- Best of Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Island: High Tea to Low Tide
- Vancouver’s Totem Poles
- Vancouver’s Best Hiking
- Family Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
- Focus on Vancouver and Victoria
- Vancouver Weekend Getaway
- Victoria Weekend Getaway
- A Tour Through Time
- Inside Passage Cruises
- Outdoor Adventures
- Winter Fun in Vancouver & Victoria
In 1886, the first CPR train rolled into Vancouver, forging a link to the outside world and spurring the city’s growth beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. By the early 1990s, though, rail travel had lost much of its appeal, thanks to drastically reduced airfares. Today, however, improved service, a refitting of carriages, a competitive pricing structure, and the luxurious privately operated Rocky Mountaineer have helped trains regain popularity in western Canada.
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, seniors and students $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 $1,034; it’s $815 and $734, respectively, through the low season.
On regular fares, discounts of 25–40 percent apply to travel in all classes October–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 a variety of luxurious rail trips, including the Whistler Mountaineer from North Vancouver to Whistler (May to mid-Oct., adult $189 round-trip, child $99), between Vancouver and Banff or Jasper, and from Whistler to Jasper via Prince George. On the latter three routes, 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. RedLeaf Service ($769 pp d, $849 s one-way from either Banff or Jasper; $869 pp d, $949 s from Calgary) includes light meals, nonalcoholic drinks, and accommodations. GoldLeaf Service ($1,569 pp d, $1,649 s from Banff or Jasper to Vancouver) 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. Outside of high season (mid-April to May and the first two weeks of October), fares are reduced around $150 per person in RedLeaf and $200 per person in GoldLeaf Service. The Rocky Mountaineer terminates behind Pacific Central Station (1755 Cottrell St., off Terminal Ave.).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition