VIA Rail Returns to Churchill

VIA 693 leaving Winnipeg - photo by Mark Perry
The train to Churchill, leaving Winnipeg on December 2, 2018. Photo by Mark Perry.

VIA Rail has resumed passenger service to Churchill, Manitoba. Service was interrupted in late May 2017 when portions of the rail line were washed out. Since the rail line was sold, repairs proceeded rapidly and now service is back to the northern Manitoba town.

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The resumption of service was well covered in the media. The CBC covered both its departure from Winnipeg and its arrival in Churchill.

The “Expedition Churchill” car – aka the “Emerald” dining car. Photo by Mark Perry.

The dining car, “Emerald”, was wrapped in an “Expedition Churchill” wrap. This is an initiative by the University of Manitoba, in partnership with the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, the Winnipeg Zoo, Travel Manitoba and VIA Rail. (Winnipeg Free Press article)

People in Churchill are very excited about the return of passenger and freight service to the town. Food and other prices skyrocketed after the rail line was severed, and with the return of freight service, they should return to normal for Churchill. It will still be expensive, but not as ridiculously expensive as it has been. Since there is no road anywhere near the town, meaning air travel was the only way to get to and from Churchill until the resumption of VIA Rail service.

VIA 693 near Newton, Manitoba. Photo by Morgan Turney.

I went out on December 2 to photograph the departing train. I was out at Diamond on the CN line just west of Winnipeg, waiting for it, but it ended up being a little more than 2 hours late and I couldn’t wait that long. However, railfans Mark Perry and Morgan Turney did catch it, and graciously allowed their photos to be shared here.

The train to Churchill, rolling through Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Photo by Morgan Turney.

The train continued past Portage la Prairie, up through Dauphin, dipping briefly into Saskatchewan before returning to Manitoba for the trip through the lonely wilderness to Churchill.

Here’s a great video, posted by Arctic Gateway, showing the train approaching Churchill and then coming into the station there.

You can book tickets on VIA Rail now – $434.70 round trip between Winnipeg and Churchill in coach, or $1,344.00 in a lower berth. That compares to flying on First Air for $1,622.25… you can see why people missed having the train!

I’ve never been to Churchill. A train ride to Churchill has been on my “bucket list” for a while. After the train stopped running, I worried that I would never get to cross that one off. Now, the chance is back!

VIA 693 leaving Thompson, November 2015

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