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Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

Canadian Rail Adventures

Written by  Stillman Rogers

USA-train
Canada has it all -- magnificent craggy mountains, vast plains, stunning seashores and vibrant cities. And it is a lot easier to get to than Europe. For rail fans it offers one more attraction: great train routes that span the continent from Nova Scotia
to Vancouver.
The VIA Rail system is the perfect way for clients to explore the beauty of our northern neighbor. Most trains operate year-round, offering different experiences in all seasons. Most of the trains include panorama and dome cars for maximum viewing.

From Montreal to Halifax
The Ocean, an overnight train to Halifax, Nova Scotia (www.viarail.ca), departs Montreal in the evening, traveling east along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence to Rimouski and then along the New Brunswick shore of the beautiful Bay of Chaleur before crossing into Nova Scotia. In either direction, the most scenic part of the trip is by daylight. Halifax is filled with museums and Scottish culture; suggests that clients explore the lively waterfront to hear maritime music and tour historic ships.
Another overnight route east from Montreal travels along the St. Lawrence and to the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, through the picturesque village of Percé with its pierced rock and gannet colony, to the Forillon National Park.

Clients traveling to Quebec, North America’s only walled city, will thank you for suggesting that they add The Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix (www.lemassif.com/en/train) to their trip. This excursion from the foot of Montmorency Falls, just outside Quebec City, takes passengers to the village of La Malbaie, in the Charlevoix region. Traveling eastward along the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, it passes through small villages, hugging the river so closely that in places the train seems to be running on the water itself. As they enjoy the scenery, guests dine on local specialties, served on china and white linens.

Suggest an overnight stop at La Ferme in La Malbaie, a new state-of-the-art eco-resort noted for its outstanding dining on locally produced foods (www.lemassif.com/en/ferme). The village of La Malbaie is filled with shops and galleries, and you can arrange for clients to enjoy whale watching excursions in the Bay of St. Lawrence, kayaking, e-bike excursions, water sports or a spa.

A Train to the Polar Bear Capital
While most of VIA Rail travels east and west, a train from Winnipeg heads north through sparsely settled boreal forests to Manitoba’s northern edge at Churchill. In June and July visitors see beluga whales in the Churchill River and in autumn the polar bears that come from the interior to the sea. It is also one of the best places to view the magical colors of aurora borealis. The train has two- and four-passenger private cabins, with showers available, or partially reclining Economy class seats.

The Canadian: West through the Rockies
With more than $22 million spent over the past three years, the premier passenger rail line from Toronto to the west coast is one of North America’s most luxurious rail trips. Clients can travel The Canadian from city to city or book a Sleeper Plus cabin for the four-night trip that includes all meals and access to panorama and dome cars for viewing spectacular mountain scenery.

Clients may want to stop at Edmonton, Alberta, to see the Royal Alberta Museum, the Muttart Conservatory and Fort Edmonton, the largest historical restoration in Canada and a window into Canada’s “wild west” and the Royal Mounted Police. Trips to Calgary, home of the famous Stampede, can be arranged via Red Arrow Coach (www.redarrow.ca). For lodging in Edmonton suggest the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald (www.fairmont.com), a grand hotel in the best nineteenth-century style.
Near Edmonton, The Canadian crosses 180 feet above the Battle River on a half-mile steel trestle, and beyond Jasper it crosses the continental divide at Yellowhead Pass and catches sight of Mt. Robson, the highest point in the Rockies. Other highlights are the rapids of Hell’s Gate and hoodoo rock formations at Ashcroft.

Clients may want to stop in Jasper, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies to stay at the luxurious log cabins of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, joining a guest book that includes Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe and Queen Elizabeth II. Its golf course is one of the finest in North America and winter activities include the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, and Rocky Mountain skiing at Marmot Basin.

Jasper to Prince Rupert
For a spectacular two-day daylight trip, suggest the journey from Jasper to Prince Rupert, where the train station is at the ferry terminal for boats between Alaska and Seattle. Clients will see Jasper National Park, the Canadian Rockies and the Pacific shore as the train crosses the Yellowhead Pass and travels along the Skeena River to the coast. Highlights include the Kathlyn Glacier, Kitselas Canyon and waterfalls on the Skeena. You will need to book them a hotel room for the stopover in
Prince George.

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