Another Ride on “The Canadian.”
VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train, The Canadian, is featured above on the cover of the latest edition of my book, All Aboard. This wonderful train operates twice weekly in both directions between Toronto (across Lake Ontario from Buffalo, New York) and Vancouver, British Columbia (on the Pacific Ocean, 140 miles north of Seattle). With my pal, Bruce, from RPA, I was aboard the westbound train on its April 2nd departure from Toronto. This was an inaugural experience for my friend, Bruce, whereas, if I’m correct, this was my 10th ride on this wonderful train.
The Canadian’s consist* features classic stainless steel equipment—baggage cars, coaches, sleepers, lounge cars, dining cards, and—bringing up the rear—one of the railroad’s wonderful bullet-ended cars, each one named for one of Canada’s national parks.
There are actually four components to each of these unique rail cars: (1) a plexiglass dome on an upper level in which there is theater-style seating; (2) a lounge area in the rounded end of the car on the main level accommodating perhaps 10-12 passengers; (3) directly below the dome and two or thee steps down from the rear lounge area, is a more traditional lounge with padded benches and stools and two or three tables. Furthermore, there is a counter where one or more VIA attendants will mix and serve most any beverage of your choosing. They will even run a tab for you.
So indeed will the dining car steward when not directing passengers to their seats and assisting the wait staff as needed. Breakfast is at pretty much whatever time suits you, but there are two sittings at specific times for both lunch and dinner.
My first ever ride aboard the Canadian was the last segment in a series of train rides that took me all the way across the North American continent, from Halifax on the Atlanta Ocean to Vancouver, on the Pacific. Intermediate stops included Quebec City, site of the battle where British General James Wolfe defeated the French Army led by General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm; and Montreal, which just happens to be the second largest French-speaking city in the world. And from there to Toronto.
But in Toronto, everything changes when you climb up into one of the Canadian’s stainless steel sleeping cars: you’ve taken a step back into The Golden Age of Train Travel.
The Canadian’s consist—that’s the term railroaders use when referring to the entire train (and it’s pronounced CON-sist)—varies according to the time of year and the number of passengers. Typical? Two locomotives, a baggage car, three coaches, and a lounge car where coach passengers can purchase packaged food and drinks. The lounge car has an upper level with a clear plastic dome. Needless to say, it’s a popular spot.
Next come four or five sleeping cars. Each sleeper has four cabins designed for one passenger and six cabins, each accommodating two people. Each sleeping car also has facing seats—two on either side of a center aisle, which convert to comfortable berths at night—an upper and a lower with privacy assured by a heavy drape which encloses the space. (Think of the film “Some Like It Hot”.)
In addition to the Park car, there is at least one sleeping car on each of these trains that has also been converted to “Prestige Class” and you have to see it to believe it! Imagine a double bed facing a large picture window, an ensuite TV with a collection of videos, and other benefits.
And, of course, all this while you’re passing through rugged wilderness above the Great Lakes, crossing some of the richest grain-producing areas in the world, threading your way through the incomparable Canadian Rockies, and running the length of the stunningly beautiful Fraser River Valley into Vancouver, British Columbia, truly one of the great cities in North America.
VIA Rail has designated the Canadian as its flagship train and has given the westbound Toronto-Vancouver train the official designation as Train #1.
Train Number One. Yes, I’d say that sums it up perfectly.