Our fair country is composed of many different climates and environments, each distinguished by their own unique collection of fauna and flora. If you are looking to discover Canada’s many wonders, allow us to offer you a quick tour of what to see, and when to see it.
The East end of the country, which you can travel to aboard VIA Rail’s Ocean train, is a great place to hop on a cruise. If you visit between the months of May and October, you will likely be able to see whales, dolphins, seals and other marine animals. Other parts of the East coast will offer you glimpses of awe-inspiring icebergs and unique wildlife such as the adorable puffin.
In the Heart of the Country
Canada’s boreal forest, recognizable by its dense conifers, covers more than half of Canada. VIA Rail’s Canadian and remote trains run through parts of it, and offer a unique and intimate view of this region, which is dotted with 1.5 million lakes. It is home to nearly 300 species of birds and over 85 species of mammals, including the fox, beaver and moose. If you travel between spring and fall, keep your eyes peeled, it’s not hard to spot wildlife right from your train seat!
Chugging north aboard VIA Rail’s Winnipeg-Churchill train, one can’t help but notice a major shift in the landscape. Make sure to travel between October and November, which is the best time of year to see polar bears. These hairy beasts usually stop around (or in!) the city of Churchill, Manitoba, otherwise known as the polar bear capital of the world, as they wait for the ice to form. Stay inside for polar bear sightings, and then wander outside (when it’s safe) to witness a magnificent night show: the aurora borealis.
Hopping back onto the Canadian, the train crosses the Canadian prairies, known for being… flat. It is hard to imagine that these desert plains were formed by a slow glacial melt that lasted over 200 million years. If you get the chance, make sure to visit the backcountry trails where the scenery is breathtaking. Also recommended is a jaunt to the Grasslands National Park to observe “the darkest dark sky preserve in Canada”.
The last stop of the Canadian leaves you in Pacific Canada, where the environment is unlike any across the rest of the country. The coastal rainforest of British Columbia has more wildlife and plant life than any other area in Canada. This forest is renowned not only for its bio-diversity but also by the imposing grandeur of its trees, which can reach heights of up to 70 meters (the equivalent of a twenty-storey building)! Parks located across the province will also impress any visitor; the mountains, beaches, forests and caves of British Columbia are waiting to be discovered…
The Canadian National Vimy Memorial is dedicated to the memory of fallen and missing Canadian soldiers of the First World War. It took 11 years to build the memorial, and coincidentally Vimy Ridge Day celebrates its 11th year, today. Unfortunately, too few Canadians know the history of the battle of Vimy Ridge.
In 2003, the Government of Canada declared April 9th as Vimy Ridge Day, to honour the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, in which the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought and captured the land held by the Germans. This battle, which saw Canadians from all corners of the country fight together, is arguably one of the most important historic events of national unity and represents, for many, the coming of age of Canada itself.
Thankfully, all Canadians now hold a reminder of this significant historic event. In 2013, the new $20 banknote, which features the Vimy memorial in France, was put into circulation. Leveraging this renewed interest, the Vimy Foundation has launched a “Give a VIMY for Vimy” campaign, raising funds for a new Education Centre in France.
For many reasons, VIA Rail celebrates this National Day of Remembrance with pride. Trains played a prominent role in both World Wars as carriers of troops and equipment. Canadian trains transported troops to the Eastern seaboard for overseas travel and then brought them back home, victorious. 21 years later, during the Second World War, the railway once again helped the cause, this time with greater responsibilities. During that time, adding supplementary cars to help transport soldiers and other machinery became the norm.
As proud sponsor of the Vimy Foundation, VIA Rail will participate in an event to further raise funds for the Vimy Education Centre. We hope every Canadian can take a few minutes today, or any day, to remember and appreciate the sacrifices made for our country.
Did you found your soul mate on the train? Or have you snapped a prize-worthy pic from your train seat? Train travel on VIA Rail is always image-worthy and inspires many-a-story. Lucky for us, we have passengers willing to share their moments of joy on our Facebook page. Carol wrote, “Taking the train is a great way to visit family and friends. Makes it feel like a vacation!”. This happy traveller is just one of many sharing their VIA Rail train stories with us.
As you can imagine, VIA Rail thinks travelling by train is the best way to go, but don’t take out word for it… visit the new VIA Experience section on our website and read testimonies from our biggest fans: our passengers. The colourful mosaic design and interactive navigation will charm you, as you chose which great story to read next. The new section is accessible from any mobile device and is updated regularly.
Also in this section you’ll find articles by journalists and bloggers chronicling their journeys. Blogger Savoir Faire Abroad writes about her trip on the Canadian, “It’s a dream trip across Canada, and one that many Canadians think they need to wait until after they retire to do; which is totally not the case!”. Don’t blame us if you suddenly feel the urge to hop on one of our trains to Halifax, Vancouver, Prince Rupert, or Churchill…
Do you have a great VIA Rail train story to tell? Post it on our Facebook page using the hashtag #VIAvoyage, then go visit the ExperienceVIA section. Who knows? Your story might be the next one published! It’s a great way to share your experience and encourage people to discover their country in the most unique and fulfilling way, by train.
Today VIA Rail’s very own Dino Trubiano, Director, Network Planning and Scheduling, is beginning his term as the President of the Canadian Railway Club. Dino has been working at VIA Rail for 35 years, he is a third generation railroader, a train fan – he even met his wife at VIA! We asked him a few questions about his new position at the CRC and rail life in general.
What made you want to work in the train industry?
My dad worked for the railroad for over 35 years as well. In his day, a job in the rail industry was a job for life. As a kid we used to visit the CN shops in Pointe-St-Charles regularly and I became a train fanatic. Finally, as an apprentice, I was given the opportunity to work on the locomotives themselves, which was really exciting.
The rail industry gave me a lot of opportunity for advancement. I started off at CN in 1979 as a machinist apprentice and I was able to work and go to school at the same time. My certificate in Industrial Relations opened up new doors at VIA and over the past 35 years I have had the opportunity to work in different departments including labour relations, equipment maintenance, transportation logistics and now marketing.
Why did you decide to get involved with the Canadian Railway Club?
The CRC provided a great opportunity to meet people from the rail industry within other corporations like CN, CP and AMT in Montreal, and to meet different members of the railway supply industry.
Do you have any thoughts about the future of passenger rail in Canada, or the rest of the world?
Canada has to take a serious look at the rail industry elsewhere in the world. There is definitely a good opportunity for Canada to entertain high-speed rail, especially within the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.
What does your new role with the Railway Club entail?
The Canadian Railway Club is a non-profit organization and only maintains a reasonable bank balance to ensure the ongoing activities of the Club. The mandate of the President and the Executive Committee is to oversee and supervise the interests and affairs of the Club.
What would your dream train trip be?
I would love to do the Winnipeg-Churchill trip during polar bear season. I’ve seen lots of pictures and heard lots of stories, but I want to live it and create my own pictures and be able to tell the story myself.
Today, March 20th, marks the International Day of “La Francophonie”, celebrating the French language and its many cultural expressions. As a Crown corporation, VIA Rail is a proud supporter of Linguistic Duality, and a proud sponsor of the “Rendez-vous de la Francophonie” (RVF), one of the many events organized to celebrate the International Day of “La Francophonie”.
With film screenings, concerts, contests, photography expositions and theatre, Canadians are encouraged to immerse themselves in French Canadian culture during the RVF, which runs until March 23rd. This year’s theme is Joie de vivre d’hier à demain, which can be translated as the Joy of Living: from Yesterday to Tomorrow. Who can resist the allure of that upbeat and optimistic theme, with its promise to lift the spirit?
On this day, why not also take a few minutes to improve your knowledge of French language, by reading through this page of French proverbs, taken from Wikiquote, with English equivalents (when they exist). Nothing like a good French saying to impress your friends, n’est-ce pas?
If you are looking for different ways to celebrate, you can also check out this list of events across Canada, found on the International Day of La Francophonie’s website.
Finally, if you are feeling particularly lucky, why not enter VIA Rail’s RVF contest, through which you can win train travel credits for use anywhere on our network.
Happy Day of La Francophonie! Bonne journée internationale de la francophonie!