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Carnival de Quebec by Train:

Carnival de Quebec by Train:




            Since 1954, Quebec City has had a grand winter carnival known as “Carnival de Quebec”. The carnival has their famous mascot with the name “Bonhomme Carnival”, who is a snowman with a red hat and a multi-coloured sash. The Carnival is the third largest carnival in the world next to Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Mardi gras in New Orleans. I’ve been meaning to check it out. I finally decided to go in 2008. 2008 was also Quebec City’s 400th birthday. The 2008 Carnival would happen between February 1st and February 17th.


            I decided to go from the 4th to the 7th as to work around my work schedule. I would take VIA train 56 to Montreal and switch to train 24 to Quebec City. I would spend two whole days in Quebec; one day for the carnival and one day to ride around on the buses of the local transit system. On the 7th, I would ride VIA train 25 to Montreal and switch to train 67 back to Toronto. I would ride in VIA 1 class on train 24 since I wanted to ride in a VIA 1 class Renaissance coach. The other three trains, I would ride in economy class.


February 4, 2008:


            I got to Union station at 9:15 am, 15 minutes before train 56 was scheduled to depart. I suppose I should have left earlier, but I was able to get a window seat on the left hand side of the train. Like the last time I rode train 56, the train was running as a joint train (or J-train) with train 42 bound for Ottawa. However, the VIA 1 coach on 56 was at the back so I couldn’t watch them separate the two trains when the time came. I was seated in LRC coach #3328.


The train left on time. As we passed the TTC’s Greenwood subway yard, I filmed the equipment. Earlier, a subway train had derailed on the eastern end of the Bloor Danforth subway line, but it didn’t affect me.


The train stopped at Guildwood and Oshawa. VIA train 41 passed by, but I was unable to film it. I did manage to film train 53 passing. The train stopped in Cobourg and Belleville. After we left Belleville, we stopped for an inspection. I think a hotbox detector gave a warning of a possible defect. That shows the one bad thing about J-trains: if there is a defect, two trains are delayed instead of just one. While the crew did their inspection, VIA train 43 passed, but I only got a blur of the last coach. The inspection caused us to lose 15 minutes. No defects must have been found, or we’d have been delayed even more.


The train stopped in Kingston where I took some photos of a Kingston Transit New Flyer D40LF. Train 57 passed, but I was unable to film it. West of Brockville, the train stopped so 42 could be separated from 56.We then stopped at Brockville.


At some point later, VIA train 61 passed us. The train stopped in Cornwall. Soon, the train crossed into Quebec. As we approached Dorval, I filmed the power of a CP freight train running parallel to the CN main that we were on. That freight had a GEVO leading an SD40-2. We also passed an AMT commuter train led by VIA F40PH-2 #6401, one of the Spiderman units AMT leased. I was under the impression that 6401 had been returned to VIA because the other VIA F40 they leased, #6408 was returned to VIA. Obviously, I was wrong.


The train stopped at Dorval. While we were stopped, the commuter train caught up to us. I took a couple photos of that train.



Both trains soon departed and the commuter train for awhile was keeping pace with my VIA train. But soon we pulled ahead. I took one more photo of the AMT train.



Soon, the CN and CP tracks diverged. A little while later, we passed through a railroad crossing. I was somewhat shocked to see that the gate had come down on a school bus that had kids on it. Fortunately, we were on a center track and the bus wasn’t in danger of being hit.


Soon, we were approaching Montreal Central Station. I filmed a couple AMT trains before we arrived into the station 35 minutes late. I would still make my connecting train though. Once I got off, I took some photos.




I went upstairs to the main waiting room and checked a bag to Quebec City since trains with Renaissance coaches allow only a single carry-on. Once I checked the bag, I phoned home. I then went to the VIA 1 lounge. The person checking the tickets read my wrong ticket, thinking I was in economy. I corrected him. I then went inside. At one point, I had a massage in the coin operated massage chair in the lounge. Later, I got a complimentary can of Coke from the fridge.


Soon, they announced that VIA 1 passengers traveling on train 24 were allowed to board. I went to the gate where the person checking the tickets misread my tickets and told me to stand with the economy class passengers. Jeez, this was the second time that happened. Once again, I corrected him and boarded the VIA 1 coach which was a Renaissance car. The Renaissance coaches have 2 by 1 seating and I sat in the lone seat. I took some interior shots of the car.


I noticed train 37 on an adjacent track. I saw that it was the same consist as train 56 that I rode, so the train had been wyed and was preparing to go out to Ottawa. Train 24 reversed out of the station on time. The crew said that reversing was scheduled in. I also noticed that the Renaissance cars PA systems always come on with chimes that sound exactly like the chimes on the H-class subway cars on the TTC.


I filmed the rear end of train 25 arriving from Quebec City.  Soon, we were going forward. The crew passed out free bags of pretzels. As we passed near VIA’s Montreal Maintenance Centre, I filmed it as well as a train preparing to leave that consisted of a P42 and three Hep2 coaches. We soon stopped at St. Lambert. We left and soon, the crew took tickets and handed out menus for dinner. The train stopped at Drummondville. After we left, we were served dinner. I had chicken which was decent. Once I had dinner and a chocolate for dessert, I went into the service car which is intended for VIA 1 passengers. I took some interior photos of the car.


West of Charny, VIA train 27 passed. The train ran through the Charny station non stop and turned north and crossed over the St. Lawrence River. We soon stopped at Ste. Foy. After we left, we wound our way around. Soon, I could see buildings in the distance. One had the number 400 in lights. 10 minutes prior to arrival, the train crew made an announcement. We arrived into Quebec’s Gare du Palais one minute late. Once I got off, I picked up my suitcase and took a couple photos of the train.



I was met by my friend Dan who I met last fall on the Adirondack. We had arranged to meet on this trip. He had taken an earlier VIA train to Quebec than me.


We went inside the station and looked at a map of RTC which is the local transit system of Quebec to find the location of our hotel. We then headed out and walked to the bus stop. Moments after we arrived at the bus stop, our bus showed up. We ended up riding a couple stops too far, but were still a few blocks from the hotel. I pulled out a map and determined we were about two blocks east of our hotel, so we headed off, but not before I spilled part of the contents of my duffel bag onto the street. After I picked up what I spilled, we soon arrived at the Voyageur Hotel.


Dan and I had arranged to share a room and split the charges to save money. The room had two beds that were separated by sliding doors. It would come in handy in a few days time.


Dan tried to check if the wireless internet worked in our room, but it didn’t. There was a computer in the lobby with free internet access which we used. However, the keyboard was made for the French speaking people and took a little while to get used to. After awhile, we called it a night.


February 5, 2008:


I got up shortly after 9:30 am and got dressed. Dan had gotten up earlier as he is an early riser unlike me. I went downstairs for breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. Today we would go to the carnival. I saw a sign we could buy passes for the carnival at a boutique which was located in a mall we had passed on the way.


Dan and I walked over to the mall through a snowstorm where snow was blowing in our eyes. However, we made it to the mall.


Once we got to the mall, we looked for where to buy the effigy pass to the carnival. The first person we spoke to spoke only French, so she called a security guard who spoke English and pointed us in the right direction. We soon bought our passes and walked outside and caught the route 800 bus.


After a ride through downtown, we got off and walked over to the Hotel Loews Le Concorde to get out of the snow and so I could change the batteries in my camera. After, we headed back outside and arrived at the Plaines D’Abraham. We then walked south through the blinding snow and soon reached the Place Desjardins which is one of the sites for the Carnival and the place I wanted go first. Once we arrived, I took some photos of the snow sculptures and the ice palace which had an ice slide.






At Place Desjardins, they have various activities. There have snow tubing, snow rafting, a zip line, a human sized foosball game, a hot tub display, and some attractions for kids. The first thing Dan and I did was visit the ice house. We were given circular disks to slide down on. I went three times and filmed the second time I slid down.


Next, Dan and I bought tickets for the snow rafting. However, we needed eight people for a raft and there were only two of us. We wandered around for a few minutes before some more people came. Before I got into the raft, I took a couple photos.




We got into the raft and were pushed down the slope. I tried to film the ride, but my camera acted up and as a result I didn’t get a video. Once at the bottom, I took a photo of our raft.



After, Dan and I bought lunch. Next, we went on the snow tubing. At the top of the hill, I took some photos.




This was my tube.



I went down first and filmed the end of Dan’s run. Once at the bottom, I saw what looked like a preschool or kindergarten field trip. All the kids had vests with numbers on them. Dan commented that it was a good idea to see if all the kids are accounted for.


Next I went to ride the zip line. Dan chose not to go. I got suited up and headed to the top of the zip line. There were other people at the bottom of the platform and they thought I worked at the carnival, but I corrected them. A few minutes later, an employee arrived and helped me get secured to the zip line. Once I was ready I slid down over the Village M. Christie / Kraft. Seconds later, I arrived at the lower platform after an exhilarating ride. Once I got off the platform, I took a photo.



This is the bottom of the zip line right after I got off.


Next, Dan and I went into a gift shop where I bought a keychain of Bonhomme Carnival. I asked where Bonhomme was. I found out that he would be at the ice skating rink at Place Hydro-Quebec.



Dan and I then left Place Desjardins and headed to a tourist information centre nearby. Dan picked up a book about a walking tour of old Quebec. We then left and soon found an ice palace at Place Lotto-Quebec which is another part of the Carnival. We went over and checked it out.








After, we walked under an arch. Dan wanted to check out the Citadel. I then saw my first RTC Classic and photographed it passing through the arch.



Dan and I visited the Citadel which was a fort that was built in 1820 to defend Canada from a possible attack that never ended up occurring. We also saw modern things that obviously weren’t originally part of the Citadel. They included a traffic light, a Bell phone booth, a fluorescent orange pylon, and wheelchair ramps.


We left the Citadel and walked through old Quebec. We walked all the way back to Gare du Palais, where I had to take a break. Dan is an avid hiker which I am not. At Gare du Palais, we noticed that a sign that said that VIA train 27 was replaced by a bus. Dan investigated and someone told him the train had struck something and the engine was broken. Fortunately, his departure wouldn’t be affected in two days time.


At this time, Dan went back to the hotel. I opted to stay until I had seen Bonhomme Carnival. So I took a bus to Place D’Youville which is a block away from Place Hydro-Quebec where Bonhomme Carnival would be skating at 7:00 pm. When I got to the bus loop, I took a few photos




I arrived at Place Hydro-Quebec at 5:30 pm so I had a lot of time. I then had dinner at Subway. I wandered around and photographed some buses including a couple Classics in the old STCUQ livery.




I waited and watched buses, at one point, I saw the Nova LFS articulated demonstration bus, but was unable to photograph it. There was still plenty of time before 7:00 so I walked down the street. I saw a Circuit City store, but it was closed. I continued walking until I found a “Les Delices de l’Erable” store, just like my family and I stopped at on the last day of my 2006 trip to Montreal.


I got back to the skating rink a few minutes before 7:00 pm. The rink had sculptures of people that had lights inside that would flicker. There was also music playing over loudspeakers for the skaters to skate to. However, I didn’t have any ice skates, so I couldn’t skate.


I saw a bus pull into a driveway beside the rink. Although I couldn’t see inside, I was sure Bonhomme Carnival was on board. I took a picture of the bus.



I started filming the bus. Moments later, Bonhomme Carnival emerged and begun to skate as what I consider to be his personal theme music played over the loudspeaker. I took a couple photos of Bonhomme Carnival.



Bonhomme Carnival himself makes an appearance.


After I took some photos of Bonhomme Carnival, he skated to the side and shook the hands of some onlookers. He shook my hand and said, “Glad to see you.”


I then headed out and caught a route 800 back to my hotel. When I got there, I saw Dan on the computer in the lobby. I dropped my bag off and went back downstairs.


A little while later, a group of students arrived at the hotel. They were on a field trip. Moments later, another group arrived. I was a little concerned that the kids would be noisy, but they hardly gave me trouble. At some point, I went back to the room and photographed two highway coaches which were from the field trip to Quebec in the hotel parking lot.



A little while later, I called it a night.


Click here for part 2: Quebec City trip part 2