• First Class To Quebec City

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

Moderator: David Benton

  by CPRTim
I’m a member of the VIA Preference Rewards Program and had an upgrade coupon to VIA 1 that essentially gave me a First Class ticket for the price of coach. I decided to use it for a weekend round-trip from Montreal to Quebec City........But first a commuter train ride to St. Jerome on Friday evening.

AMT (in English: Metropolitan Transportation Agency) recently extended the Montreal-Blainville service an additional 15km to a new intermodal station in St. Jerome for a total distance of 62km from downtown Montreal.


This was the original CPR route to the Laurentian Mountains and Mont Laurier: “Le Petit Train du Nord” Ski Trains lasted until 1979. AMT inaugurated a Montreal-Blainville commuter train on this route in 1997. It was only to have been temporary during the reconstruction of a bridge but the route was so successful that it was made permanent and expanded.

I boarded the 16:10 departure from the Lucien L’Allier Terminus (adjacent to the CPR Windsor Station) The train consisted of former CPR “Gallery” style bi-levels (not the Bombardier type). We proceeded to Montreal West before heading northeast ‘round the mountain (not through it like the AMT’s electrified Mont Royal Tunnel line from Central Station to Deux Montagnes) to a stop at Park Avenue. Some trains originate and terminate here where direct connections are made with the Metro. Then it was north to a scenic bridge crossing from Montreal Island to Laval than another bridge crossing to near St. Therese. Here we made a wide loop to gain some elevation with a nice view back to the lights of Montreal 30 km south, then a straight run north to Blainville. On January 8, trains were extended an additional 15km north to St. Jerome and this was new milage for me. It took an hour and a half to reach St Jerome from downtown and the fare was $9. Trains arrive at a new 2 track intermodal station/bus terminal built in a ski chalet style.

North of the new intermodal station at St Jerome the original Le Petit Train du Nord route is now a hiking and biking trail into the Laurentian Mountains.


There are no return trains in the evening but there is frequent bus service from the new station back to a connection with the Metro at Henri-Bourassa in Montreal. I had a few minutes to wait for a bus then it was another hour and twenty minutes to the Metro then a quick trip back downtown.

I was staying at the Hilton Bonaventure which is located above CN’s Gare Centrale (Station) with a direct interior passageway so on Saturday I didn’t need to venture out into the -20C temperature.

My VIA 1 ticket gave me access to the Panorama Lounge where I could wait for VIA #622 to Quebec City. Coffee, juice and newspapers are available and there is Wi-Fi Internet access. It had been a day since I checked my e-mail so I logged on and set up an account ($8.95/day) that I could also use later on the train. About a half hour before departure we were taken to the escalator and down to the train which boarded from Central’s high level platforms.

The train consisted of several of the new Renaissance cars led by a P42 locomotive. I’ve been on the Renaissance equipment before and really enjoy the smooth ride and the 2 & 1 seating. I had a single seat next to a large window in about the middle of the car. Before we were even underway the attendant passed around a basket of chips and snacks followed by a bar service: I had a Molson Canadian. When my ticket was taken the following menu was passed out for you to make your lunch selection

Tomato, asparagus, Feta, black olive tapenade
and black cracked pepper.

Main course
Roast Pork Tenderloin
seasoned with caraway seeds and Calvados sauce. Served with roasted apples, garlic mashed potatoes parsnips, carrots and asparagus.
Pan Seared Halibut
served with a creamy tarragon marinara sauce, saffron rice and green beans.
Agnolotti Stuffed with Roasted Artichoke
napped with rose sauce, garnished with roasted butternut squash and green peas.

Meals are served with a selection of bread.

Praline Hazelnut cake.

Cold Plate Selection
Roasted Chicken Breast
served with tomato salad, cucumber and kalamata olive. Accompanied by Camembert cheese and crackers, and fresh fruits.

Leaving Montreal on time we were soon across the St. Lawrence River and up to a steady 95 mph through the South Shore. I had my GPS with me to track our progress along CN’s St. Hyacinthe Subdivision. This is the mainline to Maritime Provinces with other routes branching of to Vermont, Maine and Quebec City. Just before the lunch service hot towels were given out to freshen up. Then the appetizer and a “bottomless” glass of wine. I had selected the Pork Tenderloin which was very good.

There had been a few snow flurries leaving Montreal but now a clear blue sky and the temperature had climbed to -15C as we rolled east to our first stop at Drummondville, an hour out of Montreal. After that I logged back onto the internet for a few minutes. Wi-Fi is available on nearly all trains in the corridor, in both VIA 1 and coach class.

There were a couple of rolling meets with CN freights and near Laurier I was now tracking us at 100 mph as we easily overtook the traffic on parallel Autoroute 20 that we followed for the next 20 miles to Charney. A quick stop here then over the St. Lawrence on the Quebec Bridge to Sainte-Foy. From there we were high on a cliff above the ice clogged river then made a wide loop west and north to arrive downtown at Gare du Palais. A beautifully restored station built in a French Chateau style.

http://s162.photobucket.com/albums/t280 ... ty%20Trip/

Quebec is a large city with about 700,000 and the old part of the city is well worth a visit. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many of the buildings dating from the 1600s & 1700s. It is also the only walled city in North America. You actually enter the old town through gates in the rock walled Fortifications. There are narrow cobble stone streets with many restaurants and bars. I know a bit of French but anyone who only speaks English would have no problem here. Most everyone in the tourist areas are bi-lingual.


High on a cliff above the old town is the former Canadian Pacific Railway “Chateau Frontenac” Hotel. It’s now a Fairmont but a bit pricey for my night here. (I settled for the Holiday Inn)


On Sunday evening there was a light snow falling that made for a nice atmosphere as I walked back to Gare du Palais through the old city. There was a good size crowd waiting for VIA #27. Again, my VIA1 ticket gave me access to the Panorama Lounge where I waited and had a coffee until we were led out to the train about 20 minutes before departure (Besides Central Station in Montreal, Gare du Palais is the only other station in Canada with high level platforms)

Before we were even moving on time at 17:35 the attendant had made the rounds with the bar cart and I was enjoying a “Sleemans” with some munchies. We made a quick stop at suburban Sainte-Foy and were soon across the St Lawrence and out along Autoroute 20. The light snow was slowing the traffic a bit but had no affect on us as I watched on my GPS as we climbed to 100 mph.I really enjoy running parallel to the expressways where we are easily overtaking everything (hoping the drivers take notice that there is a better alternative!)

Dinner service was next. The menu was the same (it’s usually different westbound) but the Pork had been very good on the way up. And again, first the hot towel to freshen up, followed by the appetizer, wine and bread basket, the main course and finishing up with hazelnut cake for desert and coffee along with a chocolate truffle.

On the evening runs, an after-dinner liqueur is also served and it was nice to just sit back and look out at the small towns as we sped through after the fresh snow fall. We met the combined Ocean/Chaleur just before Saint-Hyacinthe and were quickly back up to speed. A quick deceleration into Saint-Lambert then across the Victoria Bridge and a nice view of downtown Montreal as we wound into Central Station for an arrival a couple of minutes early at 20:40. A great trip. VIA-1 is certainly a First Class operation!

  by marquisofmississauga
It is refreshing to hear that some railfans are pleased with the Renaissance equipment. By no means do I think it's perfect, but I have found many favourable aspects of the equipment, including the sleepers. Many railfans (even those who have actually made a trip on it) have simply decided that Ren. is "junk" and won't acknowledge a single positive thing about it.

For the past few years the menus have been the same in both directions between Montreal and Quebec City and that menu will be the same on the Montreal to Ottawa or Toronto trains. So when we have made a round trip from Toronto to Quebec City in the same "menu week" we experienced the same menu on three consecutive trains. Fortunately, on my last trip on this route it was a very agreeable selection and I was able to try all three of the hot meals on three successive days.

Did you sit in the lounge at all? On the evening runs, it is possible (depending on the crew) to have a liqueur in the lounge instead of - or in addition to - at your seat.