• Halifax to Montreal on VIA's Ocean

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

Moderator: David Benton

  by downbeat
 
I flew into Halifax, N.S., from Calgary, Alta., on Dec. 11 to visit family and friends. The next part of my trip was to see the bulk of my family and friends in Montreal, Que. -- a perfect excuse to take the westbound Ocean from Halifax on Dec. 16.
With Via's winter discounts in Comfort-sleeper class, my one-way trip in a roomette cost $197.22 (taxes included).
I took Metro Transit to the Halifax train station. The bus stops within a block of the station's front door.
As passengers were dropping off their checked baggage and waiting for the announcement to board, Via employees were busily giving the train's windows a last-minute squeegee. Sadly, they couldn't reach the windows of the Park car dome, which would remain dusty throughout the trip.
Around 12:10, after registering with the service manager, I proceeded to roomette 7 in Chateau Salaberry. I put away my things and went outside to record the consist.

6407 F40
6425 F40
8623 Baggage
8132 Coach
8108 Coach
8501 Skyline
8401 Acadian Dining Car
8204 Chateau Cadillac
8211 Chateau Lasalle
8226 Chateau Salaberry
8214 Chateau Laval
8210 Chateau Joliet
8202 Chateau Bienville
8711 Revelstoke Park

Upon returning to my car, our attendant, Megan, showed me how to operate the doors. The mechanism is similar -- probably identical -- to that of Via's HEP2 corridor cars.
The train left around 12:35 p.m. As we slowly snaked away from Halifax, an attendant came over the intercom to tell passengers about the safety features of coach cars and to prompt everyone to consult safety diagrams stored in the seat pocket in front of us. Although this announcement was train-wide, no safety message was directed to passengers in sleeping cars, where there are no seat pockets to consult.
The announcement continued with information about at-your-seat snack service in coach, take-out at the Skyline counter and full meals in the dining car.
Our attendant later came by to show us how to use our beds and to tell us about the services offered in the Park car.
The intercom announcement said something about needing to make reservations for lunch and dinner, but other attendants told me this is true only of Renaissance equipment. There is no need to make dinner or lunch reservations for passengers travelling in Budd equipment.
About 1 p.m., my neighbour in roomette 8 (Stuart) and I went for lunch. We were later joined by another fellow (Greg), who booked passage in an upper berth in Chateau Joliet, two cars behind mine.
As it happens, my meal companions are Halifax-based members of the Canadian military. Greg and Stuart had introduced themselves to each other earlier in the Halifax waiting room.
Stuart ordered a seafood salad; Greg got the chicken pot pie (which he received almost immediately upon ordering); I asked for a soup and salad combo. Each menu selection cost $12 and includes a non-alcoholic drink and dessert. We agreed the crême brûlée was among the best anywhere -– very creamy, not too sweet, not too burned.
After the meal, Greg went back to his berth seat to relax while I briefly joined Stuart in the Park car's dome. On my way there, about 2:30 p.m., that day's #14 passed us. The Park car was moderately patronized. A few people were hanging out in the Mural Lounge, a few more were in the Bullet Lounge and a few more were in the dome, including myself.
I hung out up there for about 20 minutes before spending the rest of the afternoon watching DVDs and reading in my roomette.
As the train approached Moncton, N.B., an attendant came on the intercom to ask coach passengers to clear as many seats as possible because the train would be sold out for all points west.
I stepped out at Moncton for a stroll and to take a few photos.
Shortly after the train got underway, I rejoined my lunch companions for dinner. We waited near the waiting station about 10 minutes for a free table.
On the menu for $18: chicken with gravy or breaded haddock. The main course is served with vegetables and a starch (potato or rice). The meal includes dinner roll/bread slices, soup or salad to start, dessert and non-alcoholic drinks.
Greg and I had the chicken; Stuart ordered the fish. We also shared a bottle of white wine. The waitress forgot to bring water we ordered and also forgot to serve us bread. (This only occurred to us after
seeing patrons at other tables being served bread.)
The chicken was nothing to write home (or to you) about. Again it was the dessert that impressed. It was chocolate mousse and strawberry jam (we think) over chocolate cake, The whole thing (about 3 cm by 3 cm by 10 cm) was wrapped in a thin chocolate crust and topped with a chocolate candy that said "Joyeuses fêtes" (Happy holidays).
Over dinner, we experienced some of the roughest track on the Ocean's route (west of Moncton, east of Miramichi, N.B.). The resulting movement was partly responsible for a glass of wine being upended, its contents ending up in my lap. (I'm glad we didn't order red!)
After dinner, we headed to the Park dome, where we spent more than an hour chatting over drinks. The dome was almost filled at one point, even though there really wasn't anything to see except patches of clear sky and the bright spot ahead of the train lit by the locomotive's headlights. Eventually, the three of us were the sole occupants of the dome. Sufficiently sloshed and/or tired, we broke up about 9:30 p.m. and headed back to our rooms.
The power cut out around 10 p.m. when the Chaleur was added to our train at Matapedia, Que., just across the border from Campbellton, N.B. The outage lasted 20 minutes or so. (Passengers were earlier warned of the impending electrical disruption.)
Here's a partial consist of the combined train:

6407 F40
6425 F40
6421 *F40
86xx *Baggage (Can anyone help?)
8112 *Coach
8505 *Skyline
8217 *Chateau Maisonneuve
8205 *Chateau Closse
8623 Baggage
8132 Coach
8108 Coach
8501 Skyline
8401 Acadian Dining Car
8204 Chateau Cadillac
8211 Chateau Lasalle
8226 Chateau Salaberry
8214 Chateau Laval
8210 Chateau Joliet
8202 Chateau Bienville
8711 Revelstoke Park
(*) Asterisks denote Chaleur's cars

Rough track in spots west of Matapedia kept me from sleep for a long while. I figure I finally dozed off near 2 or 3 a.m.
The next morning, I met Greg for breakfast; Stuart had already detrained at Charny, Que., across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. We both opted for the continental breakfast. Our meal consisted of granola cereal, two slices of cantaloup, yogurt, two slices of toast and beverage. The other choice was a breakfast muffin sandwich. Either selection costs $8.
After that, we wished each other well and went to pack our things.
The train arrived at Montreal Central Station at 7:57 a.m. -- 18 minutes early (33 minutes early for Chaleur passengers).
A couple of odds and ends:
- My car, Chateau Salaberry, and the Park car, Revelstoke Park, are both fitted with retention tanks. Despite this change, there is still a sign above each toilet asking passengers not to flush while the train is in a station.
- Greg, a sailor, was amazed at the roominess of his upper berth. The lack of a window was also not a problem. "It's four times bigger than what I get on my ship," he said. His point of view sure puts things into perspective.
  by jp1822
 
Sounds like a good trip - nice to hear from our Canadian neighbor and their rail services. In my opinion, you lucked out with the Budd equipment. I am not a fan of the Renaissance equipment - without the Park Car attached on the back (which is only season). Surprised to see the Chaleur's consist reduced. Usually it has a third sleeper. Not sure if they still operate a full service diner on the Chaleur during busy season or not any more. I've always wanted to make my way out to Gaspe, but the tri-weekly schedule for that train has never fit my schedule. Anyway, also unusual to just have two coaches when the Ocean was announced as "sold out." Typically VIA is pretty good at adding cars etc.

Glad you had a good trip. I supposed the Budd equipment will be around on the Ocean a little longer so the Renaissance equipment can be serviced.

The Budd equipment is still my favorite - on the Ocean and Canadian route. Surprised they didn't move some "Manor" series cars over to the equipped Ocean. But, at least it's a consistent trainset!

I will be on the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver in February 2007 - and can't wait! This is my annual winter voyage across Canada - by train.