Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

  by Jeff Smith
https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/in ... annel=home
At 6:15 PM Eastern time on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, I achieved a milestone in my “career” of riding trains. As VIA Rail Train 601 rolled into Jonquiere, Quebec, I completed the adventure of riding the entirety of every route now operated by Canada’s railroad. There are a few more passenger trains in that country: trains to remote places running on railroads owned and operated by First Nations tribes, as well as a few tourist railroads like the historic White Pass & Yukon route. But there aren’t many such trains, and VIA Rail runs most of the few passenger trains in Canada, much like Amtrak runs essentially all non-local passenger trains in the United States.
Until 1981, passenger trains ran daily along the CN and CP mains between Vancouver on one end, and Toronto and Montreal on the other. The Toronto and Montreal sections joined and split at Sudbury on CP’s Canadian and at nearby Capreol on CN’s Super Continental. The “Super Con” was discontinued that year, and came and went during that decade. In January 1990, the Canadian on the CP main was discontinued, and the train and the name moved to the CN main. There were shorter-distance trains elsewhere, at the time: between Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, between Halifax and Sidney in Nova Scotia, and between other points. But at the beginning of 1990, the Conservative government of then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney cut VIA Rail’s budget so deeply that the system took the vastly reduced form it has today.

More cuts followed. The Atlantic Limited between Montreal and St. John, New Brunswick through northern Maine, came off in 1994, after an earlier disappearance between 1981 and 1985. In 2012, another Conservative government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not eliminate any routes completely, but cut frequencies on many of the routes then running. The Malahat, a train on Vancouver Island, came off in 2011. So did the Chaleur, a tri-weekly train between Montreal and Gaspé, on the peninsula of the same name in northeastern Quebec, in 2013. Those two trains were discontinued because of deteriorating track conditions, and there is talk of the latter being restored. Construction is under way on the line between Port Daniel and Gaspé, and there are hopes for restoration in 2026.
https://www.railwayage.com/news/via-rai ... -a-series/
VIA Rail has only two routes that it calls “long-distance” trains, and together they offer only five departures per week, not enough to add up to a single daily departure. One is the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver, and the other is the Ocean between Montreal and Halifax. The former wends its way through northern Ontario and points west on a four-day journey (it used to take three days) twice a week, while the latter takes about 24 hours from end to end, depending on how late it runs. The endpoints for those trains are separated by five to six hours of travel time, covered by the railroad’s second-busiest corridor, although its level of service does not come close to the busiest on Amtrak.
I needed to use the Canadian to get from Toronto to Winnipeg, as there are no rail connections from the United States, except at the train’s endpoint cities. There are no buses, either. From Winnipeg, I could begin the long and circuitous route to Churchill. I had ridden the Canadian before, the last time was before the COVID-19 virus hit. I rode in a sleeping car on that trip, in a lower berth, which was spacious and comfortable. There was delicious food in the dining car, and plenty of activities in the lounge cars (plural), including the observation car (VIA Rail calls it a “Park car”) at the rear of the train. That car and the lounge cars (called “Skyline cars”) had domes. The train was a museum of sorts, replicating the experience of rail travel from a bygone era on equipment now almost 70 years old, in effect, a “luxury train” like the ones of the past, which ran less than daily.
  by R36 Combine Coach
Recognized the author as David Alan of Ameristar and the Lackawanna Coaltion.

The Hudson Bay could qualify as a third LD train in the VIA network. For an interesting armchair tour, pick
up a copy of the AAA/CAA Manitoba/Saskatchewan map at any AAA location and you can explore the line,
with every flag stop and village on the route.

As mentioned on this site, the Canadian is really a government-run luxury rail cruise and sees very limited
personal and commercial passenger travel, unlike the Builder for example, which does serve as a once
daily transportation service (even GOP senators in western states wouldn't cut LD service).

As to being a "museum on rails", Iowa Pacific also tried that with the Hoosier: a GP40FH with postwar lightweights.