Midnight came and went that day at the Edmonton train station without any sign of the Canadian. I think there was an announcement of a possible 12:30am arrival, but nothing happened. People did not seem surprised. The next announcement was that the train would be there at 2:45am. Then it was 3:15am because the train was being held up by freight traffic just outside town. The train finally pulled into the station well after 4:00am.
It took a while for the boarding process to start. The service manager for the train came into the waiting room, started checking boarding passes electronically, and told people with different ticket classes which end of the train they should walk towards. We joined a few others who were traveling in “Sleeper Plus”, and began our trek along the dark and empty platform towards the back of the train. People peeled away to their carriages along the way until we seemed to be the only ones walking onward. Had we gone too far? There were no staff from the train on the platform to help. It was not comforting to note that not all train doors were open either. We finally found a carriage number that seemed to correspond to the information on the boarding passes, entered the carriage, and found cabin E. The door was open. I was so tired that I plunked myself on the lower berth immediately. The fact that the sheets were disheveled barely registered. Very soon, the attendant for our car appeared and said that he was not not aware that somebody was traveling in that cabin. He checked his communication device again, and realized that we had been added to the manifest for his carriage. He apologized and requested that we wait in a seating area while he made the beds. About fifteen minutes later our cabin was finally ready.
We quickly changed and crawled into bed. I took the lower berth because I did not think I was capable of climbing. It was about 5:20am by the time the train eased out of the station, over 5 hours late! Tom had not slept for about 24 hours at this point. I was in slightly better shape in some ways, but not in others. Neither of us had eaten anything substantial in a while. It was not a good start.
We discovered later that the on-time performance of this particular train was probably less than 40 percent, but this knowledge would probably not have changed any of our plans. We would not even have been able to get better time estimates for the train we were currently on anyway, because Via Rail itself did not seem to have a clue!
It turns out that the passenger trains in Canada run on rails owned by the freight train companies. The freight trains always have priority. It does not matter how late the passenger train is running. This particular train had been only a couple of hours late at its previous stop, Jasper, but had to wait for a bunch of freight trains climbing the other way from Edmonton into the Rocky Mountains.
Next chapter here.
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