Touring Canada by Train: It’s The Way to Go

Stephen Hartshorne travels through Canada by train with stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec. Read more about Canada’s interesting sights and activities. You may get inspired to hop on the next train!

A porter at the Ottawa Via Rail Station. Photo by Stephen Hartshorne.

I just got back from a nine-day train trip in Canada, and I had a blast! There’s something about train trips that I have always loved, ever since I was a little boy riding with my grandfather on the club car to his office in New York.

There’s something so relaxing about the rhythmic clickety-clack of the wheels and the gentle rocking of the train. And your time is your own. You can take a nap and catch up on your zzz’s or read a book or just sit in a trance watching the countryside whizz by.

Grandpa and his fellow commuters liked to play bridge. In fact they’d take the local instead of the express so they could get in a few extra rubbers. For me it was blogging and tweeting and Facebooking about my adventures in Canada.

VIA Rail, the Canadian Crown Corporation in charge of passenger rail service, has just invested almost a billion dollars in upgrading service and equipment on their main corridor from Quebec to Toronto, including improvements to their WiFi service, and they invited a group of bloggers from prestigious websites like GoNOMAD to try it out.

In 2006 Via Rail was one of the first transportation services in the world to offer free WiFi to all classes of passengers, and they have put a high priority on connectivity on board the trains and in the stations. They recently upgraded service again, and it’s the best you can get on any mode of transportation in the world.

We visited four great Canadian cities, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec, and that gave us plenty to blog and tweet about — the all-night “Nuit Blanche” festival in Toronto, the Houses of Parliament and the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, the Lantern Festival at the Montreal Botanical Gardens, the orchards and vineyards of the Ile d’Orleans in Quebec, and lots of other cool attractions.

On the train, and in the comfortable lounges in the stations, we were able to write about our visit, share our photos with the folks back home, and catch up with email back at the office. Since we were traveling business class, we had excellent three-course meals with wine; the hot towels were a nice touch, too.

Rail travel has always been important in a far-flung country like Canada. The Western provinces insisted on the construction of a cross-country railroad before they agreed to join the Canadian Federation in the 1870s.

Around the turn of the century, competing railroad magnates built a series of splendid hotels like the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa to attract rail passengers to Canada, and these hotels offer atmosphere, luxury and service right out of the Gilded Age.

Touring Canada by Train: It’s The Way to Go