Amtrak Winter 2012

About to board the Canadian for a Transcontinental Journey!

Greetings from the small but nice Panorama Lounge at Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station where I await to begin by journey home across Canada to Toronto before taking the Maple Leaf back across the boarder to New York. I am sitting drinking a cup of peppermint tea and eating some Social Tea and Fruit Crème biscuits the first of many snacks and ten included meals I will be enjoying since I booked an upper berth, the cheapest Sleeper Plus (as via calls it now) accommodation. The main reason I like this little two room lounge (one room has a TV currently showing curling) is an outdoor area offering a view of the platforms that only serve the triweekly Canadian with a separate fenced off area for the international Amtrak Cascades trips. I have already learned the consist of the train, two F40 Locomotives, two coaches, a Skylinge Dome Car, the diner, three sleepers and a Parc car at the end, the shortest the Canadian gets (although sometimes there is just one coach). There is free wifi that I am updating this via but courtesy of the McDonalds across from the lounge, not VIA rail, a little sign informs passengers that VIA’s is out of service. I am making a 48 hour included (VIA allows one free of charge) stopover in Jasper and added a VIA ticket on the Maple Leaf to Niagara Falls, NY that made the entire trip cheaper because the international nature made it tax free (unlike Amtrak VIA is subject to tax), even though normally that ticket is $40 (only $20 to Niagara Falls, ON). One other note is that VIA is also without its odd of rules and fees. My intention for the day was this morning I had packed my carry-on shoulder bag (knowing my overstuffed backpack would not be permitted in sleeper class on the train, in coach I would probably have been fine) and thrown it in the top of my pack to come to station and do left luggage. I get to the station and ticket counter with two chatty employees and receive my ticket. Then my first leg to Jasper immediately lifted in return for a boarding leaflet with a sticker with my name and accommodation on the cover above Bon Voyage! Quite fitting for VIA. (Often Bon Voyage looks a little two pretentious but since there the railway of Canada and French is the other official language everything must be written this way). The agents immediately tell me that my bag is way to big to bring on board but have a cloth zipper souvenir bag at the ready. Asking to day check my bag (and divide it up later) I am informed is $3. The agent says she really wishes it were just free. I can avoid this fee though by checking my backpack through to Jasper and by checking my stuff for the train to my birth (a porter service). So I throw my change of cloths and all my warm jackets in my new nice VIA tote bag (so I don’t freeze waiting for my luggage in Jasper), and grab my shoulder bag with my computer inside and leave for the day.

My two days in Vancouver have been quite quiet and mellow compared to the rest of my trip since I have already photographed every inch of the SkyTrain and West Coast Express. It has basically been a time of wondering a round a bit and sitting in cafes starting to work on organizing my photos. I even had a chance to make this little update of the Zephyr Stations in Nevada: