Lance Pinkerton's Trip on VIA Rail Canada's Canadian
Train #1, Edmonton-Vancouver
From Lance Pinkerton (LPinkerton@aol.com)
I recently travelled on VIA Rail train #1, The Canadian. On June 9th, at
precisely 810am #1 pulled into the station at Edmonton, Alberta, on the
advertised. The train enters Edmonton station via a backup move. The station
is a stub end affair located north of the downtown area and off the mainline.
Passenger trains pass the switch on the main that leads to the station and
then back in with the Park car leading the way. We (me, wife, 2 kids) made
the long walk from the station to the rear of the train where we had 2
bedrooms, ensuite, in the Park car. On time, at 855am, #1 departed Edmonton
and headed west to Jasper and Vancouver. We were travelling to Vancouver.
could have had breakfast immediately upon entraining but we had eaten
hotel. I was used to Amtraks practice of shutting down the diner
assumed breakfast would not still be being served at 9am. Oh,
Our 2 bedrooms were in top notch condition. Everything in the
worked, the lights, temp control, fans, etc. Our attendant came by
us how everything worked, explained the meal sittings, and offered
us anything we may want from his kitchen that is located in the
requested a table for the room and it showed up in about 2 minutes.
had a basket with towels and toiletries and there were several
with info about the train and a 100 page slick paper route
Upon investigation of the rest of the car, Kokannee Park, I found that it
in much better condition than the Park car I was in on my trip last
the Ocean. If I remember correctly that was the Strathcona Park.
Lounge was clean and inviting. There was a small table set up
pastries, coffee, juice, and fresh fruit. The small lounge under
the dome was
the designated smoking area for the WHOLE train. Luckily,
the attendants did
not advertise this and there was only one person I saw
using it as the
smoker. It was also limited to certain hours. The resultant
smoke was never
too much of a bother to us as it dissipated rather quickly.
The dome section
was marvelous and we spent a considerable amount of time
up there as we
traversed the Canadian Rockies west of Edmonton. Periodically
attendant would come upstairs and go to the head of the dome. He
us of any scenic attractions that were coming up and then
he'd take a
refreshment order. The drinks would arrive within a couple
minutes and he
would either take your payment there or run a tab for you
to pay when you
As we headed
west the train maintained its on time performance to the minute
at every stop.
Lunch quickly arrived and we made our way forward to the dining car.
These are nice dining cars very reminiscent of days gone by. Wonderful meals
are served by extremely friendly and attentive wait staff. Meals are included
with the first class ticket and there is no price column in the menu as
passengers are not allowed to use the diner. The food was superb.
the diner there is a Skyline car that serves as a lounge for the
contains a section with tables aft; a lounging area forward, with
a bar; and
a dome up top/center. This car also carried an attendant dedicated
that car. Besides serving up drinks and snacks his other mission
was to act
as tourguide. He spent most of his time in the dome conversing
passengers about the countryside. He was most interesting and
I also pumped
him for information about the other locations I was going
to visit while in
British Columbia. He left a small bell on the bar in
case anyone came by and
needed some service while he was up in the dome.
At Jasper the train makes a 1 1/4 hour stop. This was enough time to
stretch the legs with a walk around the town and get back to the station
watch the servicing of the train. They use trucks with utility lifts
to clean the dome windows. At this point I made a walk of the train
counted the cars. There were 2 engines and 19 cars: 1 baggage, 2 coaches,
Skyline dome cars, 2 diners, 10 Manor sleepers, and the Park car. The
Skyline car was directly behind the 2 coaches and was their refreshment
It was set up with a working kitchen so it could serve light meals.
actually had an oven and cooktop, no microwave. The menu showed that
were some hot plates available such as a hamburger, a pasta plate,
roast chicken plate. Everything else on the coach menu was cold.
I'm sure it
sufficed because it seemed that most coach traffic was local.
It did not
appear that too many were travelling long distances by coach
and those that
were were younger folks that probably brought their own
food or were
satisfied with the limited menu. (my opinion only). The 2
first class diners
each were accompanied by their own Skyline car as the
After Jasper the train really got quiet. A majority of the passengers
get off in Jasper. The great Rocky Mountain lodges and national parks are
located there and it is a popular destination spot. From then on there were
always seats available in the dome for all 4 of us. The attendants served
hors doerves and champaign in the lounges and domes about 30 minutes after
Dinner was at 630pm and was another fantastic meal. The diner was set
a bit more formal for dinner and the tables had candlelight, although
still bright outside so the effect was a bit lost.
We were able to enjoy the dome cars until well after 10pm as we were
nearing the summer solstice and since we were at a northern latitude it
stayed bright outside. The lights were left off in the dome after dark.
were only a few floor lights lit so you could find your way.
After a good nights sleep (how do they make those wafer thin beds so
we arrived into Vancouver 30 minutes early.
I found the personnel
on VIA to ALL be very attentive, polite, and
knowledgeable. The train was
impeccably clean and was kept that way
throughout the trip. There were
no large trash bags left sitting around to
act as garbage cans, a la Amtrak.
What waste bins there were seemed to always
be empty. I'd toss something
and the next time I went by the small bin would
be empty with a new trash
liner in place. We were sidelined once, for 5
minutes, to await a freight
travelling east. Other than that all train meets
went remarkably smoothe.
We never went noticeably slow to allow for a freight
meet. I counted 23
freights that we passed, held in sidings, that were
heading in our same
direction and 15 headed in the opposite direction and yet
we were held
only 5 minutes. UPRR dispatchers could learn something from
these CN guys.
In closing, I have to say that this is the very best trip I've taken by
rail since I was a kid on the Silver Meteor in 1970. I highly recommend
trip on VIA#1/2 to anyone looking for a grand rail travel experience
to the way it was over 30 years ago.
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