Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time For A Train Trip?

We two have never taken a long train ride together. Back in 1954 Brian went on a long train journey with his mother, grandmother, and brother for the purpose of attending an uncle's funeral in a small Ontario town.

We rode from California to Chicago on the Overland Limited, a first class experience with a dining car in which Brian still remembers eating lamb chops with the little frilled chop holders.

We sat through an eight-hour layover in Chicago before traveling onward on one or two more trains up through Toronto. During that layover Brian watched a man see his wife off on a train trip with hugs and kisses before walking away. About a half hour later he returned quite intoxicated. We young children had never seen anybody drunk before and don't know to this day whether the man was mourning or celebrating his wife's departure. A plain clothes policeman grabbed him by the arm and escorted him away. What an exciting place to be!

Brian remembers a relative picking us up in his little car and driving us a relatively few miles to the small town of Iroquois Ontario. You could do that in those days, as you still can today in much of Europe.

On our return trip we took the Canadian Pacific all the way from Toronto to Vancouver. A highlight was the observation car. What a trip for a nine-year-old to experience. Brian remembers that a Coke in the bar car cost 15 cents, which was too expensive to consider buying back then.

In 1976, 22 years later, we and some other adult chaperones transported about 50 members of Brian's high school band between Hope B.C. and Saskatoon Saskatchewan by train. That was an exciting trip but a lot of work as well.

Reading this account of a family's train trip in the Wall Street Journal got us thinking about that long train trip again. The catch is that trains tend to be very expensive, at least if one buys up to private sleeping accommodations.

Of course, there are various luxury train rides around the world that we keep our eyes on. Australia has The Ghan, South Africa The Blue Train, and India the Rajdhani Express. There are others of course, including the most famous of them all, the Orient Express. Another that fascinates us is China's Qinghai-Tibet Train. That one might even be affordable.

For those of us who grew up as recently as the 1950s, when train travel was still glamorous, the sound of a train whistle will always be an alluring one.

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