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Canada: Coast to coast by train – Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

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A couple of year ago an opportunity presented itself to do something that I had been thinking about for a few years. We had booked on a trans-Atlantic cruise that made a last port of call at Halifax before stopping at New York. We had also booked an Alaska cruise from Vancouver shortly after. The original plan had be to spend a week or so in Vancouver and Victoria as this is area we like a lot. Instead, we decide to spend the time travelling, but this journey would something to look forward to not just a transcontinental flight to be endured. This trip would be an adventure in its own right as we would be taking a number of different trains from Halifax all the way to Vancouver.

Canada was celebrating 150 years of confederation so we were hoping that there may be extra things to see on route. It was the railways that truly opened up the interior Canada. As with the U. S. if you take the train you get the time to really appreciate this vast and beautiful country. If you drive you get a chance to stop where you want for a long as you want. However on this occasion, as time was more limited we managed to travel a long way while seeing a lot of things at the same time.

When the three British colonies became the Dominion of Canada in 1867, a railway to join them together was a precondition. This same thing happened again four years later when persuading British Columbia to decline overtures from the US and join Canada. The backbone of today’s network is all due to the routes created during this time.

The story of the men who surveyed and built these railways have filled many books. The factual stories being as riveting as thrillers. The upside of all the struggles to get the line through the Rocky Mountains was that they ended up with routes that drew people just for the thrill of riding them. Even British royals sat on specially prepared buffer beams of steam locomotives, swathed in rugs, for an unobstructed view as they travelled through mountains and forests. On some sections of the route, the gradients were so steep that four locomotives were needed to make the journey. Observation cars with picture windows were then added, and these were then supplemented by dome cars for a higher level panorama. However a rail journey here is not just about scenery, it’s also about your fellow travellers.

It’s no surprise that many Canadians seem to prefer long-distance rail travel to flying, despite the latter being far quicker. They want to experience their country up close and to have the time to engage with fellow travellers. This is what train travel affords, the time to read, to think and daydream while gazing out of the window on an unfamiliar world passing by.

This is not a detailed review of all the places we stopped at or travel through. It’s more of a guide on what to expect if you want to do something like this yourself.

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Page added on: 10 October 2018
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