This past week was NOT my first trip to Toronto aboard VIA Rail. So what made it different from the others? Well, there were a few differences. The first difference was that most of the trip was made in darkness: to Toronto on VIA No 651 departing at an eye-rubbing 0532 returning to Kingston on nocturnal VIA No 48. Only a few days from the winter solstice, this was not surprising. A recent move by VIA to delay scheduled departure by a few minutes met with commuter rebellion followed by a reinstatement. My trip was the second back-to-normal-schedule run:
Once in Toronto, a stroll on Dundas Street brought a TTC line truck into focus (top photo). With a platform to make line maintenance easier, the tiny TTC logo on the cab door took a sharp eye to discern!
A second difference - there were more TTC photos than VIA photos taken - likely because most of the trip both ways was in darkness! The sidewalk drummer (Peter Richards) was working his magic (video capture - above) as a CLRV passed through the Dundas-Yonge intersection. This guy rocked, and you can hear his work among the video links (see below). You've always got time for Tim Hortons, and fortunately, so did I. I stopped in to this wayside cafe on King Street to sample an apple fritter and a cup of 'joe'. The streetside seat gave me a good view of the various routes that passed by on King, using CLRV's and Bombardier Flexity Outlooks:
Once the largest hotel in the British Empire, the Royal York still occupies its commanding place of honour across from Toronto Union Station. The slowly setting sun shimmered spectacularly in gleaming golden grandeur:
The day was as cold as a Bay Street banker's heart. My time on the Skywalk outdoor-trainwatching spot decidedly favoured the rarefied, recirculated, heated Toronto air inside. As traffic copters whirred overhead and Porter flights departed Billy Bishop airport, GO humbly conveyed passengers to the 'city sidewalks, busy sidewalks' to the sound of e-bells if not Silver Bells!
Selective colour version:
These two ever-green coach colours could be balsam and pine. They really spruce up the Metrolinx scheme! And that's my pitch to you fir now, humble reader.
Have a very cab-car Christmas! Third difference - I did see a 200-series cab-car actually serving in train-end cab-car service! Just not this one, 363:
Heat waves shimmer the obligatory VIA photo for this post as GO 617 leads the Lakeshore West (soon to become Lakeshore East) consist toward Toronto Union:
Fourth difference - train 48's Business Class passengers boarded after Economy Class, due to the consist being ready 30 minutes after the advertised. Or, as I muttered Matthew-like to a fellow Businesser, 'the last shall come first and the first shall come last'. Numerous earlier consternated questions to the lounge attendant could have been averted with one audio update as departure time neared. Not only that, but many passengers barely got their coats stowed in the overhead luggage compartments before we felt the tug on the coupler. We were off! OK, one more VIA photo, pre-departure, should do it as VIA 913 shelters under the trainshed:
VIA No 651's morning consist: 912-3342-3303-3302-3352 CANADA 150-3471-6427. This was the first time that Business Class breakfast had been offered, now that 651 includes its Business Class car actually in Business Class service. Breakfast burrito or fruit plate with Green yogourt and cereal? Copious coffee and over-flowing OJ (at speed!) Switch heater troubles at Cobourg and Newtonville contributed to a 35-minute late arrival. VIA No 48 was 905 CANADA 150-4005-4113-4117-4116. Silver and gold, silver and gold. And green!
And the view back toward the trainshed in'Condo Canyon' as UP Express, VIA and GO make their way in and out of town:
Fifth difference - I had a nap in a quiet corner the Business Class lounge. It was that pre-dawn departure catching up to me. I picked up some VIA swag after my stolen somnolence. Returning some emails, it just felt 'right' to be writing while waiting. Sixth difference - I finally got a photo of this clock near the komplimentary komputer kiosk:
Seventh difference - due to the quick turnaround in Toronto, Business Class was short on meals. Ottawa-bound passengers were surveyed by the car attendant about a later meal time, "Would Swiss Chalet be alright for your supper? We will bring the meals onboard at Kingston." And no-one declined! When I disembarked at Kingston, there was the VIA snowbound staffer with plastic bags full of takeout chicken!
It's not rocket surgery. Christmas in New York means one thing - the Rockettes. Here are some fun Rockette facts:
- the Rockettes do not 'support' each other in the kick line. This would cause leaning.
- their quickest costume change is a mere 78 seconds. I can't even decide on a pair or socks in that time.
- one Rockette takes an ice bath after each performance to reduce inflammation. That's 7.2 degrees Celsius.
- unlike Riverdance, the Rockettes' tap-dancing sounds are real. Wireless microphones are hidden in their shoes.