View Full Version : Via Rail travel through Canadian Rockies?
02-09-2010, 02:49 PM
Calling all Canadians and anyone else who has taken the train through Jasper! We're considering taking the train from Saskatoon to Jasper, staying a couple of days in Jasper, and then continuing on to Vancouver. This would be in mid-June. We will be two adults and a 2 1/2 year old toddler.
Has anyone taken a trip along that route? What was it like? Would you recommend it to someone else?
We're cheap, so we usually try to travel Economy. However, a good chunk of each leg of this trip will be at night, and I'm wondering if we can get an OK night's sleep in the chairs or if it's worth paying for a sleeper. The price difference is considerable! From what I can find online, the chairs in Economy recline pretty far -- much more than in an airplane. But... they are still chairs.
Any advice would be appreciated!
p.s. We've taken our son on a long train ride before, and he did great! So we're not too worried about that part. And we plan to take lots of entertainment and snacks.
02-09-2010, 02:53 PM
My mother, sister and I traveled by train from Edmonton (I think) to Vancouver when I was about 7 and my sister was 4. It was one of the most memorable events of my life! Back then, the seats didn't recline very far, and if you're one of those people who, like me, can't sleep if you're sitting up, you won't sleep at all.
From what I can recall, you can get four seats that face each other. I think some even had pull out tables for in between. And the dinning and sight seeing cars were so awesome!
02-09-2010, 04:11 PM
I'm a train buff, so a cross-Canada train excursion is on my wife's and my "someday we'll do that" list. Probably when the kids are grown. Have fun!
02-09-2010, 04:32 PM
I'd love to do such a trip! I'm not sure I'd try the overnight portion without some sort of sleeper though, not with a toddler along. None of you will sleep well in the chairs, and you parents will be too frazzled to deal with a cranky tot the next day, I'm afraid.
02-09-2010, 05:28 PM
I did it years ago now.
It wasn't very crowded and there was tons of room to spread out and sleep, even in the afternoon.
It was an awesome journey, hope you enjoy it.
02-09-2010, 06:05 PM
I've certainly been between Toronto and Edmonton (the train went from Toronto to Vancouver, but I got off in Edmonton), and as I recall the train schedule, it was designed so that, as much as possible, you travel through the Rockies during daylight hours. Remember, you're at about 53 degrees North at Edmonton; so in June, daylight can well last until 10:30 at night. The sun comes up quite early too, so there should be plenty of daylight in which to view the mountains. Of course, if you're from Saskatoon, you know that already. :)
I've never done overnight train travel in Economy class--I like my privacy and I like to stretch out at night, so I get a one-person "roomette," as VIA calls it. But check their website for other options, all of which have different prices--you may find that a "sleeper section" (or is it called a "Pullman section" on VIA?) would suit your family perfectly. These are bench seats by day that fold down into beds at night, and bunks that fold down from the ceiling. They are not as expensive as the private bedrooms, but would cost more than a chair in Economy. Still, meals in the dining car should be included in the price. I don't recall that meals were included in the fare for Economy passengers. Worth looking further into, anyway.
Regardless of what you choose, have a great trip!
02-09-2010, 10:06 PM
That sounds like a great trip - going through the Rockies by train sounds wonderful. I took the train from Calgary to Regina years ago, and I didn't like it because of all the rocking, but it was just a seat, not a sleeper. I'd go sleeper next time.
02-09-2010, 11:19 PM
It's hard to sleep on a train, but it depends on the person.
The 2 1/2 year old can be problematic. While I have no doubt even if you didn't get a sleeper the adults would enjoy it, toddlers are bundles of energy and junior may not be satisfied looking at windows.
I've been on trips out West and it can be boring after while. I mean a mountain is a mountain. It's pretty but once you see one, it gets old fast.
But as long as you can keep the kid happy you will enjoy it.
02-10-2010, 12:38 AM
This last year, a friend and I took Via from Vancouver to Edmonton, then rented a car and drove back through Jasper to Banff. In Jasper, we got a call that said that the train strike would prevent our planned return trip, so from Banff we drove to Calgary (rather than driving back to Edmonton), then flew back to Vancouver.
Yes, very scenic. Jasper is a very pretty town, in the middle of a very beautiful national park.
As a younger man, I'd taken the train all the way from Montreal to Vancouver. Back then, I realized that I can't sleep well sitting up, even in a roomy train seat. Still, you'd be on the train overnight only one night at a time, right? Well, it might work well enough for you... but if you can afford it, I'd recommend the sleeper berths. I think Via has various excursion fares going - you might ask about them. The dining car experience is nice, so try that out.
I don't know if the toddler will be able to work the latches at the end of the car - keep an eye out until you determine that. I expect the small one will want to run up and down the car aisle, so you'll have to control that somehow. Otherwise, there's the predictable unpredictability of traveling with a child.
I've found train travel to be a lot more relaxing than flying, and train travelers to be generally very friendly. I'll certainly do it again, when I can.
Mona Lisa Simpson
02-10-2010, 01:18 AM
Actually the end of June is when I plan to take my six year old cross-Canada (Winnipeg to Vancouver then fly back) by train. So the info in this thread is great.
02-10-2010, 11:25 AM
Thanks for the comments! I'm starting to think we ought to research some sleeper arrangements... in spite of wanting to go the cheapest route. I don't want us all to be cranky.
02-10-2010, 02:24 PM
I've done the trip from Vancouver to Calgary in September. Granted it was 1975, but the trip was glorious, even to me as an eight year old child.
02-10-2010, 03:18 PM
With a kid along for the ride, I'd go for the sleeper. I've done the full Vancouver-to-Toronto journey in economy, but I was traveling alone, and was lucky enough to have two seats to myself so that I could curl up during the overnight legs. (I don't sleep at all if I'm in an upright position.)
I imagine a sleeper would also give a toddler a little more room to work off some energy without disturbing the other passengers.
02-10-2010, 04:00 PM
It's been about 10 years since I last did an overnight train trip on Via, but I can assure you that the seats in Economy aren't all that comfortable unless you're one of those folks who's blessed with the ability to sleep anywhere and anytime... they do recline somewhat, but not anywhere close to horizontal, and they have zero neck or lumbar support (I dozed off for a couple of hours and woke up with the world's worst neckache). This was on the Halifax-Montreal run, BTW, which is done mostly overnight.
Given that you're travelling with a little one, I'm going to add my voice to the "get a sleeper" chorus.
(BTW, riding the train through the Rockies ranks pretty high on my list of Dream Trips... I hope you'll post a thread about the experience afterwards, for those of us who want to do it someday)
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