|Bellingham, WA||Amtrak Cascades|
Vancouver-Pacific Central Station is the main intercity transportation center for Vancouver. The stop is home to VIA Rail Canada's Triweekly Canadian that runs all the way across to Toronto, and two daily Amtrak Cascade trips down to Seattle, with one extended to Portland, Oregon. It is also a main Bus Depot for Vancouver, for Greyhound and Pacific Coach Lines. The stop is two blocks away from the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station and about 1 mile from the new Rocky Mountaineer Station that opened in 2005. Rocky Mountaineer used Pacific Central Station from its creation until 2004.
As of October 2011 the facade of the historic 1919 train station is under restoration so there is scaffolding up all around it. Through the entrance (currently a narrow entrance in the scaffolding) passengers reach a long and narrow waiting room with a restored ceiling and some skylights. Straight ahead are the boarding gates for trains. On the north wall of the station is the VIA ticket office with four windows all with LED displays that also sell and issue Amtrak tickets. (The technology each train company uses normally is incompatible, this office has to have two different printers for the different types of tickets). There are a few shops, and a Currency Exchange (Bureau de Change). At the southern end of the station are the bus ticket counters and boarding gates and is generally the more crowded area.
To board trains: there are separate gates for VIA and Amtrak. VIA's gates lead out directly to a few canopied platforms. Beyond them is a train yard where maintenance is done by VIA on its trains, the Canadian in particular. It also maintains the West Coast Express fleet here as well. Amtrak passengers have more complicated boarding procedures. Check-in closes a good deal (15 minutes I believe) prior to a train's departure. First passengers line up inside the station and get their ticket collected by the conductors who issue a seat check that also includes a seat assignment (these are from pre-printed stickers). Passengers are also required to fill out US Customs Forms by now (which are generally given when tickets are issued at the ticket counter). Next passengers proceed into a small immigration room with three immigration desks. Here departing passengers meet with US Immigration Agents (who are not allowed to carry weapons like they usually do at actual boarder crossings, this would infringe on Canada's sovereignty) at one of three desks, here the standard questions are asked and the standard US customs form is stamped but not collected. Next there is a large airline style X-ray machine where all luggage is screened (it appears to be staffed by a private security company). Then passengers can proceed out to a caged platform (since it is basically in another country) surrounded by very high gates, barbed wire fencing and a canopy with the bus bay just beyond the single track (with a high fence on that side as well). Here the Cascades Trainset is waiting for boarding always in push-mode. Baggage can be checked right on the platform while walking by the baggage car that is always located before any of the passenger coaches. VIA baggage handlers do this duty and tag bags using the standard Amtrak tags. Passengers keep walking and reach the open train doors, entering their assigned car to wait for departure. After departure about an hour and a half later in view of the Piece Arch right along the US Boarder the train stops again and customs agents walk through collecting US Customs cards and rechecking passports if necessary. This is generally a relatively quick stop (on my trip just 12 minutes), unlike the roughly hour that the two other trans-boarder trains, the Maple Leaf and Adirondack can be delayed.
Arriving into Vancouver I have not done but I believe it is basically the reverse except everything is done in Vancouver Pacific Central station with no stop on the boarder. All baggage is retrieved train side before passengers clear Canadian Customs and Immigration is done at the same desks used by US Immigration before those departures.
Last Updated: 6 December, 2011