Canada Coast-to-Coast

Discussion in 'VIA Rail Canada Discussion' started by PaulDobbs, Mar 12, 2019.

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  1. Mar 12, 2019 #1

    PaulDobbs

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    PaulDobbs

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    I’ve been to most of the places that Amtrak can take me, so I’ve decided to go north this summer: I’m planning to cross Canada by rail. (I was going to travel Vancouver to Toronto last year, but wouldn’t you know, I was ticketed on one of the trains Via Rail cancelled to solve their problem with the lateness of the Canadian.)

    I’m going Fort Worth - Chicago - New York - Montreal - Halifax - Toronto - Vancouver - Seattle - Chicago - Fort Worth. Except for Vancouver and Chicago on the return, I’m staying at the nearest hotel to the stations. In Vancouver, I’m staying at a Holiday Inn and Suites downtown. In Chicago, I’m staying at the Palmer House. I’ve planned free days in Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver, and two free days in Toronto. I’ve got cabins for two on the Ocean and the Canadian.

    There are several things that I’d like to know about before I go. Are there any things that Via Rail does differently from Amtrak that I need to know about? On Amtrak, I usually charge up my phone, iPad and watch at night. Will there be power in my rooms to do this on Via? Is there power at the seats in the dome cars? (I like to track my progress using a map application on my iPad, and that eats up the battery.) Finally, I’m open to suggestions about what to do on my free days in the four Canadian cities.
     
  2. Mar 12, 2019 #2

    cpotisch

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    What class will you be traveling?
     
  3. Mar 12, 2019 #3

    PaulDobbs

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    I’ve got bedrooms on Amtrak. As I said, I have a cabin for two on the Ocean and on the Canadian. That’s a room with a small bathroom. On the eastbound Ocean, my cabin for two has a shower. On the westbound Ocean and the Canadian, it does not. I’m traveling in business class on the Corridor train from Montreal to Toronto. 
     
  4. Mar 12, 2019 #4

    Seaboard92

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    There are no outlets in the dome I am afraid. However a cabin for two will have one. I would bring a surge bar so you can charge multiple items at one time.

    VIA Rail is night and day different than Amtrak I promise you will like it more. Be sure to write a trip report.

    Why not take a NER to Boston change to the Downeaster and take a ferry to Nova Scotia?

    And here are a few recommendations as well. In Halifax the Triangle Pub is fantastic and depending on the night has live music. I went there on my two night stay in Halifax both nights. They have reasonable prices, and great food.

    My second recommendation in Vancouver is the Water Street Cafe. It's right next to the Steam Clock. It's in the heart of steam town. Great food, great location, good prices.

    In Seattle I recommend going to Smith Tower Seattle's first skyscraper. There is a restaurant in the observatory with a fantastic view. It's a short walk to King Street Station.

    Lastly in Chicago I recommend the White Palace Diner. It's over by the Amtrak yard and it's frequented by Private car owners, staff, Amtrak staff, and tons of locals. Down the block is a great view of downtown Chicago as well.

    Have a good trip.
     
  5. Mar 12, 2019 #5

    PaulDobbs

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    Thanks for the info. I always carry an extension cord and a small surge suppressor with three AC outlets and two USB sockets. I’ll be sure to add a battery for recharging the iPad. 

    You said that Smith Tower was “a short walk” from King Street Station. Can you quantify that a bit more? I’ll be 75 this summer and I have arthritis and COPD, so your definition of a short walk is probably different from mine. I have a few hours between the Amtrak Cascades and the Empire Builder, and I’m going to want lunch. 
     
  6. Mar 12, 2019 #6

    cpotisch

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    I thought the Park Cars have outlets...?
     
  7. Mar 12, 2019 #7

    PaulDobbs

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    To add some more information: I will have a lot of time between the Eagle and the Lakeshore on the trip out, and I've gotten tired of most of the eating places in Chicago Union Station, so I will probably try the White Palace. Thanks again, Seaboard92.

    I already have some ideas about things to do in Halifax and Toronto. In Halifax, there is the Marine Museum of the Atlantic that I want to visit. In Toronto, there is CN Tower and there is a railway museum nearby. My daughter, who is married to a Canadian, has recommended the Royal Ontario Museum. I'm also considering bookending the cross-Canada part of the trip with dinner cruises in Halifax and Vancouver. Of course, the free day in Vancouver is dependent on the Canadian getting there less than a day late. (My Amtrak record for being late is 23 hours, can Via Rail beat it?)
     
  8. Mar 12, 2019 #8

    Dakota 400

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    You might also be interested in visiting the HMCS Sackville, the last of the Canadian corvettes used to escort convoys across the Atlantic during WW II.  The ship is Canada's oldest warships.  The vessel is docked along the waterfront and is not too far from the Marine Museum of the Atlantic.  

    To assist you as to whether it is walkable or not, I was able to walk from/to the piers where the cruise ships dock and visit both the Museum and the Sackville.  I don't have COPD, but I can't walk "like I used to do" either.  The walk is along a nice boardwalk and there are many benches on which to "take a break".  I hope this helps you.
     
  9. Mar 12, 2019 #9

    PaulDobbs

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    Actually, having read Nicholas Monsarrat's books, The Cruel Sea and Three Corvettes, I've had the Sackville in my sights for quite a while. Thanks for the info on walkability.
     
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  10. Mar 12, 2019 #10

    willem

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    The dome does not have outlets. The lounge in the Park Car has outlets. I don't know about the bar area.
     
  11. Mar 12, 2019 #11

    willem

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    I thought the US end of the ferry ride is now in Bar Harbor rather than Portland, as it used to be. Did I get bum information?

    I thought the Canada end of the ferry ride is somewhere (Yarmouth) without public transportation to Halifax. Did I get more bum information?

    Please educate me.
     
  12. Mar 12, 2019 #12

    Dakota 400

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    I am not familiar with this restaurant, but thanks to Seaboard92, I am going to check it out when I am in Vancouver this Summer.  

    In the same general area is a brew pub, Steamworks Brew Pub at 375 Water Street.  I have have been a patron and have been pleased with each visit.

    Vancouver suffers from an excessive number of really good restaurants!  A Canadian steakhouse staple, The Keg, always serves an excellent dinner when I have patronized them.  So many choices and so little time!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2019
  13. Mar 13, 2019 #13

    cubeguide

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    Is this the first time you would be going on VIA Rail?
     
  14. Mar 13, 2019 #14

    Seaboard92

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    Smith tower I want to say is two short blocks. Take the elevator out of the waiting room one floor up. Then it's the beautiful Art Deco skyscraper you see. Follow Second Avenue.

    While I personally prefer Portland of the two choices you will enjoy Seattle.

    The ferry still runs I believe out of Portland, ME last time I checked.

    For anyone who goes to the water street cafe I strongly recommend if the weather is good to eat outside they have a lovely terrace.

    The White Palace is a bit of a distance from the train station however there is a bus that serves both. The diner has never closed for one day since it opened in the 1930s. When they remodel half the restaurant stays open while half is closed. It's a great place.
    Also if you go there you are a short walk from the overpass over the Amtrak yard which has a good view of downtown Chicago. And the private car track. Who knows you might see me. As if I'm in Chicago I'm either in the palace or in the yard.
     
  15. Mar 13, 2019 #15

    PaulDobbs

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    Yes, this will be my first time on Via Rail, cubeguide.

    Seaboard92: Actually, I like Portland better myself,  but the connection there was quite a bit tighter, so I opted to give myself more of a margin. I've put both Smith Tower and the White Palace on my list of eating places for this trip. Thanks.
     
  16. Mar 13, 2019 #16

    Seaboard92

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    You'll have to let me know what you think of those places. Smith tower has a lovely view. I have a picture somewhere of it. I should post it.
     
  17. Mar 13, 2019 #17

    PaulDobbs

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    I’m planning to write an article for my local model railroad club on the trip. Maybe I can post it as a trip report. 
     
  18. Mar 13, 2019 #18

    NS VIA Fan

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    A deal has been signed to move the ferry run to Bar Harbor but the old CN Ferry Terminal there needs major renovations. Will it be ready for the start of this season is anybody's guess but they are showing Bar Harbor in the schedule:

    https://www.ferries.ca/thecat/schedule/ 

    No public 'bus' from Yarmouth to Halifax.....but several shuttle companies do the run. Here's one:

    https://marinershuttle.co
     
  19. Mar 13, 2019 #19

    JRR

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    The bedroom for two on the Ocean has an en-suite bathroom with shower (like the Amtrak bedroom) but on the Canadian, the en-suite has no shower but is otherwise the same. There is separate shower down the hall which we never had a problem or wait to use.

    The two chairs in the bedroom can be moved, so if you happen to be oriented to be riding backwards and you don’t like that, you can move them to face the other way.

    The food on both the Ocean and Canadian was way superior to Amtrak. We found it to be outstanding!
     
  20. Mar 13, 2019 #20

    willem

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    Thanks for the pointers, NS VIA Fan.

    I thought I heard a year or two ago that there was talk of extending the Downeaster to Bar Harbor in the summer, but when I enter Bar Harbor as a destination on amtrak.com, it is not a valid destination. Does anyone else recall something? If not, does anyone have a recommended method for getting from the Downeaster (presumably in Portland or Brunswick) to Bar Harbor (or the reverse)?

    Thanks for that info. My (apparently inadequate) research several months ago found only one company (I don't recall which one) and it was panned on Trip Advisor as being unreliable.
     
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  21. Mar 13, 2019 #21

    NS VIA Fan

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    You might be thinking of Brunswick ME and the Downeaster was extended there several years ago. Bar Harbor is further east along the coast….about 50 miles from Bangor. RR tracks to Bar Harbor (Ellsworth) were removed years ago.

    There’s bus service to Bangor from Portland and Boston and it looks like there’s a shuttle to Bar Harbor:

    https://barharborshuttle.net/
     
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  22. Mar 13, 2019 #22

    Rasputin

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    Sounds like your trip plans are fixed but if not, Ottawa has some great museums.

    Look forward to your report. 
     
  23. Mar 13, 2019 #23

    PaulDobbs

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    It seems that some of the cabins (bedrooms) for two on the Ocean do not have showers. I have a shower going east on the Ocean, but not going west. Interestingly, VIA charges the same for rooms with and without showers.
     
  24. Mar 13, 2019 #24

    cpotisch

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    Was the food on the Canadian much better than the Ocean?
     
  25. Mar 13, 2019 #25

    OBS

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    Correct. Some have showers and some don't.  Interesting they were same price. That hasn't been my experience in the past.
     

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