The last two days of our train trip! You might think that by Day 3 or 4 we'd be exhausted and tired of the train, but the long stopover in Winnipeg on Day 2 was a great break, and mid-morning of Day 3 was another break as we made it into Edmonton, where the Panoramic Car is added. If you don't like traveling by train, check out this 1958 chevrolet corvette. Our train started with two activity cars: each car had a section of chairs, tables + a TV, another section with sofas + booths, and then in the middle a raised dome section, which has a clear ceiling and windows. It's a lot of fun to sit in the dome car because it's raised above the height of the other cars, so you can literally see above the train as it's moving.
Via Rail Canadian Dome Car Panoramic Car
I think the dome car was my favourite part of the train - after Caleb went to sleep, Jon stayed in the cabin on the top bunk, reading or using his iPad, and I came out to use the upright seats to finish up journaling or work on a blog post. Watching the evening come as we floated along through the trees and hills was incredible and a bit surreal. After we made it past the Rockies, the dome car was basically empty, and the last night (going from Alberta in Vancouver), I even got the entire car to myself for a few minutes of journal writing - although there were a few lone travelers who also came by to enjoy the view, and it was great to get to know a few people on the train.
Via Rail Canadian Dome Car Panoramic Car
However, because the dome car has limited seating, VIA Rail adds an additional Panoramic Car in Edmonton, where the entire car has a clear ceiling and windows, so everyone gets a chance to see the Rockies in full view, the real showstopping view of the trip. We arrived in Edmonton mid-morning. If you wanted to step out to watch the trains, you have to be prepared to step off right away, as they don't let passengers on and off once they start pulling the trains apart to add the car on. All of the passengers who are on the platform are over to the side (safety first!) of the train that isn't moving, and then they unplug the cars. They pull the front half of the train onto a different track to attach the Panoramic Car, and then bring it all back together.
VIA Rail panoramic car in edmonton
I was surprised to see how quickly they can separate and attach the cars. I was also to surprised to see how unconcerned the engineers were to be standing on the tracks literally between the cars as the train starts moving - the train isn't actually taking off to leave, but it's slowly moving back or forth, and no one seems to worried about being squashed. Here our view from the Panoramic car!
Via Rail Canadian Panoramic Car Toronto to Vancouver
While the Panoramic Car was great, I think the dome car seats may have been more coveted since they were raised, and actually in our train, there were a few people that really camped out there the entire time so they could have prime seats going through the mountains, swapping out with their travel companions to hold their seats so they eat or shower. After Edmonton was the best meal of the trip - brunch. Usually it's breakfast + lunch separately, but because of the Panoramic Car, it's brunch right after we depart from Edmonton. The VIA rail trains are known for having wonderful meals, and I am in full agreement: we had pan-seared duck, leg of lamb, different soups at every meal, some of which were really, really good, but my absolute favourite was the lobster ravioli served at the brunch.
Lobster Ravioli Via Rail
It doesn't seem too much to look at, and I also only thought of taking the photo after the fact, which is why there's a bite out of the garlic bread, covering up a missing ravioli, but it was delicious. Of course the highlight of the entire train ride, and what the train ride is famous for, is making it through the mountains.
Via Rail Canadian in Jasper
It was truly breath-taking. I realize that's a bit cliche and boring (not that I don't use cliches regularly), but it's really something you have to see with your own eyes. Going through them, and seeing that turquoise water and enormity of the hills is stunning, and I'm sorry to say that all I have are my own photos of it!
Via Rail Canadian Train Trip with Kids
If you ever get a chance to travel west, you should consider traveling by train. Our last stop before Vancouver was in Jasper, where we had around an hour and a half to get off the train and wander in and around town.
Via Rail Canadian in Jasper
Jasper is surrounded by mountains, and I can't imagine living in such beautiful scenery. Everyone around looked super fit, like ski instructors who've spent their off season tanning and drinking from the fountain of life, while Jon and I walked off the train looking like pale zombies in wrinkled clothing, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. We picked up a few groceries + snacks to tide us over the final stretch, and we also got to wander around some of the tourist shops. As we were walking back to the train station, we came across a little piece of home - a tiny cafe that sells bubble tea! Even though we had only been gone a few days, and we've certainly gone a few weeks or months without bubble tea before, at the time it seemed like home was pretty far away.
bubble tea in jasper
On our last day, Day 4, we woke up nice and early for our last breakfast, before packing up our clothes and toys strewn about our cabin. Despite loving our time on the train, by the end, we were ready to get off and take a nice, long hot shower (actually we did shower on the train, and there was a good amount of hot water, but having to hustle through a train car with wet hair is about as relaxing as it sounds). We were due to arrive in Vancouver just before lunch, and our attendant came by to see if we wanted to have the beds in our cabin raised for the final stretch. At first we hesitated, because we thought Caleb might still like to romp around the bed, but then we figured we might as well pull them up and have some more room to get all of our luggage organized. And what a crazy decision that was, because we found my crochet hook, one of Caleb's books, an embarrassing number of goldfish crackers, and a card from our deck of playing cards....and my Lamy 4-colour pen!! After spending conscripting Jon into what seems like hours of looking in our cramped cabin for my pen, even he finally conceded to the possibility that my Lamy 4-pen may never rest comfortably in its pen roll home again, but the pen gods have looked favourably upon their humble servant once again. And so that was it, one final surprise hurrah as we rolled into Vancouver.

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Julie-Anne Mendoza

Julie-Anne Mendoza said:

So happy you found the pen! I’ve never thought of travelling a long distance by train before but this blog series, and your descriptions of journaling in the dome car, have added it to my bucket list!


wonderpens said:

ME TOO! It was a crazy moment of disbelief.

Hope you get a chance to try it one day! You’ll have to let me know how it goes :)


wonderpens said:

Thanks so much! It was a lot of fun – a true adventure :)


wonderpens said:

We had a great time in Vancouver! I’m hearing, as you say, a few folks who moved away from the mountains and really miss their presence. I can certainly understand why! It’s a completely different feeling to have them around. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment :)


wonderpens said:

Amazing! It’s really something about how scents can bring us back to different memories and times. I’m sure you’re loving it in Colorado right now – wish I was there! The mountains were beautiful, and I wish we could’ve stayed longer. Jon and I are both thinking next time we might spend a bit longer in Jasper, we hear there’s lots to do there, hiking and on trails and relaxing. Hope you have a great time in Keystone :)

Joy Dale

Joy Dale said:

Love this. So glad you all had a good trip! :)


Ben said:

What a fascinating way to travel! Thanks for sharing, Liz!

Jasper has an amazing view, but when I think of Jasper (I grew up in Saskatchewan so my family went there frequently on summer vacations) the strongest memory is that of the pine smell – absolutely great. I’m in Keystone, Colorado (up in the mountains) for work and the pine smell isnt as strong, but it reminds me of my amazing family vacations, spent mostly driving and listening to music on my walkman in the back of our Ford van. Once we arrived in Jasper it was like getting punched in the face with pine smell after being in the van for 7-8 hours.

Steve Froland

Steve Froland said:

Glad you enjoyed your trip through the Rockies! I grew up in the East Kootenays and visited family in Jasper a few times a year growing up. I live in Victoria now and miss the mountains terribly. Hope your time in Vancouver is enjoyable as well.

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