Fred Frailey Blog

A contest: Get Fred to Vancouver

  • Comments 47

My friend Bill Schafer, retired recently as a Norfolk Southern poobah, is having a party on February 22. You’re invited, by the way. The party starts on VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian leaving Vancouver, B.C., on that evening and ends four nights and three days later in Toronto, unless the 55 travelers signed up so far raise such a ruckus that we’re all expelled to the clutches of the Mounties in some inaccessible spot on the Canadian Shield and get thrown into a Northern Ontario dungeon.

Here is your opportunity. I can leave Sarasota, Fla., anytime on Tuesday, February 19. The Canadian leaves Vancouver at 8:30 pm Pacific Time on Friday, February 22.

My question: How to get from here to there. I’ve identified a couple of interesting ways, but suspect I am missing some opportunities. Which option for going from Sarasota to Vancouver is most attractive for a railfan? Money is not really an object. I mean, an air fare is required no matter what, and I possess enough Amtrak Guest Rewards miles for the rail portion. It’s the railroad experience that predominates.

So pretend you are me. Get me from Sarasota to Vancouver with the most railroad enjoyment. The person who first proposes the trip I actually book (or gets closest to it) gets a reward of 5,000 Amtrak Guest Reward points.

I am not kidding, about the AGR points or about being invited. This is not a private train. It is your chance to trap Fred W. Frailey in a dome car seat for 80-odd hours of nonstop questions. And to meet Bill Schafer, who is definitely worth the trip. — Fred W. Frailey

  • Amtrak will take you all the way with two bus rides and three trains (6098=>98=>29=>7=>8900)...but you'd be 20 hours late.  The absence of the Sunset Limited limits the Florida exit options, but starting from New Orleans after flying Delta through Atlanta (776 and 1462), provides an Amtrak routing (58=>7=>8900) with all the local flavor on the City and Builder.  The bus connection to Vancouver is still required because of the timing.

    But do you really want to take the train to the train?   Or watch trains?  In that case, fly to Calgary in one day and take the next two and half to leisurely railfan the Spiral Tunnels and the Fraser River Canyon along the way.

  • If you’re going entirely by train, it seems best to take a Florida train to Washington, the Capital Limited to Chicago, and the Empire Builder to Seattle, and god willing if the mud stays off BNSF’s tracks, the cross-border Cascade to Vancouver.

    The question is how do you get back? From Toronto you could take the Maple Leave to New York City, and from there a Florida Train back home.

    Or, you could take VIA to Montreal, and take the Adirondack back to New York, over Thanksgiving they used VIA Budd equipment, including a Park Car on the Adirondack. The coaches are still in the Albany-Rensselaer Yard, if they return to the Adirondack (one can always dream) then that would be a good route, if not I would recommend the Maple Leave.


    According to if you leave Sarasota on Feb 19th, you won’t get to Vancouver until Feb 23rd, and that involves a bus, not train across the border.

    Maybe you could fly to Washington-Baltimore on the 19th, take a train to Washington Union Station, and start your rail trip from there.

    Would it be the most fun? I don’t know, but certainly the Empire Builder is highly rated.

    29 Capitol Limited Departs: 4:05 PM Tue Feb 19 2013 Washington, DC - Union Station  (WAS)

    Station News Arrives: 8:45 AM Wed Feb 20 2013 Chicago, IL - Union Station  (CHI)

    Station News PT76H10M Duration: 17 hr, 40 min

    Empire Builder Departs: 2:15 PM Wed Feb 20 2013 Chicago, IL - Union Station  (CHI)

    Station News Arrives: 10:25 AM Fri Feb 22 2013 Seattle, WA - King Street Station  (SEA)

    Station News Duration: 46 hr, 10 min

    8900 Bus Departs: 1:45 PM Fri Feb 22 2013 Seattle, WA - King Street Station  (SEA)

    Station News Arrives: 5:15 PM Fri Feb 22 2013 Vancouver, BC  (VAC) Vancouver, BC

    Station News Duration: 3 hr, 30 min Amenities

    Another good option is flying to the West Coast and taking the Coastal Starlight, Like the Empire Builder another highly recommended train.

  • RPS makes a good point, do you want to ride or watch trains. A side visit to a good rail museum might also be a good idea! You could visit the rail museum in Sacramento and then take the Starlight.

  • So, RPS you're saying fly to Calgary on Tuesday and one-way rent a car to Vancouver? Interesting!

    To all who read this: Forget what happens after Toronto. That's not part of the contest. Just get me to Vancouver. I am going to fly back to Washington DC, hopefully in time to preserve my marriage. It's hard to imagine anyone loving me, but miracles happen, guys.

    Fred Frailey

  • Ride or watch? Impossible to answer. I want to do both, but I can be persuaded either way.


  • Unfortunately I'm having a hard enough time getting BACK home to Florida for the winter. Thus the idea of leaving in the middle of winter is akin to madness.

  • I'd roll on the Sunset from New Orleans to LA on the Wednesday depart. "While it's still possible" is one hook if you believe this LD train and not the SW Chief is the one that gets axed first. It's the best chance for decent weather that time of year. Check out UP's double tracking progress west of El Paso before nightfall east of Tucson. Then fly LA-Vancouver. But since you arrive LA Friday early morning IF on time, things could get tight. I don't know if I'd have 80 hours of nonstop questions, but I could imagine myself being tangentially associated with the Canadian Shield expulsion ruckus somehow.

  • Fly to D.C. (US Air 3340, Depart Sarasota 12:00 PM, Arrive Washington-National 2:23 PM on Feb 19)

    Amtrak 29 Capitol Limited to Chicago (Depart D.C. 4:05 pm, Arrive Chicago 8:45 am on Feb 20)

    Amtrak 7 Empire Builder to Seattle (Depart Chicago 2:15 pm, Arrive Seattle 10:25 am on Feb 22)

    Amtrak 8900 Thruway Bus to Vancouver (Depart Seattle 1:45 pm, Arrive Vancouver 5:15 pm on Feb. 22)

  • Fred, if it were me I would fly DL from SRQ to SLC (any of a number of flights departing on the 19th would do) and then take the California Zephyr departing that same evening to Sacramento or Emeryville, the Coast Starlight to Seattle arriving on the 21st and the Cascades the morning of the 22nd to Vancouver. This lets you see the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains enroute...I always enjoy that in the Winter.

    An alternative would be to fly to Chicago SRQ to MDW (or SRQ to ORD, but I think the schedule is actually better to MDW) on the 19th and catch the Empire Builder to Seattle and then the Cascades to Vancouver. More time on the train, but I think the Zephyr/Coast Starlight/Cascades trip would be less rushed on the front end.

  • I would fly to abq  on 2/19 and connect to the swc on  same day.  On 2/20 connect to cs for ride along the coast and over Cuesta pass In The ppc.   On 2/22/12 take am talgo to Vancouver.  Ride sky train during day before getting on the Canadian.

  • No rail passenger service to SRQ.  High fares and less-than-frequent air service, either.  Suggest you look into driving from Sarasota to Tampa, which has semi-decent fares and a broader selection of flights.  Or, get to Orlando before catching a flight.

  • You guys are doing great!! You are providing options I hadn't really considered. Keep those idea flowing.


  • You are the best Fred.  You do a awesome job love reading you stuff and all the other comments your followers provide.  Keep it up everyone.

  • from Sarasota to Indianapolis.  I will pick you up at the airport and drive you downtown for a meeting with Tom Hoback where you will receive an update on the Indiana Railroad.  Then, ride a train to Hiawatha Yard, switch to the train which handles the CSX Chicago haulage and ride to Terre Haute.  Arrangements obviously will have been made for you to take the CSX train to Barr Yard.  I will pick you up at Barr and take you to OHare for a quick trip to Vancouver.

    Write a detailed article on the state of the INDR with emphasis on the Chicago haulage.  I live between Chicago and Indy and can easily provide logistics at both end....and we can stop for a hot dog in Chicago before heading out.

    Good luck on your planning.


  • Ed (MP173), I just fired an imaginary 21-gun salute to you for originality and ingenuity. Aside from the fact that I could break into Fort Knox and steal all its gold easier than I could talk my way aboard a CSX freight train, this would be a winner. And if I went by car from my brainwashing by Tom Hoback to Terre Haute, I could make Chicago in time to catch the Empire Builder Wednesday. I'll work on Hoback for a meeting if you'll work on Cindy Sanborn for a cab ride to Chicago.


A contest: Get Fred to Vancouver