VIA Rail’s Little Skeena Offers A Lot.

One way to rate any train ride is to ask yourself, “Would I like to take that ride again?” Certainly, if I’m thinking of VIA Rail’s trans-continental train, the Canadian, I’ve already answered that question in the affirmative something like five times … with Number Six coming up next month.
 
I’d also love to take another ride on VIA’s train up to Churchill on the shores of Hudson Bay to see those polar bears. Or maybe go there at this time of year and experience the Northern Lights. So that trip also qualifies for my Do-It-Again List.
 
And so does the Skeena. This is the VIA train that runs three days a week between Jasper, Alberta, and Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast. Affectionally known to its crews as ‘the Rupert Rocket”, the train maintains a leisurely pace through some glorious country during its two-day journey.
 
To me, the Skeena’s unique feature is that it’s such a small train. When my wife and I rode it three summers ago, the consist was a locomotive, a baggage car, two coaches and one of VIA’s wonderful Park cars. These are always the last car on the train and they feature the bullet-shaped rear end and a wonderful viewing dome up above the lounge area.
 
Here are three of the many photos I took on this wonderful ride.

The scenery is extraordinary, of course, and the view from the dome is equally special, but in quite another way. Because the train is so short, you get a wonderful view of the locomotive and of the track up ahead. It’s almost as though you’re looking over the engineer’s shoulder.

The scenery is extraordinary, of course, and the view from the dome is equally special, but in quite another way. Because the train is so short, you get a wonderful view of the locomotive and of the track up ahead. It’s almost as though you’re looking over the engineer’s shoulder.


Early in the afternoon of the second day, the Skeena was directed onto a siding to allow a long Canadian National freight to pass in the opposite direction. The lounge area in the Park car provided a close-up view of the whole operation.


Of course as interesting as the railroad operation may be, and as mesmerizing as the forward view from the dome was, the real attraction is the magnificent scenery. There are spectacular mountain peaks, still capped with snow even in August, but the forests and the verdant valleys provide remarkable contrasts.


So here’s another train ride you might want to add to your list. Just be sure to opt for what VIA refers to as Touring Class, which gives you access to that wonderful lounge car and its dome.
 
Note that there are no sleeping cars on the train, so it stops at the end of the first day in Prince George, which is about the halfway point. That’s where everyone piles out of the train and heads for one of the hotels in town to spend the night. All passenger are responsible for making their own lodging arrangements. The journey is resumed the next morning.
 
My suggestion for an itinerary would be to depart from Vancouver on VIA Rail’s Train # 2, the Canadian, for the overnight ride to Jasper. Spend at least one night there, then take the Skeena to Prince Rupert with that overnight stop in Prince George. Spend at least a day or two in Prince Rupert, then take a ferry down an inland waterway to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. That takes a full day, but it’s a very scenic ride. We rented a car in Port Hardy and took two days to drive the length of the island to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. From there, you’ll have several transportation options to get back to the city of Vancouver or to Seattle. Would I do it again? Without question!