Zoe's Via Rail Experience

Staff member: Zoe // Trip date: Sep 2013

At the end of August I travelled to Canada for my former housemate's wedding. Although the wedding didn't go ahead, I still got to travel and see the sights of the Lakes District.

I flew into Vancouver and then the next morning took a red-eye to Toronto. Upon arrival in Toronto, I purchased a ticket for the Downtown Express Airport Shuttle. The shuttle departs every 30 minutes and stops at 8 different locations downtown, the seven major hotels and the bus station.

The only thing I wanted to do while in Toronto was take the Toronto Hop On Hop Off bus, which you can buy from Rail Plus.

Please note though with sites like Casa Loma, they can be closed for events. When I was at Casa Loma they had half of the castle and grounds blocked off for filming of Beauty and the Beast. Also the tour of the Toronto Islands at the Harbour front closes early with the last boat ride arriving into dock after the HoHo stops operating. It is best to go on this tour in the morning.

The commentary on the HoHo is very informative. As the pass lasts for 3 days, you will hear the same information over and over but each tour guide will have their own spin on the information and they will also include extra pieces of information that their colleagues will not.

Apart from the free boat tour of the Toronto Islands and Casa Loma, my favourite stop was stop number 18 The Hockey Hall Of Fame. Not only do you get to read and view jerseys of all the best players you also get to have your photo taken with the Stanley Cup. Although it is a replica (the real cup is with the players of the winning team who get to spend 24 hours with the cup before it goes on display) the cup still has all the same spelling errors as the original. There are 11 spelling errors on the Stanley Cup which include the following - Maple Leaves (Maple Leafs) in their 1962-63 win, the Bqstqn Bruins (Boston Bruins) after their 1980-81 season win and Pittsburgh Penguins also has been spelt three different ways.

After all the sightseeing I travelled from Toronto to Kitchener, south west of Toronto. Kitchener is part of the tri-cities area of Kitchener Cambridge and Waterloo. It is in the Waterloo municipality. I boarded VIA Rail train 85 for this journey.

The journey lasted just over an hour and a half (1 hour 39 minutes) and the entire route operates from Toronto to Sarnia. The ticket inspector on board the service, Joe, was the politest ticket inspector I have ever encountered. Upon boarding and disembarking the train, Joe proceeded to give us information about the service and VIA rail in general. When pulling into the station at Kitchener he made reference to the open door at the back of the train (it was cordoned off with a metal chain). He said that is where he seats all the passengers who don't pay for tickets. He also said all the passengers who have bags that are too heavy, they are also stored in that area - referencing that they fall out the back of the carriage.

VIA Rail has a new baggage requirement that must to be met when travelling. You can have two checked bags with a maximum of 23kg each. Bags that weigh more than 32kg will not be accepted on any service. Carry-on luggage has two options. Option one is to have two articles weighing 11.5kg each and one personal article such as a laptop bag or backpack. Option 2 is one large article weighing 18kg and then a personal article such as a laptop bag or backpack.

Getting to Union Station to board the train was not a fast or simple commute if taking a cab because there are two seasons in Canada, winter and construction. The entire city was under heavy construction. As Toronto is hosting the PanAm Games next year there was a lot of condo construction in the city along with normal building construction and fixing and maintaining the city. I took the subway as it was a direct service and would be less hassle once getting to the station to cross over to the Via Rail building.

With all the construction, Union Station is also under heavy construction. The TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) are building a new subway line which means the subway station was partially closed which impacted on the number of people in the GO Transit and VIA Rail buildings and the limited amount of room entering and exiting the building.

With this expansion, GO Transit is also increasing where their routes start and finish. GO Transit also operates the same route I took on the VIA train. (GO Transit is literally Government Owned Transit and they are the green and white trains.)

While in Canada I also visited Niagara Falls. I went to the falls en route to the Niagara Food Festival in Welland - a little town just south west of Niagara.

The falls are beautiful in summer and the mist from the falls is nice in the heat. While I was there Maid of the Mist was full of blue ponchoed passengers and also the Observation Tower in the USA side of the falls was full of people. The food festival was celebrating 20 years so there were a lot of people in the town square visiting the vendors. One stall was the Wayne Gretzky Winery. If you don't know, the famous ice hockey player now owns two wineries in Canada (one in Okanagan BC and the other at Niagara on the Lake in Ontario). The wines are very expensive but the free samples of the smooth fruity liquid were divine.

Overall the ease and convenience of using the Rail Plus website for searching the train from Toronto to Kitchener and the ease of purchasing the ticket made for a stress free holiday.


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