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Travelling By Train in Canada

Updated on March 31, 2012

VIA Rail Canada

Canadian trains are nationally owned and operated by VIA Rail Canada. The train lines offer scenic trips across Canada as well as between cities. VIA has two types of trains; the regional, and the trans-national "Canadian."

The Regional

The regional trains are just the regular "run of the mill' trains which offer commuters an alternative to driving between Canada's major eastern cities; Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

The Canadian

The trans-national "Canadian" is a custom made train that has been fitted to provide some comfort for the long distance travellers. It is sometimes called the silver bullet for its sleek stainless-steel design that sort of resembles the old concept cars of the forties.

The train is outfitted with private compartments that offer single or double beds, private showers, and toilets. There is also a dining room that is reserved for first-class travellers.

The coach section of the train is less comfortable, with reclining seats that are similar to those on an airplane. No matter what class ticket you have each class has its own access to the Skyline car, an observatory that sits outside the top of the train giving its visitors a panoramic view of scenic Canada.

VIA Across Canada

Click thumbnail to view full-size


VIA is not a children friendly environment. Siting for long periods of time can be hard on the meekest of kids. Other than running up and down the aisle, there is not much else to do.

VIA has attempted to curb this delema by offering colouring/activity books, which are nothing more than corperate propeganda. They advertise that they now offer film viewings that only take place in the mornings and evenings.


VIA now offers wireless internet connection, a great advantage for people who don't like to get behind on their work.

Disadvantages of Riding by Train

  • The train is never on time.
  • You could be delayed for hours at a time because of some debris on the track.
  • Sitting for long periods of time.
  • Whether you have children or not you will be annoyed by the restless kids running around.
  • Lack of comfort for coach class.
  • More expensive than bus, which is more reliable and faster.

Advantages of Riding by Train

  • You get to see Canada from a perspective only rail can offer.
  • The first-class compartments are very comfortable and private.
  • You get to meet people and interact with fellow travellers.
  • The staff are polite and courteous.
  • Large luggage hold, for those die-hard camper/adventurers who like to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere.


Although I had a wonderful time seeing Canada from a completely different perspective, I wouldn't do it again. The train is almost never on time, sometimes being over ten hours late. The trip is long and discouraging, especially at times when the train is crawling at a snails pace. Not being able to bathe for the duration of the trip is another turn off, and the food is expensive and not very good.

The only advantage to travelling by train is the scenery and the people you meet. The view of Canada from the trains perspective is picturesque and being in confined quarters for three days tends to help even the most introverted people make friends.

If I had to take the train again I would have to insist on reserving a private compartment, which are equipped with its own bed, toilet and shower.


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    • theluckywriter profile image

      Stephanie 4 years ago from Canada

      Given the choice, I will always travel by train!

    • profile image

      francis5k 5 years ago from New York, New York

      excellent work! :-)

    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 5 years ago

      Interesting hub.

      It seems to me that as a Crown Corporation, VIA RAIL is the inheritor of the idea of a Canada-wide railroad system. Thus, British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871 because of the promise of such a railroad (and thus BC threatened to leave Confederation if the railroad didn't happen fast enough, which duly occurred in 1885, when the last spike was ceremonially hammered in). Why did PEI join Confederation in 1873? You've guessed: because the Dominion government offered to underwrite its railroad debts.

      Now it costs a fraction to fly over the Rockies, compared with the cost of a rail fare.

      But for psychological and historical reasons, it seems to me that no Federal government wants to let the system cease to exist, because it is more or less a national institution, administered as a Crown Corporation. (And as well as the railroad system being a national institution, complaining about subsidies to the railroad has likewise been an opposition pass-time since the 19th century. And so it goes. Long may the institution, and its concomitant pass-time, continue.

    • profile image

      Railway Holidays 6 years ago

      Some amazing scenery - really hope I get to see Canada by rail one day. Have travelled extensively around Europe but must try and find a way to get across the pond from the UK! Perhaps when my children are older though!

    • Mktgpro profile image

      Mktgpro 8 years ago from Canada

      Wow, I almost could visualise myself in the train. I am in Canada for the last 2 years now, but have not yet been able to get the opportunity to travel by train. By what I read in your hub, I am most likely to plan a trip by train very soon. Thanks

    • pjdscott profile image

      pjdscott 9 years ago from Durham, UK

      Thorougly enjoyable, thanks! we traveled to Montreal by train a number of years ago, though by an Amtrak train from New York. We would love to cross Canada by train and your article has whetted our appetite!

    • profile image

      Kate 10 years ago

      If you are planning to travel to Canada, please make sure to have an insurance before travel!!

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 10 years ago from West Kootenays

      Thanks again for this Hub. I'm thinking of taking a trip across Canada sometime in the future and had no idea they offered an observatory.

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 10 years ago from West Kootenays

      What a great Hun, packed with good information.