An expat in Vancouver: Train travel

Amtrak Cascades in January

Now that airfares are beyond what’s reasonable to pay, I’ve been forced to resort to the Amtrak train for my Vancouver to Portland travel. There is really just one daily train: the #513 Cascades departing at 6:40am from the Main Street Terminal arriving in Portland, theoretically, at 2:50pm.

All the rest are in fact buses to Seattle, where after an hour layover you board the actual train to Portland. That rigamarole means what would be a seven hour drive becomes what in New York might be called an 11 hour schlep ride.

I’ve taken the #513 three times and will do so again.  Although it is a pathetically slow haul, it has its Old World appeal in its waterside views and leisurely pace. It leaves early enough to catch the sunrise over the delta in Richmond, B.C. or over the various broad bays that lay south of Vancouver all the way to Bellingham, Washington, where the waterways fragment and multiply until reaching Tacoma. Unlike the highway, the train track hugs the coast and steers clear of civilization, and I have each time caught sight of herons, hawk, eagles and seabirds, and even an occasional otter and seal.

Because of the early hour of departure, most of the few passengers on-board for the first couple of hours are content to doze, and you can gaze on this splendid view of water and wildlife with only your thoughts.

Early morning train

If that’s not enough entertainment for you, the wifi usually works and there are power outlets next to the seats. The bistro opens as soon as the train leaves the station. I hear the coffee is not bad.

After Seattle the tone changes brusquely, as groups board and some people invariably make for the train bistro to drink beer regardless how early in the day it is to begin imbibing. The landscape changes and becomes industrial, sparsely populated with the odd homestead of small house with peeling paint and rusted farm equipment, or lonely nondescript clusters of new houses, squalid strip malls and truck stations. You are half-way there.  Forests open occasionally to the water or a flat industrial or agricultural establishment.

What a chill from the train windows this Sunday morning! I imagine the people in their homes snug and snoring under warm blankets. Luckily, the train is toasty too.

After weeks of rain in Vancouver, I am surprised to see so much snow. The colors under the heavy clouds are white, gray and brown.

Here are some other views taken onboard.

South of Vancouver, in the delta

Over the border

Northern Washington state

A splash of sun in-between clouds, rain and snow

One of those newer developments you see in Washington state

Washington state farmland

When it stopped snowing for a while

Old industry

Approaching Oregon

Every rise was blanketed

About kmazz

I spend as much time as possible pursuing my interests in global culture, photography, arts and politics.
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2 Responses to An expat in Vancouver: Train travel

  1. Madolin (Mummy) Karch says:

    This was so very interesting, kmazz. Your photos are so good … from one atmosphere to another all in the same trip. I have often though I would love to travel by train but one has to decide a city one would live to visit. Your train ride looked pretty good considering the time of year and I especially like the mention of the bistro being open when you boarded. Oh, that cup of coffee must be good to start your trip. I can remember the Bistro train on trips from and to Montreal/Toronto years and years ago. We sure had fun in that car. By the way, this is me, Madolin, Jenny’s Mom writing and I enjoy receiving your blogs. Bye for now. Madolin

  2. kmazz says:

    Thanks, Madolin. I’m glad you are enjoying them. I hope to meet you some day.

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