Government-run VIA Rail (416/366-8411 or 888/842-7245, www.viarail.ca) provides passenger-train service across Canada. The Canadian is a thrice-weekly service between Toronto and Vancouver via Edmonton, Jasper, Kamloops, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Service is provided in two classes of travel: Economy features lots of legroom, reading lights, pillows and blankets, and a Skyline Car complete with bar service, while Silver and Blue is more luxurious, featuring sleeping rooms, daytime seating, all meals, a lounge and dining car, and shower kits for all passengers.
Passes and Practicalities: If you’re traveling to Vancouver from any eastern province, the least expensive way to travel is on a Canrailpass, which allows unlimited travel anywhere on the VIA Rail system for 12 days within any given 30-day period. During high season (June 1–Oct. 15) the pass is adult $837, senior (over 60) and child $753, with extra days (up to three are allowed) $71 and $64, respectively. The rest of the year, adult tickets are $523 and senior and student $471, with extra days $45 and $41, respectively. VIA Rail has cooperated with Amtrak (800/872-7245) to offer a North America Rail Pass, with all the same seasonal dates and discounts as the Canrailpass. The cost for unlimited travel over 30 days is adult $1,149, senior and child $1034; $815 and $734, respectively, through the low season.
On regular fares, discounts of 25–40 percent apply to travel in all classes Oct.–June. Those over 60 and under 25 receive a 10 percent discount that can be combined with other seasonal fares. Check for advance-purchase restrictions on all discount tickets.
The VIA Rail website (www.viarail.ca) provides route, schedule, and fare information, takes reservations, and offers links to towns and sights en route. Or pick up a train schedule at any VIA Rail station.
Rocky Mountaineer Vacations (604/606-7245 or 877/460-3200, www.rockymountaineer.com) runs luxurious rail trips to Vancouver from Banff or Jasper and from Jasper to Whistler via Prince George. Travel is during daylight hours only so you don’t miss anything. Trains depart in either direction in the morning (every second or third day), overnighting at Kamloops or Quesnel. One-way travel in RedLeaf Service, which includes light meals, nonalcoholic drinks, and accommodations, costs $769 per person d, $849 s from either Banff or Jasper and $869 and $949, respectively, from Calgary.
GoldLeaf Service is the ultimate in luxury. Passengers ride in a two-story glass-domed car, eat in a separate dining area, and stay in luxurious accommodations. GoldLeaf costs $1,569 per person d, $1,649 s from Banff or Jasper to Vancouver. Outside of high season (mid-Apr.–May and the first two weeks of Oct.), fares are reduced around $150 per person in RedLeaf and $200 per person in GoldLeaf Services. The Rocky Mountaineer terminates behind Pacific Central Station at 1755 Cottrell Street (off Terminal Avenue).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition