Canada Rail Pass
Canada Rail Tickets

Canada Rail Passes & Can Rail Tickets

Canada has a large and well-developed railway system that today primarily transports freight. There are two major publicly traded transcontinental freight railway systems, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. Nationwide passenger services are provided by the federal crown corporation Via Rail. Three Canadian cities have commuter train services: in the Montreal area by Exo, in the Toronto area by GO Transit, and in the Vancouver area by West Coast Express. These cities and several others are also served by light rail or metro systems. Only one (Toronto) has an extensive streetcar (tram) system. Smaller railways such as Ontario Northland Railway also run passenger trains to remote rural areas. The Rocky Mountaineer and Royal Canadian Pacific provide luxury rail tours for viewing scenery in the Canadian Rockies as well as other mountainous areas of British Columbia and Alberta.

Canada has 49,422 kilometres (30,709 mi) total trackage, of which only 129 kilometres (80 mi) is electrified (almost exclusively part of urban rail transit networks). Canada uses 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge track for the majority of its railway system. The exceptions to this are small lines isolated from the main North American rail network used in resource industries such as mining or forestry, some of which are narrow gauge, and the streetcar and heavy-rail subway lines of the Toronto Transit Commission which use a broad gauge of 4 ft 10+7⁄8 in (1,495 mm).

History of the Canadian Railways

The first Canadian railway, the Champlain and Saint Lawrence Railroad, was opened in 1836 outside of Montreal. Heavy expansion of the rail system did not get under way until the Guarantee Act of 1849 that guaranteed bond returns on all railways over 121 km (75 mi). This led to rapid expansion of railways in the Canadas, sometimes excessive growth as uneconomic lines were built since the government guaranteed profits.

This proved disastrous for government finances, however, and the Canadas were all but bankrupted by the subsidies. The largest rail project of this period was also a disaster. The Grand Trunk Railway linking Montreal to Sarnia was finished in 1860, but was vastly mired in debt. In exchange for bailing out the company the government escaped its guarantee on the railway bonds.

Canadian confederation was made possible in part by the railways. The separate colonial governments had all but emptied their treasuries building railways, and a new and more stable method of financing them was required. It was also believed that union would allow for the needed construction of railways linking British North America. The Maritimes joined only because of promises to build the Intercolonial Railway, and British Columbia only because of a promise to build a transcontinental railway.

The government had learned its lesson, and these railways were not funded by guarantees. Rather, the construction of the Intercolonial was fully controlled by the government under the skilled direction of Sir Sanford Fleming.

The railway to the Pacific, the Canadian Pacific, was financed by private funds and through massive land grants in the Canadian prairies (much of it of little value until the railway arrived), $25 million in cash and a guaranteed monopoly. The railway, an engineering marvel that was then the longest in the world, was completed in 1885 to great fanfare.

The booming Canadian economy after 1900 led to plans to build two new transcontinental railways. The Canadian Northern, a successful system covering the northern part of the prairies, and the Grand Trunk (through its Grand Trunk Pacific subsidiary) both launched ambitious plans to expand. The government at first encouraged the two to come to some arrangement and build only one new network, but in the end no agreement was made and the government supported the expansion of both systems. The federal government itself built the National Transcontinental, a line from Moncton, New Brunswick, through Quebec City to Winnipeg, passing through the vast and uninhabited hinterland of the Canadian Shield.

This aggressive expansion proved disastrous when immigration and supplies of capital all but disappeared with the outbreak of the First World War. The Canadian Northern, Grand Trunk Pacific, and Grand Trunk were nationalized by the federal government, which absorbed the debt of over two billion dollars. All three railways, along with the Canadian Government Railways (formed by the Intercolonial, National Transcontinental, and several smaller lines) were then merged into the Canadian National Railways between 1918 and 1923.

The years after the First World War saw only moderate expansion of the rail network and the age of the great railways were over in Canada. The automobile provided strong competition by the 1920s, and after the Second World War most passengers were lost to automobiles and airlines. During the post-war period several large resource lines were opened in Quebec, Labrador, and British Columbia – several of which are not directly connected to the main North American network.

In 1978 the government created Via Rail which took over all national passenger service in the country. In 1987 the National Transportation Act partially deregulated the railway industry in Canada and removed much of the red tape that railways experienced when attempting to abandon unprofitable lines; however, the NTA is now viewed as more of a failure in that railways used the legislation merely as a first-resort after "demarketing" a line, rather than a last-resort after trying to find a short line buyer. In November 1995 the federal government privatized CN, and in 1996, the government corrected the NTA 1987 shortfalls with the Canadian Transportation Act which more fully deregulates the railway industry.

Canada's Regulatory Environment

While the federal government legislates, and regulates through such bodies as Transport Canada, the railways, various provinces have their own legislation, and indeed if the railway is contained exclusively within the province, are governed by it unless the federal government declares it of importance to the entire country. The Railway Association of Canada, a lobby group, provides helpful lists of legislation, regulation, orders, and circulars on its website.
 


List of Canadian Railway Operators

The Canadian Transportation Agency maintains a list, with status updates, of federal railway operators. This list is somewhat opaque, because certain owners set up operations in the names of holding companies.

List of Canadian Luxury Railways
 
Rocky Mountaineer Routes
 
Rocky Mountaineer currently operates train journeys on four routes, all in Canada, with a fourth in the United States to begin operation in 2021. Two additional routes (one in Canada and one international) are no longer operated.

Former Routes

The Royal Canadian Pacific is the Ultimate in Rail Luxury

When it comes to luxurious rail travel, the Royal Canadian Pacific offers the finest experience in the world. Step aboard our fleet of Canadian Pacific Railway vintage carriages for the ultimate in luxury rail vacations. The silver settings, brass fittings, burled tables, brocade chairs, wall paneling of Circassian walnut and bird’s eye maple imported from Russia, and open vestibules are the pinnacle of a bygone tradition of elegance. Subtly add all the modern amenities the discerning traveler would expect along with exceptional gourmet cuisine, fine wines and unsurpassed hospitality and service, and you are presented with the Royal Canadian Pacific.

Royal Canadian Pacific Luxury Railroad Tours
  • Royal Canadian Rockies Experience: This exclusive 4 night, 5 day rail excursion begins in Calgary, Alberta a city rich with beautiful landscapes, picturesque skylines and urban vibrancy. Departure Date(s): At this time we are not able to confirm when our luxury tours will resume. Please join the WAITING LIST for the trip you are interested in to be contacted once dates are confirmed - Duration: 4 Nights, 5 Days: EXPLORE: Canadian Rockies Experience: Limited to 24 guests
  • Royal Pacific Express: This luxury excursion is 3 nights and 4 days. Departure for the Royal Pacific Express luxury Excursion departs from Canadian Pacific's Corporate headquarters in Calgary Alberta. Departure Date(s): At this time we are not able to confirm when our luxury tours will resume. Please join the WAITING LIST for the trip you are interested in to be contacted once dates are confirmed - Duration: 3 Nights, 4 Days: EXPLORE: Royal Pacific Express: Limited to 24 guests
  • Royal Prairie Express: This luxury excursion is 3 nights and 4 days. The Royal Prairie Express luxury excursion departs from the Vancouver area. Departure Date(s): At this time we are not able to confirm when our luxury tours will resume. Please join the WAITING LIST for the trip you are interested in to be contacted once dates are confirmed - Duration: 3 Nights, 4 Days: EXPLORE: Royal Prairie Express: Limited to 24 guests
  • Private Charters: For a completely customized one of a kind journey the Royal Canadian Pacific offers an exclusive and intimate setting for a variety of private booking opportunities - Charter A Train: Request an appointment with us to build out your private charter experience
  • Royal Canadian Pacific Private Railcar Dining: The Royal Canadian Pacific offers a luxurious and historical setting for a variety of private functions. Our dining excursions allow you to experience the ultimate in fine dining and service while traveling through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Or host an exclusive dinner on the cars without leaving our Pavilion in Calgary. Our all-inclusive menus are exclusively created for each group, with specially selected wine pairings. Our chefs and guest service representatives are dedicated to providing you and your guests the ultimate experience, with the goal to exceed expectations at all times – both in service and the preparation of your meal - Charter A Train: Request an appointment with us to build out your private charter experience
List of Canadian Passenger Railways
 
Name Reporting marks  Locale Ownership Notes
Via Rail VIA British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia Federally owned VIA Operates 9 routes (the most major of which has 7 variations), mainly along CP and CN tracks.
         
Canadian National Railway

CN

Spanning Canada from the Atlantic coast in Nova Scotia to the Pacific coast in British Columbia across approximately 20,400 route miles (32,831 km) of track. CN has extensive capacity in the United States. CN is a public owned company CN is Canada's largest railway, in terms of both revenue and the physical size of its rail network,  In the late 20th century.
         
Canadian Pacific Railway CPR Canadian Pacific Railway owns approximately 20,100 kilometres (12,500 mi) of track in seven provinces of Canada and into the United States, stretching from Saint John, New Brunswick to Vancouver, and as far north as Edmonton. Its rail network also serves Minneapolis–St. Paul, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, and Albany, New York in the United States. CPR is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta.  CPR began operations as a legal owner in a corporate restructuring in 2001.
         
Hudson Bay Railway Co. HBRY Hudson Bay Railway is a Canadian short line railway operating over 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) of track in northeastern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba. HBRY was formed by the railroad holding company OmniTRAX in July 1997 HBRY is a vital transportation link in northern Manitoba, hauling ores and concentrates, copper, zinc, logs, kraft paper, lumber, and petroleum products.
         

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway
QNSL The Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway is a private Canadian regional railway that stretches 414 kilometres (257 mi) through the wilderness of northeastern Quebec and western Labrador. It connects Labrador City, Labrador, with the port of Sept-Îles, Quebec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.  QNS&L is owned by Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) The Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway is classed as a common carrier.
         
RailLink Canada        
         
Tshiuetin Rail Transportation TSH Tshiuetin Rail Transportation Inc. is a rail company that owns and operates a 217-kilometre (135 mi) Canadian regional railway that stretches through the wilderness of western Labrador and northeastern Quebec. It connects Emeril, Labrador with Schefferville, Quebec on the interprovincial boundary. The company also operates a 356-kilometre (221 mi) railway that connects Sept-Îles, Quebec to Emeril.  TSH is the first railway in North America owned and operated by First Nations people TSH is owned by the Innu Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, and the Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam.
         
Royal Canadian Pacific CP Royal Canadian Pacific train operates seasonally from June to September, on CPR trackage through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and British Columbia. All trains are based out of Calgary, Alberta, at the former Via Rail station near CPR's corporate headquarters. A typical excursion would be a 1,050 km (650 mi) route from Calgary through the Columbia River Valley and Crowsnest Pass, before returning to Calgary. Royal Canadian Pacific is operated by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), The Royal Canadian Pacific is a luxury excursion passenger train operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway , inaugurated on June 7, 2000, after the CPR received the royal designation for the service from Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada.
         
Capital Railway CR Ottawa City of Ottawa The Trillium Line is a federally regulated rail line operated under the name "Capital Railway".
         
Trains de banlieue EXO Greater Montreal Exo A provincial entity 3 commuter routes with trackage rights over CP lines, 2 commuter routes with trackage rights over CN lines, 1 owned.
         
GO Transit GOT Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area Metrolinx A provincial entity 3 commuter routes with trackage rights over CN lines, 1 commuter route with trackage rights over CP lines, 2 owned and operated commuter lines.
         
Ontario Northland Railway ONT Cochrane ON to Moosonee ON Ontario Northland Transportation Commission A provincial crown agency 1 active route on owned tracks
         
Rocky Mountaineer RMRX Vancouver or Calgary to BanffJasper, and Whistler. Rocky Mountaineer 4 tour routes operating over CN tracks, 1 tour route operating over CP tracks.
       
West Coast Express BCVX Mission to Vancouver TransLink A provincial entity 1 commuter route with trackage rights over CP line.
         
Keewatin Railway KRC Northern Manitoba, between The Pas, and Pukatawagan Keewatin Railway A First Nations-owned shortline railroad that operates in Northern Manitoba, between The Pas, and Pukatawagan.
       
Ottawa Valley Railway RLK Ottawa Valley Railway is a Canadian railway that operates 150 miles (240 km) of track in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec Ottawa Valley Railway is owned by Genesee & Wyoming Canada Inc., the Canadian subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. OVR operates between Sudbury and Temiscaming, Quebec, reduced from its original routing between Sudbury and Smiths Falls with a branch to Temiscaming.

List of Canadian Urban Rail Transit

Name Locale Ownership Notes
CTrain Calgary Calgary Transit 2 light rail lines.
       
Edmonton  LRT Edmonton Edmonton Transit Service 2 light rail lines.
       
Ion Waterloo Region Grand River Transit 1 light rail line.
       
Montreal Metro Montreal, Laval, and Longueuil Societé de Transport de Montréal 4 heavy rail metro lines (running on tires).
       
O-Train Ottawa OC Transport 2 light rail lines.
       
Toronto Subway Toronto and Vaughan Toronto Transit Commission 3 heavy rail metro lines and 1 light metro line.
       
Toronto Streetcar System Toronto Toronto Transit Commission 11 streetcar lines.
       
Vancouver SkyTrain Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond TransLink 3 light metro lines.
                                         
This List Includes:
 
Provincial and Regional Railways Included:
 
 
In Addition, Several U.S. Operators Connect to the Canadian network:
 
BNSF Railway
CSX Transportation
Union Pacific
 
Rail link(s) with adjacent countries
 
United States – same gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)
 
Railways in Canada Operation
 
Major operators:
Ridership: 84 million a year
System length
Total: 49,422 km (30,709 mi)
Electrified: 129 km (80 mi)
Track gauge
Old gauge: 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm)
Main: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)
 

Canadian National Railway - A

Canadian National Railway - A

Canadian National Railway - B

Canadian National Railway - B

Canadian Pacific Railway - A

Canadian Pacific Railway

Canadian Pacific Railway - B

Canadian Pacific Railway

Ontario Northland Railway

Ontario Northland Railway

Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer

Royal Canadian Pacific

Royal Canadian Pacific

Via Rail - A

Via Rail

Via Rail - B

Via Rail - Continued

Rail transport in Canada

Rail transport in Canada

Towns & Cities of Canada

Towns & Cities of Canada Railroads

Algoma Central Railway

Algoma Central Railway

Charlevoix Railway

Charlevoix Railway

CTrain - A

CTrain - A

CTrain - B

CTrain - B

Edmonton Light Rail Transit

Edmonton Light Rail Transit

Exo (Public Transit)

Exo (Public Transit)

GO Transit

GO Transit

Hudson Bay Railway

Hudson Bay Railway

Ion Rapid Transit - A

Ion Rapid Transit A

Ion Rapid Transit - B

Ion Rapid Transit - B

Keewatin Railway

Keewatin Railway

Metrolinx

Metrolinx

New Brunswick Southern Railway

New Brunswick Southern Railway

Ottawa Valley Railway

Ottawa Valley Railway

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway

Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway

Trillium Line

Trillium Line

Tshiuetin Rail Transportation

Tshiuetin Rail Transportation

West Coast Express

West Coast Express

Canadian Northern Railway

Canadian Northern Railway
  
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