The next stage of the project was the long awaited return travel to Toronto by train. VIA rail operate a service from Vancouver on the west coast to Toronto on the east. If you get the train at either end, then it’s pretty safe to assume a departure time as scheduled. However, this isn’t the case if you get on the train anywhere in the middle of the journey, by then time has taken on another dimension.
We were due to get the train at 23:50 hrs and were deposited at the station in a very timely manner by Douglas Barbour, a great poet/writer and another new Edmonton friend. The train finally arrived at 01:45 am and by the time we departed it was nearly 02:30! The passenger train has to give way to goods and grain wagons, so pulling into a siding was a common event. One of the trains that passed us was 97 wagons long! After a quick intro to the workings of our cabin by the guard, we were settled for the next 3 days. The upside of our late departure was that we saw more of the prairie as it was light by 06:00 am.
There was definitely a greater sense of the scale of the country we were passing through by travelling overland, rather than by air. Also the comparative feeling of sailing through a landscape, due to the huge scale wheat fields, which roll past like a huge swell on the sea. Huge volume of land as opposed to the volume of water.
Day 1 – mostly spent sitting and watching the play of scenery pass by the cabin window, which was acting like a huge TV screen. Also an opportunity to collect thoughts about the journey so far.Grain elevators were beginning to become like friends, a familiar presence on the horizon. then we started to recognise names, Young and Watrous, we’d seen these before on our journey to Regina, but that was the closest we got to retracing any of our steps, as then the train diverted away and on to Winnipeg.
Day 2 – a shock to wake up to almost familiar countryside; rocks and silver birch trees, how had we arrived back in Scotland? The Canadian Shield region of Northern Ontario that we were now passing through looked so much like the Highlands, it’s no wonder that Scottish immigrants felt at home here. I was mourning the open space of the prairie, not prepared for the loss of sky. By the end of the day, the trees and become a shroud to the open vistas we had enjoyed previously.But the scale, the scale of the place. A continent that we had been travelling through since we embarked on the train 2 days ago and were still no where near the end.Day 3 – we should have been in Toronto by 09:30 but by now we were running 6 hours late. We had allowed 7 hours between trains to Montreal thinking it would be plenty of time, but we were now getting anxious. Sure enough, we arrived with 10 minutes to spare, but not enough time too get our luggage, so that had to follow on the next day.
A great adventure and experience – lots of thoughts to process in comparison to sailing over water as opposed to over land. Once again, plenty of fascinating conversations and people who seemed genuinely interested in the project we were on.