Jan 23, 2014

Posted by in Blog, Canada, Nova Scotia | 6 Comments

Halifax to Montreal by Train

The clock rolled over to 10.15am and we were all in the car, on the road; on time for once. The bags had been packed and weighed the night before. All we had to do was wake up on time, shower and eat. My Gram’s neighbor had cooked us a lovely hot breakfast of egg & sausage casserole.

 We arrived in Halifax on time, checked our bags making jokes with the VIA guy about Thom’s industrial strength iPad cover. The lines were discreetly separated by destination; those stopping at smaller stations along the way made their way to the front of the train, while those of us heading to Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto would be at the back. We found our place in the ever-growing line, and hung out with my family until it was time to board.
leaving halifax

With teary eyes, we waved goodbye and walked alongside our home for the next day and half, “The Ocean”. Stashing our stuff overhead, we were barely seated before a steward was at our side to give Thom the rundown on safety procedures.

We made ourselves comfy and tucked into one of the many ham sandwiches my Mom and Grandmother insisted on sending with us. (They did come in handy, thanks Ma!)

A friendly lady came by to check our tickets and informed us that we had access to the Dome car, located 4 cars behind us, and if we wanted to access the free wifi on board, the social car was at the front of the train, 9 cars ahead.
IMG_7376It wasn’t long before I was off to explore this tank engine. First I took myself back to the Dome car, passing two of the sleeper berths along the way.

I reminisced of my very first train trip at 16, when I went to Quebec on a summer work student exchange for 6 weeks. I remember not sleeping between Halifax and Montreal, and watching the sunrise from the dome car as we travelled east at the end of the summer.
IMG_8063It was quiet at the back of the train. I struck up a chat with the fellow working in the snack car. I was intrigued by the shifts he worked, how long he’d been with VIA and his story in general.

Before I knew it, I felt like I was amongst a staff meeting, with 3 other staff joining us. As they caught up on holiday travels and delays, I got a bit of the inside scoop on their life on the rails. You don’t get two without three, and Joanne was due for her third thing…

I made my way back to Thom and hung out with him for a bit before venturing up to the social car to take advantage of the internet access. Out the window on my left I notice the windmills, a telltale sign we were leaving Nova Scotia and entering New Brunswick.
Halifax to Montreal by trainI explored to the front of the train, where the shorter distance passengers were seated. Although newer than the carriages we were in at the back, they certainly didn’t look any more comfortable, and seemed to have substantially less leg room.
halifax to montreal by trainI happily returned to my spot in the back.

A staff member walked by, taking reservations for dinner, letting us know that sleeper class passengers had priority, but any leftover gaps were then offered to those of us in coach on a first-in-first-served basis. Thom and I discussed dinner plans, as I had all sorts of romanticized ideas of having a fancy dinner aboard a train; alas we still had ham sammies to eat, and opted to save our dollars for next time.

Around midnight, Thom and I made one more trip up to the front of train for another wifi-fix. Dave, my favourite staff member, had given me a mini-tour of the different sleeper cabins on my prior exploration mission, so I shared my newfound knowledge with Thom, giving him the guided tour along the way.

Sleeping in our mostly upright chairs took a bit of finesse, but I’m certain the Pure Rest tablet I took helped me immensely. Melatonin helps to reset the body’s sleep-wake cycle (an aspect of the circadian rhythm) and it was such help.

Somewhere in Quebec, in the early hours of the morning, Joanne’s unlucky hatrick was completed, as a lady had collapsed or had a an anxiety attack. She was travelling alone and the train had to wait for paramedics to come. “You don’t get two without three” she’d said earlier.

First impressions of our 3 weeks to come were set pretty high pulling into Montreal, pretty close to on time. The crew were all super friendly (but really, I wouldn’t expect any less from a bunch of Maritimers).

Have you travelled by train? I’d love to hear your experiences!

  1. As I told you both, I hold out hope of flying out to Halifax, toodling about the Maritimes, and heading west to Vancouver the entire way by train. Helps I love trains, too! 🙂

  2. What a trip! Love that you packed ham spammies! Bucdget travellers forever!

    • Hahaha yes, definitely! We choose our splurges carefully – stay tuned for learning to ski/snowboard in the Rockies and eating our way around the world in Vancouver hahaha

  3. I think crossing Canada by train sounds like a great idea! Especially when it’s cold and snowy outside. Way better than driving.

    • Exactly! Perfect way to take our time & see the country, stop off in a few cities without the stress of winter driving!

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