Continental Limited East, Published 20 January 1942The Continental Limited is a crack train as it gets ready to dash from Winnipeg to Montreal. I sat back in the solarium car . . . watching railway operations, and got a good look at the Great Northern's Minneapolis train, headed by No. 1451. Then I squinted at the switch engines, until I had had enough of that, after which I decided to try out the diner. From a dining car seat the lights of Winnipeg rushed by us, as we picked up speed. The prairie city always is a stimulating place to pass through, in either direction. It usually comes upon you after you have had at least 24 hours of rather the same kind of scenery, and we urbanites are glad to see city lights and city streets after a few hours of the great outdoors.
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Next day we snaked our way east from Sioux Lookout past myriads of beautiful lakes. We had the usual person making his first trip through New Ontario, and wanting to know "the name of that lake." The experienced travellers smile indulgently. They smile because even the brakeman. down there every day, does not know half the names. They smile too, because lakes, half an hour long, sometimes seem to have no name. I remember one time coursing along a body of water for many minutes, the name of which nobody knew. I found out afterwards the lake was 20 miles long, and I believe is known as Cannon Lake. But it goes to show what a big place the north country is, and how unsettled we still are, and what a great amount of space we have, when lakes 20 miles long are, after all these years, unknown.
The train picked its tenuous course across the pre-Cambrian Shield, and in due course came to dismal Capreol, which even the stimulus of war cannot make look like anything. Then a quick dash to North Bay, which I saw for the first time in daylight from a C.N.R. train. But what really took my eye was the sunshine run from North Bay to Brent. Here the train goes through Algonquin Park for a spell, and here too, the scenery is at its loveliest. There are pretty lakes and lovely forests. You find a few patches of open field, and then the woods close in again. The train moves swiftly, stops only for a few minutes at the wilderness which is marked as Brent on tbe map, and soon reached Pembroke. We rushed through Norway Bay just like that, and next thing I knew. I was in the middle of a street in Ottawa Fast., watching the held-up motor traffic. No. 2 when she swings round to back Into Union Station, goes right out to the Rideau Canal. It seems funny to sit in the middle of Echo Drive, and to know that no ear can nick you.
To reach Montreal was a routine after that. So ended in Bonaventure Station, a trip that touched such remote points as Columbia Ice Fields, Valley of the Ten Peaks. Montana's capital. Whitehorse in the Yukon. Victoria, Squamlsh on the Pacific Great Eastern, Harrison Hot Springs. Mackenzie King's lodge at Prince Albert Park. Northwest Rebellion Battlefields, Peach Trees of Manitoba, Walhalla in the Dakotas, and the siding at Sioux Lookout. Once more I had been a millionaire for three weeks, and now I was just another reportorial drudge again.
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I must say the Canadian National is doing a great job handling the wartime traffic. They have to run trains in two sections, an operating feat only the initiated can appreciate. For those lines were designed for normal traffic, and were never built to handje the prodigious amounts of freight they are now getting over the road. Short of sleeping and other cars, they have to operate everything that will run. Moreover, they have to be properly maintained. They could do with more diners, but you would never suspect any shortage as you eat the tempting foods, attractively served in smart cars, amid snowy napery and glistening silver. In a word, they feed you so well you wouldn't know there's a war on.
Then the railway has a lot of difficult, not to say nasty people, to handle. You have folks who have not travelled before. and they're quite a chore. There are those, who being used to nothing, think that the proper way to travel is to complain about everything. Heavens knows I complain enough, but I think by now I know when to squawk and when to squelch myself. But these ignoramuses cause the railways plenty of brow-furrowing.
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I had covered the whole main line from Vancuver to Montreal, plus a side trip from Prince Albert to Saskatoon. I do not think everything was perfect. But you should talk to people who remember train travel In Europe, even remote from the fighting, in the last war. The fact is that with a five-ocean war on our hands. being attacked on both sides, and a ridiculously small population scattered over prodigious spaces, we are running our trains on a peacetime basis.
We did some stupid and visionless things in the depression: we sold Canada short. We wanted to get rid of our rail roads. Some branch lines doubtless were due to go. and did go. More should go in the future. But our main lines are a different affair. There we need more, and not less trackage, and more, rather than fewer, operators. Those two rails are one of our three lifelines to the west. To keep that C.N.R. main line open is one of the big jobs of the war.
The Canadian National has only one idea these dark days. It might be summed up in two and a half words: "Keep 'em rolling."