Service: Canada Via Rail 14 Montreal – Halifax; the Ocean
Details: 1,346km, 21hr 51min.
Class: Comfort Plus
Price: 124CAD + tax (~124AUD at time of ticket) for Economy Escape (Base Fair).
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Canada Via Rail Train service 14, or The Ocean, as its otherwise known is the Montreal-Halifax service covering a total distance of 1,346km in a modest 21hr 51min. But whats it like, is this the best way to get to Nova Scotia? I was keen to find out.
Departing Montreal at 19:00 with scheduled arrival to Halifax at 17:51(+1) the Ocean follows this path;
With stops along the way at;
Unfortunately however, and despite its name, the Ocean doesn’t actually get to see a lot of it. So we’ll call him Billy.
Arrival and Checkin
I was joining the trip at Quebec City Some two hours into the trip, but as Billy only heads down the Quebec spur line as far as Sainte Foy the first part of my trip, is actually, surprisingly, by Taxi. But it’s all part of the one ticket and it’s a fairly seamless process.
My ‘shuttles’ departure was 21:00 from Gare Du Palais (Quebec City) and so after arriving (at easily one of the most beautiful train stations in the world) I reached the ‘pre-embarkation’ (otherwise known as departure) area around 20:20…. But with barely enough time to sit was up again and heading toward my Taxi with four others.
Evidently it would seem the shuttle is what ever form of transport they put together based on the number of passengers, and in this case the shuttle, was a Taxi.
This put us at easily NOT one of the most beautiful
train stations sheds in the world at 20:50, which was unfortunate given Billy wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 22:49. But at least there was wifi.
Train 14 is one of the few in the route that doesn’t have assigned seating; getting on at Montreal you just find a seat in the carriage for your destination, but along the way you mush up on the platform (Cubans would feel right at home) and then get called by traveller type (e.g. “we need three individuals and two couples”).
You then board and are shown to a seat with individual travellers filling up any vacant seats in carriages for any destinations, but they put a label above your seat as to your final destination. ….
P retty sure Know a computer system could take care of this at ticketing tho (even the Russians managed to figure this out, and that train was is a LOT longer).
Anyhow, I guess it worked even if not a little chaotic.
Billy has both Sleeper Class and Comfort Class seats. Sleeper class consists of a two bunk cabin but can only be booked per cabin, and whilst this includes all meals in the dining cart, access to a special viewing cart, an additional lounge, a bed and even a shower if you book early enough; at best discounted price of 497CAD I didn’t have to think too hard about my ticket.
Billys Comfort Class recliners are arranged in a 1-2 layout and are shell type meaning the seat reclines forward in its shell so as not to disturb the passenger behind. Which is GREAT, if they designed in PROPER footwells.
But these seats have NONE, NADA, ZIP places to stretch your legs. Perversely tho they have a huge amount of room below your seat (where a footwell MIGHT have been nicely placed) and another area above.
I’m really not sure what the designers were thinking on this one; certainly no Reverse Herringbone!
By the time we boarded and got underway it was 23:00 so I changed into my thermals, got out my down jacket*, hopped into my sleep sag and being clearly much taller than the guy who designed this seat, hoped for the best.
*At which point in time was it universally accepted that the temperature inside ANY overnight land transportation, ANYWHERE, must be the exact antipode of that outside the vehicle prior to boarding?.
Unordinary If you do happen to get caught out in South America most buses have a pile of blankets down near the driver (why not just turn up the bloody temperature I thought I found this out after freezing my way through 15hrs in Bolivia).
When the Going Gets Tough
By 07:30 it was universally agreed by everyone under 10 (who fit neatly into their seats and hence clearly had far too much sleep) that it was excise time and time trials of the corridor should begin.
So I decided it might be a good time to visit the economy lounge cart (Sleeper class get a private dining room as meals are included, but for us in comfort you get access to a small lounge and take-away kiosk).
Here I learn’t two things.
- The same guy who designed the Comfort seats must have been close to retirement when he turned his pen to the lounge cart given the ridiculous layout of the room. And,
- Via Rail clearly overestimate the amount of sleep people might be getting as they would otherwise surely think that TWO people serving the Coffee first thing in the morning MIGHT just be a good idea.
The lounge cart is also the the only place for wifi on this train so after checked in on Trump I decided to head back to my seat for a DIY breakfast.
Around 08:55 we pulled int Bathurst, and because I was one of the first ‘two individuals’ who filled up the vacant seats in the Bathurst carriage I all of a sudden had the whole carriage to myself (well, at least half of it).
WOO BLOODY HOO! (time for me to run up and down the isles).
It was a silent spacious heaven!
I returned to the lounge car later for a cup of hot water (for my DIY hot Chocolate of course) and in passing through the three hot, steamy, and overcrowded carriages where time-trials were still ablaze I couldn’t have returned back to my fortress of solitude quick enough (note some alliteration for editorial purposes).
1PM and time for lunch. Now even if I was still sharing the space with another there still would have been ample for my picnic, but two seats to myself. Well, THIS IS LIVING.
Things did however somewhat descend into chaos toward the end of meal service whereby I found myself almost completely fortressed in and needing to clamber over the seats in order to get out.
There’ll Be Sad Songs
Billy had to rest a couple of times along the way – no he wasn’t puffed, he just had wait for passing freight trains (this happens on Canadian railroads frequently as all trains share tracks and any freight train will delay / stop a passenger train until it passes), but aside from this the rest of the journey went fairly quickly, although remarkably unspectacularly so I wouldn’t take this train for the scenery.
Whilst billy was able to make up some time, due his little rest stops we ultimately we pulled into Halifax about an hour late at 18:44.
So did I take the train to get to Halifax, or did I go to Halifax to take the train? Either way I did and whilst it’s certainly no Transiberian, frankly I can’t think of a better way to make the journey…. actually, maybe I can, but I need to figure out how to get my hands some some cheap Via Rail points first.