On April 16, 24 King’s students will kick off their summer breaks with a trip on the King’s Express, their own personal train car. They will enjoy the company of friends, cut down on carbon emissions and witness the making of a tradition as they begin their journeys home.
Departing from Halifax Station early in the afternoon, the train will make a 21-hour journey to arrive in Montreal at nine o’clock the following morning. While some passengers see the Express as a direct route home, others, including three students responsible for organizing the project, are along to enjoy the ride.
Daniel Brown, Emma Norton and Juliana Lufkin were at the heart of the planning for what is to hopefully become a King’s tradition. The project was born when Dr. Wayne Hankey, founding director of the Foundation Year Programme, mentioned the idea in a conversation with Brown. “He had really done his homework,” said Brown. “He grilled me on how crazy it was that I’m into sustainability when I would fly in from Vancouver for school every year.”
Brown shared the idea with Norton, and the project continued to take shape. “It took a few months of proposals and presentations,” Brown commented. “We needed a clear, coherent vision of what we wanted before we could really start putting pressure on people.”
When Brown proposed the idea to Sustainability King’s, Lufkin volunteered to help with the organization. Together, Brown, Norton and Lufkin communicated with VIA Rail to make the King’s Express a reality. “We decided what we wanted from VIA Rail and what we could provide,” said Norton.
“There have been some rumours that VIA Rail wasn’t very cooperative, but they were really supportive and excited to work with us,” Norton said. “This isn’t something that they do a lot, but they were really interested in having students on board.”
Brown explained that the cost of tickets was integral to the success of the project. The King’s Express needed to be a financially competitive option in comparison with other ways that students tend to travel. “We needed taking the train to be a real no-brainer,” he said.
According to Lufkin, 24 of 48 available tickets were sold.
Norton commented that ticket sales for the King’s Express were good, considering this year’s circumstances. Many students were hesitant to buy tickets because they had been expecting Dalhousie professors to strike until about six hours before sales closed, she said. Students worried that taking the train could interfere with their academic commitments if the semester were to be extended. Still, “sales were successful enough that we can guarantee that the train will be running in years to come, which is the most important thing,” said Norton.
The environmentally-friendly aspect of the project is one close to Norton’s heart. Taking the train as opposed to flying reduces carbon emissions by 92 per cent. “Sustainability is about the environment, but it’s also about people, and the economy as well,” said Norton. “This is a tradition that will last, and it will really help build the King’s experience. This is a way that students will be able to get home from school every year, and the carbon reductions could be really significant.”
Brown embraces the antiquated feel of the this new custom. “I see it as an extension of the wonderful formal meal tradition,” he said. Brown predicts that students taking the train can be expecting a unique sendoff from the King’s community: “There will be bagpipes, and hopefully many faculty and staff members to bid us farewell.” Brown commented that students riding the train are welcome to dress in formal attire, if they so choose.
Lufkin looks forward to taking the King’s Express as a leg of her journey home to Maryland. “It’s just generally a brilliant idea, but I think the similarities to the Hogwarts Express from Harry Potter are most exciting for me,” she said. “And the fact that it’ll be a whole day after exams spent chilling out with friends while going home.”
“It’s just going to be fantastic,” she went on. “Everyone should bring musical instruments, card games, whatever they like to do to relax.”
In the original print edition, the article incorrectly stated that Juliana Lufkin is from Maine. She is from Maryland. We regret this error.