A Transcontinental Voyage

With the climate crisis always being fairly top of mind for me, I’ve been thinking a lot more about how to travel. On a personal level, flying is about the most carbon emission heavy activity you can possibly do. Hurling giant steel tubes through the air between continents is an energy intensive process, after all, and that energy all comes from fossil fuels. This has led to the growth of flight-shame.

Now I’m very much an advocate of fix-the-system instead of relying on consumer choice. Guilt tripping consumers to change their habits will not solve the problem. However, I still think it makes sense to try and live in more sustainable ways where you can. We will all have to change our habits by necessity soon enough, so someone’s got to blaze a trail. With that in mind, I’ve decided to try and steer clear of intercontinental flights and focus more on getting around by car or train. And after not going anyway further than Portland, Oregon, for duration of the pandemic, I thought it was time for an epic adventure.

But where to go? Well there are few things more Canadian than the CPR, and I’ve never done a cross-Canada trip. It’s also been a while since I’ve visited some friends of mine on the East Coast, and I’ve never had a chance to visit Washington, D.C. So of course, the natural choice is to take the train across Canada to go visit them.

And then to take the train back. Because I’m a crazy person.

Stage 1: The Canadian

The first step of the journey is to take the The Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto. This is the trans-continental train service provided by Via Rail, which operates intercity passenger rail in Canada.

  • Distance: 4,466 km
  • Time: About 4 days
  • Cost: $1,166.55 CAD (on sale and meals included)
Vancouver to Toronto Route

Stage 2: Toronto to New York

From Toronto, I’ll have to switch to Amtrak (America’s ViaRail) to get to New York City. I hadn’t planned to make a stop here originally, but just getting to New York by train takes…13 hours. So it makes sense to break the trip up, and I’ll spend a day here to relax. Also, never complain about getting a chance to see more of NYC!

  • Distance: ~800 km
  • Time: 13 hours
  • Cost: $169 USD (Business Class)
Map of train route from Toronto to New York
Toronto to New York Route

Stage 3: NYC to Washington, DC

From NYC it’s just a short hop of a train ride to get to the US Capitol. You’ll notice that the trains get faster and faster as I get closer. The Canadian averages only about 45km/hr, the Toronto/NYC route about 60km/hr, but this stage is about 92km/hr.

  • Distance: 330 km
  • Time: 3.5 hours
  • Cost: $92.00 USD (Actually more because I had to change my ticket and it was a mess, but that’s what you CAN get it for)

Stage 4: Recuperate

Okay, so that’s a lot of trains. But the great bit about my work is that I can do it remotely, so after I’ve finished hanging out with my friends and exploring DC, I’ll be spending a month in Montreal. While I would have loved to train there, it is not practical. The journey takes about 3 days, which even I can’t justify (I will complain about this later).

Stage 5: Chicago to Vancouver

Apres mon temps à Montreal, I’ll be training back across America. You’d think taking the train from Montreal to Chicago would be easy since it’s pretty much a straight shot but…you’d be wrong. Once again I’ll have to fly for one of the sections to avoid an extra 2-3 days of painful travel.

  • Distance: 3200 km
  • Time: 2 days, 4 hours (non-sequential)
  • Cost: $1233 USD

Final Notes

That’s a lot of trains, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of slightly blurry pictures of the Rockies to share soon enough. I’m going to try and blog about this as I go (WiFi permitting) and add in some of my thoughts about trains as I go. Final tally:

  • Total Distance by Train: ~8796km
  • Travel Time: ~8 days
  • Cost: ~$3213 CAD (1.37 conversion rate)