Talking Trains With Thelma

Born from fantasies about the Orient and Polar Expresses, my original intent for this trip was to take a trip across Canada by rail. I may or may not have also planned to write a fictional found story murder along the way. That story will have to wait to be told another time, as the train was cancelled due to the derailment of a freight train late last Wednesday night.

Rather than discuss my trip alterations in detail (you’ll see it here eventually) I’d rather like to take a moment to share the interaction that I had with the VIA Rail representative in the Downtown Toronto station. Because not everyone gets a chance to share their story, the least I can do in thanks is to provide a glimpse of the extraordinary Thelma to others:

Granddaughter of a railway engineer that helped build the foundations of the Canadian rail in the 1900s, Thelma has kept the family heritage alive as a veteran of the VIA rail company for over twenty years.

Now in her late 50s, with a bright and humble demeanor she manages to deflect the frantic worry of a young traveler. Describing that the freight trains “are too long, carry too much, move far too fast, and cause of too many serious environmental problems” when they unsurprisingly derail.

Animatedly, Thelma begins to discuss the abandoned rail lines that can (and should) be reopened to supplement passenger travel. Her hope was that the sacrifices of the early pioneers that built Canada’s railways would not be in vain.

She discussed that the new company owner seems to be knowledgeable and talks the talk, but “being a woman of a certain age, [she’s] heard a lot of bullshit coming from Men.”


At this point, I cracked up, hard.

The world needs more women like Thelma. Or rather, the world needs to hear more voices from women like her, because I know that there are plenty of them out there. Honest, passionate, no-nonsense and outspoken individuals that will be the catalysts for positive societal changes globally.

For what it’s worth, though she may never read this, I’ll be writing the VIA Rail and asking them to consider what she mentioned. I can tell that it’s something very vital to her very being, and it’s the least that I can do to thank her for making me laugh and helping me make the most of a bad situation.

End Aside.

As I left, she mentioned that I’d be heading out into Lumberjack country, and that I should “beware of wanton women out west.” I chortled, told her that I’d be fine, and thanked her for the alliteration.

And I won’t soon forget that even for a short time, someone made a positive impact on my life. Thank you Thelma, may your life be bettered for your kindness.