• A Winter Ride On VIA's Canadian

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

The 30 car “Canadians” are gone for the season and the first week of December is probably one of the slowest weeks of the year for VIA. A good time for a trip west!

I had flown from Halifax to Toronto the previous day to attend an engineering conference. I would liked to have taken the Ocean to Montreal then a corridor train to Toronto but my schedule just wouldn’t allow for the extra day by train vs. the 2 hour flight.

Friday evening I had some spare time so did a bit of TTC Streetcar riding and made a quick trip by GO Train to Newmarket, about a hour north of Toronto. A former stop for the Canadian prior to it being switched to the Bala Subdivision several years ago and I was surprised to see the VIA logo still at the Newmarket station. Since the GO Trains are rush hour only and tie-up in Bradford for the night, I returned back downtown to Union Station on a GO Bus.

There was no lines at the VIA ticket counters now so I decided to pick up my ticket for tomorrow morning. When the agent saw I was taking the Canadian she started to fill me in on some of the highlights and amenities of the trip. Very helpful! Then it was back to my Hotel and I would recommend the Marriott Renaissance. It’s located in SkyDome (now Rogers Place) Request a room on the east side. There’s an excellent view over the throat of Union Station and a steady stream of VIA and GO Trains passing your window.

Saturday December 3, 2005

I headed for Union Station at 7:45. About a 10 minute walk from the Hotel and checked in at the Panorama Lounge: VIA’s first class lounge for corridor trains. Complementary coffee, juice and newspapers. “Silver & Blue” class passengers were ushered up to the “Canadian” at 8:20 and I quickly dropped my things in my roomette and went forward to record the consist and get a few pictures.

VIA#1 Canadian w/b
Toronto, December 3, 2005

6435 F40
6442 F40
Chateau Joliet (DH)
8606 Baggage
8142 Coach
8510 Skyline Dome
8414 Palliser Diner
8342 Wolfe Manor
8318 Craig Manor
8321 Draper Manor
8703 Banff Park Dome Obs

I’m sitting in the dome of “Banff Park” for our On time departure at 9:00 am. The Diner is not open leaving Toronto but a Continental Breakfast is available in the observation lounge: coffee, juice, cereal & hot muffins. We retrace the first few mile of my GO ride of last evening as far as Snider where we make an interesting back-up move to the York Subdivision. (There is no connecting track in the south-east quadrant of the diamond here that would allow a direct move.) We head east a few miles then gain CN’s transcontinental main, the Bela Subdivision at Doncaster. It’s a sunny and cold day with a few snow squalls as we head west (timetable north) But its warm in the dome with a Champagne welcome reception.

As we roll into South Perry I’m a bit disappointed: Directional running was to have begun between here and just south of Sudbury the previous Tuesday but it’s been delayed until next week. All CP, CN & VIA trains will now go northbound on CP track and all south bounds on CN. It would have been 100 new miles for me on a section of the CPR that hasn’t seen a scheduled passenger train in 15 years.

I go for the second call to lunch. Once everyone is seated one of the waitresses introduces herself and the rest of the crew and welcomes us aboard. Even the chef is introduced. (Nice touch!) I have the vegetable soup, spinach & bacon quiche and ice cream for desert.

It’s a sunny and clear afternoon now. Even with a couple of meets and a wait for a CP freight at the St. Cloud diamond (where we should have been regaining the CN line after a run north on CP if the directional running had started!) We were still 10 minutes early at Sudbury Jct. and 25 minutes early into Capreol. This is a engine crew change and servicing stop so we were scheduled for 25 minutes here anyway. I got of for a quick look around but it was very cold.

I’m back in the dome as we depart. Champagne again along with hor’dorves. Capreol is at the edge of the “Canadian Shield” so it will be nearly 800 miles of rocks, lakes and forests and all night and half the next day until we reach the prairies. There’s only the occasional road crossing now and the scattered communities we pass thru are former railway servicing points or First Nation Communities.

Second call to dinner is at 7:20pm. I’m sitting with a fellow going to Winnipeg. I tend to think of the Canadian as mostly a tourist train but he’s traveling on business and says he usually takes the Canadian if he has meetings there on Mondays. Diner starts with seafood chowder, then a green salad, prime-rib with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Very good! Then to finish: a Chocolate tort for desert.

Up to the dome for awhile after dinner. It’s a clear moon-lit night and almost as bright as day after a fresh snowfall. We stop in Foleyet one of the former railway servicing points but there’s not much here now except an old coaling tower that’s still standing after all these years.

Sunday December 4, 2005

I sleep on and off through the night and awake early. Nice to just lay back in the warm roomette and look out at the snowy landscape. We’re on-time at Armstrong at 6:30 (Eastern) Leaving at 5:50 (Central) I get ready and head for breakfast at 6:30 as we stop in Collins: ham & eggs with coffee, toast and hash-browns.

Its starting to get light now as I head back to the dome but a cloudy day. Everythings covered with a fresh snow. Into Sioux Lookout 10min early at 8:55am. Another servicing point. I get off but not for long. It’s -15C. A couple of quick pictures then back to the dome. Nice video of the front end on a tight curve and bridge leaving town.

There’s always fresh coffee, snacks and fruit set out in the observation lounge of Banff Park. So I grab a coffee and head back to my room to read the weekend paper I brought from Toronto and just sit back and relax. We make several stops now in Cottage County of western Ontario: Ottermere, Malachi, Copeland. Only a couple of miles apart and always a few minutes early. VIA requires 48 hours advance notice for the Canadian to stop so they know if someone is boarding. If not they just roll through. Sunny now and still very cold. I go for second call to lunch and have the toasted roast beef sandwich with melted cheddar and sauteed onions. Again, very good along with ice cream and biscuits for desert.

We’re still in Ontario a day and a half after leaving Toronto but soon enter Manitoba. What a contrast: rocks and trees one minute, flat open prairies the next. We meet the eastbound Canadian which is waiting in a siding for us and just roll for Winnipeg arriving at 2:35pm, 70 minutes early! (scheduled: 3:45pm) We don’t leave until 4:55 so plenty of time to get off. Winnipeg has a large nicely restored station complete with a domed rotunda and covered platforms. A couple of the tracks have been enclosed and now house the Manitoba Railway Museum. It’s open with some interesting displays so I spend an hour or so there. It’s -18C so I don’t stray to far from the station. “The Forks” Market in some old restored railroad shop buildings near the station occupies the rest of the stopover. Back to the station at 4:20. We board at 4:30 and away at 4:55pm.

Up in the dome again as we leave for another champagne reception. What a way to travel! Second call for dinner is around 6:30pm. There was a complete crew change in Winnipeg so the new dining car crew again introduce themselves. And another fine meal: I have the Pork Chops with applesauce and Buttermilk Mashed along with the seafood chowder and salad and finish off with Lemon Cake and coffee for desert.

I spend the rest of the evening in the dome: an after dinner drink and conversation. Another clear night. I have my GPS with me and watch as we roll across the prairies at a steady 80 mph and into Saskatchewan watching the signals change as we approach. Next servicing point is Melville but too cold to get off. Head for bed at 11:30 and sleep through our stop in Saskatoon.

Monday December 5, 2005

Awake for a few minutes at Unity, Sask. We’re a couple of min. early, then back to sleep. Awake at Wainwright, again a couple of min. early. Up and get ready. It’s clouded over and snowing now and we’ve been sitting on a siding since 5:30 (Mountain) now 5:55, we move a little then wait for a freight to pass. We should have been in Viking 6 min. ago but it’s 19 miles away. 6:16 and we are still sitting waiting for a second freight to pass. Finally moving at 6:20. Go for breakfast at 6:30: A Ham & Cheese Omelet along with coffee, juice and hashbrowns.

Back to the dome for our arrival into Edmonton. It’s a large city of nearly a million with the rush hour traffic that goes with it and the snow isn’t helping as we approach along the Yellowhead Trail. We cross over the LRT Rapid Transit line that use to parallel the CN line to a downtown station but a new station is now located on the northwest side of the city that requires the Canadian to back in. It’s 8:30am and we come to a halt 25 minutes late.

As much as I would like to continue on to Jasper and Vancouver, I’m leaving the Canadian here in Edmonton. Hertz has a rental office in the VIA station and my car is warmed and waiting in the -18C weather. Now it’s off for a few days skiing in the mountains (and it did warm up a bit!) I spent the following Saturday railfanning the CN and CP lines thru the Thompson and Fraser River Canyons from Kamloops to Vancouver and flew home from there.
Last edited by NS VIA FAN on Sun Dec 17, 2006 8:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by Scoring Guy
Sounds like a great trip on a consist even shorter than the original daily CP "Canadians". Although that "stroll" through 30 moving cars was one thing I'll never forget about my Canadian trip. My next Canadian trip will be timed so that I'm on board on Christmas day.

My understanding is that the "Canadian" on board services crews work out of Toronto and Vancouver and, in either case, turn back at Winnipig.

In Toronto I would also recommend the Royal York hotel, which is right across the narrow street from the station. I'd also recommend having lunch in the CN tower which gives you the ultimate view of the rail operations.
If you make it all the way to Vancouver, I'd recommend the Marriott Redisence Inn - which has kitchenettes w/pots and pans and dishes, etc. And it's a convenient bus ride to Grandville Island where you can get top knotch food at the indoor farmers market. A c-store is right across the street from the hotel, where you can buy a daily bus pass.

  by Ken V
Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for posting it and thanks for the photo link.

  by trainmaster_1
Whoa thats real sweet, must have been a sweet trip, btw did you see anyone at the diamond on your trip up the Newmarket Sub because I got this shot dated back Saturday December 3, 2005. Hehe love getting CP and VIA at this diamond. :D



Nice Shots!!

Yes I did see you. I was at the rear dome window on the left.