home > stories > Montreal to Halifax

Montreal to Halifax

 

I'm down in Halifax; I rode the rails from Montreal to here. What a gong show. I arrived at the catchout in Angrignon at maybe 2:30 pm on Tuesday [Oct 17/06]. Lots of trains were going by but none stopping, and all just a little too fast to hit on the fly. (I enjoyed all the hobo tags there, which included the infamous Bozo Texino). On Wednesday morning I said Okay I'll give it till 3:00 pm. And wouldn't you believe it this mixed freight comes crawling in at 2:45. I nail a bad grainer on the fly just in case it doesn't stop, but sure enough it does, right where it was supposed to, so I hopped back off and when running up the parallel mainline with my heavy bag and guitar weighing me down, back to a better grainer (although I had to ride the front of it). I fell along the way, that was the worst. There were block signals there that showed a green for that track too - another freight, or old man VIA could come roaring around the curve any minute and there I was laid out between the rails, pack on back. But luckily for me it didn't show before I was aboard, and off we went, past St. Henri, through the old yard, across the St. Lawrence, and then highballing down to Charny, and the big Joffre yard on the south side of the Fleuve at Quebec. Now I was expecting to ride this grainer all the way to Hali, and was a bit surprised that after sleeping in it, stopped in Joffre yard, the whole train got broken up and thrown onto various tracks. That grainer, although it was full, was definitely ditched and not going anywhere for a while. I snuck (as best I could in the busy yard) away and went for brekky. Now the nice thing about Joffre is the mainlines are right on the outside on the north and there's a bike path that goes through the woods right beside them. When I came back there was a string of doublestacks just waiting there for me. I went exploring first, though, up towards the head end where there might have been grainers. And walked right into a brakeman, who was working on that very train. We talked in French for a minute, then I kept moving. He said I should make sure the conductor didn't see me cause I'd get busted, but that I should ride in one of the units. I appreciated the friendly advice but instead headed towards the rear and found a doublestack well with a floor (the only one it seemed) and a 53 foot container on top of a 40 - that makes a good roof. It was not long before we left Joffre, highballing to La Pocatiere before turning south to the next crew change at Edmonston. Edmonston was no problem, and as we pulled out and it started to get dark I laid out my sleeping bag and slept all the way to Moncton. The big bridges not too far out of Edmonston were one of the highlights of the trip though. Even after dark I could see how these trestles soared - one of them right over the top of some little village. In Moncton I was sound asleep, till again the train got broken up with me stranded out in the yard. It was still dark but I had no idea where to go for a bite to eat or a coffee. I drank some nasty water out of a puddle (actually it tasted great - I just assume it was nasty). I packed up my stuff and started walking around the yard. People drove by but nobody cared. I found the exit but there was no city in sight - I guess the yard is a ways out. It looked like maybe my train was being rebuilt though, and so I determined to either catch it out or get busted trying. Back in the yard I could see the conductor - he'd just added my string back to three big locomotives, and was walking towards the head end after coupling the air lines. I was a ways off still, but close enough to make it. But between me and my train was a string of junk - either being built or sorted I don't know - but either way it was rolling past me, blocking the way. I might have climbed over while it was moving, but that would have been pushing my luck - it wasn't going that slow, and my bag was heavy. Meanwhile that conductor was getting closer and closer to the head end. Still no end in sight to the junk train which was backing into the yard tracks from around a curve. Finally the conductor climbed up into the cab, and I knew he wouldn't waste much time getting moving. It was still a few precious minutes before the head end of the junk train came into view. As soon as it rolled slowly past (actually I can't remember that - it might have stopped for me to climb over the cars) I took off running - back to the same doublestack well that I'd ridden in to Moncton, which I knew had a floor. I didn't care if the yardmen saw me running, I ignored the video cameras up on the posts, I just ran and climbed unceremoniously back into the well. I waited for the bull to shine his light in my face, but he never showed. We sat there a few minutes, with me all nervous, then pulled out of the yard, arriving without incident in Halifax some four or five hours later. In Halifax I ditched the train in the first little yard (was it called Rockington... something like that), by the Bedford Basin, and went for coffee. By the time I started walking into town, that train was already being broken up and delivered to the Bedford container terminal.