Finally had a chance to write a bit about the VIA trip.
All in all, the trip was a really good experience. Good scenery, good food, and a nice way to just wind down and relax for a couple days. The one thing I would have preferred is a seat in the sleeper class. A berth (http://www.viarail.ca/en/resources/berths) would have made sleeping a lot more comfortable. In economy there is lots of leg room and the seats recline quite a bit, but it still makes sleeping comfortably tough. We took advantage of VIA’s express deals and got our tickets for $150!
Started the trip on Aug. 22 by driving to Edmonton in the afternoon. We got to Edmonton around 4:30 and went straight to VIA to drop of the bags. They take baggage any time the day of departure and that was really handy with all the luggage we had. 2 carry on, 3 checked included free! We brought our bikes for $20.
Got back to the station around 11pm, boarded around midnight and didn’t leave till around 12:30. We were stuck in the Edmonton rail yard for about half hour I’d say and then we were on our way. I fell asleep pretty soon after. When the train was moving, I could sleep but noticed I was waking when we stopped.
Woke up pretty early the next morning. Got breakfast from the Skyline car. 4 pancakes and green tea. Scenery throughout Alberta and Sask was pretty much the same - a bunch of farms. Passed Saskatoon, thought it was really small. Through the prairies, the train had to stop quite a bit to allow for freight trains to pass. There is only 1 track across Canada, so if a train is coming head on, we would stop in the sidings and wait for it to pass. One time we waited like 45 mins for this to happen! Saw the Potash factory and a lot of Potash train cars.
Ate dinner just before Winnipeg - beef pot roast, mashed potatoes, mixed greens, and garlic bread. Food on the train was really good. They seat you with random people as there are not many seats in the restaurant so they can’t have a table of 4 with just 2 people. It was a good way to meet people. At breakfast we met a mom and her son traveling to northern Manitoba and at dinner we met a couple going to Toronto, but stopping for a week in Winnipeg. They knew a lot about Naturopathy so we had a good conversation.
Around 9pm we got to Winnipeg. Long stop over. Got a chance to leave the train and check out the town. Couldn’t go around much but had a chance to check out the Forks - the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and a tourist attraction (http://www.theforks.com/). The train station, called Union Station, was really nice and located in the heart of the city. Stayed in the station for a bit, then boarded again around 11:30. They said they had Wifi there but I couldn’t get it to work.
Woke up the next day in Sioux Lookout. The scenery from here on was amazing - Ontario is spotted with lakes all over and the train was cutting through the dense forest. We passed this place called Longlac, Ontario. It’s supposed to have the oldest church according to the conductor. Had the same dinner that day, except swapped the potatoes for rice and got apple crumble for dessert. Woke up the next day and we were almost into Toronto. We were passing through small towns, then entered Richmond Hill, and we ended up taking the track into Union station that passes by my school, CCNM. And finally the journey ended at Union Staion, Toronto. Thanks to VIA Rail for the great experience!