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Canadian Railroads > VIA: 30 years ago this week - the rest of the story


Date: 01/14/20 10:28
VIA: 30 years ago this week - the rest of the story
Author: weinstoc

Hi everyone, I was the friend who joined WP17 on one of the final trips of the Canadian via the CP in January 1990. I have previously written and published a trip report available at https://ramblings.weinstock.us/2015/09/my-1990-trip-on-via-canadian.html but for those who don't want to bother here are some additional highlights (I've not included any pictures here because WP17's are fully representative. If you want to see a few more they are included in the linked report):

At about 3:30  on January 12, 1990, we boarded our train which consisted of two Via F40's, two steam generator cars, a dead head coach, a baggage car, two coaches, a Skyline dome diner/lounge, a Chateau series sleeper (4 section, 5 bedroom, one drawing room, 6 duplex roomette), two Manor series sleepers (4 section, 6 bedroom, 4 roomette), and a Park series dome lounge sleeper (1 drawing room and 4 bedrooms I believe).

Since we hadn't experienced a night in a section for years we elected to try it for one night.  We were assigned section 1 in the last of the Manor cars and settled in for the 3:55 on-time departure from Vancouver.  We then went back a car and found seats in the dome. Although the train was virtually full upon departure, we never had a problem finding dome or lounge seats when we wanted them.

After a beer or two, it was time for us to head to the diner for our 3rd seating reservation (at 8:15). There were four seatings that first night.  The diner portion of the Skyline car had 6 tables of four and was full.  We were offered two selections for dinner, and they varied every evening.  The first night we had a choice between roast sirloin of beef or a baked sole.  I elected the sole and it was excellent. Dinner came with soup, a salad, rolls, dessert, and beverage, for $10.95.  After dinner we went back to the dome briefly and then to our berths. Note: The beds in a section are wider than those in a roomette or bedroom, and to my thinking more comfortable.

At Field I put on my boots and got off the train to take some pictures.  Although it was cold, it wasn't COLD.  There was an awful lot of snow on the ground. After Field came the rest of the climb and then the descent towards Calgary with stops at Lake Louise (gorgeous) and Banff (lovely) on the way.  I took pictures at all of them.

By Calgary a lot of groups had left the train.  From then on the train ran relatively empty (there were less than 40 coach passengers and 40 sleeper passengers out of Winnipeg).  Crew members told us that they had noticed a huge drop in loadings after about the 9th of January as people realized they'd only be able to travel one way.  It was sad, but it certainly made for a comfortable train.  The second night (BBQ Ribs and Chicken or Rainbow Trout) there were three sittings for dinner, the third (Chicken or Halibut) there were two sittings, and the fourth (Salisbury Steak or Scallops) there was one sitting.

Leaving Calgary on the 13th, we moved into the drawing room in the Chateau car. The scenery from Calgary to beyond Winnipeg has been described as boring, but I think that is overstating things.  True it is mostly farm land, but it is beautiful in its own way.  In any event I wasn't bored by it at all.  We arrived at Winnipeg on Sunday morning (the 14th) 15 minutes late.  We had been on-time, but erroneously tripped a hot box detector just before arrival.  At Winnipeg they service the train, re-stock food and beverages, and the crew changes.  This is scheduled for 50 minutes and they seem to use it all.  However, this day the train sat in the station for an extra hour or so due to a derailment up the line (nothing major, but they were fixing the track).  As a result we ran 1.5 to two hours late most of the way to Sudbury.

Starting at Kenora we found crowds at the station protesting the end of service.  We also learned that ours was to be the last Canadian that would make it into Toronto.  The following ones were to either be annulled at Winnipeg or converted to the new #2 and sent on to Toronto on the CNR route.  We were never able to confirm that this was really true...we kept getting conflicting information from Via and CPR employees.  Anyway, at Thunder Bay there were nearly 1,000 people standing in the cold and snow with candles and signs of protest.  This was around 10pm on Sunday night.  Also at Thunder Bay we again changed rooms, this time for the drawing room in the Park car (we had been unable to book a single drawing room the entire way).

On Monday, we arrived at Sudbury about two hours late.  Just before we got there we learned that #2 was annulled at Sudbury (#2 goes to Montreal, the Toronto section runs as #10 out of Sudbury) and that passengers would be bused the rest of the way.  The equipment for #2 which had come in from Montreal the night before was standing at the station.  Some men were spraying the front of the locomotive and we later learned that it had hit a pickup truck and killed a man and a women on its final run.  You could see where it hit the truck, and red stuff that I don't want to speculate on.  In any event we lost another hour while they switched things around and coupled the Montreal section onto our train.  That gave us an extra locomotive, an extra steam generator, and extra baggage car, and three extra coaches making for a very long train (though still small by current summer consists).  We headed onto Toronto through some very nice scenery and eventually arrived at Union Station at 9:30pm on Monday, 3 hours late.




 



Date: 01/14/20 18:32
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week - the rest of the story
Author: DavidP

Thanks for posting your story Weinstoc.  My wife and I also made a cross-Canada trip in the days before the great train-off.  We broke up the westbound Super Continental trip at Jasper for a couple of days skiing, then continued on the BC to ride the Malahat RDC, and to ski Whistler.  Eastbound, our break was at Banff, where we reboarded the Canadian the day before you did.  In fact, we also occupied the Park Car drawing room as far as Sudbury.  There, we boarded the stub train - running as train 2, while the Toronto Canadian changed to #10 - for the last segment to Montreal.  VIA had by then discontinued the through sleeper, so our train was made up of a bag car, lounge, and three ex-CN coaches - fine for daytime travel.  Unfortunately, the Canadian had fallen eight hours behind schedule, so that daytime trip became an uncomfortable overnighter.  Somewhere along the way we heard about train 1’s grade crossing accident, which further dampened an already somber mood among passengers and crew.  Particularly sad was the old CP conductor walking alone away from the train at Ottawa, having just finished the last run of a forty year career.  His family had planned to ride with him from Sudbury, but the delay had canceled that plan.  The delay caused us to disembark at Dorval around 6am to catch our flight back to Boston...but I’ve always been able to say I rode the final Canadian to Montreal.

Dave



Date: 01/14/20 21:55
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week - the rest of the story
Author: WP17

And David:

Thanks for your contribution and in partuclar the details about the makeup of the connecting train to/from Montreal. I was wondering why the Montreal train looked so short and was absent any stainless steel cars. I had assumed that some cars were still switched in/out at Sudbury.

WP17


DavidP Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Thanks for posting your story Weinstoc.  My wife
> and I also made a cross-Canada trip in the days
> before the great train-off.  We broke up the
> westbound Super Continental trip at Jasper for a
> couple of days skiing, then continued on the BC to
> ride the Malahat RDC, and to ski Whistler.
>  Eastbound, our break was at Banff, where we
> reboarded the Canadian the day before you did.
>  In fact, we also occupied the Park Car drawing
> room as far as Sudbury.  There, we boarded the
> stub train - running as train 2, while the Toronto
> Canadian changed to #10 - for the last segment to
> Montreal.  VIA had by then discontinued the
> through sleeper, so our train was made up of a bag
> car, lounge, and three ex-CN coaches - fine for
> daytime travel.  Unfortunately, the Canadian had
> fallen eight hours behind schedule, so that
> daytime trip became an uncomfortable overnighter.
>  Somewhere along the way we heard about train
> 1’s grade crossing accident, which further
> dampened an already somber mood among passengers
> and crew.  Particularly sad was the old CP
> conductor walking alone away from the train at
> Ottawa, having just finished the last run of a
> forty year career.  His family had planned to
> ride with him from Sudbury, but the delay had
> canceled that plan.  The delay caused us to
> disembark at Dorval around 6am to catch our flight
> back to Boston...but I’ve always been able to
> say I rode the final Canadian to Montreal.
>
> Dave



Date: 01/15/20 12:46
Re: VIA: 30 years ago this week - the rest of the story
Author: andersonb109

I was on the last Canadian into Toronto. We had a full Budd diner. As I recall we left the CP route somewhere between Sudbury and Toronto, taking CN in the rest of the way approaching Union Station from the west. Current Canadians approach Union Station from the east. I was also on the last train on mostly CP from Toronto. We were delayed in Sudbury waiting for the Montreal section that was involved in the incident mentioned. Apparently it was a young French  Canadian couple who tried to race the train to the crossing and lost. Shame for the Engineer who was reportedly working his last run. Some passengers gathered to look at the front of the blood stained loco and their actions were reported negatively the next day in the Toronto papers who also accused railfans of stealing stuff from the train. If that happened, I wasn't aware of it. NO reason to really. The same equipment went on to continue service...only the route changed. 



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