Category Archives: Train Stations

Only Child has a ton of problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Only child ponders too many problems

Just got back last night from holidays visiting my cousins in various places in southern Ontario. Visit was relaxing and enjoyable but trouble began when trying to get home.

I like travelling by train. It is in my blood as my late father worked for the railway as a time-keeper. Since he died, railway travel has changed in many ways including the company created to run rail passenger service in Canada. VIA rail has not been exactly good to me.

When I reserved my “tickets” by phone they emailed me the boarding passes and a link to subscribe to their alert system for updates to my email. I don’t have a cell phone, so text wouldn’t work for me.

No problems on the train going to Waterloo, but the return trip from Grimsby turned into another nightmare (I have had issues coming home by train before in other years). I got my alert about half an hour before train time. The alert said train was arriving in Grimsby on time. So I shut down my laptop.

At the station my cousin who drove me there and I waited and waited for ages. There was no wi-fi in the area – she checked with her smart phone. So no point turning on my laptop and checking my email. She phoned her husband and had him check it out. He texted her back with a message that he had signed her up for the VIA text alert for this train (coming all the way from New York City early yesterday morning). She got two alerts of late times for it to arrive in Grimsby and before there in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

It finally arrived one hour and 15 minutes late. I was so upset that I fell at the top of the narrow metal stairs where you board the train. True, I had bags and my laptop in its padded case (well, I was travelling) but the VIA employee didn’t help me with the suitcases. They stand at the bottom so it is kind of backwards to take your bag up the stairs. I didn’t hurt myself and it appears all my belongings were okay.

But I was very angry and I screamed, but said “I don’t need medical aid – this train has been delayed enough.”

Then someone helped me carrying my bags to an empty seat.

Once settled and the steward came to check my boarding pass, I asked what caused the delay. He said something vague about at the US/Canadian border. I clarified that it was the Canadian border police, but he wouldn’t say what – just a vague answer that it can depend on the official at the border. He did say (in answer to my question) that it didn’t happen often.

The young woman across the aisle had heard all this and she came over. She said she got on at St. Catharines, Ontario (stop before me), the station there was closed and there was just a robotic announcement that there was a delay but no time given. The Grimsby station is just one of those tiny enclosed shelters that seats a dozen or so people, often not even open. It looks like a pop-up retail place.

The young lady went back to talk to the steward. She returned and told me there was a problem at the border – one family when talking to the border police (who come on the train) said they couldn’t find the husband on the train. There was a bit of a language problem (obviously not French as VIA rail employees are bilingual English/French – Canada’s two official language). Apparently the “missing fellow” had gone to another coach and had been processed by the border police okay. Finally the border police found him – we figured by taking a family member through all the cars until they found them.

The young lady and I agreed that the whole family causing the problem, in particular the man, should have been tossed out of the train and not allowed to stay in Canada for causing all those problems.

As the train arrived in Toronto (one hour and 15 minutes late), the arrival announcement was made and again (they did this last year too) they gave the farthest away place to get a taxi. VIA still doesn’t know that taxis line up right outside the west front door of Union Station.

VIA didn’t cause the problem; but they don’t handle all their notifications so passengers can find out.

Heads are going to roll here – when I have time to do something about it – at the very least send a complaint about VIA rail procedure – notifications and closed stations in particular.

But I have another problem – when I turned on my laptop and desktop computers this morning the Internet wasn’t connecting and then it came and went. Could get into my email program on both computers, though – so far. Called Bell Canada (my ISP) and they did some checking at their end. They think it is a cable at my end and are sending a technician who is supposed to be here today between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. He better show up and fix it. I have work to do and some of it requires being online and some requires phone calls which I had planned to do this morning. I also have to run errands to get some groceries.

I think that God might have it in for me – he didn’t cause any of these problems – but he didn’t listen to me when I asked that everything be working right with the train service home and my Internet service. At least I got home okay – finally. Now God has to make sure this Internet Cable problem get fixed pronto today without complications and it must stay fixed.

All these unwanted problems raise my stress level which affects my precarious physical health.

My garden is still lovely, though.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Alphabet list, Anger, Anxiety, God, Holiday Travel, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Railways, Stress, Train Stations, VIA Rail

Only Child on Toronto Public Transit construction then and now

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

The older (since 1980s) Toronto streetcars which Only Child likes

I am rewriting the chapter “City Travels with Mom” in my memoir and it got me thinking about construction for public transit then and now. Here is an excerpt from my memoir about construction for the first subway line in Toronto.

During the first line, the Yonge-to-Eglinton subway’s building phase, Mom and I would emerge from Eaton’s or Simpson’s department stores at Queen and Yonge Streets into a deconstructive mess. Yonge Street had become the big Toronto dig, with the construction crews using the “cut and cover” method of tunnelling sections at a time, digging by hand and leaving heavy timber coverings supported by “steel cross members” for walkways. In winter, the Queen and Yonge corner was snow, slosh, mud and cold. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Digging up the Dirt, ©2014 Sharon A. Crawford).

What a difference from today. This summer Toronto is experiencing the worst constructive mess and milieu in my lifetime. Just for public transit alone, there is a big LRT (much of it underground) being built in the northern part of the city. Although it is necessary to get the people in this overloaded city moving, the actual construction is causing problems. The tunnelling method is different (see http://urbantoronto.ca/news/2014/04/construction-progressing-eglinton-crosstown-lrt), but intersections where it is occurring have slowdowns and stoppages of some sort happening. This drives motorists into residential areas and may be partly to blame for the death of a seven-year-old girl hit by a car in one of these residential areas.

Toronto Transit (TTC) is also bringing in new streamlined streetcars which I hate. I’ve posted about this before. The first of these streetcars go on the Spadina Ave. line August 31, so now we get intersections completely closed for upgrades to the tracks. The TTC has removed the old streetcars and temporarily put on buses.

Then there is the construction further downtown on Front St. and Queen’s Quay. On Front St. it is the renovation of Union Station – both the choo-train part and a new subway train station underground. Both, especially the subway train station with its so narrow platforms, were needed and at least it is being done in stages. But what convoluted passageways for pedestrians – lots of outside stairs up and down to get to streets. And the street itself for one long block is completely closed to traffic – there are a couple of make-shift crossways from Union Station to the Royal York Hotel across Front Street. Maybe I should be thankful I’m travelling by bus leaving for my holidays but am returning by train, late at night, so will have to check out the latest walk-around for then so I can get to the subway without problems to come home.
Queen’s Quay is being changed to more of a pedestrian-friendly walkway with fewer lanes for vehicles. Despite the stairs business outside Union Station, this Queen’s Quay issue is much more of a nuisance and as far as I’m concerned bad for the tourist industry last year and this year as Harbourfront Centre and all its summer activities go on there now. I went down once this summer and that may be it – just because of all the construction. It was so bad there was a cop directing pedestrian traffic in the middle of the blocked-off street. At that point, vehicles weren’t allowed. The buses (again temporarily replacing streetcars) have their routes fractured. You literally have to get the bus going west at one end of the closed block and the bus going east at the other end and never the two shall meet. I decided I could do better with the 10-minute or so walk from Union Station (even with all its stairs at one end and crossing the pseudo-highways – with lights – near the other end). Some people have found their own way through this Queen’s Quay mess rather than the marked off ones. And I don’t blame them.
And into this milieu is the Gardner Expressway – an up-high overhead expressway built over 50 years ago and now crumbling. That end of the Gardner near Union Station and Queen’s Quay is also going through construction
Many of these updates/upgrades renovations are for the PanAm Games coming to Toronto in July 2014. With all due respect to the games, this pre-construction is driving us all nuts. And I don’t mean just motorists but also pedestrians and cyclists.
I suppose this is all due to our over-expanding city (people-wise and condo-wise – many built and being built in…you guessed it…downtown Toronto).
No wonder I relish my little corner of Toronto, especially out in my garden (when the rain isn’t falling down, but that’s another story). You can actually see a few butterflies and hear the birds sing. Of course, we also get racoons and squirrels…

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Mother and Child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Railways, Road Construction, Toronto, Toronto public transit, Train Stations, Union Station Toronto

Only Child looks at serendipity

Only Child contemplates serendipity

In my short story, Road Raging, I ask the question “Do we land in situations by chance or does someone out there direct the traffic?” Events this weekend in Toronto vis-a-vis where I was had me thinking seriously about this question. And growing up Catholic also factored in.

As most of you probably know we had a shooting at one of Toronto’s largest malls, The Eaton Centre, Saturday evening. One man died and six were injured, two critically, not to mention the fear, panic etc. when it happened. I’m not going into more details except to say that Toronto Police Services arrested a suspect yesterday. If you want to read more details, you can go to online newspaper stories such as those at http://news.nationalpost.com, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/06/04/toronto-eaton-centre.html, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news, http://ca.news.yahoo.com/toronto-police-made-arrest-eaton-centre-shootings-112342482.html

Toronto also had another situation Friday and into the late evening. After a dry spell, Toronto received torrential rains which flooded a main subway station – Union Station, which is also the hub for Go trains and VIA rail and Amtrek trains. The railway train tracks were okay and except for some water on the lower Go train commuter waiting area, the main part of the station was basically okay. The flood was on the subway tracks, subway platform and main area of the subway station– some rain pouring down the stairs from the street. A sewer problem either compounded or caused it.

Both Friday and Saturday I attended the Bloody Words crime writing conference in downtown Toronto. I was bemoaning the location being just a bit out of the main downtown core until the Friday. When travelling on the subway I heard the announcement about the flood and that subway trains were not running under the main street (Yonge St.) from Union Station to Bloor Station and were turning back on the other line at Osgoode Station. My stop for the conference was Osgoode Station and then it was a three or four minute walk to the hotel. The service resumed while I was on the way home – after I exited the subway for my bus.

Fast forward to early Saturday evening with the pre-banquet reception. As I milled around and chatted with other crime writers and readers I heard somebody mention that a shooting had occurred at The Eaton Centre. She said  that maybe we should go there (because of our writing focus) but none of us did.

Just as well. After the banquet I caught up on some of the news. The subways were not stopping at Dundas Station and Queen Station  (the two stations encompassing The Eaton Centre) and The Eaton Centre was closed. Being a writer I had to nose around a bit even if from a subway. I took the subway line around Union and up Yonge. At Union I leaned into the window (can’t lean out – windows don’t open) to check the platform. No water remained but I could see a big mop. Queen and Dundas stations looked eerie in their emptiness. At Dundas I could see a police officer by one of the exit doors to the subway platform.

Back home I watched the news – full screen (those small iPhone screens don’t cut it with me) and realized the seriousness of the situation. I saw the panic; the terror and when I heard that one of the random victims was a 13-year-old boy, I think that’s when it hit me.

There but for some grace I go. If the conference location had been at its former place there would have been no subway running by it Friday and Saturday and we’d have surely been in the crowd outside –  that hotel is right next to The Eaton Centre.

Makes you wonder – is somebody out there looking after us?

Being an ex-Catholic who is a skeptic/optimist and sometime pessimist, I have to say. “Maybe some of the time.”

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Floods, Gratitude, Only child, Public Transportation, Railways, Rain, Serendipity, Sharon Crawford, Shooting, Toronto public transit, Train Stations, Union Station Toronto

Only child returns from holidays

Only Child's home sweet home and garden from the front.

You know the saying about holidays, “It’s good to get away but it is always nice to come home.” That seems to describe me when I go away for a holiday the last few years. I can make it for about a week and then I get homesick, not for the routine as one of my cousins suggested, but for my garden and house. Somehow seeing the homes and gardens of the many cousins I stayed with, gives me ideas; my mind follows that train of thought and you can get the picture here.

It didn’t used to be like this. When my son was growing up we flew to the east coast and west coast of Canada visiting friends and family. Often we were away for two or three weeks. I don’t recall becoming homesick although I do remember worrying about some fruit I forgot to put in the compost which was left to rot in the fridge. Well, some grapes left in the fridge this time round grew some white mold. But I had my friends next door checking the house and garden, watering plants, bringing in the little print mail I get, so when away I didn’t worry about the house and garden. I just missed them.

However, I needed this holiday away from work and dealing with the myriad of stuff requiring fixing, purging, etc. at my place. Therein is the crux for anyone working from home: sometimes you need to get away from it all wherever you chose as your destination (or in my case, five different destinations). While away I wrote nothing but personal email replies and edited nothing. In fact, I was so out of the writing/editing/loop that one of my Michigan cousins (a retired circuit judge) found a spelling inconsistency in road signs and pointed it out to me. But I took photos of cousins, friends and gardens and showed my garden and previous holiday photos to my cousins and friend, thanks to a memory stick.

Upon my return I went into a house sorting, gardening and then marketing (editing) frenzy, plus sorting out the business email (unlike some people I know, I don’t deal with business – online or by phone when on holidays and let my clients know beforehand.) That’s another key – don’t take the business with you, unless you are on a business trip. In this technology-based society, we forget to take breaks.

Take my two seat companions on the train to Strathroy, Ontario. No. 1 was a young male plugged into his Ipod until he got off one stop after the trip’s beginning. The young lady who next sat beside me began with her laptop, then moved to her e-reader and finally as the train rolled into London, Ontario, her Iphone. Except for the e-reader, where’s the relaxation in all that?

So, my only regret is I didn’t get my third train ride, the one home from Grimsby, Ontario. The train, coming from Albany, NY, got stuck for hours in Rochester. So VIA Rail arranged for a cab to pick up those of use coming from St. Catharines and Grimsby at the railway stations at train time. Good move for the six of us going to Toronto Union Station. The taxi (a big van) ride was smooth and we arrived about the same time as the train would have.  And I didn’t have to lug my bag and laptop up the steep train steps and try to make it along the narrow aisles without having my bag’s strap latch onto the back of the seat.

So, I tell myself. But, hey. I’m the daughter of a railway man and train travel is in my blood.

Now, I’m getting serious about taking the train to the east coast and west coast of Canada. Not this year. Now I have bills to pay, have to put food on the table, and there are house and yard repairs. (the hose sprung a big leak and needs replacing).

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you go away? And do you keep yourself plugged in 24/7 like you do when at home and at work?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Cousins, Escaping problems, Family, Fruit, Gardening, Holidays, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Railways, Train Stations, Travel, Vacations

Only Child takes the train

Steam engine like those that fascinated and frightened Only Child when she was much younger. From http://www.copyright-free-photos.org.uk/trains/5-steam-engine.htm

Train travel is in my blood. When I look at all the security hoops of air travel, the current Air Canada customer service employees’ strike, and the high gasoline prices at the pumps, trains look better and better. As many of you have probably read in previous posts, my late father worked for CN Railways (then CNR) as a timekeeper. So, Mom, Dad and I rode the rails for free for our holidays. Back in those grey ages, trains had something else to draw me in – steam engines.  I write in my memoir about encountering a steam engine during one of these trips to my grandfather’s farm:

No steam engines on this train to Guelph – it rolled along pulled by one of the new whippersnappers called a diesel locomotive. But I get my steam engine at Guelph. We’re waiting outside on the Guelph platform for our train to Palmerston. I’m showing Darlene all the tracks way out beyond the station behind us. I see activity between two trains parked on parallel tracks. One train puffs a little steam; the other seems at rest except for the dollies of huge mailbags wheeled from it to the little puffer. The now familiar PA voice broadcasts, “Train #34 for Toronto now boarding on platform 2, Train #174 for Hamilton on platform 3, and Train #… Then I hear it … a distant whoo-oo, whoo-oo that steadily grows louder and then chug-chug- whoo-oo as another train rounds the corner. I put Darlene to my left ear and my right hand over my right ear; my purse dangles by its strap from my right arm. Thick charcoal smoke whirls up and behind the chimney top of the massive black engine charging into the station. The smoke resembles a cloud of dark incense, but smells like soot mixed with tar. This engine leads like a big black God with a stern round face who commands respect and suddenly I feel back in church. When this God grinds to a halt, its mixed bag of followers – mail cars, baggage cars and passenger cars – stop. I remove my hand and doll from my ears and fight the urge to kneel down. Mom grabs my arm and leads me to another trainman standing by another of those steel square footstools.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Chapter 7 – Riding the Rails with Dad, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford. Darlene is/was one of my dolls.)

Of course, something else besides steam engines is missing from train travel today – all the routes to and stops at the small towns. Heck, many of the train station buildings are gone for good and for the small towns that still are on railway routes, the train station is like a tiny box, smaller than my living room. And these stops are often “flag stops,” i.e., the train doesn’t stop here unless someone gets off or on – and that information goes into the railway’s computer system, another change from coal and fire and water tanks along the way for those steam engines.

But some things about train travel remain – the more relaxed atmosphere inside and the scenery outside the window. Take the Canadian Rockies. An airplane-view in the sky shows small bumps below and a definite disconnect. Going through the Rockies by train puts you right there. And what about going through farmers’ fields on the Prairies and in southwestern Ontario? For those used to 21st century “essentials,” you can hook up to WiFi (or not) on trains; you can read, look out the window, talk to your seatmate, or snooze. And there is more room to put your bags – you can even bring them on board even though some railways limit the number. You aren’t patted down before getting on although signs in the larger railway stations do give security notices that you may need to open your bag for checking.

Then there are the old railway stations still left and open – from the huge Union Station in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to the smaller unique ones in Stratford and Kitchener, Ontario. Unfortunately if your are going to Grimsby and Strathroy, Ontario you get those box-stations.

So, like every summer vacation, I plan to take the train and enjoy despite one physical feature of them that remains – the narrow steel steps onto the train and the precarious and small steel footstool to hoist yourself and all your baggage onto the train.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

and teaches Memoir Writing workshops

for the Toronto Public Library. Next one: June 15/11

Danforth/Coxwell Branch http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca

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Filed under Family, Memoir writing, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Railways, Scenery, Steam engines, Train Stations, Train travel, Uncategorized, Vacations