Monday, May 01, 2023

Day three on VIA Rail's The Canadian: The unscheduled Saskatoon stopover

After going to sleep as we pulled out of Winnipeg station to resume our westward journey, I woke up some hours later to a sunrise over the snowy prairie of eastern Saskatchewan. It took some time to get out of Ontario, but now the provinces were flying by. And we were scheduled to be out of Saskatchewan by early afternoon and into Edmonton just before bedtime, to begin the run to Jasper. Or so we thought.

We would find out after breakfast that a derailment in the subdivision (train talk) between Saskatoon and Edmonton meant that stretch of track was closed and we would be stuck in Saskatoon for an indeterminate period of time -- 12 to 24 hours or more. And once the track re-opened, we would be at the back of the line after the backed-up freight traffic.

I was told later that often in this scenario, we would all be bussed to Edmonton to meet the Eastbound train and it would turn back West, and the Westbound people would be bussed to Saskatoon to continue the trip East on our train. But apparently VIA couldn't find enough busses for that.

My train attendant came by my little roomette to discuss my options. People bound for Edmonton would be offered a bus trip there or to stay and wait out the delay. Bound for Vancouver, I could wait it out or book my own flight and claim reimbursement. I'm here for the journey, so there was no doubt I'd wait it out.

I solicited Saskatoon recommendations and had my paid for train lunch, a very decent crispy beef stir fry. We were told time of departure was unknown but, if we were going into town, we should be back onboard the train by 9:00PM. 

Like many cities in Canada, the Saskatoon VIA station is in an industrial suburb well outside the downtown.  It was about a 20 minute Uber ride to the downtown, where I quickly remembered it was Good Friday and so all my recommended places were closed for the holiday. I wandered around the river walk area for a bit, tried unsuccessfully to buy ice cream (shop didn't seem interested in taking my money) and then, with everything closed, went to see the Super Mario Brothers movie. Nostalgic for my generation but more aimed for kids who won't see the ridiculous plot.

On my way back to the train I stopped at Superstore to buy some snacks and, most importantly, Diet Coke as I ain't gonna keep paying VIA $3 per can, even if there's was cold and mine wouldn't be.

Back to the train in time for my dinner reservation, and tonight was prime rib so I wasn't going to miss it.

We were told we would tentatively be in motion around 4:00AM, maybe a bit earlier. So, as usual on the train I was early to bed, but this time both looking to maximize my stationary sleeping time and hoping to be woken by forward-movement soon.


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