Max, at his overnight spot near the town of Žiri, Slovenia..
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Near Žiri, Slovenia.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Croatia.

Monday, October 15, 2012

VIA Rail Part 1

Lindsey and Justin and Cameron drove us to Halifax yesterday morning so that we could catch our 12:15pm train “The Ocean” which runs from Halifax to Montreal. It was a Sunday, so there was very little traffic on the roads and we made it with lots of time to spare. There’s a big grocery store right beside the Halifax VIA Rail station so Ruth went over there to get some snacks for the train ride while I went in the station to collect our tickets that had been reserved in advance.

No problems getting the tickets and the girl at the counter was pleasant and helpful. I should mention right off the bat that VIA Rail has a 50% off sale happening right now and that you have to book your ticket by October 18 to get that deal. It’s on all routes and all tickets so if you ever wanted to ride the rails, these 50% off deals that they have every now and again are a great opportunity to scoop up a deal.

VIA Rail's Halifax station.

No point in them hanging around with us, so we said goodbye to Lindsey, Justin, and Cameron. We really enjoyed visiting with them and Cameron is such a good little guy. Lindsey and Justin sure are good parents and they’re doing a great job with him. Not sure when we’ll see them again, but it will probably be at least a year. Good thing for internet video calling!

Inside the Halifax station.

They said they would start boarding at 11:45, so we only had about 45 minutes to wait. I had read on the VIA Rail website that all major stations have wi-fi internet so I got Ruth’s little laptop out figuring I would update all our facebook fans. Well they have wi-fi internet all right, at $7.50 an hour. So I quickly closed up the laptop! Turns out that they do have free wi-fi on the trains and in the stations on the Quebec City to Windsor corridor, but not on the long distance trains or the stations outside of that.

Ruth, getting ready to board "The Ocean".

Sure enough, we started boarding at 11:45. We made it to our assigned car and found our cabin. Now, I haven’t been on a long distance rail journey in Canada since I was four years old. I had gone with my father from Ottawa to British Columbia back in 1966! And Ruth had done a journey from Quebec City to British Columbia back in 1980 when she was eighteen. So we didn’t really know what to expect. We had a private sleeper cabin. Well it is a pretty small space, but it comes with it’s own tiny private bathroom and a nice big window so that you can sit and watch the world go by.

Our cabin.

Our own private "facilities".

Our cabin attendant Joanne came by and explained how everything works in the cabin and asked if we wanted a wake up call and what time we wanted her to come by and make up our beds. I thought this was all pretty neat because I hadn’t expected the personalized service! She stood and talked to us for a while and then said just to ask if there’s anything we need.

Our attendant Joanne. She was always smiling and helpful. Thanks Joanne!

Well the only problem with our cabin was that the seats are facing backwards. I don’t have a problem with this, but Ruth occasionally gets a queasy stomach so I asked if there were any available cabins that faced forwards. There are 10 cabins in each car and each one is opposite to the next. So we had a 50% chance of getting one facing forward to begin with. Joanne went and checked things out and came back smiling and saying that we had to change cars but that we were welcome to move to another cabin. Perfect!

Ruth, watching the world go by.

So then we sat and watched the world go by for a while. Lots of bright red fall colors in the forests along the way. Eventually, we decided to go for a walk and check out the rest of the train. There’s a snack car with a lounge, a dining car, another snack car and lounge and then cars where the economy seats are. Oh, and another car that’s just kind of empty.

Going for a walk down the narrow hallways of the railcars.

We wandered up to the economy section. The seats looked pretty comfy actually.

Here's one of the lounge cars. With newspaper if you like.

And here's that big empty car right at the end. Not sure what that was all about, and I forgot to ask Joanne. I'm thinking they should put a bowling alley in here! Too funny.

We had booked ourselves for the third sitting of dinner, so we had some time to waste. There’s an electrical outlet in our cabin, and I had some movies on the laptop so we watched some shows for a while. I guess in the old days people just read books or watched the world go by! I thought about having a nap, but figured I would be better off if I was as tired as possible when it came time to sleep.

At one point, we came to a standstill and it wasn’t long before they came on the intercom and explained that the train going in the opposite direction was late and we had to wait for it to go by before we could carry on. This put us about a half hour behind schedule. Up until this point, everything had been happening right on time.

We were called for dinner at about 7:50pm. This was a little later than we expected, but we did want the latest seating, so no worries. There were two choices for appetizer, three choices for main course, and a dessert. All inclusive with a non alcoholic drink, for $19.00. That’s not bad really. We both ordered the salad and the beef with caramelized onion. Our waiter came back to say they only had enough beef for one, so Ruth said she didn’t mind having the salmon instead. That’s one thing to keep in mind, that if you go to the earlier seating they are more likely to have all selections available.

Sat down for dinner.

Salad and roll.

My beef dinner.

Ruth's salmon dinner.

Dessert. Ruth was NOT happy that she couldn't have any because of her gluten allergy. They were nice though and brought her a fruit cup.

Dinner was surprisingly great! When you consider that these meals are no longer cooked fresh on board this train route, we didn’t have really high expectations so we were pleasantly surprised. Ruth’s carrots were still raw, really only just warmed up. But that was our only complaint. My carrots were nicely cooked so not sure what happened there. My beef was cooked just right and it was nice and tender. The third option was chicken.

We didn’t have anything else to drink since they want $6 for a beer and $7 to $8 for a glass of wine. I figure at those prices they just don’t want people drinking. So we didn’t! So our total bill was $38 and we left a $4 tip. Now, we’re not big on tipping to begin with and maybe I’m wrong, but I have it figured that this wait staff is being paid far better than your typical waiter to begin with.

Came back to find out beds all made up.

And then we went back to our cabin and opened the door to find that our beds had been made up while we were gone for dinner. So that was a nice surprise. I set up the laptop again and we watched a James Bond movie. With both of us lying in the bottom bunk. It was a little tight, so good thing we love each other! Finally decided to head to sleep around 10:30pm. We have an hour time change to go through overnight so we gain an hour.

Part two in the next update!


  1. Well, I just want to thank-you for riding the rails. I'll be thinking of you the next time CN pays those dividends.
    How does it compare in terms of smoothness to the trains in Europe? I've never gone on anything more than the GO train in Canada, so I have no idea.
    Dinner looked pretty darned nice.
    Hope you had a good sleep.

    1. I'd say the ride was comparable to the trains we were on in Czech Republic and Slovakia. We did have one or two rough sections of track this morning when we were walking to the dining car.

  2. Oh, and I was going to say something about getting sick riding backwards, which is a problem I also have, but it's a little thing my Dad used to say, and it involves cloven hoofed farm animals and it's a bit rude. We won't go there.

  3. Have been across Canada twice in my earlier years on our train system. Loved it then but is sure looks way spiffed up now.

    1. The train cars may have been the same ones you were on back then just renovated.

  4. I'm with Ruth on riding backwards. It made me queasy just thinking about it. Riding the rails sure looks like fun, especially with the beautiful scenery this time of year and all that delicious looking food!

  5. Chalk me up as another one who gets sick riding backwards - no can do!!! The train ride looks wonderful - just about all the comforts of home. Enjoy!

  6. when I was a kid I would take the Coaster from SF to LA in California. What a great ride.
    First thing I'd get would be a six pack in the super market as any confined arrangement will always hold the booze hostage at those prices.

    1. I like your way of thinking! Officially, it is against the law to do that in Canada, but if you're in the privacy of your own cabin I'm sure you would be fine.

  7. Ah dining in the diner and sleeping in the pullman car, boy does that bring back memories, of course having a room is a lot better than back when you slept in a section and only had a curtain between you and the aisle.Looks like the equipment is pretty new looking,maybe VIA rail came into some money. Amtraks cars are starting to show their age.Have fuin and see ya later. Sam & Donna..

    1. Actually many of their train cars are quite old but have been renovated over the years. Haven't been on an Amtrak train so it is hard to do any kind of comparison. Maybe will we have to plan a trip on Amtrak sometime.

  8. How far west does via go in Canada?

  9. Your trains look a lot better than the Amtrak trains, when you purchase a sleeper ticket on Amtrak the dinner and breakfast is included in the fare. I wonder how your pricing compares to Amtrak. Luckily the direction of my seat never bothered me on the train.

    1. If you puy a Sleeper Plus on Via then your meals are included. I think Amktrak's regular pricing is cheaper than Via Rail's regular prices.

      When it is dark out if doesn't bother me which direction I am seated in.

  10. Sounds like a fun adventure on the train and the meals look pretty darn good too.

  11. I'd love to take that train ride. Wish I could jump up and take advantage of the 50% off deal. You do always seem to be at the right place at the right time for just what you need. Well done again!!

  12. Now that looks like a train I could enjoy riding!

  13. Wonderful train, great room and the bath accomodations are the best. Not sure if you mentioned the cost of the ticket. Amtrak is over-priced. We like trains. We took the last one from Monterrey to D.F., we had a pullman with sitting area, bedroom and full bath. It was great. Love riding the rails.

    Dinner looked pretty good. A bit expensive but it is a train.

    1. Do they still have regular train service in Mexico? I know they have Copper Canyon but didn't know they had other passenager service.

      Price of dinner wasn't really that bad when you consider that it included non alcholic drinks, 3 course meal and tea/coffee and it was a good meal, you would definitely pay more in a restaurant for a meal like that.

  14. Interesting to see how "The Ocean" compares to "The Canadian" train I took from Vancouver to Jasper earlier this year. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Funny, I was just on the sleeper train in Turkey coming back to Izmir. Clean and comfy, and a great steward, but the cabins are badly in need of refurbishment.

    1. That sounds like an interesting trip. Turkey is on our list of places to travel.


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