The Worst Case Scenario

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Friday, December 1, 2017

Those of you who have read this blog long enough know of my affection—my love—of Via Rail Canada’s Canadian. (For a sampling of what I've written, go here or here or here.) If I could, I’d ride it once a month and still feel deprived. This despite its chronic (and lately worsening) track record for lateness. My attitude has been that being late gives you more dome car time for the same low price. Of course, I too have my limit, which is somewhere in the 12-hours-late area. Twice I’ve bailed from the eastbound Canadian in Capreol, Ont., to fly to Toronto and make connecting flights home.

Now I face the Worst Case Scenario.

I’m ticketed on No. 1, the westbound train, from Toronto to Vancouver tomorrow night, with a scheduled departure time of 10 p.m. But there’s a catch. The equipment for No. 1 is supposed to arrive in Toronto as No. 2 the same day at 9:30 a.m. As I write this, that eastbound train has just entered Manitoba, 17 hours 8 minutes late.

Do the math. A lot of freight trains stand between it and home plate. From where it is to Toronto, the best you can expect is for No. 1 to arrive 15 hours late, or 12:30 a.m. The train must be cleaned and serviced and restocked, and the Winnipeg-based on-board crew needs its rest time. I’d bet a buck we leave at 2 p.m. Sunday, or 16 hours late.

It gets worse, of course, because no Canadian makes it to the other end without taking its hits. Host railroad Canadian National’s freight business is booming. If we’re lucky, we’ll reach Vancouver only an additional four hours late, which means 5:42 a.m. next Thursday, 88 minutes before the departure of my flight back to Georgia.

This is not all bad. Going west, I’ll get to see parts of Canada in daylight I normally would not. I’m sure there are other advantages to the fate awaiting me, except I can’t think of them.

For sure, a test of my love. I’ll keep you informed.—Fred W. Frailey

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