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LAX - MTR? (routing suggestions to Montreal)

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Rob_C

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Hi all. Been a while since cross-countrying via Amtrak and planning a rail trip.

I didn't realize it would be quite so challenging to get to Montreal (Quebec City actually) from the west coast!

Since the demise of the International from Chicago to Toronto what are the options for getting from Chicago to MTR/Quebec City? Here is what I've found so far:

1. LSL to Adirondack requiring an overnight in Albany, NY. I believe this also will require another overnight in MTR as we miss the last train to Quebec City.

2. Wolverine to Detroit which (after transferring from a western train) gets us in at midnight. Apparently there is a commuter type bus from Detroit to Windsor, Ont. Can't find details if it runs this late however. (BTW, Windsor ONT is in the Amtrak system but I can't find any service that will take you there.)

Overnight in Windsor and early morning VIA train to Toronto, on to Montreal and *maybe* connect to Quebec City all in the same day.

So my main question is has anyone done this trip? Chicago to Montreal via Detroit? Other ideas?

Thanks!

Rob
 

Trogdor

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You could do an upstate New York connection from the Lake Shore to the Maple Leaf, overnight in Toronto, then continue on.

The Detroit-Windsor connection is the Tunnel Bus run by Windsor Transit.
 

Eric S

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Hmm, that reminds me, there was an announcement from then-NARP in, I think, late 2016, that a Thruway bus service would be starting between Detroit and Windsor. Wonder what ever came of that effort?
 

tricia

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Very scenic but not very direct: Take the Coast Starlight to PDX or Seattle, then one of the Cascades trains or bus connections to Vancouver, BC, to connect with VIA Rail's Canadian to Toronto. From Toronto, another VIA Rail train will get you to Montreal. Will require the better part of a week, but what a ride!
 

niemi24s

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Been looking for an easy link between the Amtrak station in Detroit and the VIA Rail station across the river in Windsor for years and the easiest is probably a taxi in between those two places. Using the Tunnel Bus looks like it requires a taxi ride on both ends. The only good thing about that is it's no doubt shorter and cheaper than the taxi connection between the Amtrak station in Port Huron Mi and the VIA Rail station in Sarnia Ontario.

Amtraks station code for the bus station in Windsor is WNO but nothing but error messages come up when I use it. In addition, the bus station is about 2 miles from the VIA Rail station.

Here's some info on the taxi: https://www.taxifarefinder.com/main.php?city=Detroit&from=Detroit+Station%2C+W+Baltimore+Ave%2C+Detroit%2C+MI%2C+USA&to=Windsor+Train+Station+-+VIA+Rail%2C+Walker+Rd%2C+Windsor%2C+ON%2C+Canada&fromCoord=42.3680051,-83.07232850000003&toCoord=42.3250903,-83.00721269999997 But I suspect crossing the border and customs would turn that into a can of worms. In addition it might be difficult getting a ride to Windsor because some Detroit cab drivers carry concealed weapons - or so I've read.
 
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Trogdor

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It doesn’t require a taxi ride. One can easily use local public transit on either side of the tunnel bus.
 

niemi24s

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Of course it doesn't require a taxi ride. But easily use public transit? Maybe for you, but not for this 78 year old codger. The OP could also walk from DET to Cobo Hall to catch the Tunnel Bus then walk from the Windsor bus station to the VIA Rail station if in good shape.

Using public transport all the way might be sound advise for some people, but I've a sneaky hunch the OP is going to Quebec City to catch a cruise down the St. Lawrence River to Boston (or elsewhere). If so, there's a fair amount of luggage to contend with on the 3 legs of the connection using local public transit. All that monkey business to save a few dollars isn't very appealing to someone like me. As much as the wife & I love taking the train, if we were going to Quebec City for a cruise I'd fly there rather than rely on three legs of public transport between Detroit and Windsor. But maybe the OP is game for your public transport suggestion.

All I know with any certainty is if I had to fly to Quebec City and couldn't find a direct flight, I'd get one with an intermediate stop in the US or Montreal and not Toronto. I still have bad dreams about finding my way and going through customs at the airport in Toronto.
 
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cpotisch

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If your your goal is to do the majority of the journey by rail, then I would say you should take the LSL to Buffalo, catch a Maple Leaf or Empire Service to Toronto or Niagara Falls, and take a VIA train to Quebec.
 
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Seaboard92

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If your goal is to go by rail may I recommend taking 14 to SEA. Spend the night or two nights because it's a lovely city. Take 510( that was the number but I'm not sure on the new ones) the morning cascade to Vancouver.

Enjoy the day in Vancouver and take VIA 2 across the country. Just be sure to leave plenty of time for a 10-18 hour delay. Connect in Toronto to Montreal and the. Quebec.
 
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We went via New Orleans then New York on to Montreal and Quebec. Returned via Windsor-Detroit Chicago Seattle. No problems via Montreal. Never again via Windsor-Detroit. 4 hours of misey however US Border Services got a kick out of us taking the public bus with our destination being Vancouver Canada. Not really set up to inspect four luggage bags. Suggest that either way pack light. You cannot check luggage across the border. It may change when clearance becomes more like the Cascades in the west.

Sent from my LG-M470 using Amtrak Forum mobile app
 

Lonestar648

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I like the CS to Seattle, Cascades to Vancouver, Via Canadian to Toronto to Montreal. Think this route is the best. Alternant would be SWC to CHI, LSL to AlB, then up to Montreal.
 

cpotisch

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If your goal is to go by rail may I recommend taking 14 to SEA. Spend the night or two nights because it's a lovely city. Take 510( that was the number but I'm not sure on the new ones) the morning cascade to Vancouver.

Enjoy the day in Vancouver and take VIA 2 across the country. Just be sure to leave plenty of time for a 10-18 hour delay. Connect in Toronto to Montreal and the. Quebec.
Those are great trains but I would emphasize that the Canadian is really expensive. It's four nights (which I certainly wouldn't want to do in coach) and Prestige costs at least $4K per person. Sleepers are really pricy as well.
 

niemi24s

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The amount of walking required when relying on buses between the two train stations was measured online and found to be about...

• 100 yds from DET station to first bus

• 120 yds from first bus to Tunnel Bus

• 100 yds in Windsor from Tunnel Bus to third bus

• 480 yds from third bus to VIA Rail Station in Windsor

...for a total of about 800 yards. This would be no fun for an old coot like me with a large suitcase. And if it was raining........


But a young person with maybe just a backpack might have no problems at all.
 
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jebr

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I think the schedules of the connections make the Detroit - Windsor connection too difficult/risky/unenjoyable to do from a western LD train, at least in my opinion. It's theoretically possible, but if anything goes even a bit awry, the whole plan would fall apart. The only train that makes all the connections to Quebec City appears to be the 05:30 train from Windsor, which means that you'd have five and a half hours to cross the border, stay at a hotel (if desired), and get to the Windsor train station, all during the middle of the night when most people would rather be sleeping. It's also only an option on weekdays leaving Windsor (there's no trains that'd make the connections all the way to Quebec City on weekends, at least that Via will ticket as through connections.)

Amtrak does offer a Greyhound bus as an option from Chicago to Toronto, making stops in Windsor and London on the Canadian side, but that bus still wouldn't arrive in time to make ongoing connections to Quebec City on the same day.

I can't find a way to do the trip by rail that doesn't involve an overnight somewhere, even when I pull up a few different major bus companies to try and find a short-ish bus connection to try and fill the gaps. The places where an overnight could happen and be able to only have one scheduled overnight:

  • Seattle or Vancouver, taking the Coast Starlight to the Canadian to regional service Via rail. Note that this option does pose the risk of a second overnight in Toronto if Via is late into Toronto and the connecting trains won't make it all the way (they show a 9:30 AM connection, but it'll likely get in later, often a lot later.) I'm not sure if any hotel arrangements would be on you or on Via.
  • Windsor, assuming you're going to take a continuing train on weekdays (though that overnight is only 5 and a half hours and requires arranging your own transport across the border at least to some extent)
  • Niagara Falls, ON through Toronto, ON, taking the Southwest Chief to the Lake Shore Limited to the Maple Leaf. I'd double check some of the stations between Niagara Falls and Toronto to make sure they have connecting train/bus service before booking to there, but I know Niagara Falls, ON has connecting GO bus service to Via Rail that's ticketed with Via, and Toronto should be fine.
Given all those options, I'd probably aim towards Toronto being the the best place to do the overnight, with one of the stations on the Ontario stretch of the Maple Leaf being the next best options (Niagara Falls, ON might actually be better if you haven't seen the Falls before, as that's something that could be done with that overnight layover.) Either option, while requiring a fairly long layover in Buffalo, at least has reasonable hours for layovers and arrival/departure from the overnight stop. All the other options either have the potential for two overnights (unless you can switch from Quebec City to Montreal as your final destination - the Adirondack gets in too late to catch a connecting Via train to Quebec City) or are too tight to be comfortable to relaxing (I'd think it'd be very hard to relax trying to do a connection from a midnight train into Detroit to a 5:30 AM train in Windsor.) The Seattle option may be decent, though I'd plan an extra day minimum over what Via says it'll take to get there, and check with Via on their policy for a missed Via connection in that case.
 
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niemi24s

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I think the schedules of the connections make the Detroit - Windsor connection too difficult/risky/unenjoyable to do from a western LD train, at least in my opinion.
And making the border crossing at Port Huron to Sarnia doesn't seem any better - maybe worse - as the stations are farther apart.

Reversing direction is no better either as VIA Rail arrival times at both Windsor and Sarnia are late enough to discourage all but the most adventurous IMHO.
 
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niemi24s

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And just because I've really really been wanting to do this for several years, here are what seem the best (for PTH & SAR, the only) arrival times (dwell times) and departure times (24hr clock) at the Michigan/Ontario border towns between CHI and TWO:

EASTBOUND: DET 1340 (4h 05m) 1745 WNO

PTH 2331 (6h 39m) 0610 SAR

WESTBOUND: WNO 1102 (7h 01m) 1803 DET

SAR 2220 (8h 00m) 0620 PTH

As Jebr alluded, it wouldn't take too much of a backup at the border to foil a same-day attempt from DET to WNO (Windsor). All this based on a search for the week 8 through 14 April 2018.

Q²: Anyone actually tried any of these connections - by any means?
 
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niemi24s

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And here are the 24 hour departure and arrival times for all those daily, except as noted, trains:

EASTBOUND: CHI 0720 - 1340 DET CHI 1600 - 2331 PTH

1240 - 1846

1750 - 2354

WNO 0530 - 1004 (ex. Sun) TWO SAR 0610 - 1053 TWO

0905 - 1311

1345 - 1752

1745 - 2151

WESTBOUND: TWO 0645 - 1102 WNO TWO 1740 - 2220 SAR

1215 - 1630 (ex. Sat)

1730 - 2156

1935 - 2344

DET 0633 - 1032 CHI PTH 0620 - 2345 CHI

1130 - 1530

1803 - 2225
 
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