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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » The trip of a lifetime: Colorado or Canada?

   
Author Topic: The trip of a lifetime: Colorado or Canada?
newnerd_99
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I am about to embark of the trip of a lifetime to celebrate my graduation from medical school.

I am going to spend a week in the Northeast making my way from Boston to Niagara Falls in September.

However, I am in a bit of a dilemma, because I have two options. Either I could spend a week in Colorado going on the esoteric steam trains (Silverton-Durango, Cumbres/Toltec and the Pikes Peak cog train) followed byt he California Zephyr, or I could take the Canadian in Silver and Blue from Toronto to Vancouver with a stopover in Jasper and then the Whistler Mountaineer for a daytrip. I could also take the Rocky Mountaineer from Calgary to Vancouver - this would be a somewhat more expensive option.

I don't have long to decide, so is anyone here willing to share their opinion as to what's the best move, taking into account scenery, photographic opportunities and overall experience?

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Steve O.
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Well I can give you some info regarding Colorado. It's flat out magnificent.

I've done the Pike's Peak cog railway (just an amazing trip that everyone needs to do at least once) and the Royal Gorge route (again, it is one of the greatest railway journies ever...for some extra $$$ you can even sit in the cab of the old loco. I've never been on it but I've seen videos regarding the Durango-Silverton route and it looks magnificent. Certainly that has to be a "must do" as well...only drawback for that one is that it's a pretty long ride from Denver...but it's doable over a weekend.

Of course, the Zephyr traverses some unreal scenery on the climb out from Denver. In fact the Zephyr passes through remarkable scenery in the entire state of Colorado...numerous mountain passes, gorges, and miles upon miles of hugging the Colorado River. You can never get bored and photo oppurtunities are endless.

Perhaps someone else can give an opinion on Canada, but as far as scenic railroading goes, Colorado cannot be beat in my opinion.

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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bmpbmp
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I just returned home from taking the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. In the last five years, I've taken 2 big Amtrak trips: Atl-DC-Chicago-Seattle and Atl-DC-Chicago-Portland-LAX.

This Canadian trip was definitely better. The scenery from just beyond Toronto to just before Winnipeg is phenominal. If I had a dime for every beautiful lake we passed, I'd have enough for another Canadian trip.

The Rockies were also incredible...stopping in Jasper is a great idea, and not taking the Mountaineer is about the only regret I have.

The service is a big notch above Amtrak, as is the food. I've come to associate train travel with Amtrak's level of service, and on the Canadian, it's different...the attitude I got from the Canadian staff was that it wasn't about them, it was about me.

I literally got home 2 hours ago, so I'll post more if you want it. Working on uploading pix too...I took over 3000, with the hopes that 300-400 will be worthwhile.

If you decide to try the Canadian, take some time and research the towns along the route...I wish I'd done a bit more of that...it would flesh the trip out that much more.

The other thing I enjoyed was being on a train that had few US citizens. It was fascinating getting the flavors of the Canadians, and some Scots and Brits, French, and a few more.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Interesting report, Mr. BmpBmp, from which Dr. Newnerd can certainly glean worthwhile information as he plans his North American adventure.

Of interest, now that the Canadian is routed over the Canadian National, it is on the less scenic route of the two, but then as you noted the scenery was awesome enough. In addition to the scenicly superior passage through the Rockies, which now is home only to $1000 a day "luxotrains', the CP also has superb scenery on its line around the Northern shore of Lake Superior that today is visible only to on-duty railroad employees.

Even though I've not been near a VIA train in over twenty five years (not a boycott; just no reason), there are enough reports at various railforums stating how superior their on-board service and equipment maintenance is when compared with Amtrak, that I should accept such "prima facie'.

Since tourism comprises a much greater portion of Canada's GNP than does same here in the USA, evidently the Canadian people choose to support through the public feeding trough, this tourist train operation, whereas 'we the people' choose not to support any similar product.

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train lady
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I couldn't agree more with Native Son. West of Denver is truly magnificant. Especially he canyons and following the Colorado river. The praires of Canada are pretty much the same as ours...much sameness. As to few Americans let us not forget that our Doctor is not American and as to that I have met people from all over the world on Amtrak. In many ways this is a 6 of one and half dozen of another to me. I have done both routes and have great pictures of each. Good luck Doc and which ever you choose ..enjoy.
BTW how are you planning to get from Niagra to Toronto or Chicago?

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jp1822
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You need to keep in mind the dates of travel - the "Moffat Tunnel" route through the Colorado Rocky Mountains is going to be closed for some periods this summer. Exact dates, I do not know. When that happens, the California Zephyr detours on what is known as the "Overland Route" which is not as scenic as the "Moffat Tunnel" route with all its canyons and views of the Colorado River etc.

I personally would take the Canadian across Canada. Spend time in Jasper (rent a car right from the Jasper train sttion), and then continue into Vancouver or drive down (one-way car rentals can be had if booked in advance) to Banff and catch the Rocky Mountaineer from here into Vancouver. The Whistler Mountaineer is also a great new train that's come to being, as is the "Frasier Discovery Route" that Rocky Mountaineer has launched from Jasper to Whistler via Quesnel and Prince George. Traverses largely the former BC Rail route, now ony accessible via the Rocky Mountaineer. Then you could spend time in Whistler and take the Whistler Mounaineer into Vancouver. Its an expensive trip no doubt!

I would strongly recommend a sleeper aboard VIA's Canadian. If you are travelling alone, try to get a roomette in the "Manor" series sleeper, particularly numbers 3 and 4 - as they are less over the wheels than roomettes 1 and 2. If they have roomettes 5 ad 6 available, this is a Chateau series sleeper - that's how you can tell one from the other. I just prefer the "Manor" series sleepers, rather than the "Chateau" series. And I always try to get the sleeper thatis adjacent to the "Park Car Dome/Lounge." Summer traffic on the Canadian can really be huge, so you want to make sure you stake out your dome seating.

The Caliornia Zephyr route and destinations in Colorado are also very good, it's just that if I had a choice - I'd go to Canada.

Good Luck!

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sutton
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I highly advise you to take the Canadian! If this is your trip of a lifetime (doubtful; I'm sure you'll have many more trips), go with VIA because you won't be disappointed--and please stop at Jasper. What a wonderful town! So much to see. Stay a week if you can.
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train lady
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If possible Iwould take the Canadian to Vancouver and then the CZ to Denver and fly home from there. The best of both worlds. Well, I can dream, can't I?
Posts: 1577 | From: virginia | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Judy McFarland
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If you decide on the Canada trip & have the $$$, upgrade to Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing & well worth the extra bucks.

--------------------
My new "default" station (EKH) has no baggage service or QuikTrak machine, but the parking is free! And the NY Central RR Museum is just across the tracks (but not open at Amtrak train times. . ..)

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notelvis
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Wow.

I don't know how you would choose from your options. With the exception of the Rocky Mountaineer I've been fortunate enough to experience everything on your route.

Having said that, the very best two days of my railfanning life were spent getting sunburned in the open car at the Cumbres & Toltec. I prefer the all-day ride beginning in Chama. Regardless of what you wind up doing, find a way to work the Cumbres & Toltec in.

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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yukon11
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If you are a railroad fan, I suggest doing both Colorado and Canada at some time.

The Durango/Silverton narrow gauge is really a must. The scenery is spectacular and the train is a lot of fun. The drive from Montrose to Durango is very scenic. Plan on lunch in Ouray.

For a variety of scenery and trains, I still think Canada would be best. I hope, one day. to take the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver. Jasper is really fun. You need a few days to see everything. If you have time, rent a car and take the iceberg highway from Jasper to Lake Louise. JP1822 mentioned the Frasier Discovery route from Whistler to Quesnel to Jasper. I am going to do that one in the summer of 2008. Hope to try the Gold Leaf service. Then from Jasper back to Vancouver on the VIA. By the way, how much $$ for a "roomette" or "econ bedroome", on the VIA, from Jasper to Vancouver? How about a larger sleeper...anyone know?

Richard

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Henry Kisor
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Yukon11, I went on the Via Rail website and see that a lower berth sleeper ticket from Jasper to Vancouver on 10/21 (chosen arbitrarily) for a senior (60+) is $388 Canadian, or $355 US. That includes meals in Silver/Blue class.

I noticed when I did the currency conversion that the Canadian dollar is steadily climbing against the US dollar.

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yukon11
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I checked the VIA website, Henry, and got a different figure. When I did it, it said that a lower birth, from Jasper to Vancouver 1-way was a total of $723 (Canadian) including tax (senior discount). A single bedroom, which I will probably get, is $923 total. For a double bedroom, $1392. My figures may be wrong...I have some trouble trying to navigate the VIA website.

Richard

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MDRR
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Richard, my guess is the difference in fares is dates of travel. The Canadian has peak and off peak fares. Summer thru end of Sept.(?) are 30-40% higher than rest of the year.
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Henry Kisor
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Yes -- traveling off-peak is one of the joys of being a retiree. My wife and I could never afford the Canadian if we were traveling during the summer. (We can't afford it off-peak, either, but this is our 40th anniversary gift to each other, so....)

I don't know how VIA Rail prices its tickets, but I would not be surprised if it uses "yield management" the way Amtrak and the airlines do. The best way to find the lowest fares is to sample several off-season dates, especially during the middle of the week.

Posts: 2236 | From: Evanston, Ill. and Ontonagon, Mich. | Registered: Feb 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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