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Passenger Trains > Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6

Date: 04/17/24 07:00
Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: GCT2526

 One of my longstanding goals has been to ride between Jasper and Prince Rupert. There are three main reasons I wanted to do this. The first, to get one more ride on a Park car. It's been 51 years since my first. The second being to get a first hand look at this line that has seen significant increase  in traffic over the last 50 years. Finally my grandfather worked for at least one summer as laborer during the construction of the line. Last week my goal was accomplished. On 4/10 I departed Jasper for a round trip to Prince Rupert. 

This route certainly is a hidden gem, and I would think has to be considered one of top routes in North America. It combines great scenery along with very interesting and intense freight operations. Listed below is quick recap of the trip.

4/10 Departed Jasper at 1300, 15" late account  an issue with getting the switch unlocked on the siding where the train was stored.The consist was engine 6457, baggage car 8608, coach 8108, and Evangeline Park-Dome Observation car. There were a total of 6 passengers on the train.
        Arrived  Prince George at 1933- 25" late
        Along the way we passed 6 freight trains.
       There were 2 meets, which averaged 21" wait time. The other meets were running or overtakes with no loss of time
4/11 Departed Prince George on time at 0800. There were about 20 passengers on board.
        Arrived Prince Rupert at 2031 7" late. There were 7 passengers on board. 
        Along the way we passed 11 freight trains, with 3 meets averaging 21 minutes dwell time. We had one three train meet and number of running meets and overtakes.
4/12 Departed Prince Rupert at 0800 on time. There 12 passengers on board.
        Arrived Prince George 2100, 21" late.
       Along the way we passed 13 freight trains. Six of these were in the area just west of Smithers. The RTC did a very good job of weaving us through a very congested situation. 
       There were 3 meets where we stopped and the average wait time was 19". We had another 3 train meet and several overtakes.
4/13 #5 Departed Prince George on time at 0800 with 19 passengers
        #6 Departed Prince George on time, with 11 passengers on board
        #6 Arrived Jasper 1941 2'41" late, with 11 passengers on board.
       This delay was caused by 2 unfortunate events. The first being just east of McBride, where a MofW gang could not get the Hi-Rail vehicle off the track, they had to get the assistance of another gang. The second was track issue at mp.27 on single track section of the Albreda Sub
       Division. I understand that this single track section is memorial to the Hunter Harrison cost cutting program. We also had 15" delay at Red Pass Jct. account our engine crew needed to be re-crewed. 
       Along the way we passed  6 freight trains between Prince George and Harvey,and 8 between Red Pass Jct. and Jasper.
      We got a bonus east of Harvey by operating via the Robson Sub. to Lubin and then back east via Spicer on the Albreda Sub.

Besides the outstanding scenery three items made this trip exceptional. The first being the Dome Observation car. There are alot of trees close to the line and the elevation the dome provides is very big help in observing the scenery. Also my other favorite advantage the dome brings  is the ability to observe the signal indications and a better view of the passing trains. The second  items was the VIA Service Manager. He
 was very professional and friendly. He also had extensive knowledge of the local history along the route as well as the railroad history and current operations.
Finally it was pleasure to have big and clean windows on the cars. This is a feature that trains in my area of the US do not have. All widows are washed in Jasper before each trip.

 Considering the amount of freight that moves on this line  the effort by the RTC to keep us on time was impressive.

This trip is a must for anyone who likes passenger trains, fantastic scenery and railroad operations. The best time to ride is early April and late September. Last year from June through early September the train was sold out.
Hope you enjoyed this trip report and feel free to ask questions. I would also appreciate any information on the number of freight trains that operate daily west of Jasper on the Rupert line and Kamloops line

 Finally listed below are the hotels I stayed at, I would use they all again. In Jasper: the Whistler Inn. its across the street of the VIA station. The VIA station also serves as the car rental location.
                                                                                                                    In Prince George: the  Travelodge and the Hyatt Place. Both are about a 15" walk from the train station
                                                                                                                    In Prince Rupert:   the Prestige. Its about a 10 minute cab ride from the station. The cab company is called Skeena Taxi, and is cash only.  There are no hotels close to the station.
All except the Whistler have continental breakfast include in the room price. The Hyatt's is very good. There is limited food service available on the train



Date: 04/17/24 07:28
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: pwh

Thanks for an interesting trip report. 

Date: 04/17/24 08:37
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: sagehen

Thank you for the report.  We've taken the Rocky Mountaineer twice to Jasper and the Skeena was parked at the depot.  I've been very curious and want to ride it!

Stan Praisewater

Date: 04/17/24 09:34
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: joemvcnj

Shame that only 6  to 20 people are on board. It is April.
Would it do better if  it ran continually without the overnight stop in Prince George ? 

Date: 04/17/24 10:02
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: Flyer92122

Make more sense to be overnight like it used to. Maybe at least off season. How many of those 6-20 were tourists vs locals. Ridership could only get better. 😂 

Date: 04/17/24 10:17
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: jp1822

Excellent trip report! This is truly a HIDDEN gem of a route! I used to take annual trips on this train after VIA launched the Totem and then Totem Deluxe class (now called Touring Class - when operational) for this train. It's a magnificent day trip through the Rockies and then the coastal plain of the Skeena River. The highlight was when VIA put the Panorama Cars on the Skeena (Train #5 and 6) and operated it as the Totem Deluxe class (now Touring Class). You used to get hot meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus snacks, appetizers, and drinks in the early years when this "class" was first launched. It was even running four days a week from like June to September to try to capture extra patronage etc. This was before the Rocky Mountaineer began operating its Whistler to Jasper train via Prince George. The Totem Deluxe Class, with the Panorama Cars, meals, and scenery, plus day-time scenery was nearly identical to the Rocky Mountaineer's service it was providing. Slowly though over the years, and likely with competition from Rocky Mountaineer, the Totem Deluxe and Touring Class on this train kinda went down hill, but it is STILL VERY MUCH WORTHWHILE overall. I would LOVE to take a ride on this train again if they bring back Touring Class ever again. It's absolutely a remarkable journey. It was featured as one of the "great rail journey trips" in the world. 

PS - in the winter time, with shorter light in the days, I always thought VIA should adjust the schedule so it is an overnight train (no layover in Prince George) - run the train all the way through from Jasper to Prince Rupert (even connecting with the Canadian at Jasper) as was done for YEARS!!! The train can FILL up in the summer time so don't let the winter patronage be deceiving. And it even had higher patronage when the "Touring Class" operated. Presently, Touring Class is still suspended since COVID. 

Date: 04/17/24 10:35
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: steve4031

I rode this route from Prince George to Prince Rupert and then Prince Rupert to Winnipeg when VIA operated the train, the Panorama. I had lower berths for the entire trip.  There was a full-service dining car on that trip.  I remember eating chicken cordon bleu for dinner.  I spent much of the journey in the dome car or at the open Dutch door.  I traveled during the summer between my Junior and Senior years in high school.  I am amazed now that my father allowed me the freedom to do this trip as part of a 22-day Canadian rail pass.  

I remember a family boarding someplace between Jaspar and Edmonton and occupying one of the other sections.  The mother struggled with keeping her children in order.  As we approached Edmonton, she told one kid to stand in the corner  (the dogleg in the corridor as it jogged to the side to go along the bedrooms).  The child was in the way of boarding passengers, and the conductor was not too pleased.  I kept a shallow profile.  The following day, I remember several loud spats about toys and personal space between the children.  I was attempting to read a book in my area.  The sleeping car attendant walked by during one of the spats and told me to get my stuff.  He moved me to a duplex roomette at the other end of the car.    

The second time I rode this route was in the winter with my father.  We flew into Vancouver and took BCm rail to Prince George and then Via to Prince Rupert.  The crew assigned seats as we boarded, and we were stuck in the coach with seats poorly aligned to the windows.  We moved to the Park Car and hung out in the dome.  At one point, the train slowed to allow a Moose to get out of the way.  It ran in front of the engine briefly before heading into the woods.  

I definitely would like to try this route again in the future.  

Date: 04/17/24 11:10
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: Chessie1963

Great post!  I want to ride that train, and your post made me want to get up there even more.  Off season sounds like the time!  You have the run of the train!

Reminds me of the Shenadoah back in 1981.  I rode it before it was cut, and I was pretty young at the time, but back then if you behaved like an adult, they treated you like one.  No need for permission for a minor to travel alone after about age 15, I think, and I was on the cusp.  Anyhow, I got off the train in Athens, to meet my ride, and I left one soul on board, headed toward WVA.  There were just 3 of us east of Chillicothe.

O, Canada!  Again, thanks for the post.

Date: 04/17/24 12:13
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: P

Ridership numbers are a bit concerning.

I have targeted this train to ride, but it seems difficult to do as a tourist with difficult to reach endpoints and subsequently a lot of days spent to execute a round trip.

Posted from Android

Date: 04/17/24 15:33
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: 1976steve

Glad you had a chance to ride and enjoyed it! All the Via on board crew members we've met have been great and very appreciative that we we riding. We rode the Skeena about 15 years ago boarded with about 20 other passengers after about an hour my wife and I were the only two passengers the rest of the way to Prince Rupert.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/17/24 15:34 by 1976steve.

Date: 04/17/24 16:05
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: ABB

Off all the current VIA routes I have only missed Prince George to Prince Rupert.  Now, I have to go to Prince Rupert.

Date: 04/17/24 22:20
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: pdt

Im no expert on canadian passenger trains...whats left of them  anyway,   I rode the Atlantic a few times.   Both the CP version and the VIA version.
1. I guess this is essential service?    One bag, one coach, and obe sleeper/dome/lounge.  Do they add any cars in the summer?

2. 12 hour layover in st george....  If u have a bedroom on one of the trains from jasper to prince rupert, do u get to use your room during the layover, or do u get kicked out, and this is essentially 2 trains.. Jasper prince george and PG to PR?


Date: 04/18/24 05:06
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: TomPittsfieldMA

There are no sleeper cars on this train.  VIA website explains that you must book a hotel room in St George.

Much as I love sleeping on trains, I'm hoping to take this train this year, combining it with the Rocky Mountaineer Rainforest to Goldrush for maximum daylight travel.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/18/24 05:17 by TomPittsfieldMA.

Date: 04/18/24 10:04
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: dadonatrain

Wow!! What a marvelous trip! I’ve had this on my bucket list for years and I’m going to discuss the idea with “her” again!

One tweak I’d love to do would be to do it one way westbound and take an inland passage ferry back to Vancouver and points south. That would take more time and more planning, and dates might not line up at all, but I can dream, can’t I?!

Posted from iPhone

Date: 04/18/24 11:12
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: joemvcnj

Why not sell the 2 or 3 rooms in the Park Car for a day rate ? 

Date: 04/18/24 14:07
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: GCT2526

In response to the post concering the Ferry from Prince Rupert to Vancover , I looked into that option, however the ferry only goes to Port Hardy on the north end of Vancouver Island. I beleive there is a bus from Port Hardy to Victoria, then another ferry is need to get to Vancouver.


Date: 04/18/24 15:10
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: jp1822

joemvcnj Wrote:
> Why not sell the 2 or 3 rooms in the Park Car for
> a day rate ? 

They could, but they have kept things a bit basic for this train. I'm always a champion for incremental revenue, but I don't think this booking would be that popular. Plus, VIA was charging a small fortune just for the "Totem Deluxe" or "Touring Class" on this train when the Panorama Car was operated. I'd rather be in the Panorama Car and Park Car than in a private room Even on VIA's Canadian, room is largely just for sleeping.  

Date: 04/20/24 05:55
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: Railvt

What sort of on-board food/beverage service was VIA offering. In 2017 on my last SKEENA trip there was a simple sandwich offering, with soda, fruit juice, beer and wine for beverages. Totem/Touring Class has not been offered in the summer since OVID, but the Park Car certainly could offer some sort of dining option. Time is tight in Prince George during the overnight layover to go lunch (and dinner) shopping there!

Great post. This is a stunningly beautiful route.

Date: 04/20/24 06:26
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: jp1822

Railvt Wrote:
> What sort of on-board food/beverage service was
> VIA offering. In 2017 on my last SKEENA trip there
> was a simple sandwich offering, with soda, fruit
> juice, beer and wine for beverages. Totem/Touring
> Class has not been offered in the summer since
> OVID, but the Park Car certainly could offer some
> sort of dining option. Time is tight in Prince
> George during the overnight layover to go lunch
> (and dinner) shopping there!
> Great post. This is a stunningly beautiful route.

When first launched with the Panorama cars, the food was nearly equal to Rocky Mountaineer and on par with food being offered in the Canadian at the time. I remember having a shrimp cocktail appetizer as we rolled out of Jasper and past Mt. Robson. Dinner was all hot meals - roast beef, chicken, etc. Lunch was not sandwiches, it was a hot entree meal. Full desert - or at least out of the box before plated - hot cookies and snacks along the way, full bar selection. There was a trainee on the first trip I took and he was being trained by a VIA attendant who had been working on passengers trains in Canada for over 30 years. Not sure why, but I ended up doing laundry at the hotel in Prince George. Definitely a short layover there!

That's just memory from first trip in 2002 or so with the Panorama cars when they were introduced on train #5/6 - the Skeena (aka Rupert Rocket).

Saw all kinds of wildlife over the years on this train. What was neat was that the head-end crew would radio back to the service attendant to let them know - bear, elk, etc. were ahead. Most black bear I've ever seen from a train was actually this route. The totem poles on the Skeena river - a few hours out from Prince Rupert - were also very cool. Best halibut of my life was at a restaurant in Prince Rupert - at the Crest Hotel. It was fresh cold water fish that was just amazing. A special for the night and literally fresh catch. Beautiful views from hotel. The Crest Hotel was also my hotel of choice in Prince Rupert. 


I rented a car in Prince Rupert and even flew out to an eagle and grizzly bear sanctuary near the Alaska/British Columbia Border. Definitely worth it to stay a few days in Prince Rupert - there's lots to do. Or there was..... My last trip to Prince Rupert was just before the Panorama cars were pulled off this train (on a regular basis) to be added to the Canadian. I would only do a one-way to/from Jasper and Prince Rupert, then fly down to Vancouver. Talk about another interesting experience - to get to the airport, you boarded a bus in town, that got onto a ferry, that went out to an island so you could board the plane. Was supposed to take the ferry/boat from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy, Vancouver Island, but there was a last minute cancellation of the boat. 


Date: 04/20/24 19:41
Re: Recent Ride on VIA Trains 5 & 6
Author: Passfanatic

Great report! That Jasper to Prince Rupert run is likely going to be on my list of train trips for next year. I just got done with riding VIA Rail Mandatory Services Train # 693(Winnipeg to Churchill) and 692(Churchill to Winnipeg). I encourage anybody who wants to expand on their passenger rail riding to take advantage of the Winnipeg to Churchill and back run. Back to Trains # 5 and 6 plus where they serve-my travels next year if I can ride the Rupert Rocket will also include a ride on Eastbound Canadian Train # 2 from Vancouver to Jasper and spend a night there. I loved Jasper when I was there last year as part of riding the Canadian westbound from Toronto to Vancouver. 

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