This form of transportation, which opened up the West to settlers, began to fade with the advent of efficient air services. 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. Scheduled services along the original transcontinental line through Calgary and Banff ended in 1991, but continue along a northern route.
The Canadian runs between Toronto and Vancouver via Edmonton and Jasper three days a week in either direction and provides two classes of travel: Economy, which features lots of leg room, reclining seats, reading lights, pillows and blankets, and a Skyline Car complete with bar service; and Silver and Blue, which is more luxurious, featuring a variety of sleeping-room configurations, daytime seating, a domed lounge and dining car reserved exclusively for passengers in this class, shower kits for all passengers, and all meals.
If you’re traveling to Alberta from the eastern provinces, 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 $923, senior (over 60) and child $831, with extra days (up to three are allowed) $79 and $71 respectively. The rest of the year the fare is adult $576, senior and child $518, with extra days $49 and $44, respectively.
On regular fares, discounts of 25–40 percent apply to travel in all classes October–June. Those over 60 and under 18, as well as students under 25, receive an additional 10 percent discount that can be combined with other seasonal fares. Check for advance-purchase restrictions on all discount tickets.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition