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Guest Column: Train travel can be enjoyable

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Eileen Viola

On Wednesday, March 25 I took the VIA train to Toronto where I had a meeting at 1.00 p.m. Waking up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. I arrived at the Sarnia station to catch the 6:11 VIA train.

It was cold and dark and the warmth and light of the old building was a welcome sight.  Train #84 left promptly on time with about 22 passengers, and my ticket said that I would switch to train #70 in London, thereby arriving in Toronto at 10:04 a.m.

That would leave me three hours before my meeting, plenty of time to take the subway downtown, have lunch, comb my hair, look presentable, and find the meeting room.

A half hour into the trip a freight train in front of us had problems. So we sat there and waited. After a good half hour the sympathetic Service Manager came by and informed me that the Windsor train may be gone by the time we get to London, so I will just have to stay on this one and we will get to Toronto by 11.a.m.

Those darned freight trains! How shortsighted to remove the second track several years ago and treat passengers like second-class citizens!

A gorgeous red morning sky greeted us in Strathroy. In London several people got off and others got on. The trip was actually pleasant with upscale residential neighbourhoods contrasting with impoverished old ones, industrial areas, and finally rolling hills, and partly snow-covered open spaces. St. Mary’s was especially pretty with a charming old red brick station and two church steeples on a hill overlooking the elegant buildings of the town.

As the train picked up speed I began to enjoy the scenery and the lack of stress of not having to fight the traffic on the 401. I even began to reminisce about the train trips I used to make while growing up in Sudbury.

It was a real adventure in those days. There was a tangible sense of excitement as passengers rushed up to capture a seat in the scenic dome. From high up there you could marvel at nature’s glorious vistas as you whizzed through the Georgian Bay area, Pointe au Baril, and the Muskokas.

But train travel today is not only about nostalgia. It’s mainly about getting somewhere on time, comfortably, and in a manner that is respectful of the environment. We arrived in Toronto at 11:30 a.m. I still had an hour and a half before my meeting.

The trip back went very smoothly and on time so good service is possible.

The trip back to Sarnia was right on time. I hope we get that second train back.  Train travel is not only essential, but in its own way, quite wonderful.

Eileen Viola is a resident of Bright’s Grove and a member of Rail Advocacy in Lambton (RAIL).

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