Ann Anglesea is one of the UK’s Premier Canada Specialists. Here she talks about the various train journeys that can be added to a holiday itinerary to give a different perspective.
Over the years, I have enjoyed a few train journeys in Canada and, whilst I am not one for sitting and staring out of a train window for hours on end, train travel in Canada is different. So much of the scenery is breathtakingly majestic, which is just as well because, due to the sheer size of the country, many journeys can be up to four nights. As a result, Canadian trains are built for comfort: cosy sleeping cabins provide a romantic, if rather small, overnight retreat and the quality of food and drink on board is a match for most restaurants.
This type of journey gives you the chance to switch off from the usual pressures of life and to, quite literally, watch the world go by. Conversation with fellow travellers is easy and the atmosphere is relaxed. So what routes are available on which trains?
The Rocky Mountaineeris considered to be the most popular tourist train as its route and schedule is speciﬁcally designed for daylight viewing and the experience is spectacular. There are three routes between the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver and each one takes two or three days, depending on the route. Breakfast and lunch is served on the train but you don’t sleep on board; instead you stay overnight in a hotel. There are two classes
Silverleaf and Goldleaf Service. As you might expect, there is a difference in the comfort level (and price!)but both are excellent. For many this is a ‘once in a lifetime trip’ so it is important to make an informed decision so you know what to expect in each class.
Many clients ask me about “the train that goes across Canada.”This is a VIA Rail service train called The Canadian. Unlike the Rocky Mountaineer, this train travels overnight and has various class levels and sleeping accommodation, ranging from upper and lower berths with a privacy curtain to the high-end Prestige Sleeper Class with spacious cabins, private bathrooms, ﬂat-screen TV and minibar. In this class, all meals, bar service and snacks are included.
The four-night journey between Toronto and Vancouver can be done in one trip, or can be broken to include some of the towns along the way. There are many itineraries that can be designed around this journey. For instance, if you were to leave the train in Jasper in the Canadian Rockies, you could easily pick up a car (or a coach) from here and travel through the Columbian Iceﬁeld Parkway to Banff and then maybe take the Rocky Mountaineer from Banff to Vancouver.
If you fancy shorter trips on Via Rail, the Corridor Service between Toronto and Montreal is scenic and comfortable and a great alternative to hiring a car. In fact, it is possible to visit Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Toronto on this service, so an excellent city hopping itinerary can be designed for those who prefer rails to wheels
The Ocean Routeoperates between Montreal and Halifax is an overnight scenic journey. If you travel in the Sleeper Plus class, you will have access to the Park Car: a carriage with a 180 degree glass dome allowing all round viewing.
Once in The Maritimes – which comprises New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island – the area has a lot to offer and it is very easy to get around by car.
Time Difference: Toronto -5hrs/Vancouver -8hrs
Currency: £1 = 1.8 Canadian Dollar
Flying Time from UK: Toronto 7hrs/Vancouver 9.5hrs
· The upgrade cost to Business Class on Via Rail is often not huge but makes a big difference to your comfort.
· Via Rail offer discounts for Seniors.
· Book early if you want Goldleaf Service on the Rocky Mountaineer – it ﬁlls up quickly.