Riding The Rails Now A Deluxe Experience, Published 25 February 1948
I rode through the air with the greatest of ease, when I travelled down to Montreal this week on the super-sumptuous new coach No. 5385. Ray MacDougall, Canadian National official here who arranges such things, has seen to it that some of these 1948 deluxe models operate on the Montreal trains. You have to ride it to realize how smooth it is.
For some years now, our ratlway cars have taken quite a banging around. Much, if not most of the equipment on which we travel, is a quarter century old. Thus you hear people complaining about rough road beds, bad tracks, and so on. I explained to one lady that, if she rode along Sparks street in a wagon, she might find it a little jolting. But if she stepped into a 16 cylinder job, she might find that Sparks street was a very different place. Well, some of the older coaches are strictly wagon trips, while the new 5380's are magic carpets.
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First of all, these cars have everything you want, and you feel sorry for the poor passengers back in the parlor cars. The seats are of the sleepy hollow type, giving you a lazy, slumpy, restful trip. Then the windows are about six feet wide, and you get a magnificent view of the countryside. I think I saw more of that scenery between here and Coteau Junction, the other day, than I have seen for years. The aisles are wide, and the baggage accommodation more than ample.
Wash rooms are clean and new, and you get hot water out of the hot water taps. Other accommodations are equally svelte.
What I think appeals to most people is the newness of everything. This is a 1948 model, and makes some of the older equipment seem like something they used on Lincoln's funeral train, by comparison. The colors are fresh and beautiful. Even when they "do over" an old car, it is never quite the same. On top of that, the cars took an awful scuffing during the war, and nothing can really make them look new again. In a word, nothing looks as new as a thing when it's new.
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Sitting there in 5385, it revived the old enthusiasms. The big engine 6060 slowed down to let us cross the New York Central out at Hawthorne. The quick glimpse out the opposite side showed me Carlsbad Springs, where we had our Dominion Methodist Sunday School picnic once. Then there is Vars, which out of respect for a girl I used to know, I shall not describe. Once, I had a nice picnic at Limoges, in early spring. Later we found we had picnicked on the village dump.
You sweep across the Nation River at Casselman, then on through Moose Creek to Maxville. Here I made a speech VJ Day, and here Mackenzie King, MP for Glengarry, visited the Maxville fair after he had been elected member.
Then Greenfield, marked mainly by a high spired church, and finally Alexandria. The town used to have lovely girls (back in 1922) and we once danced impromptu, in the Greek restaurant there while a girl, now a nun, played the piano. In the old days, at the Armories, at a dance, when the music stopped, everybody began walking, with their escorts, counter clockwise. I often wonder if they still do.
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Then Glen Robertson, where you change for Glen Sanfield. Dalkeith (where I farmed .for Charlie Vogan in 1916), Vankleek Hill, and Hawkesbury. On the train wings, twisting through St. Justine, first town in Quebec, and on the afternoon run, passing the upbound Ottawa train there. Then there's Du Beaujeu, where they have a healthy flax industry going, and where the tracks cross the CPR main line to Toronto. Next is fabulous St. Polycarpe, butt of a thousand gags.
The train takes a sharp turn, and you are in Coteau. Over there on the right chuffs the little train to Valleyfleld, often as not handled by a freight engine. The Moccasin, headed toward Brockvllle, sometimes is at Coteau, when the schedules are right. Usually, a big long freight pants impatiently on the siding, waiting for the passenger trains to clear, so that he'll get the highball.
Soon it is a mile a minute and better you are going, as you rip through the last of the mainland, describe an ellipse around Ile Perrot, and stop at Ste. Anne de Bellevue. This is where Tom Moore, the Irish poet stopped, winding up his beautiful day by saying: "We'll toll at. Ste Annes. our parting hymn."
I could take you on to Montreal, but I'll leave you sitting in coach 5385, wishing that Montreal would never come, and that the trip might never end.