A Travellerspoint blog

Final Two Days of My Train Journey

Finishing in Toronto


View North American Train Trip 2022 on Bob Brink's travel map.

October 27, 2022

I had wondered how I would be feeling at this point in my trip, long past the mountains and the prairies, but still having one more night and over 1,000 km to go. Would I be counting the hours, just wanting to get off the train? Surely, I would be tired of trains by this point.

But this trip had been more about movement than anything I was going to see. I had craved, really needed, to be in motion. When I took the Zephyr from Chicago, I felt the vastness of the US and enjoyed the sensation of the train rolling along while I watched the country go past. I was now sensing the same going across Canada. And I gained a certain satisfaction from taking iconic trains from start to finish. I wanted to finish this train ride at the last stop, Toronto Union Station. Whether it was great mountain views, flat prairies, or as I would find on this day, lots of trees, I was happy to be onboard, still rolling along. Besides, I was being treated so well by the staff, the cars were comfortable, the food was outstanding, and I had great company. No, I was not tired of trains.

Although I had lived in Ontario, I never appreciated how big it was. I was interested to learn that we had entered the province relatively early in the night, only a couple of hours after Winnipeg, and would be rolling along all this day and then half of the next before we made it to Toronto.

I also learned that the province is in more than one time zone. The western part, on a line that runs just west of Thunder Bay, is in the central time zone. For air travel, once you leave the ground, the time zone of your destination is all that really matters. You arrive in a matter of hours and then have to adjust. With trains you must adjust to each zone. Your mealtimes are set according to the current location of the train. If you pass into a new zone at night, there are no announcements. I woke up in Colorado without noting the time change and arrived at breakfast an hour early. I woke up in western Ontario, assuming that it was eastern time, only to find out that we were still on central time. I had to wait for breakfast.

Breakfast time did arrive, and I was seated with a mother and daughter. The mother was probably in her 80’s. They travel a lot by train, including to Halifax. There was still no French toast, so I was good and had the cereal again.

A woman on the other side of the dining car heard me saying bad things about Amtrak. She said that she would soon be taking an Amtrak train. I told her that the trip would be fine, just not to expect the same level of service.

I reported to the dome car where I found some of the regulars but also a couple of new people. I found out that the people who left the train during the Winnipeg stopover ended up in bars as there was not much else to do. It did not sound like I missed much by staying on the train.

Our train was on the CN tracks which run well north of Lake Superior. The CP tracks are south and run along Lake Superior. I wanted to phone home, but we had no cell coverage. We were really in the wilds of Ontario or should I say the “sticks”. There were trees, so many trees. A pond or lake would appear and then be gone in an instant, plunging us back into the forest.

There were many stops listed, with names such as Savant Lake, Flindt Landing, and Allanwater Bridge, that were not regular towns. They provided access to recreational properties and lodges and were flag stops. Unless passengers had booked their ride in advance, the train just passes on by. We did not stop.

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One of our new dome car friends was a man who had worked as a CN telegraph operator in his younger days. Those poles were still standing, providing no current function except to mess up photographs.
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We were alerted that our train’s counterpart, Via Rail Number 1, was passing us on its way to Vancouver. We could not see into the windows on the dome cars, so there was no waving to each other.

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We were also informed about a beer tasting in our dome car in the evening, but this was going to be at 7 pm, the same time as the 2nd sitting for dinner, so I would have to miss it.

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The retired pilot pointed out the many beaver lodges in the ponds along the railway. I then struggled to both see them and even harder, take photographs. I think there is a blurry one in the corner of this photo, but I know very little about beavers.

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I was pleased to again be placed with my three young people at lunch. Back in my post about my day in Montreal I mentioned my discussion with the café manager who had been in Ottawa for the trucker protests. The two men are graduate students there, so I asked them to provide their viewpoint. They told me stories about the disruption that it caused the residents, many who had to move out of the area until it was over. The coffee guy had told me that the truckers stopped honking at night. The students said, "No, they never stopped honking".

The town of Hornepayne is a regular stop. We were early, so everyone had a chance to walk around. I now had a cell connection so was able to talk to Po as I walked. Hornepayne originated and continues to be a maintenance stop for the railway. Forestry and tourism are also important. It is not a big place.

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The town is proud to claim its place as the geographic center of Ontario.

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I saw a couple eating ice cream cones just before we boarded the train. I was only a little surprised. This is Canada. We eat ice cream on cold days. I then talked to them in the front lounge car. They had wandered into a store that was selling off its ice cream inventory, so they got a great deal on their cones. Cool weather or not, they could not pass up a bargain. They are from Alliston, Ontario. “Where they make the Honda CRV’s”, they told me. I had to show them photos of Pouch Cove. They actually took notes about our vacation rental property, so I might see them again.

Perhaps I had been talking too much about Amtrak. There was a man sitting beside them who told me that he was booked on Amtrak and wondered if he should still go. I assured him that he should and that I will likely take Amtrak in the future. It was a good thing that my last train was the best one.

I walked into the dining car for supper and on the left side saw two empty places across from the French couple. I did not want to sit there. The waitress seemed ready to put me there, but then pivoted and sent me to the right, back with my young people. I don’t know what they thought about it, but I was quite pleased. It was another enjoyable dinner. I had the pork tenderloin and a couple glasses of wine. At the end I left some cash, both for the wine but also for a tip which was meant for a few meals. One of my dining companions called out to ask if I had meant to leave the money. Tipping had been quite obvious on Amtrak, not so much on Via.

It was announced that because we were running early, we would have only the continental option for breakfast and then either a brunch or early lunch, the final decision to be made in the morning. I wondered if I would ever get my French toast.

I was feeling quite mellow after my meal and the wine. My train odyssey was almost over. I pulled down my bed for the last time.

October 28, 2022

I had a good sleep and headed in for breakfast. I was put with a couple from Kitchener, Ontario. She told some great stories about her trips on the trains as a young girl. Her family had moved to the west for a time and then moved back to the east, travelling by train each time, the CN train in one direction and the CP on the way back. They acquired a puppy which came with them on the return trip but had to stay in the baggage car. She would spend time in the car with the puppy where she had found a handy box to sit on, at least until she was told that it was not appropriate. The crate contained a coffin.

To briefly jump ahead a day, one of my hostesses in Toronto would tell me about a vacation trip her family took on CP Rail when she was a little girl. She remembered having the run of the train and the many activities for children. She still has the menus.

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It was announced that our last meal would be an early brunch. I had finished my breakfast about 8:00 am and could look forward to coming back at 11:00.

I went back to my usual spot, where I found some of the regulars. It was a much more interesting day than the previous one as we were passing through Ontario’s cottage country.

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I stopped at my room to finish packing and went on to the dining car for my brunch. There was no French toast, but there were waffles. I sat with a couple from the UK. They had been to Vancouver for a wedding and decided to return by train.

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From there I went up to the front lounge car. I had never gone up there, instead going every time to the back. I had been told at the start that “my” car had not been refurbished. I had been sitting on cloth for all these days, but this one had nice leather seats.

My young friends were there, so I enjoyed a last visit with them. I knew we were quite close to the end since we were going down the Don Valley, which brought back not so pleasant memories of drives down the Don Valley Expressway when I was returning from clients and about to hit the downtown traffic. I said goodbye to my friends and waited in my room until we arrived at Toronto Union Station. We were an hour and a half early.

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That was it. My big train journey was over. It had been 16 days since I boarded the train in Halifax, and I had no more “real” trains to catch.

However, I was not finished with trains that day. I was going to take another GO train, back to the Danforth Station, the same one I had used on my arrival from Montreal. I walked into the terminal and asked for directions to the GO trains. It took me away from the main hall, so I first went there to take some photos.

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I boarded my GO train and watched the Canadian roll away. I was a bit sad.

Posted by Bob Brink 02:45 Archived in Canada Tagged trains canada via_rail

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Comments

As a kid, I remember train rides from Sudbury to Thunder Bay...except the train didn't go to Thunder Bay. We'd take the train as far as Hornepayne where relatives would pick us up and drive to Thunder Bay. Good to see it hasn't changed at all. Wonderful photos of Northern Ontario; I've iften thought it was similar to NL....without the ocean.

by Tony Turco

Canada certainly is huge. Beautiful photos.

by irenevt

Thanks Bob, Enyoyed the blog.

by alectrevor

Enjoyed reading about your train travel. I went with a couple of friends from Toronto to Halifax about ten years ago. We flew from Calgary to TO and boarded at Union Station and spent a couple of days in Montreal and Quebec City. Our final destination was Halifax. We planned the trip to see the fall colours and they were amazing.

by Betty Whalen

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting. I am working away at plans so I can have some new travel adventures to write about. They just might involve a few trains.

by Bob Brink

Thanks for sharing, Bob! Keep well!

by Vic_IV

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