Amtrak vs Via Rail Toronto to Vancouver

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Cal

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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.
No worries, thanks for your help. I probably won't be taking it for several more years anyway, but I'm interested in it anyway
 

Bob Dylan

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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.
If they go back to selling the Sections, a Lower Birth is really Worth a discount Fare in the Off Season.( it has a Window and you get all the perks of Sleeper Plus pax)

Upper Births a very comfortable for sleeping, and even a better bargain if you dont mind No Window and climbing a Ladder to your berth.

I rode in the Winter several times, and I preferred the Lower Berth Sections to the Roomettes( Cabin for 1) and even rode in an Upper one time VAC-TWO for $500 CDN!!!

VIA is strict about the amount of Luggage you can carry on. You'll have to check any Roller or Oversized Bags and just take what you really need aboard.( I had a Backpack with all my essentials in addition to checking my Roller Bag)
 

zephyr17

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I agree about your observations on sections. And a lower berth is traditionally considered the best bed on a train.

However, personally I don't consider sections for two reasons:
1. I have obstructive sleep apnea and require a CPAP, so I need an electrical outlet for it. Sections have no outlet.
2. On a four night trip, I need a private space I can retreat to. That means a door.
As to an upper, in addition to the above, no window in the upper is an absolute deal breaker for me.

VIA's "real" roomettes are much more comfortable than the Amtrak so-called roomettes (economy bedrooms), particularly the bed itself.

The price difference is a powerful argument, though and you get all the amenities of Sleeper Plus regardless of whether you're in a private accommodation or an open section.

The luggage restrictions apply whether you are in a section or a room. There is very little luggage space in a roomette, and no common space in the car. I pretty much use a gym bag to carry changes of clothes and toiletries, and check my suitcase. I hardly ever check luggage on Amtrak.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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I don't think coach passengers have access to the diners
When I took the Canadian in 2007 I ate a dinner with coach passengers. That was before the prestige class changes so maybe different now.

[
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.
Agreed. Even more so in winter when all of the prairies, lakes, and rivers are a solid blanket of snow. I’d like to ride again when the prairies were a bit more alive!

2. On a four night trip, I need a private space I can retreat to. That means a door.
As to an upper, in addition to the above, no window in the upper is an absolute deal breaker for me.

VIA's "real" roomettes are much more comfortable than the Amtrak so-called roomettes (economy bedrooms), particularly the bed itself.
I agree with point #4. I’d love to ride in a section just for the fun of it. But 4 nights? I want to be able to have some alone time if I want it.

I disagree with the Amtrak vs. VIA (heritage) roomettes. The bed and bedding? 100% more comfortable agreed. But the Amtrak roomette is more comfortable for me in the daytime. The via roomette seats are not very comfortable, do not recline, and the roomette feels a bit claustrophobic to me since there are all solid walls around you.

For me, the via and Amtrak roomettes both have pros and cons.
 

Cal

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Okay I am not used to VIA, what are sections? Shared rooms?
 

fdaley

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Okay I am not used to VIA, what are sections? Shared rooms?
A section is the Pullman invention that was the standard U.S. sleeping car arrangement before WWII -- the sleeper bunks with curtains that you see in old movies. Each section has two facing bench seats by day. At night, the two seats become the base of a lower berth, and an upper berth folds down from above; both have heavy curtains that give you a measure of privacy from people passing in the aisle.

VIA sells the upper and lower berths separately, or you can book two together as a section if you have a party of two. The lower has a window; the upper does not. Consequently the upper is the lowest priced sleeper space, while the lower costs a bit more but is still less than a roomette. The Manor sleepers that are commonly used on the Canadian each have three sections, four roomettes and six bedrooms (one of which is actually what used to be known as a "compartment," with a bit more floor space than the other bedrooms).

I have traveled many happy miles in lower berths on VIA. The price is considerably less than a roomette, though it still includes meals and the other amenities of VIA's "sleeper plus" class, and the bed is actually wider. I have never slept better on a train than in those beds. But you do share a bathroom with the other section passengers, and your space by day is not private. I have not found that I'm terribly concerned about the latter point on the Canadian, as I wind up spending a lot of the day in the domes, diner or lounge areas anyway.
 

Cal

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A section is the Pullman invention that was the standard U.S. sleeping car arrangement before WWII -- the sleeper bunks with curtains that you see in old movies. Each section has two facing bench seats by day. At night, the two seats become the base of a lower berth, and an upper berth folds down from above; both have heavy curtains that give you a measure of privacy from people passing in the aisle.

VIA sells the upper and lower berths separately, or you can book two together as a section if you have a party of two. The lower has a window; the upper does not. Consequently the upper is the lowest priced sleeper space, while the lower costs a bit more but is still less than a roomette. The Manor sleepers that are commonly used on the Canadian each have three sections, four roomettes and six bedrooms (one of which is actually what used to be known as a "compartment," with a bit more floor space than the other bedrooms).

I have traveled many happy miles in lower berths on VIA. The price is considerably less than a roomette, though it still includes meals and the other amenities of VIA's "sleeper plus" class, and the bed is actually wider. I have never slept better on a train than in those beds. But you do share a bathroom with the other section passengers, and your space by day is not private. I have not found that I'm terribly concerned about the latter point on the Canadian, as I wind up spending a lot of the day in the domes, diner or lounge areas anyway.
Thank you! It seems the basic design is similar to an Amtrak roomette, just you share with a stranger if you're travelling solo..
 

joelkfla

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fdaley

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Thank you! It seems the basic design is similar to an Amtrak roomette, just you share with a stranger if you're travelling solo..
Except that there's no wall separating you from the corridor, although there are curtains at night.
 

zephyr17

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Okay I am not used to VIA, what are sections? Shared rooms?
Find a way to stream "Some Like It Hot" starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.

There is an extended scene that takes place in an open section sleeper. That would be your best way to see what it is.

Unfortunately, do not expect to have Marilyn Monroe in your berth.
 
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Willbridge

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Find a way to stream "Some Like It Hot" starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe.

There is an extended scene that takes place in an open section sleeper. That would be your best way to see what it is.

Unfortunately, do not expect have Marilyn Monroe in your berth.
There are some explanatory scenes in this WWII propaganda film. Watching it is a reminder that for lots of the Greatest Generation their first time in a sleeping car was courtesy of Uncle Sam - two GI's in the lower, one in the upper. My dad was shipped in an open-section Pullman from Nisqually to Mobile. This was an advance over WWI, in which the Oregon National Guard went to the East Coast in day coaches with walkover seats.

Troop Train
 

fdaley

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Regarding the scenery discussion above, although I agree that the grandest scenery on the Canadian probably isn't quite as dramatic as the best on the California Zephyr, the Rockies in the vicinity of Jasper are really majestic. I never tire of that portion of the run. Heading eastbound, the entire stretch from Kamloops to Hinton is great, scenic mountain railroading.

And while this is a comparatively small portion of the four-day trek to/from Toronto, I do also enjoy the stretch through the Canadian shield, particularly from Sioux Lookout to the Manitoba border -- all those lakes, rocks and spruce trees.

One thing to keep in mind with the Canadian is that it can be subject to extreme delays. So if you're intent on seeing the Rockies in daylight, an eastbound trip is a safer bet, if only because you're less likely to be far off schedule on Day 2 than on Day 4. The last time we took the Canadian westbound, in February 2019, the train left Toronto 11 hours late (because of late-arriving equipment from the west) and was about 30 hours late by the time we cleared Edmonton. So we covered the Rockies entirely in darkness. On the plus side, the next morning we were treated to a daylight trip through the Fraser Canyon that is normally covered only at night. I took lots of photos from the dome.
 

Bob Dylan

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No, because it's not a room. By day, it's like a small open coach section. At night, the only thing between you and the aisle is a curtain.

This page has photos: VIA Rail's Canadian | The train from Toronto to Vancouver
But you have plenty of privacy in your Bed( the Curtain is heavy), and during the day you tend to hang out in the Park Car, the Domes and the Diner.

I never rode in my Seat in the Section once during my several trips in a Section.
 

zephyr17

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But you have plenty of privacy in your Bed( the Curtain is heavy), and during the day you tend to hang out in the Park Car, the Domes and the Diner.

I never rode in my Seat in the Section once during my several trips in a Section.
That depends on one's own personal needs. I spend most of my waking hours on that train in the lounges, domes and diners, but usually spend a couple hours, typically in the afternoon, relaxing alone in my roomette with the door closed to recharge.

Everyone's needs are different. I am at heart an introvert and I could not tolerate four days without having access to a daytime refuge. I do not spend that much time there, but it is there when I need it.

Good for you that you don't, but don't tell me that I don't.
 
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Bob Dylan

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That depends on one's own personal needs. I spend most of my waking hours on that train in the lounges, domes and diners, but usually spend a couple hours, typically in the afternoon, relaxing alone in my roomette with the door closed to recharge.

Everyone's needs are different. I am at heart an introvert and I could not tolerate four days without having access to a daytime refuge. I do not spend that much time there, but it is there when I need it.

Good for you that you don't, but don't tell me that I don't.
I understand, it's good to have a Refuge on a trip that long!
 

fdaley

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Fraser Canyon 0111 for AU smaller.jpgFraser Canyon 0136 for AU smaller.jpg

Sorry, I thought I had attached these to my earlier post, but apparently the files weren't small enough. The Fraser Canyon of B.C., between Spences Bridge and Boston Bar, from the dome of the Canadian, Feb. 2019.
 
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NS VIA Fan

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VIA 'Sections'.......... Lower and Upper Berths on the Canadian.


2020-05-01_085732 - Copy (2).jpg
(above is from a 1950s CPR 'Canadian' Brochure)


20200304_142949.jpg

In the photo above you can see the Upper Berth Ladder hanging against the partition on the right. Behind that partition is a shower. The shower space was also a section when originally constructed but was removed when the cars were rebuilt in the late 1980s. There's two washrooms at the other end just behind the photographer.



20200304_142956.jpg


20200304_142836.jpg
 
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Rasputin

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My wife and I (and our children) have had many nice trips in sections on VIA or CP trains but I remember times when someone passing by in the aisle would lose their balance and bump up against the curtains and almost fall into the section. (I suspect that they may have had a few too many.). Passengers in sections are also more susceptible to noise from the corridor than passengers in rooms which have a solid wall or door to buffer the noise.

I would have no problem travelling in a section again if the price was right but four days in a section might get a little old in my opinion.
 

fdaley

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Last I knew, VIA allowed stopovers at no additional charge, so on a couple of our trips on the Canadian, we broke the trip at Jasper, avoiding four straight nights on the train. Of course, with service down to twice a week before the pandemic, that would mean stopping over for at least three nights.
 

jiml

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Last I knew, VIA allowed stopovers at no additional charge, so on a couple of our trips on the Canadian, we broke the trip at Jasper, avoiding four straight nights on the train. Of course, with service down to twice a week before the pandemic, that would mean stopping over for at least three nights.
I know that used to be the case and I have benefited from it in the past. I'm not sure how it would work with their current system, so would likely require an agent's advice - if still possible at all. Since the Canadian reappeared in the inventory I've done a number of trial bookings and can't see how the "sum of the parts" would not greatly exceed a full-length trip.
 

SubwayNut

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Took an Upper Section on VIA (with a free Stopover) back in March 2012 was able to save a good $100 in not paying taxes by booking a connecting ticket (which I used) to Niagara Falls, NY (VIA tickets connecting onto the Maple Leaf across the US border dont pay GST and HST), and then purchased a low-bucket normal Amtrak ticket back to NYC (Saved a good $50, because VIA tickets out of Canada on the Maple leave are high) and did a free stopover in Jasper. Me and my Dad booked a section together from Vancouver to Jasper on a ski trip (going from Whistler to Lake Louise) which was also a fun trip in April 2015. I've always been impressed by VIA, even the way they handeled the Ocean breaking down one stop away from Halifax, efficiently getting us on buses, and giving me a deeply discounted birth on my Vancouver to Jasper section.

Most memorable moment was seeing the Northern lights after leaving Winnapeg in the darkened dome car on my 2012 trip.
 

jiml

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For anyone interested, here are some sample fares for travel out of Toronto in late October (shoulder season) for 2 Seniors in a bedroom:
Winnipeg - $2100
Saskatoon - $2300
Edmonton - $2500
Vancouver - $4000

All are discounted (low-bucket) numbers in CAD rounded to closest $100. Interestingly on the same date Prestige Class is available either Toronto - Winnipeg or Toronto - Vancouver, but not the intervening cities. The latter is a whopping $10K.😲
 
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