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Text by Jack M. Turner, Photos by John C. Turner

    When planning for our Summer 2008 trip began, we were amazed to discover that it had been seven years since our last visit to Canada.  Prior to that we seemed to have crossed the northern border every couple of years for a period of time and it seemed only a short time since our 2001 journey aboard VIA Rail Canada's Ocean from Montreal to Halifax with a side trip to Sydney on the Bras d'Or and a middle of the night connection to the Chaleur for a journey to Gaspe.

    Our objective on this trip was to experience VIA's Renaissance equipment, which was introduced since our last trip to Canada, and to tour Newfoundland, the one Canadian province we had yet to visit.  Along the way we would explore several interesting train routes and cities and would search for signs of the Newfoundland Railway which was abandoned approximately 20 years prior.

    My son John would accompany me by train and serve as my official photographer while my wife would use frequent flyer miles to fly to Halifax.  The cumbersome airline frequent flyer program basically dictated the days we would travel as she had to leave from Orlando on one specific day and return on another specific day.  Moving her travel either way would render her points useless for this purpose. With Amtrak not offering any type of three person sleeping accommodations on its eastern trains, it was important for the budget that she fly.

The Silver Meteor to New York

    Wednesday June 25 found us boarding the northbound Silver Meteor at 5:30pm in Jacksonville during a heavy thunderstorm.  We were underway at 5:48, just over an hour late as a northbound CSX freight rumbled alongside on the closest main track.  The Jacksonville Amtrak station's two tracks merge into the double track mainline just beyond the station platform and it was curious that another train appeared headed for the same point as our train as neither was showing signs of stopping.  As we neared the switch where the tracks merged, we noted the freight using a crossover to switch to the outer main track without skipping a beat.  This was a first for us on many trips out of Jacksonville and was a sign of good dispatching.
   We occupied roomette # 2 in sleeper Orchard View, a car we had never been assigned to in the past, and found it to have good air-conditioning which is a key element in making us happy.  Our car attendant had thoughtfully made dinner reservations for the 6:30 sitting and we made the short trek to the diner after viewing the railfan pavilion at Folkston, GA. which always seems to host a few train spotters.  We were seated with Dan and Joanna of Philadelphia who are regular train travelers and it was good that we found plenty to discuss since the meal service was very slow.  Once dinner arrived, our meals were delicious with the flatiron steak, mashed potatoes, and green beans making a nice entree.  We had to remind one of the waiters to bring our iced tea then had to flag him down after a long wait for dessert.  During dinner we enjoyed views of numerous rivers and inlets and the busy stop in Jesup.  

    Stops in Savannah and Charleston, SC were familiar from our frequent trips on the Florida trains as were the small towns of Hardeeville
and Ridgeland that we passed through.  After the station stop in Charleston at 10:15pm it was time to climb into the upper bed for a night's sleep.  We were about an hour and a half late which suited us fine as our connection at New York in the morning would not be as lengthy.  

    On recent trips over the CSX "A" Line we found the tracks to be exceptionally rough, however, judging from the quality of our sleep, this seemed not the case this time.  Part of the reason for the smooth ride could be attributed to our location near the center of the sleeper but major trackwork in recent years may have improved the ride as well.  After nodding off near Florence, I didn't awaken until our departure from Richmond, VA at 5:15am and I quickly drifted off again until about 7:15am, somewhere south of Alexandria.  Herein lies one of the bits of magic about rail travel as you can sleep through entire states and wake up seven hours closer to your destination.
   The 20 minute stop in Washington to switch from diesel to an electric engine was very efficient allowing us to make up 15 minutes.  Breakfast brought much quicker service and we enjoyed listening to our server, Charles, talk about working aboard Seaboard Coast Line's West Coast Champion, Silver Meteor, Florida Special, and Miamian.  The return of traditonal railroad french toast to the menu fit perfectly with conversation about the SCL trains I grew up riding.  While we dined, train # 98 passed above the historic former Baltimore & Ohio route which twists through a wooded area south of Baltimore.  Today that line hosts MARC commuter trains on what is referred to as the Camden Line.

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The Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial seen from the Silver Meteor crossing the Potomac River on June 26, 2008.
Our sleeper Orchard View at Washington, D.C.
Carryout food trays are among baggage loaded into the baggage car at Washington.
Car # 8502, shown during our stop in Washington, is one of 20 Heritage fleet diners left in Amtrak service.

    The Silver Meteor departed Baltimore 95 minutes late then lost 15 minutes at Wilmington as a passenger with a medical issue was tended to then another few minutes delay ensued as a shelled wheel warranted inspection.  We were thus two hours late at Philadelphia which validated our decision to allow plenty of connecting time in New York.  The final 90 minutes of our ride on # 98 passed smoothly and we arrived in New York at 12:35pm ready to stretch our legs.

    After stowing our luggage in the first class Club Acela, John and I set out for a long walk that took us to the base of the Empire State Building then on the Grand Central Terminal.  We were very impressed by the majestic GCT and enjoyed peering at the famed clock in the center of the main concourse as well as the ornate ceiling lamps and decorative celestial designs on the ceiling.  The row of Metro North ticket windows conjured up images of Cary Grant attempting to buy a ticket on the 20th Century Limited in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller North by Northwest which remains one of our favorite movies with major scenes aboard a train.  My last look at Grand Central was over 20 years ago when Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited still served that station and we were much more impressed this time.  The return to Penn Station was quicker as we rode the subway shuttle to the Times Square stop then transferred to a subway train serving Penn Station.
Grand Central Terminal, New York City.
The famous clock in Grand Central Terminal's main hall.

 Another view of the clock and the ornate ceiling and windows of Grand Central.

An Evening on the Lake Shore Limited

    The comfortable chairs of the Club Acela were inviting after our walk and time passed quickly leading up to boarding of the Lake Shore Limited.  Our departure was ontime at 4:00pm though the new Amtrak timetable listed a 3:45 departure with a hard to notice footnote indicating that weekday departures would be at 4:00pm.  Our home for this segment was roomette # 2 in sleeper Tower View, a car we had riden on a previous trip.  Shortly after the conductor lifted our tickets, the dining car steward came through and took dinner reservations and we settled on the early seating to ensure we were finished by Albany.

    A few minutes into the trip, train # 49 joined the Hudson River which would be followed for over two hours.  Maritime traffic was very heavy on this day and the journey along the Hudson brought frequent views of sailboats moored in lovely harbors, passage under numerous towering highway bridges, and passing commuter trains.  Just 40 minutes out of New York City, we spied Hook Mountain State Park across the river from Scarborough and several more mountains would form the perfect backdrop to the Hudson as we watched the sun begin its daily retreat to the west. 

One of many ships we passed while paralleling the Hudson River.
A speedboat races along the Hudson as seen from the Lake Shore Limited.
Late afternoon views of the mountains across the river from our train's route.
A CSX freight follows the west shore line near West Point, NY.
Passing beneath twin I-84 highway bridges near Beacon, NY.
Anchored sailboats near Poughkeepsie.

    We were curious about dinner as the Lake Shore now uses a converted Amfleet II lounge car as its dining car.  Our first surprise was being greeted by a larger dining staff than found aboard the Silver Meteor and we also were pleased that the tables were covered with linen tablecloths.  A trailing Horizon fleet car served as lounge car which prevented the constant foot traffic we had expected while eating.  The menu offered a couple of choices we liked and we were pleased with our selection of short ribs, mashed potatoes, and carrots with ice cream for dessert.  We shared our table with Nicki and Logan from western Ohio and learned that the trip east was young Logan's first train trip.  She reported it was "lots of fun" and we confirmed that she should get her folks to take her out west by rail.
Amfleet II dinette 28022 on the Lake Shore Limited.

    Dinner was finished in plenty of time for us to stretch our legs at Albany-Renssalaer while the dual mode engines were swapped out for a pair of P42's that would lead train # 49 to Chicago.  The new station at Albany-Renssalaer looked beautiful but a close inspection would have to wait until our return journey.  We checked out our passage through Schenectady then decided to attempt to get some sleep since we would detrain near midnight in Buffalo.  Sleep was not easy to come by at an early hour but we managed to get a couple hours before the Lake Shore's 12:45am arrival at Buffalo's suburban station in Depew.   A very long station stop in Syracuse and some slow running approaching Buffalo had caused our tardiness. 

The westbound Lake Shore Limited at Albany-Rennsalaer, NY.
Our sleeper Tower View in front of the Albany-Rennsalaer station.

    While we waited for our hotel shuttle van to arrive, John and I watched a westbound freight with Union Pacific engines pull up and stop to wait for the track signals to clear up.  In minutes we were nodding off again in the comfort of the Hilton Garden Inn opposite the Buffalo Airport in Cheektowaga.  This hotel was fresh, new, and quiet. It also was convenient for picking up a rental car at the airport the next morning.  With its courtesy shuttle available at all hours, this is an excellent hotel for rail travelers planning to rent a car in the Buffalo area.

The Amazing Race To Ottawa

    We were on the road at 8:30am for what was billed as a two hour drive to Toronto.  Plans had been made to drive to Toronto to catch the 12:20pm VIA Rail Canada train to Ottawa.  Waiting for Amtrak's train to Toronto would have necessitated an overnight in Toronto while traveling via Montreal instead of Buffalo would have required a night drive from Montreal to Ottawa thus a much later arrival.  The drive out of Buffalo and the border crossing were smooth and we anticipated a couple of hours to explore Toronto Union Station for the first time since 2001.  

    Then our plans threatened to unravel.  Traffic came to a dead stop on the Queen Elizabeth Highway about 50 miles from Toronto and after a couple miles we spotted a "construction ahead" sign.  With two hours to burn we felt little concern until we came upon another sign indicating construction was taking place for the next 18 kilometers.  There was only one choice: get off the expressway and take local roads paralleling Lake Ontario.  This would allow us to keep moving albeit at about 40 km per hour with traffic signals to contend with in downtown Oakville and other communities.  Unfortunately our Ontario map did not provide detail for these local roads and soon our journey began to replicate the mad dashes seen in television's The Amazing Race rather than the well planned trip we had set up.  As the clock ticked perilously close to train time, we said one last prayer and took a side road back to the expressway after driving about 35 miles of local roads.  Much to our relief, traffic was flowing fine and we pulled into the Union Station parking garage 20 minutes before our train's departure.  There was no time to even take in the beauty of Union Station's main hall as we dropped off the car keys at the Hertz counter and sprinted to the train gate.  The power of prayer was obvious as we made it in time for VIA train # 44 which departed on time at 12:20pm.

    Our five car train was pulled by a smartly painted P42 locomotive and consisted of five LRC cars.  We rode in VIA-1 class which was located in the first car behind the engine and we appreciated the relative roominess of our seats after the rush to catch the train.  Soon after departing Toronto we were able to catch occasional glimpses of Lake Ontario and many small boat harbors.  As train # 44 left Belleville shortly after 2:00pm train attendants Jeremie and Marie-Helene began lunch service with warm hand towels with which to freshen up.  Lunch was served at our seats in courses, first a noodle based salad, then beef with oriental vegetables and pasta, topped off with a slice of mocca cake.  Wine was served to those wishing to partake and hot tea was brought to the rest of us with frequent refills.  Views of Lake Ontario flashed by our window as we enjoyed the excellent meal.
Lake Ontario seen from VIA Rail # 44 between Scarborough and Oshawa, Ontario on June 27, 2008.
A harbor between Oshawa and Cobourg, Ontario.
A canal near Cobourg.

VIA-1 attendant Jeremie serves beverages on train # 44.

Lunch in VIA-1 class.

    Departing Brockville the line to Ottawa split off from the Montreal route and about an hour later we arrived in Ottawa at 4:53pm.  The Ottawa station is a modern edifice located three miles south of downtown.  In a bygone era trains served a large station downtown but urban growth and operational considerations led to the construction of the suburban depot.  The historic station still stands and has found life as a convention center.  Across the street from the old station is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a historic hotel built by the Grand Trunk Railway.  This was our hotel for the night and we appreciated its location adjacent to Parliament Hill, eclectic By-Ward Market, the Ottawa River, and the Rideau Canal.  Chateau Laurier opened in 1912, two months later than planned due to the loss of railway president Charles Melville Hays aboard the Titanic.  The exterior of the hotel reflects the combination of French Renaissance and neo-Gothic styles replicated in many hotels built by the railways across Canada.  The lobby, ballrooms, and dining rooms each are decorated with ornate furnishings that reflect elegance and the hallways and guest rooms have high ceilings typical of the era.  The hotel's guest list through the years has included dignitaries ranging from King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, Charles deGaulle, Pierre Trudeau, and Herbert Hoover to celebrities such as Roger Moore, Harry Belafonte, Shirley Temple, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.

VIA Rail train # 44 after arrival in Ottawa.
LRC cars on VIA # 44 at Ottawa.

The entrance to the stately Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
The Chateau Laurier resemblance to a European castle is evident from this view.
The locks on the Rideau Canal are located between Chateau Laurier and Parliament Hill.
The former Grand Trunk Railway station in downtown Ottawa is now a convention center.

    Ottawa is a wonderful city to visit with something to suit just about any taste.  The city's signature attraction is the Canadian Parliament which houses the federal government of Canada.  Construction of the Gothic Revival style buildings took place between 1859 and 1927 .  Free tours of Parliament are offered and visitors have the opportunity to see the Senate and House of Commons chambers plus the magnificent Library of Parliament.  The Peace Tower rises above Parliament's Centre Block and visitors can travel to the top for a bird's-eye view of the city.  Among other sites within walking distance of the Chateau Laurier are the Royal Canadian Mint; the Bytown Museum adjacent to the locks that control the Rideau Canal's water flow;  the ByWard Market which features restaurants, shops, and a popular farmer's market; and the National Gallery of Canada.  Many other activities take place outside of downtown including the NHL Ottawa Senators, minor league baseball's Ottawa Rapidz, and a variety of other sporting events.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police perform the acclaimed RCMP Musical Ride Sunset Ceremony on select dates in early summer at a suburban facility.  The ceremony features 32 police officers and horses who perform a variety of intricate maneuvers choreographed to music.  Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy walking, rollerblading, or bicycling along the miles of paths lining the Rideau Canal.  During wintertime, the canal is transformed into a huge ice skating rink that is extremely popular.

The clock tower atop Parliament's Centre Block on a foggy morning.
Buildings in the Parliament complex display old world stone architecture.
Inside one of the Parliament chambers.

The magnificent Parliament library.

Eastbound to Montreal on VIA Rail

    The morning of Saturday June 28 started early as we needed time to tour Parliament and take in a couple of other sights in downtown Ottawa before taking a taxi to the VIA Rail station.  VIA train # 634 welcomed a sizeable crowd for its 12:45pm departure to Montreal.  Ideally we would have made this part of our trip on a day other than Saturday as # 634 is the last eastbound train of the day on Saturdays while other days have either one or two later trains that connect with the Halifax-bound Ocean.  Our assigned seats were in the train's fourth car, car # 7213, and we were pleased to find a nice wide window in the new Renaissance Comfort Class coach.  The Renaissance cars are immediately recognizable as they are shorter in height, width, and length than standard North American passenger cars as they were originally built to operate through the Chunnel under the English Channel.   The comfort class coaches contain two-across seating on the left side (seats A and B) and single seating (Seat S) on the right.  The wing-back seats are wider than standard coach seats and are slightly raised from the floor making for a smooth ride.  Our six car train carried a VIA-1 car behind the engine but this space is not sold on Saturdays.  Because Renaissance cars are more or less permenently coupled, the VIA-1 car must deadhead on Saturdays.

The modern VIA Rail station in Ottawa during boarding of train # 634 to Montreal.

    Following stops in Casselman and Alexandria, Ontario, train # 634 joined the CN/VIA line from Toronto at Coteau Jct. at 2:05pm.  About 15 minutes later the wide Canal Ste.-Anne was crossed at Ile Perrot.  The former Canadian Pacific mainline also used by Montreal commuter trains was now parallel on our left side.  A westbound CP stack track passed on the parallel line as we pulled into the Dorval station which serves the Dorval/Pierre Trudeau International Airport at 2:30.  Twenty five minutes later we arrived at Montreal's Central Station which historically housed Canadian National passenger trains and today is home to the intercity trains of VIA Rail Canada and Amtrak plus two local commuter routes.

 VIA Train # 634 during the station stop in Alexandria, Ontario.
A rear looking view of # 634 at Alexandria.
A Renaissance service car's lounge area on train # 634.
The interior of a Renaissance comfort class (coach) car on # 634.

    As our layover was just under four hours, we had arranged a tour of the city.  By checking one of our large suitcases from Ottawa to Halifax and leaving the other large bag with one of the many available redcaps, we were free to explore Montreal unimpeded.  Our guide, Celine Bernier, took us on a two hour driving tour which allowed us to see sights beyond walking distance of the station as well as those easily accessible on foot.  On the city's north side we drove past St. Josephs Oratory, one of the world's largest basilicas, which dates to 1904 then visited the top of Mont Royal which features miles of biking and walking trails, a public park, and beautiful views of the city.  On the west side of the city we toured the magnificent Westmount community where multi-million dollar homes with beautiful landscaping abound.  Heading back toward the center city, we traversed many ethnic neighborhoods with unique residences, eateries, and shops.  Downtown Montreal was bustling with shoppers visiting the dozens of stores lining city streets as well as those located in the impressive underground city as many sales were taking place on this weekend.  Opposite Central Station we passed old world looking Mary Queen of the World Cathedral and a couple blocks away the glassy new home arena of the Montreal Canadiens NHL hockey team.  Herein lies a unique characteristic of Montreal as historic old buildings stand in close proximity to modern edifices and one is likely to hear both French and English spoken throughout the city.  Our tour next took us to Old Montreal, located close to the St. Lawrence River, several blocks from the railway station.  The Notre Dame Cathedral is the most recognized sight in Old Montreal but the area is also popular for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn tour carriages, restaurants, and historic buildings.  A number of upscale boutique hotels have sprung up in this area, some of which reside in converted bank buildings.

One of the beautiful homes we viewed during our tour of Montreal.
Many homes in upscale Westmount feature magnificent flower gardens and landscaping.
Another stately home in the Mont Royal area.
Old Montreal buildings such as this bank headquarters reflect European styles.
Tourists flock to Old Montreal's cobblestone streets which are lined with restaurants, shops, cathedrals, and lodging establishments.
An old mansion in Old Montreal which has been converted to commercial purposes.

Riding a Renaissance Sleeper on the Ocean

    Checking one's luggage with a redcap in Montreal is an excellent means of saving time and energy as they are reliable and will place your luggage right in your room aboard the train.  We spent part of our remaining layover in VIA's Panorama Lounge in the station then lined up for check-in at about 5:45pm.  A long line had formed by the time the sleeping car check-in desk opened; we had learned our lesson years earlier on prior trips to the Maritimes.  Dinner reservations were provided at check-in; our meals would be included since we purchased Easterly Class tickets.

The departure board at Montreal's Central Station (Gare Centrale).
A smartly lighted VIA Rail sign in Central Station.

    Boarding for VIA Rail train # 614, the Ocean, commenced at 6:10pm and we found our suitcase inside deluxe bedroom # 5 in Renaissance sleeper 7516.  The room feautured a lengthwise blue couch which is a departure from the classic former CP Rail VIA sleeping cars which contain movable chairs by day.  At night the couch in our room would fold down into a lower berth while the upper bed would be folded down from the wall.  Due to the lower height of the Renaissance cars, there was no overhead storage space and we realized we would have to work around the large suitcase.  It is wise to only carry hand luggage aboard these cars.  Our room contained a large bathroom that also included a sink and shower.  On the wall beside the head of the bed, a telephone connected passengers with the car attendant's voice mail.  A unique feature of these cars are bedroom doors that are unlocked by a hotel room style key.

    The shower was welcomed after a day of sightseeing in Ottawa and Montreal and we were already on the bridge over the St. Lawrence River by the time I was ready to head to dinner.  The walk to the diner took us through five other sleepers and we quickly noticed the narrow corridor along one side of each car plus the feeling of openess provided by the open end doors between cars.  The final car before the dining car was the service car which contains the food preparation galley, a takeout window, lounge seating for sleeper passengers, and a handicapped bedroom.  Another service car was located on the opposite side of the dining car.  The dining car, meanwhile, was very tastefully appointed with 4 tables for 4 along one side of the car and 4 tables for 2 on the opposite side, a mid-car service area, and a another section of 4 tables for 4 and 4 tables for 2 at the opposite end of the diner.  Tables were separated from one another by a glass partition bearing the Easterly Class logo, and each table was topped by a stylish lamp.  Each dining table had individual seats that folded up when unocciped for easier access

The head end of the Renaissance equipped Ocean extends beyond the Central Station covered platform.
The author's son John takes a break from his photography duties to enjoy dinner in the Renaissance dining car.

    Dinner was outstanding with a salad (John had fish chowder) followed by pork medallions topped with an apple glaze, carrots, small potatoes, and dinner rolls, capped off with delicious chocolate cake with raspberry topping.  Good conversation was enjoyed with our tablemate Jim Creggan, bass guitarist for the band Bare Naked Ladies, and his three year old son Finn.  Jim is a fan of train travel and was in the midst of a trip with his wife and baby who were back in their bedroom.  Following our enjoyable conversation over dinner, John commented how fortunate we had been to have dined with interesting people on this trip.

    Following dinner, our favorite part of any overnight VIA train, the Park car, beckoned so we made our way to the rear of the train and grabbed a pair of front row seats in the dome.  Yoho Park is one of 17 dome-observation-lounge cars built for the Canadian Pacific Railway over five decades ago.  Today 13 of these cars remain in VIA Rail service and passengers enjoy the dome seating atop the train, the Bullet Lounge at the rear of the car, and the Mural Lounge located below the dome.  Additionally, three bedrooms and a three-bedded drawing room are located in these cars. 

The Mural Lounge in the Yoho Park car.
Yoho Park's Bullet Lounge is a perfect place to read or watch scenery recede behind the train.
 Steps leading to the dome pass beside clocks displaying the time in each Canadian time zone.
The glass topped dome section of Yoho Park seats 24 and permits a bird's eye view of passing scenery.

    A pouring rain chaperoned the train through Drummondville and followed us all night across eastern Quebec.  Despite the rain, we had a good view of the farmlands that dominate the region, meets with opposing trains, and the crossing gates and trackside signals ahead. After crossing the wide Riviere Chaudiere, the Ocean pulled to a stop at Charny, the suburban stop for Quebec City.  Due to the CN's abandonment of the Levis Subdivison, the Ocean has to back out of Charny, recross the river, then resume forward on a freight line that passes Joffre Yard.  After watching this process, we turned in for the night and slept until Matapedia at 6:40am then drifted off again until about 8:30.

    Breakfast in the diner was excellent as we enjoyed blueberry pancakes with sausage while tracing the southern shore of Chaleaur Bay.  The rain had paced us overnight and it was windy and wet outside.  Stops at Bathurst, Miramichi, and Rogersville each deposited a few passengers and it was fun watching family reunions from the dome car.  Families with young children found the transition car located between the last Renaissance sleeper and the Yoho Park a convenient play area for their children as the car was basically empty as its sole purpose is to allow the attachment of a Park car on the rear by means of a specially adapted coupler on the trailing end of the car.  The car interior for this Renaissance car was not totally bare as framed flags of Canada's eastern provinces were displayed on its inside walls.

One of the framed Canadian province flags displayed in the transition car.
The interior of the transition car connecting the Renaissance cars with the Park car.

    Moncton was reached at 1:05pm which allowed time for a stroll on the platform while dodging intermittant rain.  In past years the Ocean often dropped a couple of sleepers here since many passengers detrain to visit this city or travel to Prince Edward Island.  This is no longer practical given the length of time required to uncouple Renaissance cars.  East of Moncton, the 19 car long Ocean made an impressive sight winding through the tidal flats.  Our lunch seating was called by the use of chimes on the intercom in much the same fashion as on cruise ships.  While we dined, train # 614 stopped at Sackville, New Brunswick and Amherst, Nova Scotia.  We made it back to the Yoho Park just in time for a meet with the westbound Ocean then viewed the Wentworth Valley from the dome as our train reached the highest point on the route.  Park car attendant Lyne conducted a wine and cheese tasting then demonstrated how lobster traps work to bring a bit of Maritime life to visitors.  She noted a bit of trivia that our stop in Truro was the easternmost active train stop in North America.  This seemed like folly to me as our train would terminate in Halifax, over an hour ahead.  A check of our highway map supported this contention as Halifax is, indeed, just a few miles farther west as the train travels south-southwest from Truro to Halifax.  Our prior trip to Nova Scotia in 2001 took us farther east by rail as VIA's weekly Bras d'Or operated to Sydney which was much farther east than Truro.  That train was cancelled a couple of years after that.
The difference in width of Renaissance cars and 1950s era equipment is apparent during our stop in Moncton.
Dome-sleeper-observation car Yoho Park at Moncton.
Renaissance cars carry their own fold-down steps.

An eastbound Canadian National local freight passes the Ocean in the rain at Moncton, New Brunswick.
The author enjoys lunch time in the dining car.

Fold down seats in the Renaissance dining car are both comfortable and convenient.

Food is prepared in the service car's galley adjacent to the dining car.
The westbound Ocean as seen from the rear window of the eastbound Ocean.
Evangeline Park carries the markers for the westbound Ocean.
Car attendant/learning coordinator "Lyne" explains how lobster traps work.

Sailboats anchored in Bedford Basin are viewed from the dome.

    The Ocean pulled into Halifax 85 minutes late at 5:45pm ending a most enjoyable eastbound journey.  The Four Points by Sheraton hotel was just a few blocks from the train station and offered very comfortable accommodations.  The hotel was just a couple of years old and its location was convenient for walking to many sights along the waterfront.  An evening stroll took us to O'Carroll's Pub for a good Maritime dinner. Numerous other dining establishments are located in the downtown area and the waterfront area presents a charming place to walk.

The eastbound Ocean upon arrival at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Halifax was conveniently located near the waterfront and the VIA Rail station.

    The following morning John and I visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic which displays everything from a lighthouse lens to torpedoes to relics recovered from the Titanic.  The item that struck home was a glove found in the Titanic wreckage that had belonged to Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway, whose loss delayed the opening of the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.  The museum opened in 1948 and its collection has grown to over 24,000 nautical artifacts making it a must-see for visitors to Halifax. 

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is one of Halifax's leading attractions.
A lighthouse lens displayed at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
A child's shoes recovered from the Titanic.

    Our next stop took us to Pier 21, the preserved gateway to Canada for over one million immigrants between 1928-1971.  The facility has been transformed into an interesting museum whose highlight is a multimedia show that transports visitors to the heyday of Pier 21.  An old heavyweight Canadian National coach is displayed outside as many of the immigrants boarded trains to western points.  A trip aboard the tall ship Mar provided a nice view of Halifax Harbour while under sail.  This excursion is operated by the Murphy's on the Water company.  We then traveled back along Lower Water Street for lunch at the Harbourfront Market and watched glassblowers perform their craft at a shop where fine glass pieces are created.  Our final sightseeing stop of the morning took us to the star-shaped Citadelle located high atop a hill overlooking the city.  The 19th century fortress is among the best preserved in North America and visitors get a closeup look at the various rooms, barracks, and fortifications within the Citadelle's massive walls.  In late afternoon John and I drove our rental van to the Halifax Airport, approximately 20 miles outside the city, to pick up my wife.  Her flight routing took her from Orlando to New York to Halifax and she was glad to leave the cramped confines of jet aircraft. 

O'Carroll's where we enjoyed Nova Scotian cuisine.
Quaint shops facing Halifax Harbour.
A heavyweight Canadian National coach in front of Pier 21 where immigrants arrived from overseas.
The CNR logo displayed on the side of the heavyweight coach.

The art of glassblowing can be viewed at a waterfront shop where ornamental glass pieces are made.
A bagpipe band plays at The Citadelle.  Later we saw many more bagpipe bands perform at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tatoo.
 The Citadelle's main barracks building.
A firing squad lines up to shoot at The Citadelle.

    That evening we walked several blocks through downtown to the Halifax Metro Centre arena to attend the Royal Nova Scotia International Tatoo.  This event was first staged in Halifax in the late 1970s and has grown to become the hottest ticket in Halifax.  The term tatoo dates to the 17th century when drummers marched through the streets of Dutch villages summoning British soldiers to return to their quarters from the taverns and inns.  The Royal Nova Scotia International Tatoo continues to honor its military roots bringing together military and civilian marching bands from Canada and numerous other countries along with a variety of acts.  Included are singers, gymnasts, dancers, acrobats, and a multitude of bagpipe bands along with other entertaining acts. Each year's 2 1/2 hour show features different acts from the previous year.  One can expect to see acts from nations as diverse as Germany, France, Great Britain, Jamaica, New Zealand, and host Canada during the Tatoo.  The event typically is staged for about a week beginning on Canada Day (July 1).  Tickets generally go on sale in early October and advance planning is important since the shows sell out.

    There are many other sights to be seen in and around Halifax including nearby Peggy's Cove and picturesque drives along the eastern and western coasts of Nova Scotia's southern region.  Our itinerary dictated that we travel north on this trip and, after stopping by the VIA Rail station, our route took us along the Eastern Shore north of Halifax using Highway 7.  The names of towns we passed through: Ship Harbour, Spry Harbour, and Spanish Ship Bay, reflected the restful nature of this sea hugging road.  We followed Route 7 northward to Antigonish then joined the higher speed Route 104 to the Canso Causeway, a narrow strip of land constructed to bridge the Strait of Canso which links Chedabucto Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with St. Georges Bay and Northumberland Strait.  The former Canadian National line to Sydney, now in the hands of a shortline operator, parallels the highway across the causeway.  Years ago one could watch VIA Rail Canada rail diesel cars cross this causeway and earlier this century the dome car equipped Bras d'Or trundled across on its weekly trip between Halifax and Sydney.  Today only the occasional freight travels this route.

The next day's Ocean stands ready at Halifax with Assiniboine Park carrying the markers.
VIA Rail Canada's Halifax station.
Highway 7 hugs the eastern coast of Nova Scotia north of Halifax.
Lupines grow alongside Highway 7.
Rapids seen from the highway near Ship Harbour, Nova Scotia.
The Strait of Canso which offers a shortcut to small watercraft.

The Canso Causeway includes the rail line that VIA Rail's Bras d'Or used to travel along.

    Our highway route then took us through the scenic neck of Cape Breton and along St. Patricks Channel to Baddeck where we would pause for the night.  The Inverary Resort proved to be an excellent lodging choice as its beautiful lakefront grounds overlooked sparkling waters that flow into Bras d'Or Lake.  Our room had a commanding view of the water and we found the town of Baddeck both charming and restful.  The resort's dining room was set beside the lake providing glimpses of many boats coming and going from its dock.  At night we watched an outstanding Canada Day fireworks show with many of the fireworks reflecting in the lake waters then prepared for the next day's voyage to Newfoundland.

A picturesque lighthouse stands in the harbour at Baddeck.
The Inverary Resort, Baddeck, Nova Scotia
The view from our table in the restaurant at the Inverary Resort.
The view from our table in the restaurant at the Inverary Resort.
Canada Day fireworks in Baddeck.
The grand finale marked the end of our Nova Scotia sightseeing

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