Friday, 19 April 2013


Long distance public transit isn't what it once was. Passenger trains are almost non-existant and bus companies, such as Greyhound and Red Arrow, are cutting back on rural routes. If you're fortunate enough to have bus service, the ride isn't as pleasant as travelling by train once was.

I had the privilege of riding through the Rocky mountains four times during my lifetime on a train. In 1968 and 1969, my parents paid my way home from Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind so I wouldn't have to stay there during Easter. Though my vision was poor, I enjoyed the tall snow-covered peaks and icy lakes as they passed by. Even at night, I saw the moon shimmering on a river and similar delightful scenes

Though I had to sleep sitting up during the first two trips, the experience of train travel thrilled me. Instead of tinted green or brown windows like the busses had, the train windows were large and clear. Instead of crampt seeting, I had plenty of leg room. Being able to visit the dining car also relieved the boredom when I couldn't pick up any stations on my radio.

The dining car was like a restaurant on wheels. It had white table linnen, real china plates, and metal cutlery. Sitting on real chairs at proper tables added to the feel of being in a restaurant. Watching the mountain scenery as I ate added to the feeling of luxury.

Though the prices of the food shocked me, it tasted very good. On my first trip, my parents skimped on the ticket price. They also sent me a five dollar bill and expected that to suffice. By the time I arrived in Edmonton, I had spent all the money and eaten very little. Mom was astonished at how much the food on the train cost. She gave me a ten dollar bill when I boarded for Vancouver but I still couldn't eat my fill.

The second trip home was nicer in that my parents paid for a berth in the sleeping car. I had heard about falling asleep to the rhythm of the train wheels but I hadn't experienced it properly until then. I slept well on both the trip home and back to Vancouver.

Even the daily passenger train trips were pleasant. Having room to sit properly and watching the countryside passing by the large clear windows was a welcome change to riding a bus. Back in the nineteen sixties, most rural towns in Alberta had train service.

One by one, towns lost their daily passenger trains. Busses charged less for their trips than trains so people flocked to them. As more people bought their own cars, trucks, and vans, even the bus companies lost money. One by one, rural towns lost their stops. Even Radway, the hamlet I live in, no longer has Greyhound service.

I wrote more about my two Rocky Mountain train trips in Deliverance from Jericho, a memoir of my years at British Columbia's infamous deaf and blind institution. Please check it out at the left side of this page. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is my newest book. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers distribute e-book and paperback versions of it.

1 comment:

  1. There is train service in the U.S. but not in Wyoming where I live. The trains that come through the state carry coal and other cargo. I've only ridden a train three times: twice through Mexico with my father and once through California with Bill before we were married. I don't remember much of the trip through Mexico, but after crowded and noisy buses and trains, it was refreshing to board a train in Santa Barbara. We could stretch out, and the restroom was nicer. The only drawback was that there was no one to help us on and off the train or to the restroom. Fortunately, friends helped us on the train in Santa Barbara, and friends were there to meet us when we arrived in Huntington Beach a few hours later, and I found the restroom on my own with little difficulty. I wouldn't mind riding the train again.


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