Do you think you have a busy lifestyle? Well, let us introduce you to Shawn Whaling. His many activities include: Operation Lifesaver presenter since February 2013, Locomotive Engineer for VIA Rail Canada since 2008, volunteer firefighter for the Puslinch Fire Rescue since 1987, Optimist Club member for twelve years, not to mention a dedicated husband and father of two amazing kids.
Even though Shawn started at Operation Lifesaver (one of VIA Rail’s safety partners) a mere eight months ago, he has already given 34 presentations to a cumulative total of 4,700 audience members. Now that’s impressive!
Shawn decided to get involved with Operation Lifesaver following a fatal incident involving a trespasser who could not hear the train whistle. This life-changing moment motivated Shawn to volunteer and spread the Operation Lifesaver message to as many people as possible in order to keep the public informed about train safety.
“My most memorable moment was after a school presentation when I asked if anyone had any questions,” Shawn recalls, “The school teacher had mentioned to the students that no comments were allowed, only questions. Even so, a Grade 3 girl raised her hand, stood up and said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to comment, however, I wanted to thank you for coming to our school and teaching us about train safety because a family member died last year in a train accident.’ Wow, did she floor me! I didn’t know what else to say besides: Thank you!”
This amazing volunteer has also inspired the beginning of a great partnership. Shawn has been including Operation Lifesaver’s “Train Your Brain” Activity Books and Operation Lifesaver (OL) pamphlets in VIA Rail’s kid bags to distribute at his presentations. When he shared this information with OL headquarters in Ottawa, an idea was born. VIA Rail and Operation Lifesaver are now working together to include OL’s Activity Books in all VIA Rail kid bags… right from the assembly line!
Shawn Whaling has gone out of his way to share the importance of safety and has found new and creative ways to reach a broader audience. VIA Rail is proud to have him on our team and thank him for his dedication do the cause.
(Thank you to Operation Lifesaver for the above story, which was adapted from the original featured in their newsletter, On The Right Track)
Taking over the airwaves this Holiday season were reports about the unpredictable and extreme weather. Though Canadians are accustomed to some cold and snow, extended periods of heavy snowfall and unprecedented temperature drops right through the Holiday season is, thankfully, not common.
Not only can these conditions make life miserable for many, they are also a major factor when it comes to safe and reliable travel. Cancelled and delayed flights, right up to this week, have caused disruptions at the airport and among travellers. Driving long distances has been hazardous and slow in many parts of the country. Although trains are affected by the weather, we are happy to report that all passengers who booked their travel through VIA Rail this season reached their destinations, but we do apologize for any inconvenience the delays may have caused.
Overall VIA Rail fared well, thanks to its knowledgeable and dedicated employees, and its travel partners. In the true spirit of the Holidays, all modes of transport worked in unison to make sure everyone reached their destinations safely. VIA Rail worked with bus lines to help transport passengers when trains were affected by the rough weather, and we worked with airlines to help transport their passengers when flights were affected. Overall, we helped 274,000 Canadians visit friends and family this season.
Comfortably seated on the train, passengers were able to stay connected and be productive, without worry of the winter weather outside. Here are a few facts:
We wish you a very Happy Holiday Season. Here are a couple heartwarming stories to help get you into the holiday spirit:
This year, during our Holiday Card contest, the winner of the $2,000 travel credit prize went to Ontario resident Denise Connor. We got a lovely and excited response from Denise which read, “Thank you so very much, you have no idea what this prize means to me! My little brother lives in British Columbia and I’ve only seen him 3 times in 18 years. This means I can now go see him when there was no way I could’ve ever afforded it!”
Meanwhile, over in Brockville, travellers got a nice treat when The Toronto Symphony Orchestra used our station as a backdrop for their Holiday Card: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1Bh-yQ2WNw&feature=youtu.be
Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our employees who work over the Holidays – our busiest time of the year. We appreciate your hard work and dedication and wish you all the best for the coming year.
Happy Holidays from VIA Rail!
A Cool Initiative for Cool Dogs
Since November 2012, 29 dogs have travelled on our long-haul train the Ocean for a second chance at a beautiful life. Few of them have ever felt the kind hand of a human, but that all changed thanks to a great idea by one compassionate VIA Rail employee.
Tara Clark, Senior Service Attendant at VIA Rail, knows the name of each train-travelling pooch. In her free time, she takes the journey from Montreal to Halifax to unite the dogs with their new families. These dogs, facing euthanasia due to overcrowding, are matched with their homes in Nova Scotia through Cool Dog Rescue, a small non-profit animal rescue program.
“Cool Dog Rescue’s biggest hurdle is the cost involved in transporting the dogs to Halifax,” Tara explained. “That’s when I realized I could be of huge assistance, with the help and support of my colleagues, my manager Sheila Duffy, and the company I’m so very proud to work for.”
“This is a labour of love for Tara and the Cool Dog Rescue organization. Congratulations to them,” says Sheila. “It’s heartwarming to see so many smiling faces at Halifax station: the customers, the foster families, and especially the wagging tails of the dogs who get a second chance at life.”
Treats in hand, Montreal’s station employees ensure the kennels are ready and set up with comfy blankets. Locomotive Engineers are always eager to see the latest rescues, who waste no time showering them with sloppy kisses. Baggage handlers at stations along the way and onboard employees are also of enormous help, ensuring dogs are as comfortable as possible on their journey.
“My mission continues,” Tara says. “But without the love, and care and support from my VIA Rail colleagues, this wouldn’t be possible. I am now known as the ‘dog lady’ and that absolutely makes my heart smile.”
At VIA Rail, we like to take some time during the Holiday season to acknowledge the work and dedication of our employees. Every year across the country hundreds of employees are recognized for their many years of service with the company.
In 2013 alone, 598 employees celebrated a cumulative total of 10,600 years of service. We also celebrate the 187 people who are retiring this year, among whom about 20 are former employees of CN or CP, with over 40 years of service each!
Frank Carosello, one of this year’s retirees, has had the opportunity to play different roles and work in several different departments over his 34 year career at VIA Rail. In a farewell letter to his fellow employees Frank noted, “The experience of seeing many satisfied customers over the years was gratifying… The passion and excitement I feel today while seeing one of our trains rolling by, is still the same as I felt 34 years ago.”
Employee recognition will be taking place in seven cities across Canada, between November 7th (in Vancouver) and December 13th (in Montréal). Through the Québec-Montréal-Toronto region, 450 employees will be recognized for their work and 130 people are retiring this year. From Vancouver to Winnipeg, 93 employees will be recognized and 35 people are retiring. And From Halifax through Moncton, 55 employees will be recognized and 22 people are retiring.
VIA Rail extends its sincerest thanks and congratulations to all employees for their many years of service and for sharing their love of the rail industry with us.