Friday, November 11, 2011

Vancouver to Jasper on VIA Rail, Canada

             “Trains do not depart: they set out, and move at a pace to enhance the landscape, and aggrandize the land they traverse.
— William Gaddis, The Recognitions (1957)

The mood is festive in the VIA Rail Station in Vancouver, Canada.  Eager travelers mill about the station as live music plays; hot cider and mixed nuts are served, compliments of the railway.  My twin sister, parents and I are here with World Wide Country tours and we're preparing to board the Canadian for an overnight trip to Jasper, Alberta. 

VIA Rail's Western Canada Routes.

            "All Aboard!"  The call comes and the four of us search the long line of silver cars, looking for #232.  We climb on board, enter our rooms and stow our bags.  In each 2-person compartment we find armchairs facing a large picture window.  We settle in and relax for a few minutes before receiving dinner call.
            The dining car is 4 cars away and this is my first time walking through a moving train and passing between the cars.  I have visions of old movies—outlaws and law enforcement officers jumping from car to car as the ground rushes by; to my relief (and to that of my parents) the cars are connected by fully enclosed, sturdy walkways.

VIA Rail's Canadian.
             Service in the dining car is quick and attentive and the meal is delicious.  I dine on sesame crusted chicken accompanied by soup and salad.  
             After dinner we return to our rooms and discover that our porter has transformed the sitting areas into sleeping quarters.  The bunk beds are spacious and cozy; each bed is equipped with a reading light as well as pouches for watches, books and glasses.  A small sink stands opposite the beds, and baskets beside the sink offer soap, shampoo, mouthwash and towels.  The toilet has its own small closeted room.  Really, everything you need is here in a 7’ by 6’ space.
We arrange our things and then walk to the domed observation car.  Although the skies are dark we can discern snow-covered hills and trees as the train casts its light across the landscape.  A few hours later we retire to our bedrooms and turn in for the night, the swaying of our car on the rails gently rocking us to sleep.

View from the observation car.

               The following morning we view frozen waterfalls and snow-capped mountains during breakfast.  After eating we enjoy views of Alberta’s winter wonderland from the observation car.
The train pulls into Jasper station and we disembark, looking forward to our stay in Jasper Park Lodge and to attending their annual 'Christmas in November' 
celebration—several days of holiday cooking, eating and decorating seminars.   For more information on Christmas in November, click here:

Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

          I'm excited about the overnight return trip to Vancouver.  Train travel has proved a wonderful experience—more fun and adventurous than I thought it would be.  These words from The Great Railway Bazaar sum it up:  “A train journey is travel; everything else—planes especially—is transfer, your journey beginning when the plane lands.”
VIA Rail information may be found on this website:
I don’t typically travel with a tour company but I can recommend World Wide Country Tour's Christmas in November trip.  Read about it here:


  1. Travel by rail sounds so romantic, conjuring old black-and-white movies with Cary Grant! What a terrific idea for a family holiday.

  2. I am the twin sister Rita refers to in this story and I can vouch for everything! This was a fantastic trip - I would highly recommend it to anyone! Everyone in our family has been blessed with wanderlust and we also have been fortunate to have had opportunities to have taken many, and varied, trips. But this one was very special and full of highlights - beautiful scenery, incredible food, and all kinds of terrific experiences - from beginning to end. And the "romance of train travel" was certainly a significant part of this wonderful vacation!

  3. Rita . . . no grass grows under your feet! You certainly travel to very scenic and interesting places. Your well-written narrative and excellent photos serve to provide the reader with a vivid idea of what you see and experience during your travels.