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Riding the Rails in Canada

Living in British Columbia, I've always thought it would be fun to travel across Canada by rail, stopping along the way in major cities for a night or two and continuing on. Whenever I've researched, I've always come away a bit disappointed. It appears that no one offers any cross country venues, just short trips through the Rockies or some similar 3-4 day jaunts through Eastern Canada. And they are very expensive. Am I missing anything in my research? Fall back plan, or course, would be simply to drive across, but I do like the train.


Posted by
11294 posts

Here is The Man In Seat 61's Canada page:

You can get a single train from Vancouver to Toronto, where you have to change for services further east. With a change in Toronto and another in Montreal, you can go as far east as Halifax. With a change in Winnipeg, you can go as far north as Churchill, MB.

These are regular VIA Rail services. There are also the special tourist trains. For instance, VIA no longer services Calgary (only Edmonton), but a private line does. These are the very expensive routes you are referring to, but they do look nice if you've got the time and the bucks.

Posted by
428 posts

thanks for the reply. Didn't think to look at man in seat 61.

Posted by
3940 posts

We did the train from Nova Scotia to Ottawa 10 yrs ago. I'm pretty sure it was a bit cheaper back then, and trains a bit more frequent. We didn't spring for a sleeper. Honestly, I'm glad we did it, but I wouldn't do it again. Noisy (when trying to sleep - whether other trains going by, crying children, just general noisiness) and a bit boring - tho I'm sure the ride thru the Rockies would be gorgeous. Of course, now with iPads and whatnot, we could download movies to watch, but at that time, it was just staring out the window. Delays - we were a few hours late leaving Montreal to come back home...and just...well, it ain't European trains, that's for sure.

Posted by
4223 posts

I did the ride from Montreal to Quebec and back a few years ago, really liked it. It was fall and the colors were great. The train was in great shape and everything went smoothly. So perhaps you want to just do Toronto to Montreal to Quebec, that would give you 3 major cities to hang out in.

You might also consider taking the Hudson River line from NYC to Montreal, that is supposed to be a great ride.

Posted by
7501 posts

We had a cruise out of Vancouver last September but wanted to see the Canadian Rockies and looked into taking the well know Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to the Jasper, Banff area.

After much research, we were appalled at the huge cost of the RM. I then researched bus tours or renting a car and doing it on our own.

I concluded that renting a car wasn't a bad idea, but had a disadvantage in going to all the wonderful sights in the Rockies.
I found a bus tour company named Key West Tours.

They have several tours of the Rockies and their prices are excellent. Our four day circle tour from Vancouver back to Vancouver, with three nights in the Rockies. The tour cost about $700 Canadian pp, which is less than $600 US. That is about one-third of the Rocky Mountaineer cost and you get to see more on the Key West tour.

We did the tour and loved it. If you want to see the Canadian Rockies, they have great tours and some from Calgary to Vancouver.

Posted by
428 posts

thanks for all the replies. I actually don't have much interest in the Rockies. I live in South Eastern BC, and have numerous mountain ranges in our backyard. Rockies are a short drive away and I've visited them many times. The train tours I found seem to focus on these mountains. The Prairies, Eastern Canada and especially the Maritimes are what I'm interested in. However, as many also seem to agree, train travel in Canada appears to be cost prohibitive.

Posted by
32155 posts


I've also thought of taking the trip on The Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto, which takes about four days. It would be fun to ride through the spiral tunnels in the Rockies. I've never considered stopping for a night or two in towns along the ways, although that might be possible (but probably complicated to arrange). There's also The Ocean which goes from Montreal to Halifax, and I believe that takes about two days. If you have a good cable package in your area, have a look at a show called Mighty Trains as they do an hour long program on The Canadian.

If you want to try a more adventurous rail trip, you could also look at The Ghan in Australia. That's another one that's on my list.

Posted by
327 posts

Warren, although it is not inexpensive, my husband and I really enjoyed our cross-Canada journey on VIA Rail's The Canadian from Edmonton to Halifax and back in May 2007. We had our own roomette with bunk bed, toilet and sink (shower down the corridor), ate delicious meals in the dining car, and sat in the dome car or lounge car to enjoy the scenery and the company of many Europeans, Australians, and Americans (few Canadians). We stopped in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax - with a rental car in Nova Scotia and PEI for a week before we made the return journey by train. Sleeping on the train does take some getting used to, so it is nice to break up the trip with hotel stays in major cities en route.

Although it does take time, it's a wonderful way to see our great country and meet international travelers. The best way to describe this experience might be a "land cruise". You can research VIA Rail's website for detailed schedules, discounts for seniors, etc. We have also enjoyed the Edmonton/Jasper/Vancouver route on VIA Rail several times when we didn't feel like driving through the Canadian Rockies to the west coast (since the area is practically in our backyard, too).