Canada by Rail – Boarding VIA Rail in Jasper

Travel date: Saturday September 17, 2022

After our tour of the Canadian Rockies we spent the night in Jasper, Alberta to catch the VIA Rail Canada at 11:30 AM for our three night trip to Toronto. Knowing we would be on board a cramped train for four days we decided to stretch our legs by walking about a mile from our hotel to Wafflato for breakfast. The hotel and the restaurant are on the main drag which is right next to the railroad track so we had a nice view of the mountains on our walk. The wildfire smoke that plagued us in Vancouver and was evident even in Banff and Lake Louise, was clearing.

Walking to breakfast at Wafflarto’s in Jasper

We passed by the depot on our walk and the VIA Rail Canadian was stopped. I thought “8:30 AM is pretty early for our train to be here”. And being a Foamer – because I foam at the mouth when I see a train – I was anxious we get on board and start our experience. Cooler heads prevailed; Terri gave me a tissue to dry up my drooling and we stayed on course for breakfast.

Jasper’s Wafflato is a great little diner. The staff are so friendly and helpful. As you can imagine, Wafflatos serves waffles. Waffle irons are lined up in the kitchen which is visible as you walk in.

Jasper’s Wafflato ready to cook our breakfast.

I think we all had waffles – I mean what else would you have? They were all we hoped for. If you find yourself in Jasper, have breakfast, or lunch, or dinner there – breakfast is served all day.

After breakfast I couldn’t help myself so I went over to the depot to see what was up with our train. Well, it wasn’t “our” train after all; it was the west bound Canadian bound for Vancouver. Okay, okay, we could wander around town for a little bit before going back to the motel for our luggage and then boarding “our” train. As we headed away from the depot the train departed the station to finish its trip.

Jim and I crossed the street at one point to take some pictures. Carla or Terri got a picture of these two peas in a pod.

The boys taking pictures of mountains and trains in Jasper

What caught our eyes?

The morning light on the mountains was magical in Jasper. The smoke was clearing dramatically

And this

View of the railroad and mountains from Jasper, Alberta

As we walked around downtown we saw the Vancouver-bound Canadian reversing back into the station. Hmmm; that doesn’t see right. We crossed back over to the passenger station to see what was up. A rock slide between Jasper and Vancouver was holding up rail traffic. And our train was on the other side of that slide. We found out we wouldn’t be boarding at 11:30 as planned so we headed back into downtown and grabbed a bite of lunch. If you are going to be delayed in a small town, Jasper is a good town to pick.

After lunch we had to check out of our motel so we caught a shuttle back to the depot. Sitting around waiting for a train without clear knowledge of when it would depart was frustrating. They told us to not wander too far because the train would be making a short stop in order bo make up time. On the plus side hanging around the depot provides a perfect opportunity for train pictures! Plenty of rail traffic was getting backed up. By now it was about 2:30 pm.

Grain train heading into the Jasper station.

The rest of the afternoon we spent by walking or sitting outside and reading. In the late afternoon the Vancouver-bound passenger train departed again – which was a sign the tracks had been cleared.

By early evening it was clear we wouldn’t be having dinner on the train so the VIA Rail staff gave everyone vouchers to user dinner in downtown Jasper. We found a nice Greek restaurant (or was it Italian?. I know we had pizzas and some Greek food. It was another local spot with a terrific staff. Sorry! I don’t remember the name.

On the way back around 6:30 PM our old pal the Rocky Mountaineer (a different physical train from the one we took) was cooling its jets across the rail yard. It brought back pleasant memories of our two days on board.

Rocky Mountaineer idling in Jasper.

Finally, at 7:25 – eight hours late – the eastbound Canadian rolled in. We at least could walk around town during the stoppage; the folks who boarded in Vancouver were stuck at a stand still for hours.

Finally! 8 hours late due to a rock slide in the mountains our VIA Rail Canadian train arrives to take us east

The Canadian is a much longer train than the Amtrak trains Carla and I have taken between the west coast and Chicago. There are three locomotives and 21 cars including

  • One Baggage car
  • Two coach cars
  • Three skyline (dome) cars
  • Two dining cars
  • A dorm car for the staff
  • Nine “Sleeper Plus” cars (we stayed in one of these)
  • Two Prestige Class sleeper cars. These feature queen beds instead of bunk beds. We wanted one of these rooms but they were sold out.
  • One Park Car at the back of the train featuring that curved rear end with a view of the rails rolling on behind you.

For my fellow train nerds, here is the consist.

The consist (but we had and additional locomotive) of our VIA Rail Canadian train.

The beds were much more comfortable than those we’ve experience on the Amtrak Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Zephyr, and Coast Starlight. The biggest difference is there is much more headspace in the upper bunk of the VIA cars. Usually Carla and I take turns on the “bad”, upper bed. It is not an issue on the VIA trains.

We had asked to have rooms next to one another; unfortunately we were in adjacent cars – Terri and Jim were in 211 and we were in 212. No biggie. Our car was nice and shiny and ready for us. If I were a true travel reporter I would have taken a picture of the rooms.

I wish I had a picture of Terri when she saw the room that would be their home for 3 nights; she was underwhelmed – but I’d be exaggerating to say she cried. I could see the thought forming in her head: “What has Howard done this time?” The rooms are very small; when the beds are down -as they were when we boarded – there isn’t much room to maneuver. There is a sink you can use to wash up, and a toilet in a compartment in the corner. During the day, when the beds are up, there are two comfortable chairs and more room to stretch. Don’t fret about Terri; she ended up having a great time.

Our rail car home for 3 nights

We were tired but not mad about the delay: VIA rail was not responsible and did what they could to make our wait tolerable. And Jasper is a delightful town- nice people and shops, and the view! – to spend a day in

The sun was setting as we north then west out of town. My next post will show our experiences and views on the train.

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