In early May, I’m going to be taking one of the world’s great rail journeys: VIA Rail’s premier train, the Canadian. Appropriately designated train #1, the westbound train runs between Toronto and Vancouver; train #2 runs west to east. Both operate twice weekly in the winter, three times a week from the first of May through October.
Start to finish, it’s a glorious ride, of course, no matter which direction you’re traveling. Personally, I prefer the westbound trip because the scenery passing by outside your window gets more spectacular as you go: from farmlands to forests to the great plains to the Rocky Mountains to lush valleys and, finally, the Pacific Ocean.
I confess this will be my fifth time aboard this wonderful train and, since my last trip on the Canadian, VIA has evidently made some improvements. More sightseeing dome cars have been added and they say the menu has been improved. Since the food has always been terrific, that must have really taken some doing. I can’t wait to see and taste all the improvements!
But I really think what I like most about the train itself are the rail cars: most are classic stainless steel beauties that not only carry you some 2800 miles across most of the North American continent, they also transport you back into the Golden Age of train travel.
The last car on every consist is one of VIA’s classic “Park cars”, each named for one of Canada’s national parks. With the distinctive rounded end, these cars include a couple of very spacious sleeping compartments, two lounge areas – one with small tables and a bar, the other at the rear of the car is equipped with comfortable lounge chairs. All very posh indeed, but the feature attraction of these classic cars is the sightseeing dome with several dozen seats on the upper level. What a view! And could there possibly be a better way to cross the North American continent?