Since we were traveling during the off-peak season, our train was only about fifteen cars long. We were told that during the height of the travel season, the train could easily be over twenty cars long.
This excursion was to last a little over four days, so we decided to book a sleeper cabin to make it a more comfortable trip for us. While adequate, the cabin was a bit small.
Two single bunk beds (for night-time travel) folded out from the wall and the ceiling. They were tucked away during the day and replaced by two captain-style chairs (originally turned so we were traveling backwards. Not good for anyone who experiences motion sickness. Fortunately, we are able to re-arrange them so they faced forward). These chairs folded up and were stored under the bottom bunk bed at night. A small toilet and washbasin were part of the cabin. Showers were down the corridor and shared by all of the cabins. The next car after ours had an observation deck, which made watching the passing scenery more enjoyable, and a bar with snacks. Behind this car was our dining car, in which the meals were quite good and filling.
...a pot pie, and a very delicious prime rib (unfortunately, I ate mine before thinking to take a picture).
The final car on our train was THE LUXURY suite. Each cabin in this car included a double bed, toilet with individual showers, and their own bar and observation deck. All for $8000 per room, per trip (yikes!!!).
...where the seats are reserved for the "Prestige" passengers. We wanted to get a look at (and take pictures of) the cabins in this car but they were all occupied and closed off.
The scenery through the Canadian Rockies was wonderful. However, we did not get the feeling of being as close to the mountains as when we traveled the American side last year. Once we passed through the high mountains, we traveled through a long series of forested landscapes called the "Canadian Shield" (also known as the "Laurentian Plateau"). This was lovely scenery, at least for the first couple hundred miles...then it seemed to be repetitive. What helped was sitting in the observation car and having great conversations with our fellow passengers. This stretch was dotted with hundreds of lakes and ponds, all very picturesque. What was amazing to us was the number of cabins located throughout this wilderness. How did the folks ever reach them? We saw very few roads!
We're going to provide several pictures of the scenery on this trip, with little or no comment, as most speak for themselves;
This is known as "Pyramid Falls"...
...small towns dotted the landscape...
...and beaver lodges were prolific.
The one big disappointment of this trip was the constant delays. ViaRail does not own any of the tracks on which they travel. They only rent them from Canadian National Railway. Whenever one of the CN freight trains came by, our train had to pull off to a siding and wait. As a result, we were 12 hours late getting into Toronto and missed our flight to our next destination. Apparently, those folks who booked this trip on line received a caveat to NOT book any connections to other destinations on the same day of arrival, because delays are so prevalent. We booked this excursion IN PERSON last September and were never given this warning. This necessitated a rebooking (which cost us an additional fee) of our flight, as well as having to secure a hotel room for two nights (also costing us more money). In total, it cost us around $1000 extra because of these delays. Very nerve wracking and disappointing!
...they were very enjoyable; we got the opportunity to chat with them at a couple of meals.