We’ve made it onto the train, and we’re barrelling west towards British Columbia. I had thought I would have a bit more time to blog on the train, but I've been a bit surprised by how busy things have been! Part of it is that we only get enough reception to tether the laptop to get internet intermittently, and by the time we check emails or urgent messages, or post a photo to Instagram, reception is gone again. And sometimes when there is reception, we're taking a break at a station, or eating a meal, or out and about in the train. So I'm a bit behind! You can see more photos from just the train trip here as we go, but I've been taking photos and I have lots and lots to share. For now, here's Train Life, Day 1... Getting to Union station was easy enough, although even late evening it was bustling and busy. I haven't spent much time around there in the last few years, but it's been undergoing renovations for what seems like forever, and I can't wait to see what it will look like when it's done. Train stations are some of the most interesting places in cities, I guess because trains have been around for so long (before planes and buses and more "efficient" ways to travel).
Union Station Toronto Via rail canadian
We checked our bags, and the stroller. We hesitated about bringing the stroller since Caleb is such a great walker, walking short and long distances fairly easily without complaining or needing to be picked up, but we figured it would be a good just in case for days in Vancouver with more walking than a toddler can handle.
Union Station Toronto Via rail canadian
Union Station Toronto Via rail canadian
When we arrived at Union station, we waited to board in the VIA Rail lounge, and we signed up for our reservation for meals - there’s a first, second and third shift. While the second shift was the most popular (being in the middle), we were glad to be able to sign up for the first for shift for our meals on Day 1 + 2, since Caleb’s mid-day nap and early bedtime means eating a bit earlier.
Union Station Toronto Via rail canadian
We arrived around 9:00 pm, but didn't get onto the train and through announcements and introductions with our attendant until 10:30 pm. Following a quick diaper change and tooth brushing, we went straight to bed. Because it was way past Caleb’s, he fell asleep quickly despite all the excitement, and so did we (mostly because of all the excitement). The next morning we all woke in a scramble, since last call for breakfast is 8:30 am, and it was already 7:45 am.
On the Via Rail Canadian with a Toddler
Caleb's face was pretty hilarious when he woke up, although out of the three of us, he perks up to fully awake and ready to go mode the fastest. We hustled down to the dining car, where breakfast was mini pancakes for Caleb and regular breakfast fare for me and Jon.
Via Rail Canadian Traveling with Toddler Experience
Here's a photo of me attempting to salvage Caleb's shirt with a napkin before the classic Caleb double fisting. You'd think we've never taught him any manners. Or how to use a fork. The dining car has two booths at the back - we're sitting in one of them - and the rest of the car is tables with chairs. We were extremely lucky to be sitting in the booth for literally every single one of our meals. Because of the limited seating, even with having everyone split into three shifts, each table was often filled to four. If you were a single traveler, or in pairs, you were seated with other people at a table in order to squeeze everyone in.
Via Rail Canadian Traveling with Toddler Experience
We had Caleb, who was a pretty effective deterrent for getting lone traveler seated next to us. There were quite a few pairs, and some families, but also a surprising number of people traveling on their own. The dining staff (I think) keep the booth for anyone who needs it, seating everyone they can in tables, so whether we arrived early or late, we were very fortunate they kept the booth free for us. The dining staff was really great at getting to know accommodations for everyone, and they were super friendly. It was a lot easier for Caleb to sit and stand and crawl around, rather than standing on a chair and risking tipping over or falling off. The meals, especially lunch + dinner, often took a long time to come and were in multi courses (soup, main, dessert), so there was a lot of standing and crawling and pulling cars and books and stickers out of bags. I think VIA Rail may do this intentionally, to help break up the long hours on the train, letting passengers spend time enjoying delicious food over an hour or two, which would be a lovely way to travel (if you don't have any kids). We hung out in the "Activity Car" for a while before heading back in for lunch at 11:00. If Caleb can move around a bit, he's generally okay to sit and watch and climb around for quite a while.
Via Rail Canadian Traveling with Toddler Experience
One of the biggest adjustments to being on the train was getting our sea legs. It's been a long time since Caleb was unstable on his feet, and when he would hold onto things to stop himself from falling over. Our first day he had his share of banging around, and even a few tears! Even while holding my hand walking up and down the cars, he would bump into tables and other people. If you look at the picture up top carefully, you might notice that small bruise under his eye! Day 2 was a lot better, but day 1 had him swinging back and forth and against walls. Once while holding my hand, he swung backwards and into the door of a bathroom, which gave out, and he fell right onto his bottom and ended up staring up against the toilet. After lunch was an early and long nap, while the train stopped at Hornepayne, Ontario. We had reception here! But at this time, I didn't quite realize how terrible reception would be going forward, so we stepped out to grab some snacks at the local general store.
VIA rail canada hornepayne
After dinner, we hung out in our cabin with Caleb to wind down and put Caleb to sleep. In our cabin, we had an upper bed and a lower bed - Caleb and I slept in the lower while Jon was in the upper. I've loved co-sleeping with Caleb, but nothing reminds you of how big he's getting like trying to share a train berth with him.
Taking the VIA rail with a baby
So we're having lots of fun on our train adventure! Caleb has been shy but of great interest to many of the other passengers and attendants. I think they all think it's funny to watch Caleb stagger around drunkenly on the train. Coming up: Day 2, wherein the biggest disaster of train trip occurs. Also, photos of our cabin, Winnipeg adventures, bedtime routines, an introduction to the dome car, and more on the food.

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wonderpens said:

I think the only VIA train that doesn’t is the Canadian (Toronto to Vancouver), because it goes through so much territory that’s a bit more isolated. I think the train going from the east coast to Montreal and Toronto does, but on the Canadian there’s no wifi, and we could only pick up even a cell phone signal when we passed through towns!


Harry said:

Thanks for keeping us updated on your family vacation. I very much enjoy reading your blog.


wonderpens said:

Thank you for reading!! I love writing the blog and am glad to know there’s a reader here or there :D


wonderpens said:

Haha, yes, Caleb definitely qualifies as a bobble head, and while his balance is generally pretty good, the train ride has put him in his place quickly. After the first day, he got the hang of things a bit better, but you can bet he learned to hold onto mama’s hand or the walls or other people’s tables! :)


Chris said:

Sounds exciting! The VIA rail trains don’t have wifi?

Chris S.

Chris S. said:

Wow, what a good start to your trip! Unfortunately, all little kids are like big “bobble heads”, top heavy and prone to tip. Caleb will get lots of opportunity to work on “balance” and, at least, he hasn’t far to fall….

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