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Train travel in Canada

Canadian long-distance trains are run by VIA Rail Canada,  They're a great way to see the country, whether you travel on the inter-city trains between Toronto, Montréal and Québec, the "Océan" from Montréal to Halifax or Canada's classic trans-continental train, "The Canadian" from Toronto to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver. As well as VIA Rail, there's the excellent Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies between Vancouver & Banff, Calgary or Jasper.

Train routes Map in USA

Trains from the USA to Canada

New York to Toronto or Montreal...
Two excellent daily trains link New York with Montreal & Toronto, with inexpensive fares, comfortable reclining seats, a café car & great scenery along the Hudson River Valley. They are run by Amtrak, jointly with VIA Rail in the case of the train to Toronto.

The New York-Toronto train is the 'Maple Leaf' with coach class & business class. The New York-Montreal train is the 'Adirondack', with coach class. Both trains have comfortable air-conditioned reclining seats and a café car, and are a day well spent, highly recommended. Both trains travel right along the scenic Hudson River valley all the way from New York to Albany, with superb views of the river, including West Point Military Academy, Bannerman's Island and Storm King Mountain. As its name suggests, the Montreal train also heads through the scenic Adirondack Mountains. Passports are checked at the US/Canadian border, there is no check-in as such in New York, Toronto or Montreal, you just need to arrive at the station in time to collect your tickets and board the train.

Reclining seats in Coach Class,
as used on the 'Maple Leaf' New York-Toronto train...

'Amfleet' cars, as used on the daily 'Maple Leaf' from New York's Penn Station along the scenic Hudson River valley to Toronto's Union Station.
A scenic ride along the Hudson River Valley: Both the 'Maple Leaf' & 'Adirondack' head out of New York's Penn Station towards Albany along the scenic Hudson River Valley, with the rails often right next to the river. Look out for West Point Military Academy on the far bank, Storm King Mountain (pictured above left) and Bannerman's Island. Enjoy breakfast from the cafe car, then in the afternoon perhaps a half-bottle of wine or 'Sam Adams' Boston beer. At Albany, the train swings west and crosses the Hudson river with great views of the State Capitol from the bridge. On the train to Montreal, you'll also pass through the highly-scenic Adirondack mountains; On the 'Maple Leaf' to Toronto, you'll call at Niagara Falls, and although you can't see them from the train, why not stop off there for 24 hours en route? Either way, relax, forget about airport & airline hassle and simply enjoy the journey! The best views are on the left-hand side of the train heading north from New York, right-hand side heading south from Canada. However, on the Adirondack you'll get views of Lake Champlain on the right of the train going north to Montreal, left heading south from Montreal.

Seattle to Vancouver
Two daily articulated Spanish-designed 'Talgo' trains link Seattle with Vancouver, one morning, one evening. You can also travel between Vancouver and Seattle via Victoria, the British Columbia provincial capital, on Vancouver Island.

Canadian inter-city trains

Toronto - Montréal, Toronto - Ottawa, Montreal - Ottawa...
VIA Rail's fast modern inter-city trains link Toronto, Ottawa & Montréal. Montréal to Toronto takes about 4 hours 40 minutes city centre to city centre, Toronto to Ottawa takes about 4 hours 20 minutes. Montreal to Ottawa takes 1 hour 50 minutes.

Montréal - Québec
From Montréal to Québec, air-conditioned trains run several times daily, taking less than 3 hours

Inside Toronto's magnificent & historic Union Station.
It's right in the city centre opposite the famous
Royal York Hotel. Photo courtesy of James Chuang.

The clever money rides the train
Business Class seats on a Toronto-Montreal intercity train.
Photo courtesy of James Chuang.

"The Canadian"

Toronto - Winnipeg - Edmonton - Jasper - Vancouver
The greatest train in Canada and one of the world's greatest train journeys, VIA Rail's "Canadian" runs 3 times a week all-year-round linking Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver. The journey takes 4 nights (it took 3 nights before they changed the timetable around in December 2008), and the train consists of the original 1955-built stainless-steel coaches from the Canadian Pacific Railway's "Canadian". You can travel very affordably in 'Economy class' in a reclining seat, or in 'Sleeper Touring class' (formerly 'Silver and Blue' class) with a private sleeping-car room and restaurant car meals included

The Skyline dome car.

"The Canadian" at Jasper...

Sleeper Touring class (sleepers): This is the luxury option. Formerly known as Silver & Blue class, in Sleeper Touring class you have your own private 2-berth bedroom or 1-berth roomette or 'section' with comfortable beds, the fare includes all meals in the elegant Sleeper Touring class restaurant car, and you can use the famous 'Park' observation-lounge car at the rear of the train. The 'Park' car, 18 of which were built and all named after Canadian parks, features a classic north American 'vista dome' upstairs, the bullet lounge at the rear (complimentary tea and coffee always available) and the mural lounge downstairs underneath the dome. There are several different types of sleeper, all with hot showers at the end of the corridor.

Sections: Sections are the cheapest type of sleeper, also known as simply 'upper or lower berths'. Sections consist of open-plan seats arranged in pairs facing each other (useful bit of information: The person with the slightly more expensive lower berth always gets the seat facing forward during the day). At night, the seats pull together to form a lower berth, and an upper berth folds out from the wall. Curtains are fitted to each bunk for privacy.

Roomettes or bedroom: The next step up from a section is a roomette or bedroom. If you are travelling alone, you will travel in a roomette. This is a very compact single room, just big enough for a large seat with plenty of legroom, and a leg-rest with a toilet bowl hidden underneath. There is a washbasin in the corner. At night, a bed folds down from behind the seat, taking up almost all of the roomette. Bedrooms are larger rooms for two people, with separate en suite washroom and toilet. An upper and lower berth convert to seats for daytime use. Bedrooms are the same price per person as a roomette.

Economy Class seating.
Seats have a generous recline
and fold-out leg-rests.

Sleeper Touring Class dining-car.
Meals are included for sleeper touring class passengers.

Sleeper Touring Class 'Section' sleepers, in daytime mode.
Sleeper Touring Class single-bed roomette. Perhaps the cosiest room for one person on the rails! Just big enough for one armchair by day with toilet shown here with padded lid closed, washbasin and fold out table. The bed is stored behind the seat, on its end (in the middle picture you can see the handle to lower the bed). At night, the bed folds down and takes up most of the compartment - you need to raise it to use the toilet!
The Canadian's 'Park' car.
The Canadian's 'Park' car:
Sleeper Touring class passengers can use the 'Park' car at the rear of the train.

The 'bullet lounge' at the back of the train.

Go up into the vista dome for superb views of the scenery all around the train. Economy class seats passengers also have access to a sightseeing dome.

Can you stop off on the way? Yes, of course you can, just be aware that every leg of your journey requires a seat or berth reservation for a specific train & date. You cannot buy an 'open' ticket and hop on & off trains spontaneously without a reservation. But it's easy to pre-book stopovers, viarail has a 'multi-city' option which allows you to specify a Toronto-Vancouver journey with one or more stopovers at places along the way, such as Winnipeg or Jasper (for Jasper national park).

The Océan": The Océan has 'Economy class' reclining seats, 'Sleeper class' sleeping-cars, with restaurant car, coffee shop and lounge. In the summer tourist season from June to October it also has 'Sleeper Touring class' sleeping-cars and a 1955-vintage stainless-steel observation dome/lounge car at the back, like the one attached to the rear of the 'Canadian'. This observation/lounge car is reserved exclusively for Sleeper Touring class passengers, and meals in the restaurant car are included in the Sleeper Touring class fare (extra for other passengers). In summer, all departures of the Océan use modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars (some with private toilet and shower) and reclining seat cars originally built in the UK for the abortive Channel Tunnel night trains, and now marketed by VIA Rail as 'Renaissance' cars. In winter (Nov-April), four departures per week use Renaissance cars, the remaining two departures per week use 1955-built stainless steels seats and sleepers, similar to those used on the Toronto-Vancouver 'Canadian'. Exact departure times may vary slightly in winter, November to April. There is also a Montreal-Gaspé portion of this train, using 1950s stainless steel cars, attached three times a week.

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I obtained most of the information for this page on http://www.seat61.com/Canada.htm