Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by NeoArashi
I mentioned in my latest thread that I'll probably go to Winnipeg trhough train in Summer 2012, however a great idea struck us. We are thinking of postponning our trip by several months, going in winter instead, and get ourselves a CanRailPass. My friends does NOT want to stay too long in the train, he suggestesed that we make these stops (we both live in québec city) Toronto (We will stay for the few hours we'll have to wait between the Corridor and the Canadian) Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, while I suggested Chruchill. The final idea was doing this trip: Québec City>Winnipeg (Stopping at Toronto)> Edmonton > Vancouver> Winnipeg (Gotta wait at least 1-2 days until we take the next train)>Churchill > Winnipeg (I really don't like how the Canadian and Northen Manitoba train hardly ever ''connect'' even though they stop at the same station)> Quebec City (home sweet home)

Or, if we can't afford a CanRailPass, we were thinking of getting a Corridor pass... but that's a different Story...

Would we be wasting our time/money for this trip? Or would it be worth it? And is it worth going to Churchill in the winter? (I know it's VERY cold there in winter, but I've heard that watching Polar bears was a great experience)
  by jp1822
Although Edmonton I am sure is a great stop over and more cosmopolitan, you could do a stop over at Jasper. The later may be a little more expensive if on a budget, but you never know what you can find there. Lot of "outdoor activities" to partake in as well as absorbing the incredible scenery. I have never done a stop over at Edmonton, but can highly recommend Jasper. You'd probably have to rent a car in Jasper though. I thought the car rental rates were quite reasonable and you can get the car right from the train station (or across the street etc.).

The Canadian and train to Churchill (Hudson Bay Train) used to have a same day connection westbound (and eastbound too I believe as it left for Churchill late at night) at Winnipeg up until a few years. It's a shame this connection is gone. However, trackwork and slower speeds on this line has necessitated longer running times and a change in the schedule. Churchill is a place that is on my "to do list" after exploring Canada coast to coast by train (even up to Prince Rupert etc.).

Vancouver is a really nice city. It's definitely in my "top ten." Public transportation is pretty good here.

I am always curious as to what people say about their trip to Churchill. Have never heard anything really negative about it. I do wish they'd add a Park Car to this train. VIA Rail does have some "extras" of these that they could put on this train on a year-round basis. Instead the full service diner serves as both a lounge and place to have your meals.

Trains with a Park Car (needed for regular operation):

Canadian: 4
Skeena (Jasper - Prince Rupert): 2
Ocean: 3 (seasonal)

If VIA were to add Park Cars to the Hudson Bay route I believe they would only need two Park Cars - hence a total requirement of 11 cars, and I think that would still leave with VIA with spares!
  by Tom6921
Plus I think the Skeena carries 2 Park cars in the summer.
  by timberley
Sounds like a great idea! I'm actually planning to get a CanRail Pass myself in May of next year (so while it's still at "off-season" prices), just to take a month and travel the country. I'm trying to talk a few friends into it, but I'd be happy to just do it myself if it comes down to it (and I'd be happy enough to spend pretty much the entire time on the train). I plan to try to cover the Canadian (with a few stops perhaps), the Skeena (sorry, "Jasper to Prince Rupert train"), and perhaps either the Hudson Bay or the Chaleur. I travel on the Ocean several times a year anyway, so doing that trip again is not a high priority.

As far as your question of "is it worth it", I'd say definitely. From purely a monetary point of view, the CanRail Pass is a heck of a good deal, especially if you include 2 T.O.-Vancouver segments. For example, to buy the CRPass as a student (or youth) in the off season, it's $529 for 7 one way trips in Economy class over 21 days, with one comp. stop-over on every trip. Now, the student fare (in Economy Supersaver) for Toronto-Vancouver is normally $467 one way (this is for May for example), while a round-trip would be $935. You could do two full round trips on the Canadian and then one trip somewhere else for $400 less than one round trip on the Canadian. Obviously you'd want to take many different routes, but I think you can see what I'm trying to say.

As far as "is the trip worth it", I'd say definitely as well! I haven't yet had opportunity to travel on any trains out west, but I have been out that way (driving), and I know it's great. Vancouver is a wonderful city, and Edmonton, Jasper (beautiful!), Winnipeg, are all nice too. I don't know about Churchill, but I think it would be very cool (no pun intended!).

All the best planning your trip, I hope it works out!
  by Ken V
Using a Canrailpass to see as much as possible sounds like a wonderful idea as long as you are prepared to spend a lot of time in coach. Should you decide you'd like to do some of the trip in a sleeper then the pass can't be used for that and you'll have to pay whatever the available fare is extra. You should be aware that Canrailpass seats are limited so you should plan to book early to make sure you can get what you want. Also, as Timberley can tell you, the definition of what makes a single trip and what constitutes a stopover is not very clear. You should confirm your specific plans with VIA to make sure it fits within their rules.

I would definitely recommend a trip to Churchill just for the experience on the train if nothing else. You could do a same-day turn around, but If you want to see the sights, I suggest making arrangements in advance for accomodations and tours. The best time to see the polar bears would be in October and early November before ice forms on Hudson Bay. That is the busiest time there for tourists.
  by timberley
Ken's right on this one. The CanRail Pass will mean a lot of time in coach, but if you weren't planning (or able) to pay for sleeping accommodations anyway, it's a saving over the regular coach prices.

The Pass can only be used to book Supersaver Fare tickets. If all supersaver fares on a particular day are sold out, you can't use the pass for those tickets. So do be sure to book early. Yes, VIA requires it be at least 3 days ahead, but even during off-season times the supersaver fares usually sell out at least a week or two in advance.

And yes, I've been dealing with a lot of confusion figuring out what exactly counts as one segment! VIA's definition of "stopover" doesn't always seem to line up depending on where you're travelling, so be sure to check the itinerary with them. You wouldn't want to book all your trips then realize you'd have to pay for the final return trip because you'd run out of one way segments! If used creatively though, I think you can get a lot out of the pass. If nothing else, riding those trains and seeing so much of this amazing country we have is worth an awful lot!