Vancouver to Montreal A GEOGRAPHY LESSON, Published 3 June 1931They always give No. 2 quite a send-off when she pulls out of Vancouver terminal of the Canadian National. She travels farther than any train on this continent. 2,944.2 miles, and as she is the one and only train out of the big terminal during the day, she is at least entitled to "the works."
To those cerebrally inclined there is to be drawn the analogy between the departure of the Continental Limited and the shove-off of a transatlantic liner. Firstly, the passengers are going just as far; secondly, they will be a-rail as long as many boats are a-sea, and lastly, the possibility of seeing one's departing friends in the near future is just as remote as when they go overseas. The real pathos of those platform farewells then is more easily understood in view of these long, long, au revoirs. Sometimes they are indeed permanent farewells.
Meanwhile inside, a nasal announcer from Spokane was telling the ear-phone bearers that The Woofus Hasp and Hinge Company was the only reliable hasp and hinge organization west of Walla Walla that insured its product against theft and moths.
"Booo-ard" shouted the conductor, and soon the yard engine was lugging the long string of lights over the U.S. owned Great Northern Railway. The big passenger engine is not coupled on till New Westminster, for the old Canadian Northern terminal was Port Mann, and Vancouver passengers, like those out of Detroit, start their trip back of a switch engine.
The passengers looked each other over before going to bed. The next day they were speaking, the following day men were paying the dining car checks of their lady acquaintances, and before they left, they kissed goodbye and promised to write. Some of them do, the percentage is as high as one in a thousand.
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Lying in a berth one could not get a good look at that seething gorge, Hell Gate, nor its playmate, the Devil's Wash Bowl, but one could only shove one's olfactory organ against a cold pane, and look, up, up, up to a spot where the black gave way to a moonlit sky with a serried horizon.
The land around Kamloops is like the semi-arid Rockies of Utah, and there is nothing much to say about the trip along the cascading North Thompson. The train followed the river all day, between low hills of light green poplars and dark green conifers. One stretch of over an hour's duration was entirely denuded of forests, there remaining merely the black ghosts of thousands of lovely trees. Ottawa has an object lesson of that sort too, in the treeless slope just beyond Chelsea on the road to Wakefield.
It was not till the train got to Blue River, that one noted both the appearance of white caps and the chill weather that only rarer atmosphere can bring. Then, while basking in the dying sun, one could watch with comfort, a blizzard shot with gold play round a mountain peak. The slanting yellow sun rays made this ordinarily grim storm the prettiest sight possible.
The dark came on, and it was left to the caprice of Luna if anything were to be seen of the Rockies. Fortunately, that argentine orb was at its best, and revealed Mount Robson, arrayed in white like a bride, but a little colder than most of them. Clouds scudded past a brilliant full moon, and peaks played hide and seek with this bright dead world as No. 2 took the banked curves at high speed. Marvelous by day, the continental divide by night was an entrancing sight. The cold, dead, blue of those snowy rocks in their dreadful stillness could not fail to conjure up sober thoughts, and in their shrouds of snow seemed to symbolize the fact that life, the train, was hurrying by, taking all of us on to our destinies, whi!e eternity, the mountains, indifferently watched a fast-traveling world being whirled on madly to different dooms.
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Next day I woke up to greet a snowstorm, and to see the American architecture of Edmonton's legislative building limned against a grey skyline. Then a bang, bang, and both the brakeman and I knew the Alberta Northern Railway track had joined ours. Canada's last great west lies up its two lines of steel. What hopes and heart-breaks up that line.
Hope that the railway would go through the land they held on to so long; heartbreak when the survey missed them by a half a hundred miles.
Then through Ambitious Edmonton, modestly surveyed for a greater expansion than the area of London, and then the bare, bald prairie. If there is anything beautiful about the prairie in the snow, it remains for some one else to record it, and I beg to withdraw from euloguing the world's most dismal sight. It stopped snowing at a place called Winter. The rain was equally obliging at Watrous. Then night threw a charitable mantle over it all and next morning I awoke to see that white blackbird among weather phenomena, a fog in Winnipeg. At least that's what Mayer Webb told me.
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The big 6018 was about one hour late getting out of the 'Peg but she rolled those twelve steel coaches like a small boy does a hoop, and we had the 60 minute bark by Minaki. The rain gave way to Indian summer at the Ontario border, and at Sioux Lookout, jumping off place for Red Lake, Jack Shillington, former Ottawa boy and now busy lawyer there, was seen to have caught the townspeople's habit of meeting all the trains.
Through Adolph Och's Kapuskasing next morning, and after that, a paralleling of the road which enabled me to to see pious Canadiens Francais going to mass.
The heat became terrific, and Americans, who were accustomed to think that anything north of Albany was in the great barrens, and Canadians who set the same boundary at Renfrew, boiled like potatoes in a pot on this mid-October Sunday.
Later the beautiful Timagami Forest Reserve, which shows you New Ontario as you have always visualized it, with tree-laden islands in lakes of blue, surrounded by jagged pine shores slipping past train windows.
The dawn of the fifth day revealed Hon. Thomas Ahearns Driveway by electric light, followed by that sweet antiquity Bonaventure Station. Then I had to go to work.