National Railway System
The Canadian rail network has a complex mix of infrastructure ownership and passenger train operation. Most of the infrastructure is owned by private companies - principally Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) - which operate freight services only. Passenger services are provided by various public-sector bodies. The federal passenger operator, VIA Rail, runs long-distance and other inter-city trains; local services are run by various provincial operators. VIA Rail and some other operators also own parts of the infrastructure on which they run.
There is a consistent basic infrastructure standard for all main-line operators (i.e. not metros / light rail):
- gauge: standard
- electrification: none
- rule of the road: right, but with extensive bi-directional operation
The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) publishes an interactive atlas of Canadian railways, with a separate user manual. Different infrastructure owners are identified by colour and line codes; more information is available by clicking on lines and stations.
Until at least late 2018, the atlas was provided as a series of PDFs; these are still available online as copies at the Wayback Machine (last copy date 21 December 2018). For copies before 2013, there is a separate link.
Steam Powered Video publish a series of rail atlases covering Canada.
The RAC Atlas was also available as a printed book. This does not appear to be published any longer, but second-hand copies may be available.
Tickets are generally not interavailable between different operators, even on shared routes.
The Man in Seat 61 site has a useful guide to train travel in Canada, including summary timetables and ticket details.
The main information source is the website.
There is a basic route map on the website. It is not known whether VIA Rail publish a printed map.
- Journey planner: on the website front page
- Online timetables: on the schedules page - click "Timetables - Accessible versions" to display the list. Note that these are not in PDF format. The Rail Passengers Association publishes unofficial timetables, created from VIA Rail data.
- Printed timetable: it is not known whether VIA Rail still publishes a printed timetable. VIA Rail services (and some others) are included in the European Rail Timetable.
VIA Rail no longer provides advance information on engineering works; diversions can only detected by checking individual journeys in the journey planner.
- On the VIA Rail website, check individual trains or journeys using the "Check arrivals & departures" tab on the train schedules page.
- A real-time interactive map of VIA Rail (and Amtrak) trains is available on the TransitDocs website. Click on individual trains to view their details.
VIA Rail does not offer any rail passes.
There are several private operators of tour trains, including Rocky Mountaineer and Royal Canadian Pacific. These often travel over sections of otherwise non-passenger line, including the highly scenic CP and former BCR routes through the Rocky Mountains.
Information for operators within individual provinces, including metro and light rail systems, is broken down by province:
|Alberta (including Calgary and Edmonton)||see province page|
|British Columbia (including Vancouver)||see province page|
|Manitoba||see province page|
|New Brunswick||only VIA Rail service|
|Newfoundland and Labrador||no operational railways in Newfoundland; Transport Ferroviaire Tshiuetin service in western Labrador|
|Nova Scotia||only VIA Rail service|
|Ontario (including Toronto)||see province page|
|Prince Edward Island||no operational railways|
|Québec (including Montréal)||see province page|
|Saskatchewan||only VIA Rail service|
There are no passenger rail services (and very few railways at all) in any of the territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon), except for a short section of the White Pass & Yukon Railway extending from British Columbia into Yukon territory.