Story Ideas

A Train Worth Waiting For

New route takes in Québec’s beautiful Charlevoix

27 September 2011

For train buffs, Canada is tops. We’ve got the Rocky Mountaineer, the Polar Bear Express, the Agawa Canyon choo choo – and now – the train of le Massif de Charlevoix.

It’s ‘All Aboard!’ for this new train that departs Québec City for La Malbaie in the Charlevoix region of Québec.

This train has been worth the wait. For much of the 140 km route, it runs alongside the St. Lawrence River, a river so big locals refer to it as ‘la mer’. On the other side of the track are the Laurentian Mountains, beautiful at any time of year and particularly so in the fall as maple trees turn red and orange.

The train itself is an attraction. The six railcars dating from the 1950s have been stripped down and fully refurbished in a contemporary style. Each one carries 68 passengers. A multi-media presentation reveals the region’s history and culture as the natural scenery unfolds outside. The train leaves Québec City each morning and returns each evening.

The journey is a gastronomic adventure as well. The executive chef of the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu hotel in La Malbaie, Jean-Michel Breton, is in charge of creating gourmet meals. The region is well known for its abundant agricultural produce, locally made cheeses, hand-crafted ales and creative chefs, so be prepared for some amazing food.

Once at La Malbaie, you’ll want to wander through the historic Fairmont hotel or stay the night. It was originally built by the Canada Steamship Lines in 1899 and re-built in 1928 after a fire. It symbolizes the glory days of Charlevoix when well-heeled tourists arrived by steamship or train. (Yes, there were other trains before this one.)

In winter, the new train stops at the base of Le Massif for skiers to get off, and at the company’s new hotel complex in Baie-Saint-Paul.

The train, as well as the ski resort and the new hotel complex, are all the brainchild of Daniel Gauthier. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he co-founded Cirque du Soleil, Canada’s famed artistic entertainment company that started in Baie-Saint-Paul.

If you know anything about Cirque du Soleil, you’ll know not to underestimate Gauthier – or his former business partner, Guy Laliberté – who has also invested in this project. If they can re-invent the circus, imagine what they are doing with a train.

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