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ALL ABOARD THE CANADIAN

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Getting aboard: VIA Rail's Canadian departs Vancouver at 8 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, arriving 73 hours later in Toronto at 9 p.m. Thursdays, Sundays and Tuesdays. (Departures from Toronto are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.)

In the peak summer season (June-September), bedrooms (the most luxurious accommodations) run about $1,766 for a couple, all meals included, one way (the one suite aboard costs more). Roomettes (too tight for most couples) run about $883 per person, including meals. A section (upper and lower berths, separated from the hall walkway by a heavy curtain) run about $1,326 for two, all meals included. (Individual uppers or lowers are available for less.) Bedrooms and roomettes each have private toilets. Uppers and lowers share bathrooms down the hall, and passengers with sleeping accommodations share a shower down the hall.For budget travelers who don't mind curling up in their seats, doing without showers for three days and buying their meals from the train cafe, a coach seat runs about $375.

But flexible travelers should note that all fares fall by 25 percent in the "shoulder season" months of May and October, and by 40 percent from November through April. Another money-saving opportunity: If U.S. travelers make their rail bookings at the same time they book U.S.-Canada airline tickets (and there's no more than a day between the air and rail connections), they can have the Canadian General Services Tax excluded from their train fares - thus shaving another 7 percent from the figures above.

(All fares above were estimated using an exchange rate of $1.37 Canadian per $1 American. VIA Rail usually adjusts its rates each January.)

VIA Rail's toll-free telephone number from the United States is (800) 561-9181.

Another route: Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tours (800-665-7245), a private company that runs high-end Rocky Mountain rail trips from May to October, offers scenic train rides between Vancouver and Banff, Vancouver and Jasper and Vancouver and Calgary. Among its least-expensive trips: a two-day Vancouver-Banff trip, including a night in Kamloops, breakfasts and lunches on the train, dinner excluded. The one-way fare: about $371 per person.

For more information: Canadian Consulate General, Tourist Information, 300 S. Grand Ave., 10th Floor, Los Angeles 90071, (213) 346-2700.