Wisconsin to Nova Scotia to Montreal and Back

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Wisconsin to Nova Scotia to Montreal and Back

Postby Scoring Guy » Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:30 pm

:-D :-D :-D :-D In early September, of 09, I took a two week, train, ferry, and auto trip to Nova Scotia and Montreal (from Wisconsin); here are the highlights that may be the most helpful for others’ future travels.
I departed La Crosse, Wisconsin, on a Tuesday, aboard Amtrak’s #8/28 Empire Builder - in a roomette; lunch was very good. At Chicago, after a couple hours enjoying the amenities of the Metropolitan Lounge, I boarded the # 30 Capitol Limited (in a bedroom) - the “early boarding” allowed the sleeping car passengers to get a head start on dinner.
Upon arrival at Washington D.C., the next day, I spent several hours exploring the city before returning to Union Station and the Acela Lounge (where my luggage was safely stowed). A 9:40 I boarded the #66 train, in business class. There were only four of us in b-class upon departure, but it quickly filled up as we headed north through the NEC, and was full upon departure from NYP, all trying to get some sleep.
The next morning I arrived at Boston’s South Station, on time, and gathered up my luggage, a large suitcase with the usual pull out handle and wheels, plus a briefcase lashed to the suitcase, and strolled through downtown Boston, to North Station. As long as it’s dry, I’d recommend walking vs. a cab or the subway, as there are many interesting things along the way.
At 11:05am, I boarded the # 683 Northeaster, for Portland, I‘d say it was half full at best. The depot at Portland is well on the outskirts of town, so I took a cab to the Holiday Inn (although I believe they would have sent a shuttle if I had called). The next morning the hotel did shuttle me to the Cat Ferry, which has a once a week 8:00 am (Saturday) departure for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The ferry trip takes about six and a half hours, and had some occasional severe porpoising which mandated hanging on to something in order to walk around. I was surprised that the ferry had such a light load, especially on a holiday weekend, , , perhaps it‘s the very uncomfortable seats.
At Yarmouth, after a very slow trip through customs (thank goodness there wasn’t a bigger load!) I picked up an Avis rental car, right there at the ferry station. The Rodd Colony Inn is right across the street from the ferry dock, and after a drive along the coast north of Yarmouth as far as Digby - where there was a huge biker rally, I returned and spent the night at that hotel. For the next three days I drove along the very scenic south coast of Nova Scotia, to a point well east of Halifax, before doubling back on day four to Halifax.
At Halifax (a Wednesday), I checked into the Delta Barrington hotel, and returned my rental to the Avis office two blocks away., This gave me almost two whole days to explore the compact historic waterfront district.
I headed for the Via Rail station (at the south end of the historic district) late in the morning, only to find two whole “Ocean” train sets parked there (cuzz there are no Tuesday departures). At 12:30 pm, I watched one of the “Ocean” consists depart, with a huge load of small children on a a “field trip” to somewhere.
The Delta Barrington is near the other end of the district from the station, and if I were to travel there again, I would probably select the Courtyard for lodging, as it is in about the middle of the district and probably a little less costly. I wouldn't recommend the hotel attached to the train station, because most of the "action" of the historic district is at the other end from the train station.
Overnight, two cruise ships arrived at the docks, which are right next to the train station; thus, on my second day there, the area was flooded with boat passengers who had the whole day ashore. The shoreline boardwalk and the hilltop historic fort are the two biggest gathering spots for tourists. Lots of neat boats to see along the boardwalk, plus a little ferry that goes back and forth between there and Dartmouth.
On Friday morning, I once again gathered up my luggage and strolled down the boardwalk, for one last time, eventually ending up at the Via Rail station in time to board the "Ocean". The two cruise ships were gone.
I had one of the slightly smaller of the two sizes of bedrooms in a Renaissance sleeper - the upper and lower berths are about the same size as those of a Superliner roomette (in both sizes of rooms), and rather hard, but the traditional Via Rail quilt was nice. The in-the-room lavatory was quite small (they're larger in the 'big rooms'), and there are no other lav’s on the car, nor a shower.
The 15 car train had from back to front, behind two F-40’s in the new blue paint scheme; a baggage car, three coaches, lounge car, dining car, another lounge car, six sleeping cars, transition car (all Renaissance cars), plus a Budd, dome/observation “Park Car” on the rear. The sleeping car section had a very light load, although the crew commented, that the return trip from Montreal was already a sellout. The on board services crews all work out of Halifax.
Once on board, I quickly headed for the dome, and secured myself a front row seat - makes for good photo ops. To maximize my time in the dome, I chose for the late sitting of dinner, after sunset. Via’s food is slightly more gourmet in appearance than Amtrak’s.
In the morning it was up early for the 6:00 am start of (continental only) breakfast, after which I was able to reclaim that same seat in the dome for the run into Montreal. The Victoria bridge crossing into Montreal is jaw dropping, especially when you see the turnout to another track in the middle.
I did a two-night stay at the Fairmont hotel which is directly above the underground Central Station - too ritzy for me. That left me with a day and half of doing walking tours of that area of the city; perhaps the most interesting encounter was the 19th Century canal that’s still operational.
Monday morning, it’s time to leave and board the #70 Adirondack, for a very scenic, blue sky, trip down the Hudson River.
:P :P :P :P HINT: At Montreal, the Red Cap will take your luggage to the all coach train, before the boarding call, AND place one piece of your luggage on a seat in that car, thus reserving you a seat in an otherwise ‘first come first serve’ train, which also means you don’t have to stand in the queue. Tip accordingly.
I exited that train at the Schenectady “Amtrak box station” for a couple hour layover. There’s a nice Irish Pub next to the station that made the wait more interesting. The # 49 Lake Shore Limited was right on time, which allowed me to get dinner in the diner, after dropping off my bags in Bedroom B. What a shame that the dining car has to be one of those Amfleet dinettes, where the tables and windows just don‘t match up, and the atmosphere is yuck.
The next morning the LSL was right on time into Chicago’s Union Station. After lunch in the food court and a short wait, once again, in the Metropolitan Lounge, it was aboard a roomette on the #7 Empire Builder for the trip back to La Crosse, and one last dinner in the best dining car in the Amtrak fleet.
Last edited by Scoring Guy on Fri Oct 02, 2009 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Scoring Guy
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Re: Wisconsin to Nova Scotia to Montreal and Back

Postby David Benton » Mon Sep 28, 2009 2:28 pm

Thanks for that , quite a trip , and very interesting report .
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Re: Wisconsin to Nova Scotia to Montreal and Back

Postby BAR » Sat Oct 10, 2009 4:16 pm

I really enjoyed reading your well written trip report. I have been over all of the rail routes that you covered with the exception of the Halifax-Montreal segment. The body of water that you paralleled for quite a while between Montreal and Schenectady on The Adirondack is not the Hudson River but in fact Lake Champlain. Had you continued on from Schenectady to New York City you would have travelled adjacent to the Hudson River on it's eastern bank for almost the entire length of the trip. I have been over almost all of Amtrak and VIA and The Adirondack between Montreal and New York is my favorite ride.
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