Luxury for Seventy-Five Cents
by Anita Mae Draper
My current work in progress begins on a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train in 1888. This involved hours of research into trains, depots and railroad employees. As you can imagine, I discovered tidbits of information missing from my school history classes. One aspect I’d like to share with you is about the luxurious dining cars and in particular, the variety and size of the meals.
Since there wasn’t a caboose back in those days, the last car was always the dining car. Hooked to the train at in the morning, it provided three huge solid meals during the day and was disengaged at a division point during the night. The next morning, at another division point, another stocked dining car would be added to the train.
World-wide fame of the CPR dining cars grew due to the use of local native Canadian dishes. Maple syrup from Quebec, Lake Superior Trout from Ontario, Winnipeg goldeye in Manitoba, venison from Saskatchewan, Calgary beef in Alberta, and Salmon in British Columbia. And of course, blueberry pie, in season.
I’ve travelled on two trains in my lifetime, both of them CPR. Both of them were long overnight trips. I don’t remember much about those trips as they were over 30 yrs ago, except I had to sleep sitting up and the dining car was a cramped place that smelled good but water sloshed out of my glass due to the train's movement. Although still transcontinental, the train had lost its look of luxury and and the menu was restaurant style. This was back in the '70s when train passenger service was a losing business. With a minimum profit, CPR invested a minimum amount on train 'dressing'.
However, there's been a revival in train service and a newcomer, VIA Rail, offers thrice weekly trips from Toronto to Vancouver. You could even start in Halifax on the Ocean and switch to the Canadian in Toronto for a sea-to-sea rail adventure.
Here's a video which is actually Part 4 of a series as these 2 Brits travel across Canada, but I found this one to be the most interesting. Economy would be the reclining seats and no perks. The berths, or roomettes, are very similar to the ones used in the 19th century when the porter walked along lowering the ones from the top and turning the seats into a lower one. And first class would be the enclosed bedrooms with all the perks mentioned on the video like access to the special lounge and domed cars. http://youtu.be/XjWEEHPVC_s
Have you ever eaten on a train? When and where? What did you think?