Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
It was in the 1950s when he had last taken a long trip on a train. Duane and Pam were planning to attend his Normal School reunion in Brandon, Manitoba, for the first time. Duane had wanted to go this route; but travel time, cost, and Pam’s vacation time made him hesitate. However, it was Pam who suggested that they travel east to Winnipeg by air and west to Vancouver by train. There were no train and air connections at Brandon.
While in the air on the way to Winnipeg, he was fascinated with the colourful patchwork of fields as the aeroplane was making its descent between Brandon and Winnipeg.
On the train, Duane enjoyed viewing the prairie farmland, the lakes, the Rocky Mountains. and the Thompson River. However, a most impressive sight for him was watching the sun rise over the Coast Range just east of Vancouver.
Duane was born at Corinth, Ontario, Canada a few miles north of Lake Erie. He commenced his education at Corinth Public School, a two-room school located one and one-quarter miles south of the community.
For thirty-eight years, Duane was a school teacher in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, and Alberta, and in the U.S. state of Missouri. For twenty-five of those years, he was also a school librarian in Alberta and for six of those years, he was also a school sports coach. He taught at least one subject in every grade from three to twelve. He received his original teacher training in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and his Bachelor of Education degree at University of Alberta. After retiring, he was a tour guide for school classes at the Age of Steam Railroad Museum in Dallas, Texas.
In his early teaching days, Duane spent nearly two years in the tiny community of Harlowe, Ontario, which is situated between Toronto and Ottawa and north from Kingston. It is located in the beautiful Canadian Shield country of rocks, lakes, and trees. In the summer, there would be many tourists, mainly from the U.S., who would rent cabins and spend each day fishing or cruising in small motor boats on nearby lakes. His success at fishing was minimal, whether it be in the summer or in the winter. The farms, with their large, old houses, were marginal as the ground was quite rocky. Farm power was basically carried out with teams of horses. Duane boarded at a farm home about a quarter-mile from the school. His landlady and a few others had attended one-room schools in the area during their childhood. Duane learned to drive a car on the narrow, winding country roads. Once a month, he would show films for the National Film Board at school for the children and at a hall in the evening for the community.
In the winter, there would be much snow and the temperature would be below the freezing mark. It was necessary for Duane to install chains on the wheels of his car until a provincial paved highway could be reached several miles to the west or to the south. Without them, there was a risk of becoming stuck in the snow. It was at this time when snow tires started to make their appearance in the area. The countryside looked so bleak to him during the first winter. Actually, the area is beautiful with the snow-covered fields and forest. The ice was so thick on the lakes that it was possible to drive a car onto it when going ice-fishing..
Coming back to the ride on VIA Rail’s Canadian, it was a long, leisurely trip that took place from Monday forenoon to Wednesday forenoon, following a guided tour of the whole train except the locomotives. Duane and Pam enjoyed the privacy of a cabin to relax when they did not want to mingle with others or participate in an activity. They also enjoyed the friendliness of their fellow passengers at the tables in the diner. The viewings of the countryside from the seats in the dome sections were spectacular.
He had an opportunity to talk with some of the crew, who took the time to converse. He invited several of them and a few passengers to be interviewed for this web site section. As he receives the submissions, they will be posted. He hopes that, after reading them, people who have not travelled on the Canadian will give consideration to doing so sometime in the future.
A less favourable aspects was that, for a senior citizen, it was not easy to climb up and down the ladder to the upper bunk; but sleeping there was more comfortable than sitting up all night in a coach car as he used to do many years ago. The only situation that was unpleasant occurred off the train when he and Pam and others encountered a rude vehicle driver on the platform at Jasper, Alberta. He would like to have seen the Fraser Canyon in daylight, but the train’s schedule did not allow that.
In Canada, he has used at least one of various modes of travel aeroplane, automobile, truck, bus, train, and boat in all of the provinces except Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the territories.
In the United States, he has ridden on several railroads, including tourist ones. He particularly enjoyed riding on the Burlington Route (C. B. and Q.) between Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois, in the early 1950s. The route followed the left bank of the Mississippi River for more than half the distance. He rode the Zephyrs twice going south and the Empire Builder once going north. The Zephyrs had dome cars similar to those of the Canadian. He liked to calculate the speed of the trains by clocking the time to travel between mile posts. At full speed, it would take thirty-six seconds, which made the speed one hundred miles per hour. When not doing that, he marvelled at the sight of the Mississippi River. A few other name trains on which he rode in the U.S. and Canada are as follows: Chicago Mercury, Empire State Express, Motor City Special, Afternoon Hiawatha, Olympian Hiawatha, Pioneer Limited, Continental Limited, Maple Leaf, and Dominion.
When Duane was a tour guide at the Age of Steam Railroad Museum, in Dallas, Texas, the historical society, of which he was a member, hosted a Union Pacific vintage rail trip from Fort Worth, Texas, to Dallas, a distance of thirty miles. The train was drawn by a steam-powered Challenger locomotive (4-6-6-4). He was the host in the dome of one coach and Pam was one of the two in the medical team. For nearly three years, he took a programme about an imaginary train trip of the early 1950s to public libraries and a few schools in and near Dallas.
He and Pam had an enjoyable trip from San Cristóbal, Chiapas, to Mexico City, to London, England, to Cambridge. They were guests of Tyndale House, in Cambridge, as they were delivering their collection of 112 Bible versions to this Biblical research library. It was a thrill to visit a total of ten libraries in this university city and to return to Heathrow Airport by bus through a beautiful countryside.
He has dreamed of many train rides Orient Express and others in Europe, Trans-Siberian Express in Russia, Blue Train in South Africa, Ghan or Indian Pacific in Australia, Copper Canyon tourist train of northern Mexico, California Zephyr and other trans-continentals in the United States, and the Patagonia Ushuaia in southern Argentina. He would be interested in travelling on the Canadian again. However, these probably will remain dreams. Nevertheless, for anyone desiring a leisurely journey across Canada, he would highly recommend the Canadian.
(This page was updated in October 2012.)