A cross country train trip, long on the bucket list, now crossed off as “DONE”.
We headed with our carry on luggage by bus and skytrain to Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, where we boarded “The Canadian”.
The Canadian is a transcontinental passenger train operated by Via Rail Canada with service between Union Station in Toronto, Ontario, and Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia (Wikipedia).
We were directed to our car and our seats which would be turned into beds in the evening. We had opted for upper and lower berths.
I will get to the layout and all that first. A lot of research had gone into this trip on my part and I didn’t find everything on line I had questions about. Not on the Via Rail site. Other blogs gave me lots (but not all) of information.
The railroad system in Canada has come a long way.
As Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada said on January 17, 1881:
“Our plan is to connect the great counties composing the Dominion from sea to sea by one vast iron chain, which cannot and will never be broken.”
Creating a railroad system in Canada, with its diverse geological nature, has been a challenge for sure, costing many lives over time, but it was done, eventually.
As I mentioned above, we opted for berths. Affordable and comfortable. Bunk beds: the upper berth not advisable for claustrophobic travelers or for those with fear of heights. Of course another option would be to go for 2 lower berths if traveling with a partner but then you have the chance that the bunk above you will be occupied by a stranger. No problem really, as each berth is individually closed off with curtains at night but you will have a “seat companion” in daytime. Another option is a cabin for 2. This one has more privacy (door) but the beds are still bunks. The one person cabin is something I personally would not go for. It has a curtain for privacy, and within the compartment you have a seat (like we had in the berth section) and a toilet. Yes, seat and toilet, in one tiny space, together. At night, when the bed is opened up, it covers the toilet….
The deluxe way to travel is in a Prestige cabin. A very spacious bed (no bunk), comfortable chairs, free drinks, super service, priority seating in the Prestige dome car etc. This comes with a big price tag.
I had wondered about storage of our luggage. Checked luggage went in a bagage car. But where was the carry-on to go? Well, that question was answered soon. Our small suitcases fit perfectly under our seats. Before going for dinner at night (and at which time the beds are going to be prepared) you take what you need out of your suitcases.
The upper berth has a net for small items. The lower berth has a shelf. All very practical.
We also checked out the washrooms and shower. Spacious washrooms (separate ones for ladies and gents) and a compact shower. No need to be afraid of falling in the shower in the forever moving train (except the times we had to wait for freight trains to pass) as it was a tight fit 😉
All meals on board were superb. Lots of gourmet choices!
Live entertainment was provided during the trip. We enjoyed the beautiful voice of Diana Braithwaite accompanied by Chris Whiteley on the guitar, trumpet and some other musical gadgets.
There were talks, games etc. throughout the day as well.
The dome cars were great for relaxed viewing of the Canadian country side.
All in all a wonderful experience!
Here is a photographic view of accommodation and amenities on the Canadian.
Mind you, taking pictures on a moving train is a challenge!
Our daytime seats. The seats form a comfortable bed (lower ) at night. The upper bunk is stored against the ceiling and comes down at night.
Getting comfortable in the top berth
Net for storage
Curtains for the 1-person cabins
1-Person cabin: seat and toilet.
The shower in our car
Bathroom (one for ladies, one for gents)
Narrow hallway through the train
Connection between 2 cars
Stairs to dome
Hallway in the prestige car
Prestige dome car
Monday, May 13
Off to Vancouver to start another adventure: traveling by train through Canada.
We left pretty much on time (3:00 pm) but got sidelined soon by freight trains (passenger trains in Canada have to yield to freight trains). On our way again it was fun to watch cities, well known to us, pass by. At 4:45 pm we rumbled through Fort Langley. In Mission we stopped for quite a while right on the bridge. I had hoped for daylight while going through the Fraser Canyon but that was not to be. But next morning showed us the Rockies!
All packed and ready to go
Bus stop in Maple Ridge
A bus and train ride later we arrived at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver
Waiting for the “all aboard”!
Getting ready to board
Bridges in the Greater Vancouver area
Passing the WestCoast Express
From the bridge in Mission
Traffic jam: caught between WestCoast Express and a freight train
We had passed through Kamloops, Clearwater, Blue River and Valemount under cover of darkness. Next morning we saw Mount Robson looming ahead of us, rode along Moose Lake and arrived in Jasper around noon. Here we got to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. Hari opted to check his emails inside the station but I wandered around a bit until it was time to board again.
Mount Robson ahead
Freight train graffiti
The domes were cleaned
Back on board
One of the 4 bears I saw
Part of a freight train, somewhere in Alberta
We approached Edmonton very late so we decided to stay on the train. We were getting used to the movements of the train so falling asleep was no problem anymore (first night was not that easy). Early morning we arrived in Saskatoon where some passengers got off and others got on. New travel companions in our compartment. We enjoyed traveling through the prairies under immense skies. It was interesting to still see grain elevators. Not as common a sight anymore as it used to be, but those typical structures were definitely still visible to us. Another stop we made was a brief one in Melville, still in Saskatchewan. We were, since a bit before Jasper, also 1 hour ahead of BC time.
Lots of these telegraph poles had fallen down, were broken by trees or just rotted away
We are now in Manitoba
Winnipeg we passed through (and stopped at) during the night. The crew changed here as well as the time. We gained another hour. Some time in the morning we entered Ontario, where we saw many more trees and lakes and even left-over snow patches. We also passed an ice covered river. It was also a rainy day!
Our first main stop was at Sioux Lookout.
Sioux Lookout, Ontario
You see the strangest names
Ice covered river
Our second day in huge Ontario. Heading for our destination: Toronto.
We were making good time today. Delays had been made up for. We arrived in Toronto ahead of schedule! Lucky for some people who had made ongoing reservations for this day, against all advise not to do so.
We exited what was our “home on rails” for the last 4 days, stepped onto the platform at Union Station.
The end of our cross country train trip.
One more train ride to come: tomorrow, to Ottawa. Just 4 1/2 hours 😉
Approaching Union Station, Toronto
The end of our cross country train ride