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Canadian Railroads > VIA: 30 years ago this week

Date: 01/13/20 08:07
VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: WP17

30 years ago this week (Jan 15, 1990 to be exact), the federal government plan to radically restructure and reduce the VIA Rail network was implemented. Among the many changes was the elimination of the Super Continental and the rerouting of the Canadian from its traditional CP route to the more northerly CN route.

A friend and I decided to take a final ride on the Canadian while it still operated over the CP, and this posting documents that trip. We departed on January 12 a few days before the rerouting went into effect. The train was somewhat modest — two coaches, a Skyline dome as the coach lounge/cafe and also serving as the diner, one Chateau and two Manors, and Riding Mountain Park bringing up the rear. 

Most of the photos show the train at locations where there is no longer any VIA Rail service. Consider this my tribute to the original VIA Canadian.

#1: At the right is the Canadian ready for departure at the VIA station in Vancouver. The train was still steam equipped so there are a pair of steam generator cars behind the two F40 locomotives.
To the left is the much shorter Super Continental on one of its final trip between Vancouver and Winnipeg. Note that the station still bears the names Canadian National.

#2: We’ve reached Field BC early the next morning and here is a view of the rear of the train

#3: a view of the head end at Field.

Date: 01/13/20 08:09
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: WP17

#4: a view from the train somewhat west of Lake Louise.

#5: at the station in Lake Louise

#6: A view of the rear half the train as we traverse Morant’s curve. 

Date: 01/13/20 08:14
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: WP17

#7: The station stop at Banff.

#8: Riding Mountain Park at Banff -- great proof the train is still steam heated:-)

#9: We met #1 at the station in Calgary. Note there appears to be a CN diner or diner lounge instead of a Skyline Dome. And for the curious the Park car is Algonquin Park.

Date: 01/13/20 08:17
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: WP17

#10: On the third day (1/14) the Canadian is now east of Winnipeg and is still on the CP route into and through Ontario.
We are approaching the station in Kenora.

#11:: During the station stop in Kenora.

#12: Our stop during the late evening in Thunder Bay.

Date: 01/13/20 08:18
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: King_Coal

Thanks for sharing these. I would have loved to make that trip.

Date: 01/13/20 08:21
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: WP17

#13: On the fourth and final day (1/15) we have reached Sudbury where the Canadian would normally be split into a Montreal and Toronto section. But since this is now the 15th, our whole train will continue to Toronto.

#14: This is the Montreal section of the westbound Canadian having left Montreal on the 14th. But this train will be annulled here instead instead of being added to the westbound train departing from Toronto.  Several reasons for this with the main one being that the Canadian will operate through Capreol instead of Sudbury! So the Montreal cars are deadheaded to Toronto on our train.

#15. And finally a view of the much longer train just north of Barrie including the cars from Montreal deadheading to Toronto.

Enjoy this series

Date: 01/13/20 08:56
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: gaspeamtrak

That was a great review ! I always liked the "CP" route. Coming into Kenora from the west you always got to see the "Huge Trout" statue which was always great to see...
Thank you for sharing !!! :):):)

Date: 01/13/20 09:30
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: cn6218

"Ten years from now, no one will remember Benoît Bouchard cut Via Rail" - Benoit Bouchard in 1989.

Some of us still remember.


Date: 01/13/20 12:27
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: GN416

I remember watching the last two "Canadians" come through Calgary on those last days.  I remember seeing the Drumhead of #2 as it passed through Ogden, accelarating up the hill near Glenmore Trail.  I felt sadness as #2 zipped past by.  The cars looked plum FULL of people and media members.  Thanks for sharing these memories WP17!


Date: 01/13/20 13:21
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: viatrainrider

Great series.  Thanks for sharing!
Rode over the CP route at least twice from White River.  I am one of many who think the train should still be on the CP.  But we know it will never return there.

Date: 01/13/20 13:42
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: ghCBNS

viatrainrider Wrote:

> I am one of many who think the train
> should still be on the CP.  But we know it will
> never return there.

The Canadian has been on the CN route for 30 years now. It was on the original CP route for 35 years.

Posted from Android

Date: 01/13/20 14:34
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: andersonb109

I was fortunate to ride last No.1 on mostly CP from Toronto to Winnipeg and return on last No. 2.  The "train" from Sudbury to Montreal that day was a bus. It's a travesty that this train is not running not only on the route with more population, but far more scenic at both the eastern and western ends. First photo is at Banff in 1987. Second is at Mt. Stephen in 1987. Back then you could ride in the vestibule all day and no one cared. 

Date: 01/13/20 16:24
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: viatrainrider

Note the CP red on the Budd built cars.

Date: 01/13/20 20:28
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: jp1822

Seems though that the Canadian got a little more "affluence" when re-routed on the northerly CN route over time. The launch of "Silver and Blue" class in the 1990s proved very successful for the VIA model to come, where by every consist essentially was assured a full Diner (eventually all meals moved from the Skyline to the Diner), Skyline Dome(s), Manor Series Sleepers, Chateau Sleepers in peak periods, and what would become the hallmark tail-end car - the Park Car. The ex-CP Budd Stainless Steel cars went through major refurbishment in the 1990s. Standard consists were steady during the late 1990s, and then with the introduction of the Renaissance Cars, the Canadian goes to 20+ car lengths in peak period, which honestly, it was struggling to do when daily back in the 1980s. Not saying I don't miss the CP route. Not saying I'd LOVE to see the Canadian back on the CP route daily, and a return of the Super Continental. But just saying that VIA kinda took the Canadian to the next level (for good or bad); still made it utilitarian for local communities (it operated on a much reduced trip time in the 1990s and early 2000s than what it does now) and carried a healthy two coaches of passengers; and continued to raise the bar (and prices) by offering a more amenity tourist upscale operation (complete with Prestige Class by 2015). They could have easily downgrade service and let it fade away, but VIA didn't seem to take that approach, ironically - they could have easily done this with the 3x a week less populated northerly move to the CN line). The also courted the tourist agencies. My trip in 1996 had less tourist agency traffic than by 2003 when I sat next to the tour group leader in the Park Car's dome to learn how she would spend her evening planning activities for the group as it travelled westbound approaching Jasper. The nostalgia of the train attracted the passengers, and retained the passengers regardless of how CN tried to delay this train into 2008 and even after a MAJOR scheduling change in 2010. I hated to see VIA play into this 2010 scheduling change. But it did, and only got worse before another schedule change had to be bestowed.........

from 1990 to 2000 (from the VIA massacre of daily LD transcons trains and the all out obliteration of the Dayliner/RDC service in the Maritimes) VIA totally overhauled the ex-CP Budd fleet (launching Silver and Blue service), upgraded/refocused onboard service, and revised train operations (bye bye conductor, hello train "attendants," "Service Manager," and a new head-end crews count.   

Date: 01/14/20 16:08
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week
Author: 4489

viatrainrider Wrote:
> Note the CP red on the Budd built cars.

Yes and I for one am surprised that there was this much Action Red as of this date.  When Action Red was first introduced the stainless steel cars seemed to be rebranded almost overnight.  It was rare to see a tucsan branded car beside an Action Red car in the same consist!

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