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Steve's Rail Travel
from Seattle,WA to Vancouver,BC

Travelogue and photos of the rail travel of Steve and his family on the Amtrak Mount Baker International from Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia.

Actually, the Mount Baker International name is not longer used for the service between Seattle and Vancouver. The name Mount Adams also is no longer used for the service between Portland and Seattle. Temporarily both names have been replaced by the title "Pacific Northwest Service" in the Amtrak timetables. With the introduction of at least 4 new Talgo trainsets in the fall along with more frequent service along this corridor, the entire service is expected to be renamed "The Cascadias."

The purpose of giving the service between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver its own name is to give some identity to the service like that of the Amtrak West San Diegans, San Joaquins, and Capitols. The names Mount Baker International and Mount Adams have been removed from these routes in preparation of more frequent service. Each of the new F59PHI locomotives is expected to have the name of one of the mountains in the Cascade range and the names Mount Baker and Mount Adams will very likely be used for two of them.

So far, there has been no uproar over the removal of the names Mount Adams and Mount Baker International from the routes. In the Northeast Corridor (NEC) trains run about every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Every one of these trains has its own name. That seemed to be getting a bit cumbersome to Amtrak and they tried to remove the names to give them a bit more flexibility. That attempt generated a tremendous backlash. Congress even considered passing legislation to mandate that Amtrak retain the names. Amtrak relented and kept the names, which means that Amtrak has had to come up with additional new names as they have added more frequent runs to the NEC. There doesn't seem to be that commitment to names on the west coast. Passengers seem to be more concerned with having on time service and additional service than with what the service is called.

In the above left photo you can see a locomotive near a round table, one of the few remaining in this nation. This round table is not too far north of Seattle. The train crosses many bridges on its way north from Seattle, Washington, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

You can see the Puget Sound in the left photo above. Most of the route from Seattle to Vancouver is very scenic because there is water on the west side of the train for almost the entire journey. In the center photo you can see my youngest daughter, Sherica, in the Dining Car. Sherica was playing the board game "Sorry" with her sister Jodina, her friend Stacey, and myself. During the trip the Dining Car is divided into two sections. The back section is roped off and serves full sit down meals. The front section is used as a Cafe Car. They sell coffee, snacks and other beverages and you are also allowed to just sit at the tables to read or play games even if you do not purchase anything. The above photo on the right shows a split from the main line just after our train crossed a bridge into Vancouver.

The use of Superliner cars on this route is only expected to be temporary. With the increase of service between Portland and Seattle as was mentioned above, Amtrak West had to take the Talgo trains off this route and put all of them into service between Seattle and Portland. There are additional Talgo sets being assembled right now in Seattle and new F59PHI locomotives are being built and delivered. As soon as the new trainsets are completed, they will replace the Superliners for the service between Seattle and Vancouver.

Above shows are approach into Vancouver, British Columbia. The left photo shows some mountains near the city. The second photo is a freight switching yard just outside the city. The right photo shows where all the buses load right outside the station. You can take buses from here to many places, including tour buses and even a bus that will take you straight to Victoria! That bus drives to the ferry, is taken by ferry to Vancouver Island, and then continues on to Victoria. Many of these buses run very frequently.

Going through Customs after arriving into the station was painless. We just walked up to the Customs booth with our carry-on luggage, presented our birth certificates and the declaration forms that we had been given on the train to complete, and we were through Customs in a matter of minutes! Waiting to go through Customs until after the train arrives into Vancouver is a great idea since it avoids delaying the entire train by trying to do the Customs clearance procedure on board. They are able to do this because Vancouver is the only stop for this train after it leaves the United States.

I don't know how this is handled on the southbound segment as I took a bus south from Vancouver to Seattle. We made a few stops on both sides of the border. When we got to the border, we had to take all our belongings and get off the bus. We also had to take our luggage out from under the bus to go through Customs. They didn't look through any of it, but we had to hand carry it through anyway. Since there were only a dozen people on the bus that I took, this process took no more than about 15 minutes for the entire bus. A full bus can take much longer, especially if any of the passengers have problems clearing customs of if they decide to do a greater inspection on the particular bus that you are on.

The southbound train makes several stops once it crosses the border into the United States. Thus, it would not be possible to wait until Seattle for the Customs inspection. I know when I crossed the U.S./Canadian border near Toronto and Buffalo, they actually did the Customs clearance right on board the train.

The left photo above shows my wife boarding the PCL bus that will take us direct from the rail station in Vancouver to Vancouver Island via the ferry. The center photo above shows the outside of the rail station in Vancouver. The right photo is a view from the ferry. In the scene you can see another ferry going the other way.

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