VIA Canada 150 Trip Part 1: The Canadian Train

By the time I wrote this post, up until this point where you’re reading this, I have only finished Edmonton-Toronto round trip and not yet done the Edmonton-Vancouver part which should be the greatest part of the entire Via Rail experience. However, surely updates will be posted soon once I get to try that bits of the utmost Via Rail journey!

I started this whole journey on the second week of July 2017. Being a solo traveller, I actually got pretty nervous when I came to Via Rail train station in Edmonton to get to my train heading to Toronto, because it was all super-crowded and cranked up with young adults who seemed to also hold the Youth 150 pass and everyone seemed to have companions of their own. I could barely spot a single solo traveller—or I might just not search well enough.

Us Canada 150 pass holders actually got our own cars. So the vibe was kind of more like a university trip, except you didn’t necessarily know anyone. Anyhow, I got lucky that the girl sitting next to me was a super-friendly Canadian-Moroccan who used to go to UofA as well for her undergrad, hence at the very least I got someone to talk with despite not really planning to do so earlier before the trip started.

Being in the economy class, of course I didn’t expect everything to be all fancy and neat and comfortable. However, I have to admit that even when compared to the States’ Amtrak trains, Amtrak got extra points. The greatest difference is possibly about the Skyline car or the dome car, where the main feature is a dome made of all glass so you could basically watch the scenic views above with almost 180 degrees view. Amtrak plays it better. They have lots of types of sofa—single couch, double, and for groups and you could even rotate some of the chairs, while the one Via has is basically similar to the normal passenger seatings.

The Skyline car.

And the most important thing that’s probably playing the highest consideration whether or not you should take this train: the views. I took Amtrak earlier this year because from what I heard, the views were just stunning all the way from the west coast to the east coast, and it was absolutely true. Of course, passing several states with different types of natural wonders makes enough sense to explain why. But what about Canada?

To me, again, Amtrak won over once again. Please note that this paragraph was written before I took the Edmonton-Vancouver train which was said to be offering the most majestic view of all—but I’ll update later once I experience the route for sure. Anyhow, Alberta basically consists of huge prairies which extend to Saskatchewan and all the way to Manitoba, so what do we see for straight three days from the train? That’s right: grassland. With occasional views of small lakes which did not impress me at all after witnessing what Banff and Jasper lakes have to offer. However, the Assiniboine Valley was really beautiful though, and with luck—meaning if your train actually got few hours of delays—you’ll be reaching that valley by almost sunset, which would offer the greatest view of the sunset above the prairies.

Assiniboine Valley.

And if you’re traveling in the middle of summertime just like I did, your money is worth more for you actually get to see the stunning canola fields. Well, you’re right that it’s basically just the solid yellow version of grassland, but considering that this is a view that would only last for about a month within a year, this might be worth looking at.

Grassland, canola fields, valleys, and the best is when you’re crossing some rivers or small brooks. Horses and cows are also spotted often, and they add serious values if you’re trying to capture beautiful photographs or video footage from behind the moving windows. One thing that I regret the most though, is that I pack my telephoto lens inside my checked-in baggage while I shouldn’t have done so, so I couldn’t better photograph interesting objects within a distance such as groups of cattle, or beautiful village-styled churches on top of a hill.

Almost dusk.

So my conclusion to the question: is it worthy to take the train heading eastward? To be honest, I don’t really think so. Unless you get this amazing deal just like the one I did, it might not be the best way to spend three days and two nights, especially with such normal price which I believe could be equivalent with a round trip domestic flight within Canada.

However again, if you don’t mind giving up that much amount of money and time and are really curious about Assiniboine Valley in Manitoba, this could be worth it. So obviously, the worthiness of something is always depending on what you’ve got and what your preferences are, but here are my two cents if you’re looking for some considerations.

And here are some other snapshots of the scenic landscape that I took while I wasn’t fully immersed within the moments of enjoying the grassland out there:

Can you spot the moon?
Dusty road.

Hope to see you again in the next post(s)!

Written by

A geologist, self-taught photographer, hobbyist writer, and wanderer who loves subtle colours, sunrays, mother nature, wilderness, adventures, flowers in the afternoon, quiet corners of a city, being literally - yet not figuratively - on top of the world, solo travels, trips by train, fascinating rocks, vintage postcards, and aesthetically pleasing urban landscapes.

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