I boarded the OCEAN VIA train at Charny, across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City around 10:30 p.m., en route to Halifax. Then I quickly settled in to my seat and covered myself with several layers of warm wraps. I would be sitting up all night and I had discovered from previous experience that the A/C was far too cold for me in the middle of the night. In fact, some sniffles and a cough had already commenced in Quebec City, reminding me that re-circulated indoor air and air conditioning did not sit well with my health challenges. (It could have been other irritants, such as pollens too). Nevertheless, I was intent on repeating this adventure one more time, as I did enjoy the diverse Maritime landscapes and charming serene towns along the way on my first trip in 2011.
I slept off and on throughout the night, awakening when the train stopped or flashing red crossing lights penetrated my closed eyelids. Although I am not a large person, it was somewhat difficult to get comfortable, so I consciously chose to doze until daybreak. When I finally fully opened my eyes, clear blue skies, verdant green forest and the sparkling Restigouche River on the Quebec/New Brunswick border distracted me from my cramped muscles and fuzzy head.
When the train came to a complete stop at Campbellton, New Brunswick at 7:30 a.m., we were notified that we would be there for about half an hour as the train was early! Therefore, we had to wait until its usual departure time, to allow boarding passengers a chance to catch the train as per its regular schedule. I took the opportunity to step down and go outside for a walk along the platform. I dodged smokers here and there, as they are not permitted to attend to their habit on board. Away from the smoke puffers, the air was pure and sweet. I chatted casually with one of the friendly train staff. She told me that this train was 24 cars long! As the sleeper cars were towards the rear, I never made it all the way to back. The farthest I got was to the dining car, and I usually went at last call, when there was hardly anyone there. That allowed me to converse casually with cheerful staff and to overhear their intriguing conversations! (I couldn’t help it – they weren’t exactly speaking softly about their woes… not enough vacation… when I was younger,things were better, etc…) I couldn’t agree more!!!
I occupied myself by frequently gazing out the window, occasionally getting up to eat or go to the toilet, and checking my email on a secured table in the wireless car now and then.
I was able to read my tablet without too much jiggling on this train. It was bigger and seemed steadier than the other ones I had travelled on. It wasn’t slow though, as you must have gathered by now!
Perhaps I should confess to being a real day dreamer, and as such, the time generally passed very quickly. I was getting a little impatient by the time we reached Amherst, the gateway town to the rest of Nova Scotia. At that point, there was only three more hours to go! I think I was becoming a bit squirmy by then, and so were some children sitting not far from me. They got on the train at Moncton, New Brunswick and I am certain that the four hours to Halifax must have seemed interminable to them.
At long last, there were signs that we were on the approach to this historic east coast port. We rounded the Bedford Basin and I could see the MacKay and McDonald Bridges crossing the Halifax Harbour between said city and its neighbour, Dartmouth. Finally, we were there right on time! I hobbled(like everyone else) off of the train at 6:40 p.m., awaited baggage for only a few minutes and then walked out into the salty air of a most lovely seaside city on the eve of Canada Day. Halifax, here I am – back ‘home’ again!
Here are some photos of the journey. I’ve noted their locations wherever possible, so that you can refer to the map above, which was copied from ‘The Ocean Train’ on Wikipedia. Kindly note that the ‘Ocean’ does not go to the Gaspe Peninsula, but travels in a southerly direction from Campbellton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia.