The Canadian, Day 4

The great thing about travelling by train is that there is almost zero environmental impact.

Before you say “but what about those giant diesel engines burning diesel”, let me explain that I’m talking about marginal impact. That is, this train was going to be running regardless of whether I was on it or not. By choosing to be on it, I’m not contributing any additional environmental impact.

That’s not true for a bus or plane. If 100 people suddenly decided to travel from Toronto to Vancouver by bus, the bus company would have to schedule another couple busses. If 100 extra people decided to travel by plane, the airline would have to schedule another plane. But if 100 people decided to all take the train, Via Rail can simply add another couple of cars to their existing scheduled train, with negligible environmental impact.

(Caveat: There are reports that Via Rail no longer does this, and Elizabeth May is not happy about it. See Point 1 in her letter.)

There are downsides too. It’s more expensive than travelling by plane, though still within my company’s travel policy. (Note that I’m travelling in Economy. Note also that if you’re a member of CAA or Hostelling International, you get 10% off Via Rail tickets.) It also takes more time, but it’s not unproductive time. You can get quite a lot done on the train.

The main downside is sleeping in a seat. I was fine for the first couple nights, but after that third night (last night), I’m starting to feel a bit rough. And I have one more night to go.

The cost of the Via Rail ticket includes one stopover in any city for as long as you want. If I had more time, I might have scheduled a stopover in Winnipeg or Jasper for a couple nights to recharge.

Update: Jasper
Apparently I slept past Saskatoon and Edmonton.

Jasper is beautiful, but you already knew that.

Update: Approaching Kamloops
I can’t help wishing I was seeing this scenery in winter instead of summer. Green mountains just look like big hills.

We’re back on tracks laid by the Canadian Northern Railway. It still boggles my mind that we’re following a path chosen by someone 100 years ago. I spend so much of my life surrounded by new technology, it’s strange to be using something created even just 3 or 4 generations ago.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the decline of passenger rail in Canada. It couldn’t compete with the rise of air travel and new highways like the Trans-Canada and the 401. The federal government created Via Rail in the 1970s to take over passenger operations from CN and CP, since those services were no longer profitable.

I’m not exactly sure why the government keeps Via Rail running, but I’m glad they do. Last time I travelled by air, security confiscated my penknife.

Musical Interlude IV
[This one would have made more sense last night. I might swap them in a later edit.]

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2 thoughts on “The Canadian, Day 4

  1. Eh, at worst, sleeping on a train is no worse than sleeping on a plane, and usually better. But you should try some of the sleeper trains in Europe… seats convert to beds, and bunks fold down out of the wall. I caught an overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg a few years ago, and it was a surprisingly comfortable experience.

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  2. Sleeper Plus with meals is definitely the way to go….. a berth is the most affordable way and the dreams while sleeping on a train are always wonderful.

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