"We had to sit three to a seat meant for two people, and sailors stretched out on the luggage racks above. Even the restrooms were crowded."
Mirandy Hudson, and I was in the RCAF, WD branch.
I was stationed in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, when I planned a trip home to Vancouver for Christmas - a trip that was to take me a whole week. A friend Betty Ramsey and I took the duty boat across the harbour to Halifax, and joined hordes of other service personnel all trying to board the same train. Betty managed to get on, but I had to wait several hours for the next one. This one was very crowded, too. We had to sit three to a seat meant for two people, and sailors stretched out on the luggage racks above. Even the restrooms were crowded. We ran into a snowstorm before reaching Montreal, and were held up for sixteen hours. The water pipes froze. The conductor struggled through, calling for a doctor. Apparently a small baby had pneumonia.
In Montreal I called my Corporal, who was there on sick leave. She and her cousin came and took me home with them for a few hours. A lovely break before again joined the crowds at the station. Miraculously, I was reunited with Betty. We made it on to the train, and slept as best we could on the crowded seat.
At 7 am, the conductor announced a twenty minute stop in North Bay. We got off to get a quick coffee and a bun, but when we got out, the train was just pulling away from the station. The station-master wired ahead to the next little town to have our belongings waiting for us there, and told us a special would be coming through at 1 pm - a special being either war brides or wounded. This train wasn't crowded, so the conductor made up a berth for us. Alas, an hour later a wheel came off the engine, and we sat for hours in a deserted snow covered area.
We arrived in Winnipeg late at night. We'd missed our connection, but we heard a sailor say there was a train leaving the other station, Canadian National Railway, so we crowded into a Navy van, and managed to board this other train. It was standing room only, but a WD next to Betty offered to share her lower berth. This prompted a lady next to me to share her upper berth, and a Christmas cake her mother had made. Not much sleep, but she was an interesting companion - the only female geologist in Canada at the time. In Edmonton, most of the passengers debarked, and the conductor offered us a berth for twenty dollars, an exorbitant fee, but we paid because we were desperate for sleep. So we arrived in Vancouver, rested after all, and ready to enjoy beautiful Christmas.