Another Ride on VIA Rail’s Train #2, the Canadian.

I was trying to remember earlier today if my trip next February across Canada on VIA Rail will be my fifth or sixth time on this wonderful train. I’ve made the eastbound trip from Vancouver to Toronto only once before and, if forced to make a choice, I’d probably recommend taking this trip in the opposite direction. 

 On the westbound journey, the scenery seems to get better as you go. Train # 1 leaves Toronto and travels across rich, broad farmlands and then through the rocky pine tree wilderness of the Canadian Shield before emerging onto the Great Plains. Next come the magnificent Canadian Rockies and finally, on the last morning, the train descends through the incredibly lovely Fraser River Valley and continues on into Vancouver. But, really, picking one direction over the other is just quibbling, because it’s a great ride in either direction and, in fact, it’s probably one of the top ten scenic train rides in the world. 

 For me, the whole experience is enhanced by the train’s equipment—classic single-level, stainless steel beauties, built in the 1950’s, and refurbished from the wheels up. In particular, the last car in every consist is one of VIA Rail’s justly famous Park cars, each named for one of Canada’s national parks. Always a gathering spot for passengers, each of these cars has the distinctive rounded end and a lounge area where coffee, tea and pastries are available during the day with more interesting beverages added to the mix during the afternoons. They also feature seating in an upper level beneath a glass dome. Trust me: this is the only way to see the Canadian Rockies!

And, finally, the food featured in the train’s dining car offers another glimpse back to the Golden Age of train travel. It’s really excellent, everything prepared on board, and accompanied by a very nice assortment of Canadian wines. 
I’m particularly looking forward to this trip, however, because     I’ve never taken this train in the middle of winter. I’m told that the passengers during the winter season are quite different and a good deal more interesting that the typical elderly American tourist couples that favor the trip in the more benign seasons. And, of course, the operating crew has a lot more problems and potential problems to deal with and for which to prepare. We shall see. I certainly don’t wish any truly serious weather-related problems on my future crew, but a few interesting incidents would be be appreciated.