(Tales Told From The Road” continues its series of “Travel Canada” stories highlighting destinations and attractions from sea-to-sea.)
In our last “Travel Canada” post we checked out riding the rails between British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer excursion trains. Today we’ll look at another train that travels that route, Via Rail Canada’s “Canadian.”
Hop Off in the Mountains
The eastbound “Canadian” departs Vancouver, British Columbia, at 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. After an overnight run, the train stops briefly at Kamloops in central B.C. before continuing on to Jasper, Alberta, where it arrives at 4:00 p.m., local time. If you want to tour the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, you’d get off the train here.
Westbound, the “Canadian” leaves the eastern end of its line, Toronto, Ontario, at 11:00 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. After two nights aboard the train, you’d pull into Winnipeg, Manitoba, the first major stop along the route, at 8:00 a.m. At noon, the “Canadian” resumes its westward journey. After a third night of travel, it arrives at Edmonton about 6:30 a.m., and reaches Jasper at 1:00 p.m.
Sleeping the Night Away
Unlike the Rocky Mountaineer which travels only during daylight hours and whose passengers spend the night in hotels, the “Canadian” just keeps rolling down the rails, night and day, and its riders sleep aboard.
“Economy Class” on the “Canadian” means you sit and sleep in an airliner-type seat. Blanket and pillow sets, including polar fleece cover, neck pillow, eyeshades and earplugs, are available for purchase.
In “Sleeper Plus Class” you have your own cabin with berths for either one, two, three or four people. Cabins have a private toilet, a sink and full mirror. “Suites” (a pair of adjoining two-passenger cabins combined into one larger cabin) for two passengers are also available on some trains and include these additional amenities: fresh flowers, chocolates on the pillows,” top-quality” sparkling wine, and breakfast in bed (available upon request).
“Sleeper Plus Class” passengers have access to a shower room at the end of the sleeping car, use of departure lounges at stations, plus priority boarding in Toronto and Vancouver.
On the “Canadian” full-course meals, snacks, cold drinks and alcoholic beverages are always available for purchase in the Skyline car. Meals for “ Sleeper Plus Class” passengers are included in the ticket price.
Plan on “packing light” for your trip on the “Canadian.” There are limits on both carry-on and checked baggage for all passengers.
Passengers traveling in “Economy Class” will find limited room for carry-on luggage under each seat, and in open, overhead storage areas above the seats. There may be room for some luggage to be stored at the ends of the car.
Those who purchased “Sleeper Plus Class” tickets will have a bit more room for their carry-on bags, but not a lot. In one-passenger cabins in the sleeping cars, baggage storage space is described as “small;” two-passenger cabins have room for one carry-on bag; in the three-passenger cabins you can stow one suitcase and one overnight bag; the four-passenger cabins and suites have room for two carry-on bags. Here’s Via Rail Canada’s advice for those traveling in “Sleeper Plus Class:”
“Your accommodation offers very limited storage space. Carrying large suitcases to your cabin or berth may limit movement and risk injury. We recommend only bringing the clothing you’ll need for the train trip and your personal essentials (including all medication) to your cabin or berth.”
Are We There Yet?
Via Rail provides an “activity book for kids, which contains a variety of cut-and-paste and colouring activities” for all children riding aboard the “Canadian.” For kids who are lucky enough to be traveling in “Sleeper Plus Class,” games, activities and video showings are organized in the Skyline car every morning from 7:30-10:00 a.m.
And to ensure that adults don’t turn into cry-babies, on some “Canadian” departures, additional activities, entertainment—such as live music performed by a traveling musician—or services like an optional in-chair massage given by a registered massage therapist, may be available.
Rail passes and Stopovers
All travellers — regardless of their class of service — are entitled to one complimentary stopover. A “stopover” is “any break in a through journey of a duration of 4 hours or more, including the time between connecting trains, or any change in fare plan or class of service.” So if you wanted to get off the train in Jasper and tour the Rocky Mountain parks, you may be able to hop back on the train after a few days and continue your journey in the same direction that you started, heading toward either Vancouver or Toronto.
If you are interested in stopping over at several cities along the “Canadian” route, a “Canrailpass – System” pass may be “just the ticket” for you. Just be sure to read the “New Conditions” that govern use of that pass before you purchase it.
Beyond The “Canadian”
If you get off the “Canadian” in Winnipeg you can board a train that makes a two-day trip north to Churchill on Hudson’s Bay where Via Rail Canada says you can “see polar bears up close from the safety of ‘Tundra Buggies®’. Watch northern lights dance across vast Arctic skies. In the summertime, kayak with the belugas under a midnight sun.” “Economy Class” and “Sleeper Class” are available on that route.
And from Jasper, you can leave the “Canadian” and board another train headed northwest to the British Columbia mainland coast. After an overnight stay in a hotel room at Prince George that you’ve booked separately, your rail trip will continue on to Prince Rupert the next day.
Via Rail Canada trains connect Toronto to cities and towns to the east, including Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, and travel all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia on Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Ready to Rock and Roll down the Rails?
First, take a this Via Rail “Dream” trip:
(Photos and videos were provided courtesy of Via Rail Canada.)