As a relative newcomer to Vancouver, The Railway became a hub of my activities, the nexus to many worlds. Through work (conveniently a block away), I bonded with co-workers and their circle of friends for late Thursday nights. Through radio, I caught up with fellow hosts at either Shindig on Tuesdays or shows put up by associated bands, audience members, other friends or whoever wound up near the mic on Saturdays. Sometimes up front to catch the frontal onslaught, sometimes along the narrow corridor leading to the west room, conspiring or jaw agape at amazement. Then there was the separate room towards Seymour that looked as plush as a past coronation and often a mess of a get together.
Some weeks, I’d be there 3 nights a week; some nights, as I pinballed between friends, kept going until they locked the outside doors, keeping us woozy and inside, trying to chase a homey vibe whilst realizing the next day awaited. Cherry petals would bloom at window height, rain putting pause to leaving right away. Staff would amuse us with past glories and future plans, the regulars as constant as the miniature trains that puttered overhead. For a time, the pints flowed passionately. However, in the recent past, bands were paid less, the supplies weren’t always refilled in time, the union broken and much like the carpet torn out, years of footfalls and drops of loose beverages erased, the life drained out slowly.
It felt like the vaunted “third space” was never acknowledged for what it was; a welcome source of comfort and entertainment, intentional or otherwise. Out-of-towners would hear about its spirit and bask in it, hearing of the time when the back patio housed as many smokers as there were attendees by the stage, people squeezed in tight, jackets left by radiators. It felt like magic but the last magician didn’t grasp its power and it spilled out. I see “Self Serve Bar” still lit in red and purple from Dunsmuir as I ride past; oh to walk back up as instructed and find my self, served, unbarred. This venue was home and we were all orphaned.