Some random thoughts about train travel as we approach April Fools Day.
The 2014 Grey Cup later this year will be in Vancouver, and it will mark the 48th anniversary of my only overnight train trip in Canada. As a 19 year old university student, I rode the train to the west coast to watch George and Ronnie lead the Roughriders to their first championship ever.
We were four nights on the train, riding day coach would you believe. Who needed sleep, especially after the train stopped in Regina? We were aboard the Canadian which was the pride of the CPR back then, and despite the lack of privacy, it was a grand journey indeed.
Passenger service was abandoned by both CP and CN in the late 1970’s when Via Rail was born, and in 1990, Via abandoned the southern route altogether.
How I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve made the drive between Winnipeg and Regina, and how I wish it were possible to make the trip by train.
Even back in 1966, it was clear that the railways were anxious to get out of the business of moving people. Moving goods, including prairie grain, was much more worthwhile, or was it? Until 1997, there was the Crowsnest Pass Agreement which the railways say prevented them from making a profit moving grain.
Once the Crow disappeared, farmers began paying substantially more to move their harvest to the west coast. Many of them switched to livestock and canola to make a living, but rail service didn’t get any better it seems.
The grain backlog on the prairies right now is the worst in living memory, and it’s hard to see how the nightmare will end anytime soon. Harper and company have tabled legislation including those penalties of up to $100,000 a day if the railways can’t meet their targets.
Somehow it all seemed so much easier when we were 19 and invincible.
I’m Roger Currie