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Enjoy Stress Free Travel

by Chris Edwards

One of my earliest and fondest memories is of boarding the old “milk run” train at the Walkerville station with my grandmother to visit relatives in Belle River. The two of us made this trip often; on a recent journey to Toronto aboard Via Rail, my mind naturally wandered back to those carefree days as the train passed by this small lakeside town just east of Windsor.

via 1
Interior of Via 1

While you can no longer disembark in Belle River (the proliferation of the car decreased the demand for this service) that great travel feeling trains provide has remained. For me, VIA 1 was the natural choice for a first-class weekend that included a stay at The Fairmont Royal York, which is conveniently situated across the street from Union Station in downtown Toronto.

While economy travel is perfectly adequate, moving to VIA 1 is well worth the extra expense, provided you like to be pampered! The complimentary cocktails are well-chilled and although 11a.m. might seem a tad early (although it is noon somewhere!), life just somehow seems better with a bloody Caesar in hand, and someone else taking care of the navigation. For lunch we were served a choice of two very appetizing entrées, and salad, desert, tea and coffee. Our stewards were extremely solicitous and we certainly enjoyed all the attention. VIA 1 is definitely the way to travel, especially during the winter months when driving on the 401 can be so stressful and downright dangerous.

Then and Now

When railroads made land travel available to the masses, much as large sailing ships and steam vessels had done for water travel, the first passenger cars ran at about 30 km/h, and were often no more than flatcars or boxcars with benches. Passenger trains later improved, but long waits and hazards, such as becoming snowbound or derailed, were not uncommon. Despite this, train travel was the fastest, most comfortable and most reliable mode of long-distance land travel until the age of the automobile and paved roads.

In 1854, the first passenger trains reached Windsor from Niagara Falls to much fanfare. Between 1976-1979 Via Rail Canada, a crown corporation, took over intercity and national rail passenger service from Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway. CPR and CN would henceforth concentrate on freight service. Today, the Windsor to Quebec City corridor is the busiest network within the VIA Rail system and represents more than 70% of VIA Rail travellers.

Via Rail has served over 3.9 million passengers with 480 trains per week, including 300 in southern Quebec and southern Ontario on 14,000 km of track in approximately 450 Canadian communities.

Recently announced strategic infrastructure improvements throughout the Quebec City-Windsor corridor will increase track capacity and alleviate bottlenecks, improve on-time performance, reduce trip times by increasing speed and further improve safety and reliability of service.
With a total investment of $692.5 million planned over the next five years, the renaissance of passenger rail will continue to bring truly modern, affordable, safe and efficient travel options to Canadians. Coupled with the $401.9 million announced in April 2000, the more than $1 billion commitment by the current government is the largest cash infusion for passenger rail in Canadian history.

To learn more, visit www.viarail.ca.


©2004-06 Walkerville Publishing