Day 53-55: Via Rail from Toronto to Winnipeg

I’m not big on inspirational quotes, but I do agree that ‘life is a journey, not a destination’ and I try to remind myself of it as often as I can. Train journeys in the UK are very much a means to an end but, as I’ve said before, train journeys in Canada are so much more than that. You can explore some of the deepest wilderness in the world from the spacious confines of a structure of steel. Throw in some hot meals that you would happily eat in most restaurants and you’ve got a very enjoyable time ahead of you.

Me and Dan have travelled exclusively in Economy class because our rail pass offers unlimited travel on the entire network for two months, but only in economy. The cost may seem a little high when you first look at it (Approx CAD1500 which is about £850), but when you consider that you will inevitably save on accommodation if you plan to see most of Canada with it, you’ll start saving with it quickly. This particular journey lasted for 36 hours, so I combined the need to avoid deep vein thrombosis with an opportunity to take a good look at what the trains have to offer. The train line is called ‘The Canadian’, and it has the most to offer because, end to end, the journey can last up to four days!

Seating/Sleeping Carriage – Economy Class

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I’ll start with the seats themselves. Most of the seats were in two’s, but every so often, you had a set of four that came with or without a table. The checker/chess board design seemed like a nice addition to the table, but playing chess on a moving train would be a bit difficult in my opinion as the train can be very rocky! No matter where you sit, you have a lot of leg room, and it is very possible to stretch out (as modelled by Dan) and make use of the leg rests.

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There is also lots of luggage space, not only by the doors as shown above, but above your seat and potentially underneath it as well as long as the bag isn’t too big. The bathrooms are pretty spacious as well and can usually double up as a baby-changing facility, with soap and hand-towels. The last thing I pictured is the water that’s available on both ends of the carriage. It’s a bit cloudy when it first comes out, but it helps if you don’t want to take several days worth of water on board with you.

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And I threw in the art for good measure. It actually does make the place look a little more homely than your usual train.

Dining/Recreation Lounge

On this train they were two separate lounges which I thought was a nice touch. It was also helpful to be able to change your scenery more often and get away from noise when needed.

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If you have a sleeper, then you have your meals included in the price, but in economy they are not. They are really good value though with an evening meal being around CAD14 (£9). You’re more than welcome to bring snacks/sandwiches and small meals with you on board, as they have plastic cutlery and sauces for anyone to use and hot water.

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Lower/Upper Berth Class

Things get a bit more snazzy and comfortable from here on in. I didn’t have the nerve to break into the highest class on board, which provides you with your own room and shower, but I did manage to wander into this area.

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During the day, you get a pretty nice seating area. By night, an attendant helps you transform that area into a lower berth and an upper berth. I’m not completely sure of the costs of this one, but the lower berth is large enough for two small people and one large/selfish person and the upper berth is only large enough for one person. It was hard to get a good angle of the upper birth in this picture with the ladder(?!) in the way, and the bed was unmade because a couple kindly allowed me to take a picture of their space.

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There is a shared shower, which is apparently nicer than the private showers the business class guests get and the bathroom is even more spacious than economy. You are paying several hundred Canadian dollars more for the privilege, but I’d argue that it’s worth it if you’re not on a tight budget.

Dome Car

This last part of the train is my favourite by far. You go through the recreation lounge and climb the stairs to this beauty.

 

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I’m very sorry that I didn’t take more pictures while up here, but I’ll post the two that I did.

 

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At some times in the year it is possible to see the northern lights from this car, but at any other time you can make do with the stunning scenery that you would rarely get an opportunity to see otherwise. This train really does plough through the middle of nowhere, with only villages or 200-500 people to break up the wilderness.

I’m done with the photos of this train for now, but I wanted to add a few more pointers below of our findings that I hope will help someone else when preparing for this trip.

1. People will make or break your journey – You see crazy people and annoying children when walking down the streets, and unfortunately sitting on the train will be the same gamble, except you’re stuck with them for hours. Luckily for us, we met some of the nicest and most inspiration people whilst on this journey and even came away with an offer of lodgings if we ever passed by where they lived. Most people just want to get along.

2. Please don’t get high on the train – The air does not come from outside and just circulates the train, so if you decide to get high on the train, then everyone gets high on the train.

3. You can remove the seat cushions – And place them in a way that will help you sleep.

4. You can sleep on the floor – As long as you don’t make it impossible for people to get past you. The attendants get that you need to sleep and won’t say anything unless you’re being a nuisance.

5. Bring snacks – Even if it’s just as a form of entertainment. You don’t consume calories while on a train so go wild.

6. Bring entertainment – It’s easy to improvise if you don’t as there’s bound to be someone really interesting to talk to or looking at the view itself is amazing, but bring something just in case.

7. Bring sleeping stuff – An eye mask, a blanket, a pillow or something soft if you can. And most importantly – earplugs. Either an old man will snore or a baby will cry. You cannot expect complete quiet. And don’t worry about pimping out; if you can bring a duvet, go ahead!

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