I shut the door of my Orient Express cabin and we pull out of Gare Centrale. The train belongs to a 1930s idea of travel. The guard for my carriage knocks on my door and asks me whether I would like the first or second sitting for dinner, breakfast and lunch. We creep through the tatty backyards of Montreal – rattling along badly aligned rails and lurching over the points.
With the city behind us the top speed still seems to be about 50 miles an hour – two days trundling through the forests of New Brunswick. The back of the train is something from a Buster Keaton movie – a club car with aluminium armchairs and wrap-around windows. At the very back is a door at the centre of the curving metal walls. The window in the door looks directly back along the rails and perfectly frames the receding tracks as they disappear into the forest. At the other end of the car there is a half-spiral staircase flanked by a row of 5 clocks set to the various Canadian time zones. Up the stairs is the viewing deck – 1950s airline seats and a ceiling of glass that arches above the passengers’ heads. The viewing deck is about 2 foot higher than the rest of the train so that you can look forward across the roofs of the carriages towards the distant engine. Mesmerized by the view, I sit for hours watching the train twisting through the yellowing, reddening leaves of the forests. Eventually I’m the last passenger left on the deck and in the failing light I watch the landscape slide endlessly, emptily past.