Travel Diary: Solo Train Travel Across Canada

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Faced with a flight from somewhere in the US or Vancouver to Toronto, or a leisurely 3 day train trip, I will choose the train every time.  I have never had the opportunity to do an overnight train trip in a sleeper cabin before, so when I noticed that Via Rail had last minute half price tickets from Edmonton to Toronto I knew I had to get myself over the Rockies and onto that train.

A long train trip is perfect for solo travel – lots of time for reading, knitting, gazing at the landscape as it blurs past, and lots of time for day-dreaming and planning.  It was a nice three days that I could check out of a long trip, and just relax.

The sleeper cabins on Canada’s VIA Rail trains are ingenious in that they don’t look like sleeper cabins.  Leather seats sit facing each other, perfect for lounging.  Then, when you get back from dinner your cabin is entirely transformed into top and bottom bunks, with proper linen and thick curtains that close with velcro.  You clamber into your bunk and velcro yourself in for the night and then the train rocks you to sleep.

Meals are served three times a day, with proper cooked breakfasts (so many omelettes). The porter checks with you the night before what time you would like breakfast and lunch the next day. Just be wary of time zone changes as there is at least one morning where lunch is served only an hour after breakfast.  I would recommend either having a very early breakfast that morning or just skipping lunch if you have some snacks on hand.

While the Canadian Prairie is known as Canada’s Bread Bowl, I found it fascinating to watch the agricultural patterns as the train whizzed through the prairie.  Long stretches of yellow fields pointed towards canola instead of wheat, and it was surreal when overnight the landscape changed from the wide open fields of the prairie to the dense wooded forests and lakes of Ontario.

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