Train Travel in Canada
Since I started to research Train Travel in Canada, my interest in trains has grown. Therefore, as soon as I get a chance I will be on the Skeena to Prince Ruppert and on the Algoma into the Agawa Canyon.
Train Travel is not only about getting from A to B, it’s about the experience. Travelling by train through Canada might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about travel in Canada. But what better way is there; it beats busses and coaches for sure. To see the Canadian Backcountry in all its splendour, in air-conditioned comfort, while enjoying great food and a good night’s sleep, sounds pretty good to me.
The Canadian Railroad Trilogy
The Canadian Railroad Trilogy is a song written, composed and performed by Canadian Singer-Songwriter Gordon Lightfoot and describes the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. You can find the song on Lightfoot’s album “The Way I feel” on of my favourite albums.
I never forget the Lightfoot concerts at Massey Hall when I lived out East. While Lightfoot’s song describes the optimism of the Canadian railroad age, it also tells about the cost in sweat and blood of building an iron road running from the sea to the sea. Probably not many travellers think of this when they hop on a train in Canada.
The Rocky Mountaineer – train travel on a tourist train
The first class Rocky Mountaineer offers train trips through the Rocky Mountains between Vancouver and Banff, Calgary or Jasper.
The Rocky Mountaineer is privately owned by a Canadian tour company. The luxury Western Canadian train vacation packages include four different rail routes. The scenic routes through the Canadian Rockies take you through a spectacular landscape. The onboard service is excellent. The Rocky Mountaineer has developed into a world-class travel experience. This is a tourist train and expensive, but for visitors with not much time available, it’s probably worthwhile.
Tourists use this train as part of a package. Independent travellers have the option to buy one-way tickets.
Rocky Mountaineer travel routes
- Vancouver – Banff
- Vancouver – Jasper
- Vancouver – Whistler
- Whistler – Jasper
On the Rocky Mountaineer, two levels of services are available, Readleaf and Goldleaf. Goldleaf is definitely the way to go. You will travel in a domed car with a dining room below. The chefs will spoil you with fresh-cooked meals.
The Rocky Mountaineer only runs during the day. This never lets you miss a moment of the amazing views. The passengers are booked into a hotel for the night.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers luxury service but it is very expensive. You could drive across the province for a fraction of the cost and you would have the freedom to explore along the way.
Train travel across Canada
Canada’s railway links the east and the west coast of this huge country. Via Rail Canada operates the national passenger rail service on behalf of the Government of Canada. Canadian long distance trains are a great way to see the country. No matter whether you travel on the inter-city trains between Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec, the “Ocean” from Montreal to Halifax, or Canada’s classic trans-continental train, “The Canadian” from Toronto to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper and Vancouver.
The legendary Canadian
Via Rails # 1, The Canadian operates from Toronto to Vancouver. The train stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Jasper, with several departures each week. The 4466 km journey takes 83 hours. The Canadian travels throughout the night. Departing from Vancouver you will miss most of the British Columbia scenery. The good news is that you will approach the Rockies by daylight.
The journey aboard “The Canadian” is considered one of the worlds most spectacular train trips. Breathtaking scenery displays every minute of the way between Toronto and the Pacific Coast. November to April is off season. Travel in the dead of winter may result in some delays.
The westbound train slides through miles of forested wilderness above Lake Superior. It slides across the great plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The two Canadian Prairie provinces grow and ship large quantities of grain all over the world.
The Canadian passes through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. Just before the town of Jasper, the route leads through the spectacular Yellowhead Pass which is the border between Alberta and British Columbia. This part is especially beautiful with the best view of the train winding around the tracks with mountain peaks and pine trees in the background.
On the last day of that journey, the train follows the Fraser River down through amazing beautiful valleys of British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. Via Rail’s transcontinental journey provides awesome meals along with breathtaking scenery.
This is not only train travel in Canada, this is a once in a lifetime experience
If you’re in luck, you might see a bear or two on the tracks. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready. Around Jasper, elk and deer are wandering about, and bold eagles are soaring high up in the sky.
Booking: The Canadian runs three times a week during peak season and twice a week during off-season. For more information visit viarail.ca
Train travel from Montreal to Halifax: The Ocean
The Ocean (train) is a Canadian passenger train operated by Via Rail between Montreal, Quebec, Halifax and Nova Scotia. It is currently the oldest continuously operated passenger train in North America. The Ocean’s schedule takes approximately 21 hours, running overnight in both directions. You travel hundreds of kilometres while you sleep in comfort.
Together with the Canadian and Via Rail’s corridor trains, the Ocean provides a transcontinental service. When you wake up, you’ll be in Canada’s Atlantic Maritime region.
Train Journey Jasper – Prince Rupert Train (The Skeena)
A train not to be missed! Plunging deep into the wilds of British Columbia, the Skeena takes you on a 1.160-kilometre journey. This journey takes you past the highest peaks of the Canadian Rockies. You will see countless lakes and waterfalls with spectacular views of the beautiful Pacific Coast, past the rustic settlements and farms.
The train stops overnight in Prince George. In the morning it winds through the Yellowhead Pass, across British Columbia’s interior plateau and along the mighty Skeena River. For many travellers this is the best train trip ever. Many would choose this over the expensive Rocky Mountaineer. The train makes several stops where everyone can get off for a few minutes. You can request a stop and you can get doped off anywhere.
This is a way to really absorb parts of Canada that most people don’t know it exists
It’s not a trip for people keen to get somewhere quickly. You will get a leisurely viewing of the magnificent Canadian mountain scenery and wildlife. The train often runs late, freight trains have right of way!
In the off-season, the train might only have two cars, the coach, and a dome/lounge and it won’t be crowded. This is the kind of laid-back train that lets people off at road crossings in the middle of nowhere. Why spend all that money on the Rocky Mountaineer!
The train conveys Economy Class as well as Touring Class during the peak summer period. Food is available from the small galley/bar in the dome car for Economy Class passengers. Touring Class passengers are treated to hot meals and staff offer commentary throughout the journey.
The train offers connections at Prince Rupert between the BC Ferries service to Port Hardy, the Alaska Marine Highway service to points in southeast Alaska. At Jasper, the train connects to the Via Rail Canadian to Vancouver and Toronto.
For Via Rail Route map check main map above.
Train travel from Winnipeg to Churchill
The best train travel trips take you to places without roads or cars. The Winnipeg-Churchill train is one of them, operated by Via Rail. The train completes the 1,700-kilometre journey to the vast Subarctic region of Northern Manitoba, in two days. Formerly known as the Hudson Bay and prior to that Northern Spirits, it operates bi-weekly as a passenger train.
The train runs through Manitoba and Saskatchewan and travels on the Canadian National Railway line north to The Pas. From The Pas, it transfers to the Hudson Bay Railway. It passes through Thompson and Gillam on its way to the Port of Churchill on Hudson Bay.
The northern stretch of the Hudson Bay line stops at many small communities along the way. Many residents depend on this route for their livelihood, so it’s a good place to talk to locals and learn about their daily life. “Whistle” stops can be made at any point to let people on or off. All sorts of people seem to appear from and disappear into the wilderness. At some stops on the way, you might watch containers being loaded with fish, and taken off a couple of stops later. Poverty shows sadly in various places along the way and is very troubling.
You can drive to Thompson Manitoba, an economic and mining centre. From Thompson, you can hop on a train to Churchill. The overnight trip takes 14 hours.
Churchill is the place in Canada to see polar bears up close. The northern lights dance across the arctic skies during the winter months. The train trip takes 43 hours and has a tendency to run behind schedule. Count in enough time if you have a program booked. The town of Churchill is only accessible by train, see Via Rail or by air.
Algoma Central Railway
When I first heard about the Algoma Central Railway I got excited, but doing some more research I learned about the struggles to keep it running.
Agawa Canyon Tour Train
One of the most popular train tours in Northern America is the famous Agawa Canyon Tour train. The train departs from Algoma’s largest municipality, Sault Saint Marie, Ontario. Between the end of June and mid-October, the one-day excursions run seven days per week and transport visitors 114 miles through the Algoma wilderness. The train travels over towering trestles, alongside northern lakes and rivers through awesome granite rock formations to the beautiful Agawa Canyon.
Travellers can get off the train at Mile 114. You have an hour and a half to experience the beauty of Canyon Park. Enjoy the scenic walks to several waterfalls and to a breathtaking lookout, 250 feet above the canyon floor.
The best time to enjoy this nostalgic train trip is from the middle of September to the first week in October, when the spectacular fall colours can be seen.
Train travel “Tour of the Line” on the Algoma Central
The Algoma Central Railway also operates a regular passenger train. It departs from Sault Saint Marie, Ontario four mornings a week (at the time of writing). Travelling to the end of the line is a 295-mile journey. The 10-hour trip takes you to the remote township of Hearst (three times weekly).
Sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. This is a train trip from an era when punctuality took second place to serving the people along the track. You are heading north through a landscape of trees, lakes, and rocks.
For a shorter trip, you can catch the train farther north at Hawk Junction.
The milk-run- train stops anywhere for anyone!
This is so unusual these days and rail fans come from far away to experience the nostalgia.
Passengers get on and off at small communities, isolated cabins, cottages and hiking trails, with their backpacks, canoes, tents, groceries, ATV’s in and out of the baggage car as they come and go. People flag down the train to hand over letters that need to get to a post office and appear from and disappear into the wilderness.
There are lodges situated along the line, each offering an experience unique to its location.
The town of Hearst is a mixture of old and new with a truly enjoyable French-Canadian atmosphere.
Algoma Central also offers Canyon Combos which you can get more information on the Algoma Central Railway website.
Tracks to trails – Snowmobile excursion
Snowmobilers can load up their sleds in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Sit back and relax as the train slides north across the breathtaking winter wonderland of Algoma Country.
Get off along the line at Hawk Junction (Wawa) or Dubreville and ride the Superior Snow Challenge Loop. Or travel to the end of steel to begin your sledding adventure in the French Canadian town of Hearst, Ontario.