Amtrak vs Via Rail Toronto to Vancouver

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NS VIA Fan

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I may have been misremembering the complimentary alcohol part. I could’ve sworn the wine was free, but I might have paid for it and just don’t remember.
On my Canadian trips...there's been complementary Champagne and Hor dourves departing Toronto, Winnipeg, Jasper and Vancouver. Also complementary Wine Tasting on a couple of afternoons. I've also been offered Mimosas at Brunch.

Here's Marilyn (one of VIA's finest!) conducting a Wine Tasting as we're heading west near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.

 

Devil's Advocate

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We used to have polls asking folks which route, scenery, and food they liked best. Remember those? My favorite route is the Coast Starlight but I also enjoy the Zephyr, Canadian, and Chief. The Starlight may not have the highest highs so to speak but the scenery is quite varied and never dips below interesting. I think that's why I like it so much.
 

jiml

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I felt that the scenery on the CZ was better than Via. On Via, the train traversed between the mountains. On the CZ you were actually in the mountains.
The problem was the reroute of the Canadian some years ago to the less scenic CN northern route. It's nice enough and on-par with some of Amtrak's routes, but cannot compete with the Zephyr in Colorado and Utah. The previous CP route, on the other hand, stands with the best in the world. Now one has use the Rocky Mountaineer at significantly higher cost to see the original route.
 

Rasputin

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The problem was the reroute of the Canadian some years ago to the less scenic CN northern route. It's nice enough and on-par with some of Amtrak's routes, but cannot compete with the Zephyr in Colorado and Utah. The previous CP route, on the other hand, stands with the best in the world. Now one has use the Rocky Mountaineer at significantly higher cost to see the original route.
The CP Canadian vs. the California Zephyr was definitely a close call in my opinion.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Another plus for the CP Canadian, was part of it went all the way to Montreal, allowing easy connection to the Maritimes.
Back in the day......up until the mid 60's on CP you had the Canadian and also the Dominion to Vancouver and each with separate Montreal and Toronto sections that came together or split at Sudbury.

And over on CN......there were the Super Continental and the Panorama.....also with separate Montreal and Toronto sections that came together or split at Capreol (just north of Sudbury)

Four Transcontinental trains each way daily across the country!! :)

At Montreal on CP you could reach the Maritimes on the Atlantic Limited to Saint John and on CN......you could connect to/from Halifax on either the Ocean Limited or Scotian.
 

Cal

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The problem was the reroute of the Canadian some years ago to the less scenic CN northern route. It's nice enough and on-par with some of Amtrak's routes, but cannot compete with the Zephyr in Colorado and Utah. The previous CP route, on the other hand, stands with the best in the world. Now one has use the Rocky Mountaineer at significantly higher cost to see the original route.
Well, I was looking for someones opinion on the CZ through the rockies vs the Canadian, and I have found my answer! Thanks :D
 

crescent-zephyr

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Well, I was looking for someones opinion on the CZ through the rockies vs the Canadian, and I have found my answer! Thanks :D
The actual stretch through the Rockies and Jasper on the Canadian is great. But it’s a very small part of a long train ride across Canada. The Zephyr has the Rockies, and then Canyons, and then the Sierras.
 

Cal

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The actual stretch through the Rockies and Jasper on the Canadian is great. But it’s a very small part of a long train ride across Canada. The Zephyr has the Rockies, and then Canyons, and then the Sierras.
True. You know, I always thought the Canadian far beat Amtrak's, but I'm kinda glad it doesn't, as I dont' feel as I'm missing out on as much!

Either way though, the Canadian is high on my bucket list...
 

Cal

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And since I've probably awaken this thread again (which I'm not really sorry for), when is off/on peak seasons for the Canadian?
 

fdaley

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And since I've probably awaken this thread again (which I'm not really sorry for), when is off/on peak seasons for the Canadian?
The peak season for the Canadian usually runs from May 1 through mid-October. Of course, it's not clear right now when it will resume normal operation.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I felt like transition/shoulder season was best (during regular operations). Longer trains with fewer passengers leading to plenty of seating and a good staff ratio. I'm not sure when or if that will return in the future but with the Prestige exclusive Park Car rules I'd recommend first/last couple weeks of Winter when daily full route service returns.
 

B&Ofan

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Having taken several Amtrak LD trains and the Canadian I have to agree with pretty much everything said here. The VIA train is quite an amazing journy, though you do have to spring for a sleeper car (I don't think coach passengers have access to the diners). I actually think (when everything is running) that Amtrak is slightly quicker between the two cities/ Don't get me wrong I enjoy riding Amtrak but the Canadian is quite an experience and IMHO well worth the expense. Hanging out in the Park car we just wonderful (though regular sleeping passengers only had limited access it was still amazing. Here is a picture from the dome.
 

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NS VIA Fan

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Well, that would work for me. I would love to see the Rockies through snow

My favorite time to ride the Canadian! Here's a link to my Trip Report from several years ago....


 

Cal

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My favorite time to ride the Canadian! Here's a link to my Trip Report from several years ago....


I will check it out later!

And being a southern Californian, I don't see snow that much!
 

Cal

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A winter time trip on the CZ and the EB is also beautiful, particularly if the snow is fresh fallen.
I did see snow from a train for the first time on my EB trip last October. It was beautiful, even better because I wasn't expecting to see any snow. It wasn't as much as some in videos, but it was enough for me!
 

Dakota 400

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I did see snow from a train for the first time on my EB trip last October. It was beautiful, even better because I wasn't expecting to see any snow. It wasn't as much as some in videos, but it was enough for me!
The best winter scenery that I have experienced was on the East bound EB. Raining in Seattle when the train departed, turning East at Everett and climbing into the Cascades, the rain turned to snow. The snow continued throughout the night and into Glacier National Park. Retiring for that first night, I had to force myself to close the curtain and get some sleep. It was simply magnificent! Arising, it was a winter wonderland!
 

zephyr17

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I rode the Canadian annually for several years until COVID scuttled my last trip, as well as Amtrak LD trains. Often the Canadian one way, Amtrak the other, so my comparisons are the results of head to head experiences on the same trip.

1. OBS crews on average are better and more consistent on VIA. Yes, there are duds, but not as many.
2. Food in the diner was considerably better than Amtrak's "traditional" dining and the menu did rotate.
3. The roomette beds are considerably more comfortable on VIA, wider (at the head and shoulders) and an actual mattress.
4. For regular sleeper passengers (Sleeper Plus) booze is NOT free. It is free for Prestige, which is roughly 5 times more expensive than Sleeper Plus. There were welcome aboard receptions in the domes on departure from Vancouver, Jasper and Toronto where they serve cheap champagne, though.
5. Prices can be pretty close in the off season for a trip of comparable duration. Look for sales. If you become a member of VIA's frequent traveler program, you become an elite level member ("Prestige") with one Vancouver-Toronto trip in a private accommodation and get a coupon worth 50% off the undiscounted fare, which will be lower than most sale prices (40% off is the most I've seen in their sale page the last few years). I've ridden Vancouver-Toronto in a roomette for around $900 USD with that coupon and a good exchange rate.

VIA's price structure is much simpler. You have discount and undiscounted fare classes, both of which are visible on the website. The only yield management VIA does is control capacity offered in the discount class, and there are 3 seasonally based fare schedules. Peak, Shoulder and Off Peak.
6. While the Canadian Rockies are spectacular, the "good" parts are only a couple hours on both sides of Jasper. There's a LOT of prairie. I'd rate the Zephyr, Starlight and eastbound Cardinal above it for pure scenery.

But none of them have domes.
7. I much prefer the train in the off season. It is much more low key and enjoyable generally. Not to mention much lower prices and Park Car access.
8. In the off season, dome access isn't much of an issue, aside from the 4 hours around Jasper, and at departure. For that, just get up there early. I don't go up to the dome for the Rockies any more. I've seen it and will give someone else a chance. There are usually at least 3 domes. A Skyline for coach passenger, at least 1 Skyline in Sleeper Plus (unless it is a really short, minimum consist and light load, which I've never seen), and the Park. The Sleeper Plus Skyline isn't always staffed in the off season, though. The consist and staffing varies with demand and load.

The general ratio of non-revenue space, including the lounge areas of the Skylines, the Bullet Lounge in the Park as well as the domes, is higher than Amtrak. There's lots of places to hang out.
 
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zephyr17

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And since I've probably awaken this thread again (which I'm not really sorry for), when is off/on peak seasons for the Canadian?
Sorry, I didn't answer the question. Shoulder pricing starts in late Septmber, not positive of the date. Park Car access for Sleeper Plus is mid-October, varies a bit each year. Off season pricing starts November 1st. Shoulder season prices are less than peak, but not by that much. The off season pricing is significantly less.

Sorry, don't know the Spring dates since I usually travel in the Fall.
 
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