July 21st, 2024

Teen checks in at the halfway mark of his cross-country train tour

By Gillian Slade on July 15, 2017.

Theo Weigel at Peggy's Cove. The teen from Medicine Hat is one of more than 4,000 youths from across Canada taking advantage of VIA Rail's inexpensive offer for a month of unlimited travel.


Train travel across Canada has changed his perception of the prairies and provided breathtaking views, says a local resident halfway through a month-long trip from coast to coast.

“People think Saskatchewan is flat and boring but I thought it was beautiful. Northern Ontario was absolutely breathtaking,” said Theo Weigel, 18, of Medicine Hat in a telephone conversation with the News on Friday from Quebec City.

Never having been on a train before, Weigel boarded a VIA Rail train in Edmonton on Canada Day and headed for Toronto.

He found himself falling asleep and waking up later to a whole new world, new terrain.

“It’s definitely given me an appreciation for how vast Canada really is,” said Weigel.

He is one of about 4,000 young people who took advantage of a VIA Rail offer to purchase a ticket for $150 and enjoy unlimited train travel throughout the month of July. It was a way to celebrate Canada’s 150 birthday and see the country.

The initial stretch from Edmonton to Toronto took several days.

“I don’t think I got too stinky or anything on the train but it is definitely nice to shower and you appreciate water a lot more once you get off the train after a few days,” said Weigel.

A lot of time was spent playing board games and chatting to other travellers, many of whom were young people. They developed a bond after the first day together. After initially just saying “hello” there were opportunities to have longer conversations. Of those starting out in Edmonton, many were travelling to Vancouver.

“We take over trains it seems. There’s definitely much more of us, in economy anyway,” said Weigel of fellow young people.

Food while on the train has been pleasant and reasonably priced.

“The food is delicious. There is a chef on board,” said Weigel, who has enjoyed a freshly made omelet for breakfast and salmon that was tasty and reasonably priced. There are also prepackaged snacks.

“I tend to stick to fresh food even though it’s a little more costly,” he explained.

Not having been on a train before, he says the adjustment was “huge” when it came to sleeping in his seat.

“Your back and neck get a workout when you sleep on a train,” said Weigel.

When VIA Rail posted the $150 pass deal on its website on March 27, word spread on social media with about 4,281 VIA Rail Canada 150 passes selling in less than 36 hours, said a spokesperson for VIA Rail. Its website experienced five times the usual volume of traffic, causing the reservation system to crash. VIA Rail had to temporarily suspend sales of the pass to maintain the integrity of the site and allow normal ticket sales.

Share this story:


Comments are closed.