on-a-break

You’re going to find out sooner or later, so I might as well tell you – we’re on a break. Me and the trains, we’re on a break. We’re not finished; we’re just taking some time away from each other. Actually, it’s more me taking time away from the trains (they could care less one way or the other), but there you have it.  We’re officially on a break.

And yes, you probably saw this coming. It was quite a whirlwind romance. I was a goner from the moment I thought about taking this trip. It was “train trip this” and “train trip that”, and every night I fell asleep clutching the little VIA schedule book like it was a love letter. I couldn’t think of anything else.

And then when the trip actually started – oh, my! So much to learn and discover, and then so much to unlearn as my fantasy became hard cold reality (with emphasis on the “cold”) and I got a peek behind the ripped and frayed curtain.

I’m not blaming the trains. They are what they are – at times big brutes and at times gentle giants. I don’t blame VIA, either (OK, maybe I blame VIA a little bit). I’m not saying VIA came between me and the trains, but they actually sort of did. Maybe more than I realize. VIA has its agenda and I had my fantasy and the two kind of clash.

Speaking of clash – coach class is not where I want to be. Or let me rephrase that – the coach class that has evolved over the years is not where I want to be. It’s not what I remember. So much has been taken away, and not just things like the dome car or restaurant car. It used to be that coach class was not segregated from sleeper class like it is now, and that in fact the majority of the train was a blend of sleeper and coach. Now, coach class is like an afterthought add-on, at least on the long-haul trains. The short-haul trains in Ontario and Quebec still focus on the economy class, with a smattering of business class. But the short-haul trains, I’m sorry, just don’t do it for me. The long-hauls are both work horses and stallions. When one of the long-hauls roars by, people pay attention. They stand and watch as car after car after car after car barrels past. Some even take pictures. What a sight to behold!

I’m not going to go on much longer about this because it’s making me miss them already. I love the trains, but I need some time on solid ground to get my perspective back.

I hope I can strike some kind of compromise in my mind with VIA about their rebranding of train travel in Canada. I don’t want to be at loggerheads with their agenda for the last precious four weeks of my rail pass. You see – I see the trains as a superior means to get from point A to point B (a viable travel option for all people), whereas VIA is now (and has been for a while, I guess) trying to reposition train travel in Canada as a lifestyle event for the ‘better-luggaged crowd’. I think I know the trains well enough now to say that they were built to haul, not to preen.

I love the trains. I love their brute strength and honesty. They are what they are; they’re not trying to be something they’re not. They would just as gladly roll the rails bearing a load of coal or cattle as they would a load of humans. They love doing what they do – barrelling down the winding and curving tracks, blasting their horn half in salutation, half in triumph, like a bull elephant trumpeting its dominance. In the food chain of ground transportation, nothing trumps my beloved iron horse.

But for now, we’re on a break. I want to get back to where I was before the VIA high-season 15-bucks-a-kid coach class experience. I’m not saying that VIA has come between me and the trains; no, I’m not saying that at all.

I’m just sayin’.

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