Trailblazer guidebooks provide practical information on specific routes in less accessible parts of the world.
 — Wanderlust

Trans-Canada Rail Guide

Trans-Canada Rail Guide

Sample Route Guide

Contents List | Introduction | Sample Route Guide | Planning Your Trip | The Lines Today



You can follow your route on the strip maps in this guide and read about the points of interest along the way in the accompanying text.

Where something of interest is on only one side of the track, it is identified by the letters N (north), S (south), W (west) and E (east). Note that in some cases these compass directions are only approximate. Since the direction of travel from Toronto to Vancouver is due west, when you're on this journey north is on the right-hand side of the train.

Railway subdivisions
Each line is divided into subdivisions. These are usually about 125 miles long which was the average distance a steam train could travel in 12 hours when the railways were built. If you take the train all the way from Halifax to Vancouver, you'll pass through 20 subdivisions.

These are shown as -- RAILWAY SUBDIVISION -- in the text.

Mile markers
The mileage within each subdivision is indicated by mile markers at the side of the track. Subdivisions run from east to west or south to north, so Mile 0 will always be at the eastern or southern terminal of a subdivision. When you reach the end of a subdivision the next one begins. This is known as a railway divisional point and the miles go back to '0'. The mile markers are usually white rectangular boards on metal posts or telegraph poles. They can be on either side of the track.

Signal masts
You'll also notice numbers marked on signal masts along the way. You can work out which mile you're at by inserting a decimal point before the last digit. For instance, if the number on the signal mast is 562 that means you're at Mile 56.2.

Station names
Of course the foolproof way to find out where you are is to look out for the names of the stations you're passing. These are conveniently announced on signposts a mile before each station. The names of sidings or junctions are often displayed by the track as well.

Most of the stops are for only a few minutes, giving the crew just enough time to whisk passengers on and off. Longer stops are always indicated in the timetable and are shown in this guide in brackets after the station name. You'll notice that some of the stops in the timetable have asterisks after them; these are 'flag stops' which means the train will stop here only when someone wants to get on or off. Flag stops are also marked by an asterisk in this guide, eg Clearwater*.

Time zones
Most of the routes described take you through at least two time zones; the Canadian takes you through four. When you enter a new time zone this will be indicated in the text using the following abbreviations: AT (Atlantic Time); ET (Eastern Time); CT (Central Time); MT (Mountain Time); PT (Pacific Time). See p47-48 for more on time zones.


The Ocean follows the meandering lines of the old Intercolonial Railway; indeed the line loops around so much, swinging off to tiny villages, that it was said the contractors were paid by the mile.

It's a line with a history - the first passenger train ran from Halifax to Levis, opposite Quebec City, back in 1876. The train following this route has been known as The Ocean since 1904 making it the longest-running service in Canada.

The line takes you through three provinces and two time zones and, as you might expect, past a good deal of water: you'll see plenty of lakes, harbours, bays and rivers, including the great St Lawrence, which the train follows for a large portion of the journey. The trip from Halifax to Montreal takes 21 hours.

[MAP 1]

Mile 0: Halifax [AT]  For a detailed guide to Halifax, see pp69–81.

Mile 4 (S): 
The train passes Fairview Cemetery where 125 victims of the Titanic tragedy are buried. There’s also a large common grave here for the unidentified men and women who died in the Halifax Explosion (see p79).

Mile 18–27: 
As you leave the city you move into a landscape of spruce forest and lakes. Look east at Mile 18 for a view of Kinsac Lake, and west between Mile 24 and 27 for lovely views over Shubenacadie Lake.

Mile 63: Truro 
There was an Acadian settlement here as early as 1701 but these unfortunate people were forced to make way for New England settlers in 1755. Since then it’s become a major railway centre and a thriving farming, lumbering and dairy area. It’s a pretty town though the station, set in the middle of an ugly shopping mall, would suggest otherwise. 

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Mile 11:  Just after crossing the Debert River the train swings around a great, sweeping curve of track known as the Grecian Bend, apparently laid at the behest of an influential local ironworks owner.

Mile 23(N): Folly Lake  Formed by a melting glacier 10,000 years ago, it’s supposed to be a watering spot for moose and bear.

Mile 25:  For the next five miles the train rides high above the Wallace River, along the Wentworth Valley. As you leave the valley behind, look south for a view of Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance.

Mile 59: Springhill Jct*  Springhill used to be an important coal-mining centre but its pits were dogged by tragedy: in 1891 125 miners were killed in an explosion; 39 died in an accident in 1956; just two years later a tunnel collapsed killing a further 74 men. Today the pits are all shut down but the bravery of the men who once worked there is still honoured in the Springhill Miners’ Museum.

Mile 76: Amherst  The town was once a booming industrial centre of Nova Scotia but large numbers of the population left for New England after World War I and the local economy has never recovered its former success.

Mile 80:  Here you cross the Missaquash River which separates Nova Scotia from New Brunswick.

Mile 81(N):  On top of the hill you can see Fort Beauséjour, built by the French between 1750 and 1755, then promptly captured by the British the year it was completed. This low-lying building doesn’t exactly dominate the skyline, so keep your eyes peeled if you want a glimpse of it.

Mile 86: Sackville  This is a small, pretty town with old timbered houses and, surprisingly for its size, a university, Mount Allison, founded over 150 years ago. What’s more, this university was the first in Canada to grant degrees to women, when Grace Anne Lockhart was made a Bachelor of Science here in 1875. Sackville is surrounded by the saltwater Tantramar Marshes. Keep a look out for Canada geese, marsh hawks, blue-winged teal, black ducks and numerous other waterfowl; the area is a national wildlife reserve and is one of the densest breeding grounds in the world for many species.

Mile 125: Moncton                            [15-minute stop]
The original name of this town was The Bend; sadly it was renamed Moncton (losing a ‘k’ along the way) in 1855, in honour of General Robert Monckton, a British commander who became lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia. Efforts to officially respell the town’s name in the 1920s were vigorously opposed by the locals, and Moncton it remained. Today about a third of the population is French-speaking. The 15-minute stop provides a good opportunity to stretch your legs.

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Mile 62:  Here you cross the Miramichi River and then, immediately after, the Little Miramichi. Anglers reportedly flock to these waters from all over the world, lured by their silver Atlantic salmon.

Mile 66: Newcastle  The local economy revolves around the town’s thriving salmon fisheries. It also boasts a large radio station which met its moment of glory during World War II when it was selected as the British government’s receiving station. It’s no longer a main stop.

Mile 110: Bathurst  This small copper-mining and fishing town marks the beginning of the Caraquet coast. The sandy beaches and old Acadian fishing villages along this coast have made the area a popular tourist resort.

Mile 120: Petit Rocher*  This small seaside village is a popular summer resort. Villagers celebrate the Acadian National Holiday every year here on August 15.

Mile 138: Jacquet River*  This town was founded by a Mr J Doyle in 1790 who, according to local legend, was its only inhabitant for many years. To the north is the Bay of Chaleur; the train will hug its shores for the next 35 miles. The views over the bay are particularly pretty between miles 165 and 170.

Trans-Canada Rail Guide