Trains

The tour by the Winnipeg Ballet in 1945 to Ottawa, Regina, Saskatoon and Edmonton was done entirely by train

Sleeping cars of course and the dining car. The often repeated song of the time was “passengers will please refrain, from flushing toilets, while the train, is standing in the station …” (various endings were added).

The dining car was a place to be remembered. White linen table clothes, real silver cutlery and food to be remembered. The famous breakfast was smoked goldeye, from Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba.

Sleeping at the beginning of such tours was almost impossible, until you allowed the rhythm and the noise of the train to lull you into sleep. The coaches were usually too hot, but even that became acceptable.

Being able to walk the full length of the train did help on those long journeys.

For theatrical touring groups from the very earliest times, the train was the only means of transporting the company. It was a part of life.

Fortunately there does not seem to be a major train accident in the history of dancers moving by that mode of travel. There was the company though, where the train was delayed, and the dancers found bandages and managed to wrap themselves in all manner of ways, to make it look like there had been an accident. Their joke, as I understand, was not appreciated.

Touring by train in Europe was another story. There are countries where sleeping compartments are available, but sleeping accommodations, are normally ìcouchettesî. These can be as simple as tiered plastic covered mattress boxes, no curtains, no sheets, no pillows. Or, there can be curtains in between, with sheets and pillows to sleep on.

The trains are smaller than North American trains, but then, so are a lot of the people. The sleeping accommodations were made to suit the smaller population.

Touring by train in Japan is quite another story. To begin with, they stick rigidly to their timetable. You miss it, you wait for the next train. The Bullet train is one of the most comfortable in the world. No noise. But, you are moving at between 160 to 170 miles per hour. In case you are not sure, there is a speedometer at the front of each coach. No sleeping cars that I know of, simply because it takes no time at all to cover vast distances.

In the 50ís the National Ballet did quite a lot of touring by train, coast to coast as a matter of fact the first Eastern tour was completely by train.

In 1958 on its first Mexican tour, the National travelled there and back, by train.