Another Train Ride for Your Bucket List.

You know by now that I’m a big fan of VIA Rail in Canada. I’ve racked up a lot of miles with them and every trip has been worth taking. The big draw, of course, is their famous train, the Canadian, the transcontinental beauty operating between Toronto and Vancouver. (I’ll be making that trip again in February and will have regular reports here both during and after, internet connections permitting.)

But for a really memorable experience, get off the Canadian in Winnipeg and take VIA’s twice-weekly train some 1100 miles north to the little town of Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay. The ride up and back is a wonderful experience, but make the run toward the end of October for the chance to see polar bears in the wild.
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“Once-in-a-lifetime” is an over-used expression, but I will tell you that it’s the only way to describe the experience of sitting for 20 minutes in the safety and comfort of a big tundra buggy and watching two young male polar bears roll and tussle like two 800-pound puppies. You forget all about the cold and the blowing snow … well, until your fingers stiffen up and you can’t take any more photographs.

VIA’s eastern trains have a lot to offer, too, especially if you include a stop in Quebec City, where a visit to the old part of town is to be transported back 400 years to a small French village. There are a number of quaint B&B’s in that area, but — for me, anyway — the only place to stay is Le Chateau Frontenac.

Another often-overlooked VIA train is the Skeena, which runs between Jasper, Alberta, and Prince Rupert, BC, on the Pacific Coast. I have a lot of photographs and will write something about that train in the next few weeks. Bottom line: If you’re into train travel, don’t overlook VIA Rail.