Dewi's Trains,
Trams & Trolleys

Around America by train:
Toronto to Ottawa

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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.

There are 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.


Appendix

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 poor joints.

  • 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 the diner.

  • 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.

Click on thumbnail for larger picture.

image 1072_20
Great Hall of Toronto's Union Station, near where we ate our first meal in mainland Canada, 1957
Photo 1072_20 on 20/04/2002
image 1072_21
GO trains parked at Oshawa, ON
Photo 1072_21 on 20/04/2002

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This page last updated on 23/04/2006 9:06:42.