all the passengers served in that car were riding in sleeping cars.

It seemed as though the large tour groups were booked into the sleepers toward the front of the train and were assigned to the forward dining car.

During a stay in one of the forward dome cars I noticed several people wearing name tags with their names and hometown. They were all Americans.

Presumably, each dining car had the same menu offerings. I occasionally listened to the VIA crew channel on my scanner and sometimes heard the crew from one diner talking with the other about something they needed that the other might have.

I saw more of the attendant in my sleeping car east of Winnipeg than I had of the attendant west of there. Both of them knew me by my first name when they made the initial introduction of themselves. Yet I don’t remember either of their names.

The guy east of Winnipeg looked me up to offer to change the linens in my bed. I said fine. As I noted in a previous report, except overnight I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in my roomette. So I didn’t see the attendants all that often.

We wound our way into Toronto over what seemed to be a circuitous route. But I don’t know the city’s railroads all that well so maybe it wasn’t as roundabout as I thought it was.

I spotted an IKEA store, the second I had seen on this trip. The other had been in Winnipeg. I also spotted a guy at a grade crossing wearing a VIA shirt, holding up a sign and waving at the train.

He wasn’t the first trackside railfan I had seen. On the day that we crossed the prairies I spotted a couple of guys taking photographs of our train in separate locations.

We passed through a major railroad junction and I soon began seeing Toronto GO Transit trains. We came to a halt at Toronto Union Station at about 11 a.m.

Toronto Union Station was undergoing a major renovation project and was a mess. I was booked at the Royal York Hotel, which under normal circumstances can be reached through a tunnel between the station and the hotel.

But that was closed so I had to make my way across the street, which was also under construction.

I checked in, got settled in my room and plotted my afternoon adventure. I wound up visiting the top of CN tower, photographing VIA and GO Transit trains from a glass walk way over the west throat of Union Station, photographing the street cars and visiting a railway museum at the base of CN Tower.

Jessica had recommend visiting the Steam Whistle Brewery, but much to my dismay it had no restaurant operation attached to it. I elected not to pay to take the tour.

I had dinner back at the hotel and watched the New York Rangers close out the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden to win the Eastern Conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs on TV that night.

I noticed that the hotel had a display in the lobby commemorating a stay once by Queen Elizabeth. I had good accommodations, but I’ll bet the queen had better.

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