Night One: Sleeper

Ahh … the dome car. As the evening light fades, I look out across the fields to the hills beyond. Maybe forty years ago, I passed this way by car and was brought to silence by a huge white cross way up high. Tonight I searched for it but no luck. It’ll have to stay vivid in my memory.

I’ve been talking to a couple from Colorado. They’re so proud of their son, who’s a star football player. And the three of us shared memories of walking through the ancient streets of Quebec City.

And now it’s dark. Our attendant Emily is in the car, telling us about the ghost who lives here. Apparently he’s a former conductor, complete with swinging lantern. I hope he comes by.

Dinner is in half an hour. Lovely.

I get to sit with Dianne from Mississauga, Ontario, Claude from Campbellton, New Brunswick and Steve, a Via Rail employee from I don’t know where. Thank you, dear power of the universe, for providing me with these genial folks. Yes, I like my own company but this was far better.

Claude has lived in Campbellton all his life, and it’s been a long one. There’s nowhere else he’d rather be. His eyes shine when he talks of his family. Claude stays pretty quiet as the other three of us blab away but I can tell he’s enjoying our presence.

Dianne seems alone in life but delights in travelling the world. She’s met so many cool folks on her bus tours. She likes the quiet, slow ones (tours, that is). No “If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium” for her.

Steve has loved trains ever since he was a kid. With bated breath, he tells us the history of the cars we’re rolling in – many of them were built in the fifties and are still doing fine, thank you.

In the late evening, Steve, Dianne and I retire to the Bullet Lounge at the back of the train. We’ve let passengers off at Sainte-Foy after crossing to the north side of the St. Lawrence River. Since there’s no way to turn the train around to get back south, we need to back up for five miles at 25 mph or so! This requires an engineer to sit with us in the lounge to make sure nothing or no one is on the track, and that we miss the nearby freight train. In walks a grizzled old fellow, wearing coveralls over a dress shirt and a perfectly-French-knotted tie, as well as a vibrant smile. Steve says this gentleman has been an engineer for forty years. The two of them engage in a long conversation in French, punctuated with back-and-forth talk on the walkie talkie with the engineer at the front of our train and the one on the freight. Steve’s eyes are aglow, absolutely captivated with this piece of history sitting beside him. I give off a faint little smile that won’t disappear.

Well … I guess I misnamed this post. I never did get to my sleeping accommodations and I’m tired of writing. Stay tuned for more Bruce-on-the-move adventures.

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