Proof that Canada’s VIA Rail train is so much more than a basic commuter train? When you disembark, you’ll feel sad saying goodbye to the conductors.
Two of our favorites, who held court in touring class on VIA Rail’s “Skeena” route across mountainous, snow-capped British Columbia, were Patrick and Gilbert. They helped us with our bags, sure, but they also offered historical factoids, let us browse the library of provincial history books that they kept on board, and served wine. Gilbert even brought along flowers from his garden for the curved, vintage caboose car.
All the while, we traveled along the thundering Skeena River from Jasper, just over the British Columbia boarder in Alberta, to the charming coastal town of Prince Rupert. The entertainment, besides Patrick and Gilbert? Hundreds of miles of breathtaking scenery – untouched forest, show-capped mountains, the occasional ancient petroglyph, and the rusting remnants of Skeena River canneries.
The trip from Jasper to Prince Rupert takes two full days and stops overnight in the genial town of Prince George – a residential and business center – along the way. Meals are included with the fare, and a touring class ticket gives you unrestricted access to the train’s signature “dome” car, which has a curving glass roof that’s perfect for sightseeing – or sight-gawking, as it were. Plenty of travelers spent much of the trip with their noses pressed to the glass, waiting for brown bear and bald eagle sightings. Patrick and Gilbert even gave a warning when there were points of interest ahead.
If you’re looking for a more epic, cross-continental journey, VIA Rail offers routes that span the continent from Vancouver to Halifax, including the classic “Canadian” route. Guests can even hunker down in charming sleeper cars that seem transported from another era – complete with Mad Men-styling and a happy hour as the train departs in Vancouver.
The best part? Many of these routes – including the epic Skeena River journey with the charming conductors – are massively discounted if you book by Thursday. Check out all of the deals at VIA Rail’s web site.