By dawn we are approaching Montreal. The train runs through the night southwestern along the St. Lawrence River but little can be seen. It’s clear we’re on time and that I will have plenty of time to transfer from this train to another for the five-hour ride by Coach to Toronto.
THE SEAFARING MAN
I meet my next-door neighbor on The Ocean, a retired seafaring man from Newfoundland. He says he has been rocked more the previous night than he ever had been at sea and attributes this sad event to our being the second-to-last car on a 19-car train. “We were the tail of the dog,” he laments, and moments later Walter, our cabin attendant confirms it.
“Yes, you get pounded in that last car,” Walter says cheerfully, looking surprisingly well rested.
The seafaring man and I compare notes. We have both noticed Walter gave himself a compartment two cars forward.
VIA RAIL AEROTICS
Since only the park (parlor) car is behind me, all other cars on this train are forward. The dining car: 6 cars forward. The private first class lounge (free coffee): five. Getting there is an aerobic balancing act, but I make the trip half-a-dozen times because I like the workspace and because it is empty. My geriatric co-travelers rarely hazard the trip forward.
SPIES AMONG US
We crawl into Montreal. After getting off the train, I stop to take pictures on the platform after it empties. A baggage guy drives up behind me and stops while I finish taking my pictures. I think he might like to have his picture taken. I am wrong.
“It’s illegal to take pictures on the platform,” he says. We stare. This is not good. I look around for signs prohibiting but see none. I offer to delete the pictures I have taken.
“Nobody I know cares,” he says, and drives on.
My rethink of packing in Halifax has worked great on this latest leg of the trip. I am now rolling separate sets of tee shirts, shorts and socks together and then rubber banding them together. Used sets get rolled and banded, then place in plastic bags so I know they are not clean.
This created a lot of room in my backpack and in the bag I shipped to Toronto. Unlike my trip to Halifax this time I have everything I need on the train.
Changing trains in Montreal I have time to grab some food to eat later. I visit with Amtrak to find another Amtrak office. The next one is in Toronto. I survey the Montreal station. Do I need anything? No.
Moments later I’m off again.
LOST IN TORONTO
Train 057 is more like the Amtrak train from Washington to New York. This train runs in the heaviest train corridor in Canada between Montreal and Toronto.
There are only lounge cars, no sleepers and, the passengers are young professional of good cheer. No geriatric tourists here this time: I count 17 computers busily clicking away in my car alone. They are a courteous bunch speaking in hushed tones on cell phone and texting like crazy getting things done.
In Toronto I discover that I have typed in the wrong street address for the hotel when I Googled it. I ask a couple of men for directions and as I start off, a woman trots after me.
“Where are you going?” she asks with some concern, and when I tell her she says, “No, no, no, they have told you all wrong.”
She walks me upstairs into the main concourse of the station, leads me outside and orders me to turn left and then right immediately. The hotel is several blocks away on the corner. She is businesslike, curt and tells me “go, immediately, before you freeze.” and vanishes. Toronto is very businesslike.
But several blocks later, in a biting wind, I realize I am not on the street she told me to take. I am stumped, freezing and uncertain what to do next: I cannot drag these bags around forever.
I check street names. I have studied the area on Google by map and satellite. Something should click. It doesn’t. I look around again for some place warm to consider my plight.
I am standing in front of the hotel.
(Photograph, empty, darkened Montreal platform; the baggage cart guy waited just behind me)
Montreal – Halifax — 1346 km / 836 miles
Halifax to Montreal — 1346 km / 836 miles
Montreal to Toronto — 539 km / 335 miles