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I happened to notice this little gem on the VIA Rail website

On some VIA Rail routes, you can get off and on the train exactly where you want — even in places where there is no scheduled stop! The ideal solution for outdoor activities - at that little lake deep in the forest, or that wild river you've been dreaming of for so long!

It's only valid on some routes, and only with at least 48 hours notice, but it seems an interesting idea.

I've previously made of use of a similar thing on the long distance CityLink buses in the Scottish Highlands (from a typical timetable: pick up at all the stops listed above and all bus stops and intermediate points where it is safe for the coach to stop following a clear signal being given by the intending passenger), and I know a lot of regular rural buses do a similar thing too.

However, I've never come across trains doing this before. Is this a special Canadian thing, or does it happen elsewhere in the world too?

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I have no idea, but man that's cool! –  Mark Mayo Aug 31 '11 at 22:15
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I've seen it along the Swedish Iron Ore Railway between Kiruna and Sjisjka, but those detraining said it was only possible because they are "good buddies" with the train crew, as it is not possible officially –  gerrit Apr 30 at 15:36
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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Wikipedia seems to feel that even just stopping/not stopping at an official station is pretty rare and mentions only Canada as a place where you can stop "at any milemarker" on request.

I can see this making sense North of Superior. Actually, I would love it when travelling between Oshawa and Montreal, since the train goes right past a place I would prefer to get on and off, but I know they would never do such a thing on a "corridor" route.

In the far reaches of the network, the stations can easily be hours apart. I suspect most places in the world that have a sparse population don't have a train network, and most places with a train network are dense enough that stations are 30 min or less apart.

As well, Canada has a number of places that are reachable only by train, plane, or large boat - meaning if the train doesn't let you off there, you can't get yourself to it at all.

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ya the only lines I've heard of this happening are on the Ontario Northland, and the line that goes to Churchill, and for obvious reasons. –  canadiancreed Aug 31 '11 at 20:50
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I want to say that there's some lines out in the Siberian and Far Eastern stretches of Russia that allow you to do that, but I cant' seem to recall where I got that information. Outside of that nope, never heard of such things outside of Canada.

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To build on Kate's answer, Wikipedia also mentions that this practice is possible on the Alaska railroad. There are also a number of flag stops on the Amtrak train network in the US. Flag stops are fixed locations in which the train will only stop if there is a passenger waiting and/or if a passenger wishes to depart.

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Flag stops definitely exist in both Australia and the UK as well, and probably elsewhere. –  dlanod Apr 30 at 22:17
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