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Heading home: VIA Rail
In the Great Hall of Union Station we found the place where we'd
purchased breakfast on our very first morning in Canada: it's now a Harvey's.
Then we joined the line for the train to Ottawa: it's a very popular train! We
had the final seats in the final car. After we'd travelled some distance, the
attendant came on the P.A. to warn us that the tilting mechanism was not
working, and that we might be taken by surprise on winding track: we should hold
on while moving about the car. In fact, there was little sway, though we seemed
to be travelling faster than on the Amtrak trains.
beautiful views of Lake Ontario from the train. You hardly get any of this from
the highway, and you certainly don't if you're driving! Our friends had given us
a food package. With coffee from the cart that the steward brought around
several times on the trip, the journey passed quickly, and then we were back in
Ottawa, to be greeted by our son and daughter-in-law.
Comments on Amtrak & Via Rail Canada
Nearly all arrangements worked. The only problem was when we
were about to board in Portland, OR, we found we were not on the passenger
manifest. But the conductor straightened that out.
The standard bedrooms were fine for us. Maybe a little tight
getting into the upper berth, but no problem. Plenty of space for two.
Amtrak coach class gives more legroom than VIA does.
You'd think that Amtrak's "named" trains would all be of the
same quality, but appearance, service etc. on the "Coast Starlight" was
better than the others. (Wine tasting, anyone?)
The only problem with the food was trying not to eat too
much! And coffee and juice and cookies were available at all times, at the
head of the stairs in each car. And as for the "turtle cake" dessert after
dinner: Mmm, mm.
If you want to add or make a change, Amtrak has great
difficulty printing a ticket if the North American rail pass was issued
through VIA rail. Muttered curses from ticket clerks.
Amtrak's double-deck "Superliner" cars, used everywhere
except on the Eastern lines, are great! Upstairs, you're further away from
the rail noise and the jolting. I'd thought that the cars might sway more,
but they don't. And the sight-seeing from upstairs is excellent.
Track quality varies a lot. Some is exceptionally smooth,
and some is still made of short-length rails, and some of that has pretty
I NEVER seem to adjust to the fact that Amtrak coach luggage
racks are lower, or maybe stick out more, than Canadian or European racks. I
bumped my head several times in coach.
All trains (Via, Amtrak) were completely non-smoking except
for the Empire Builder. This had a coach with a bare downstairs room
furnished with inward-facing hard plastic seats around the perimeter. All
smokers on the train congregated there. Even though the room was downstairs,
the whole coach had a bit of a fug which one had to wade through to get to
Our carry-on bags were just a little too thick to go under
the bed at night. By the time we did the Portland to Chicago leg, we
repacked so that we only took one bag into the compartment.
The long-distance trains are almost like a cruise. You meet
and talk to other people. It's great.
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