A Winter Ride On VIAs Canadian (with photos)

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia
It's been several years since I had a winter ride on the Canadian and IMHO……the best time to ride! The crowds are gone and there’s lots of room to just sit back in the dome and watch the snowy winter landscape go by from the warm and cozy train.

With some vacation time coming due I started watching for deals on VIA. The best fare I could find for a Cabin for 1 from Toronto to Vancouver in early December was $1200…...but I still had a couple of weeks before I had to book so thought I'd wait and see if anything better would come along.....and it did!

A Cabin for one had dropped to $800 but for that $1200 I was going to spend anyway….. I could now have single occupancy of a Cabin for 2 (Bedroom) Much more comfortable for the 4 night trip and when I did the on-line booking I got Bedroom D in car #139....the Park Car and the centre of everything!

Now to get to Toronto from Halifax: I didn’t have enough vacation time to start out from Halifax on VIA's Ocean so I settled for a quick two hour flight on a WestJet '737.

I was at the airport at 4:45am for my flight at 5:45 AT. It was a clear, cold, cloudless early morning. The route took us over Saint John, NB then basically followed above the old VIA Atlantic route across Maine. By a quirk of border geography, flights between the Maritimes and central Canada overfly about 200 miles of the USA, re-entering Canadian airspace just north of Lac Magnetic, Quebec. I had a window seat and a great view of the city lights of Montreal, Ottawa then on into Toronto at 7:30 ET.

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/WJA261/history/20131129/0950Z/CYHZ/CYYZ





I’d be spending the day in Toronto before the Canadian’s departure that evening at 10pm so I picked up a TTC Daypass and besides getting me downtown via bus and subway it allowed me unlimited rides for the day including the extensive street-car system. I also did some GO Train riding out to Milton and back:



And what wouldn’t be the start to a Transcontinental rail journey without a visit to the Royal York…. a classic former Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel. I had dinner there and sat in the nicely decorated lobby for awhile before heading across the street to Union Station through a maze of construction. (Union is undergoing a $700 million restoration)





 
Last edited by a moderator:

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia
I did a bit more GO Train riding then checked in for the Canadian at VIA’s First Class Panorama Lounge around 8:30 pm. It was already starting to fill……we were going to have a good number aboard tonight! There’s coffee, juice, newspapers and free Wi-Fi available while you wait.

About 9:30 the train was announced and I headed up to track level where I grabbed a shot of the Park Car trailing the gleaming stainless-steel consist before settling into my double bedroom in Revelstoke Park……..Then it was up into the dome for departure at 10pm with a champagne and hors-d’oeuvre reception!







We looped around the west and north sides of the city via the Newmarket and York Subdivisions before gaining CN’s Transcontinental mainline at Doncaster. After Richmond Hill, the city lights were left behind and it was time for bed. I missed the directional running on CP that occurred through the night and didn’t hear a thing until we stopped in Sudbury early the next morning.

Breakfast was first come-first served at 6:30am and I had an omelet, hash browns, toast and coffee and watched as we arrived in Capreol for a half hour servicing stop.

The roads end at Capreol then it was off into the wilds of Northern Ontario……a 1400 km stretch and 24 hours to the Manitoba border. There’s only the occasional stop at an isolated First Nation community or a town that grew from an old steam era railroad servicing point. Here’s Foleyet with the old coaling tower still standing.



 

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia


Occasionally the train will be met by a snowmobile at a milepost seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Someone will be getting on or off or picking up supplies from the baggage car. Yes the Canadian sill serves an essential service to these isolated points!

I had picked up a thick weekend paper before leaving Toronto and it was nice to just sit back, read and enjoy a coffee (or a muffin or fruit from the supply that’s always out in the Park Car)…….. and watch the snow, trees and frozen lakes roll by.

Something else I was watching too was the constant meets with CN Freights…..and usually with us taking the siding. There is certainly lots of slack built into the schedule……being late at one point then ontime at the next.

Second call to lunch came at 1pm and I had the garden vegetable soup, BBQ Chicken wrap and strawberry shortcake.

In mid-afternoon we rolled into Hornepayne for servicing with about 20 minutes to get off and walk around. This gave me an opportunity to record the consist:

6438 F40

6439 F40

8604 Baggage

8116 Coach

8125 Coach

Skyline Dome 8503

Empress Diner

Amherst Manor

Burton Manor

Bayfield Manor

Thompson manor

Revelstoke Park Dome Observation





Second call to dinner came at 7pm and I had soup, salad, stuffed chicken breast and cheesecake for desert. Meals are excellent and the service…… top notch!

Morning two and I’m awake early.....we’re now on Central Time, out of the woods and now on the flat prairie heading for an OT arrival into Winnipeg at 8am. We have a 4 hour stopover here and it goes something like this: Between 8 and 10am, you can get off and on the train and come and go as you please and the diner continues to serve breakfast. From 10 until 11:30 the platform is closed while the train is serviced then re-boarding begins at 11:30. For any passengers interested, there’s a booth set up in the concourse offering a bus tour of the city for $30. I hop aboard and it’s well worth it......easily occupying 3 of the 4 hour stopover. We visit the historic “Forks” district…..named for the fork in the river and the location of the former CN shops (now galleries, stores and restaurants) and also have a tour of the beautiful Manitoba Legislature Building.



 
Last edited by a moderator:

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia
There’s a complete crew change at Winnipeg and shortly after we depart OT at noon…..lunch is served. After all are seated, Daniel the new steward blows a VIA souvenir whistle to get everyone’s attention then introduces himself and the new crew……even the chef sticks his head out of the kitchen! Lunch is soup, an open face hot turkey sandwich with apple crumble for desert.

I spent the afternoon in the dome watching signals change as we continue to meet freights. West of Rivers, Manitoba……we start climbing up to the second prairie level high above a valley, then cross into Saskatchewan and race for Melville at 80+ MPH on the straight track of CN’s former Grand Trunk Pacific mainline.





Marilyn, our new Park Car Attendant (and one of VIA’s Best!) conducts a Wine Tasting featuring Canadian Wines up in the Dome.



…..And another fine meal that evening: soup, salad, pasta and carrot cake, coffee and conversation for desert. I found that the steward seemed to have a knack for placing like people together at diner and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Back in my room, I sat in the dark and watched the Christmas lights as we passed through the small prairie towns. I tried to stay awake for Saskatoon but was long asleep before our midnight arrival.

Day three now and heading for Edmonton. It’s snowing, -20C and we’re 2 hours late.....not due to the weather but the constant meets with CN freights! We were only 1 hr late at the Sask/Alberta border but have lost another hour approaching Edmonton. It’s a city of a million with the rush-hour traffic along the Yellowhead Freeway we’re paralleling almost at a standstill in the snowstorm (…boy I’m glad I’m on the train!)

Meals on the third day are handled a bit different to allow for the early AM arrival in Edmonton and the 2 hour afternoon stop in Jasper. Instead of a full hot breakfast...... only a continental is served in the Diner or you can enjoy warm muffins and pastries in the Park Car along with juice and coffee.......then mid-morning a hot Brunch is served in the diner. It’s a nice change and besides I’ve been eating too much anyway.



Arrival in Edmonton is at 8:30am and there are two coaches waiting for us to pick up. They had been used on a CN Employees Christmas Train and were being returned to Vancouver. I get off for awhile to use the free Wi-Fi in the station. It’s quite busy and not just tourists……we’ve had oil-sands workers aboard who are now making bus connections to Fort McMurray......and we also pick up passengers heading overnight to Vancouver.

 
Last edited by a moderator:

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia


By the time the coaches are added, we’re now 3 hour late out of Edmonton and at 11am I go to Brunch: It starts off with a Mimosa (Orange Juice & Champagne) then I have a Bacon and Cheese omelet…… and since it brunch,.desert is also served: a fruit cocktail (I could have had chocolate cheesecake!)

It turns out a sunny afternoon now but very cold. Just beyond Edson, the mountains come into view. We`re still holding 3 hours late and this is going to cut into the Jasper stopover where you can get off and walk around the resort town......also the daylight mountain viewing beyond. There`s a couple more freight meets and we arrive just after 4pm but there’s still plenty of time to get off as the train is serviced including washing windows!







 

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia




I jokingly say to the attendant that too bad we’re so late……with the clean windows now we won’t be able to enjoy the mountains. But he says that with a fresh snow fall and a bright evening, the view from the dome after dark is going to be just as nice and indeed it was!

We’ve got a full load out of Jasper tonight and Marilyn offers another champagne and hors-d’oeuvre reception up in the Dome. There will also be three dinner seatings and I go for the second at 7pm. With it being the last night aboard, I’ve saved the best for last….the Prime Rib along with Onion Soup, Garden Salad and Chocolate Mousse for desert. Again I’m sitting with ordinary Canadians, not tourists, using the train for basic transportation. They’re from Kamloops and have made a round-trip to Edmonton instead of the treacherous winter drive along the Yellowhead Highway.

VIA has a program for professional entertainers to ride the train and perform (basically......Sing for your Supper!.......From VIA’s Web Page : “VIA Rail's Artists on board Program offers complimentary or reduced fare travel for approved professional musicians in return for performing on board the Montreal-Halifax and/or Toronto-Vancouver trains)…… and they provided a very enjoyable evening in the Park Car!



Wednesday morning now and I woke early as we were threading our way down the Fraser River Canyon……still dark but you could watch the headlight playing on the steep rock walls. This is directional running territory with all westbound traffic taking CN and all eastbounds on CP. As I went for breakfast, the sun was just coming up and we were now rolling through the Fraser Valley heading for an early arrival in Vancouver. And in the Diner there was no rushing you by the crew to finish up so they could prepare for arrival. We’re soon across the Fraser River Bridge at New Westminster and heading downtown on the former BNSF mainline. We stop for a moment then back in for a half hour early arrival at 9:15am in Pacific Central Station. It’s been a great trip!

 
Last edited by a moderator:

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
Joined
Sep 24, 2011
Messages
1,957
Location
Nova Scotia


I spent the next few days visiting and doing a little touring then on Sunday afternoon it was time to head for home: An Air Canada A320 to Toronto with a connection there onto Halifax. And an interesting flight too that I’m going to say took an “Empire Builder – North Coast Limited – Olympian Hiawatha” routing across the western US: Just off the end of runway 08R at YVR we turned and crossed the BC/Washington State Border....... then routed over Spokane (photo below) Missoula, Billings, Aberdeen SD.....south of Minneapolis, Green Bay WI, across Michigan and on into Toronto. I had a window seat with a great view all the way across the continent.

After a quick connection.......it was onto Halifax on another A320. From wheels up in Vancouver to wheels down in Halifax...... with the stop in Toronto: 7 hrs and 10 minutes vs the 4 1\2 days by train. As much as I enjoy flying I think I’ll take the Canadian anyday......and I’m ready to go again!

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/ACA102/history/20131208/2000Z/CYVR/CYYZ





 
Last edited by a moderator:
G

guest

Guest
What a great post, and what really excellent photographs. Thank you for sharing this with us.
 

gaspeamtrak

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 20, 2006
Messages
335
Location
Ontario, Canada


I spent the next few days visiting and doing a little touring then on Sunday afternoon it was time to head for home: An Air Canada A320 to Toronto with a connection there onto Halifax. And an interesting flight too that I’m going say took an “Empire Builder – North Coast Limited – Olympian Hiawatha” routing across the western US: Just off the end of runway 08R at YVR we turned and crossed the BC/Washington State Border....... then routed over Spokane (photo below) Missoula, Billings, Aberdeen SD.....south of Minneapolis, Green Bay WI, across Michigan and on into Toronto. I had a window seat with a great view all the way across the continent.

After a quick connection.......it was onto Halifax on another A320. From wheels up in Vancouver to wheels down in Halifax...... with the stop in Toronto: 7 hrs and 10 minutes vs the 4 1\2 days by train. As much as I enjoy flying I think I’ll take the Canadian anyday......and I’m ready to go again!

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/ACA102/history/20131208/2000Z/CYVR/CYYZ







Thank you also for sharing your adventure with us!!!!! :) :) :)

I would love to do this trip and if I had the time come back on the "Empire Builder" or do it reversed if I had the time! :) :) :)

Again, thanks for sharing!

Merry Christmas to everybody!
 

CaliforniaMom

Service Attendant
Joined
Aug 27, 2013
Messages
112
Nice TR and pics, thanks! I like the musicians being able to ride for free/reduced fare in exchange for their entertainment.
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2011
Messages
3,312
Location
ALX
Another excellent trip report from Halifax! Thank you! Makes me look even more forward to my VAC-TWO trip in February. :)
 

rrdude

Engineer
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 10, 2009
Messages
3,703
Location
Baltimore/DC Area
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you, thank you, Thank you, thank you, thank you,

For a wonderful trip report.

Ever Am-Fan should experience Canadian Railway food n service, then they'd understand half of the rants about Amtrak's short commings....
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,538
Location
Austin Texas
:cool: Fantastic as usual, Thanks for Sharing! I took the Canadian last Feb. on an Express Fare as a Birthday Present to Myself and I'm Ready to Go Again Tomorrow! ;)

As many have said here on AU, , with the current Harper Government's Budget and the Resulting VIA Cutbacks, If You Plan to Ride this Jewel of a Train, Do It Soon!!! It may be Gone or Privatized Before We Know it!! :(
 

chakk

Engineer
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
2,561
Excellent report, and with very useful information that I will use on my own bucket trip from Vancouver to Toronto aboard the Canadian in February.
 

Devil's Advocate

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
12,716
Location
EOTL
:cool: Fantastic as usual, Thanks for Sharing! I took the Canadian last Feb. on an Express Fare as a Birthday Present to Myself and I'm Ready to Go Again Tomorrow! ;) As many have said here on AU, , with the current Harper Government's Budget and the Resulting VIA Cutbacks, If You Plan to Ride this Jewel of a Train, Do It Soon!!! It may be Gone or Privatized Before We Know it!! :(
QTF.

Ride this while you still can.

As one of the few remaining national public transit systems in the Americas this route is under growing pressure.

The Harper government has done little to earn our trust with regard to maintaining this or any other public transit system.
 

caravanman

Engineer
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
4,307
Location
Nottingham, England.
Great report and pictures. I enjoyed a summer trip from Toronto to Vancouver on the Canadian, but your snowy pics look more in keeping with my expectations of Canada! I still have not quite given up hope for a canadian train ride in winter from Winnipeg to Churchill... Shame that the bus services from Fargo to Winnipeg seem to be a thing of the past.

Ed :cool:
 

Railroad Bill

Buckeye Train Watcher
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 28, 2007
Messages
3,746
Location
Northern Ohio
Really enjoyed your report and photos. We had always assumed we would try to ride this train in the summer. But after viewing the photos and the added advantage of having lower fares, we are re-evaluating that position. Yes, it sounds like we better get off our duffs and plan this trip soon. :eek:
 

tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,287
Location
Spring Creek, NC
First: Belated thanks for all the details and lovely photos! Sent this to three older relatives I'll be escorting on the Canadian in two weeks--your photos make it easy to visualize what we might expect. Thanks!

Second: What, roughly, was the range of temperatures you experienced ON THE TRAIN? (not outdoors) Mostly comfortable in a sweater? A lot of variation from car to car or with time of day or ???

Once again, thanks so much for the trip report! Looking forward to fabulous western scenery. Also hope to take the Ocean up your way, perhaps later this year.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,538
Location
Austin Texas
I've took the Canadian last Feb. from Vancouver to Toronto and while it was Cool and Cloudy in Vancouver (it Rains more than it snows there!), it was Sunny and Snowy most of the rest of the trip! Canada uses Centigrade for their Temps (like the rest of the World except the Luddite USA)and the Outside Temps ranged from Freezing in the Daytime to -40 @ Night!

The Train was Very Comfortable Day and Night (the Canadian Rooms have Great Bedding in the Rooms) including the Hot Water in the Shower! When you are Up in the dome cars it can be Cooler, you might want a Sweater or Light jacket, but other than that the Temp is just Right! I wore Jeans and Long Sleeve T-Shirts on the Train and only put on my Jacket, Hat, Gloves etc. to take Fresh Air Breaks @ Stops including Walking around Jasper for an Hour! Winnipeg (Crew Change) was -20 but I only went into the Station there, I didnt take the Tour or walk around Downtown!

Ya'll should be Plenty Comfortable on the Train! It really is a Memory Book Experience! :)
 
Top