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 KAPL
Hello all,

I have a few questions about the sleeper cabins on the "Canadian" between Toronto and Vancouver.

If booking a cabin for 2 people, would you recommend a cabin in a "Manor" or "Chateau" car (the person on the phone suggested that the Manor cars have been recently renovated)? Also, are there any specific cabins to request within each type of car? I understand that Manor cars have cabins A-F while the Chateau cars have A-D. Are the cabins identical or are there specific ones that I should ask for? Is there anything else I should be specifying when I book?

We will be travelling in February (combining it with a ski trip in Jasper+Whistler). Any help from those who have travelled this route before would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  by marquisofmississauga
Château sleepers are operated on the Canadian normally only in the summer season. During the past two winters there was a Château sleeper in front of the Park car, but this was not normally in service. It was a back-up in case of a major problem in one of the Manor sleepers. Bookings were not taken for this car; indeed its line number was "00". In this type of sleeper room "A" is a "cabin for 3" or a drawing room as it was traditionally called. It offers two lower beds and one upper and a sofa and two arm chairs for day use. The Château cars, except for the eight undergoing major rebuilding in the US, have not been renovated and some that I have travelled in are getting shabby. A few did receive some new carpeting and even wallpaper, but this was not as extensive refurbishing as the Manor sleepers received.

As for the Manor sleepers, the double cabins "A" through "E" are identical in size. Room "F" was originally called a compartment by the CPR and was sold at a slight surcharge over the regular double bedrooms. VIA doesn't charge extra, so if you can get room "F" in a Manor sleeper you will have approximately 18 inches more space - that is measured going down the length of the car. This may not sound like much, but that extra space is quite noticeable at night. You can even have the attendant leave one of the chairs up. Although the chairs in all double rooms can be moved, they are set up to face forwards or backwards. If you turn the backward-facing chairs you will block access to the toilet annex, but they can certainly be moved. Rooms "A", "C", "E" have the rearward facing chairs and the other three rooms of course will face forward. This arrangement is necessary to permit the rooms to be made en suite by way of a wall that folds away on request. The folding walls are very thin and it is possible to hear a lot from the next room: talking, coughing, snoring - I'll stop right here! If you would like a quiet bedroom I recommend "B" in a Park or Château sleeper because those rooms are the only doubles that cannot be made en suite with its neighbour, so they have a solid wall.

In the off-peak season - such as now - there are usually only three sleepers operated in addition to the Park car, of course. Their line numbers are 20, 21 & 22 and are operated in that order starting behind the diner. If extra sleepers are added to the consist, they may be behind car 22 but VIA won't operate too many sleepers between the diner and Park car, so some extra cars will be operated ahead of the diner. You can request a particular sleeper if you would prefer to be closer to the diner or the Park car. Requests must be made on the phone or in person as the booking system (Reservia) is rather primitive. If you are travelling in peak season it is impossible to know far in advance how many sleepers are being operated. One year I was told three months in advance that there were three sleepers; when I boarded the train there were 15. When the train is long, the order of the sleepers other than numbers 20 through 22 often varies so you can't always tell which of the two diners you may be close to.
  by KAPL
That is very helpful, thanks.

It sounds like cabin "F" in the Manor car or cabin "B" in the Park car are the ones to target. Any recommendations/opinions in terms of choosing between those two options? Have the cabins in the Park car been refurbished like the ones in the Manor cars? Is the lack of shower in the Park car particularly problematic/inconvenient?
  by marquisofmississauga
My personal choice is for a bedroom "F" because of the extra space, especially when travelling with my wife. Even when I splurge on a double room for myself I choose "F" if one is available. My second choice is "B" in a Park or Château car. The lack of a shower in the Park car is (usually) a minor inconvenience. The shower in the Manor sleeper ahead of the Park car will get extra use and, in many cases, I have had to walk up another car or two to find a vacant shower - even early in the morning. I do not recommend rooms "C" or "D" in a Park car because of their position which can give a very rough ride.

Despite all the money spent on refurbishing the Manor sleepers, the diaphragms still do not keep out the winter weather. The intense cold is not a big problem, but the build-up of ice and snow in the vestibules can be quite treacherous. I have had to help elderly people through this mess on their way to and from the dining or Park car. The crew will attempt to keep the passages clear, but it's impossible in bad weather. Wandering through the sleepers in search of a shower early on a winter's morning is not one of my fond memories of the Canadian. On my last winter trip (actually it was still autumn) three of the four showers froze near Edmonton - and that was in early November! I'm not sure if the drain coil heaters have been upgraded during this refurbishment. I find it amusing that the diaphragms in the often-maligned Renaissance trains can keep out the ice and snow and even the cold. On many of my winter trips on Renaissance the end doors were left propped open and passengers had seamless passage throughout the train - no need to put on a winter coat and boots to go to dinner!

Some of the Park cars have been refurbished. On a recent trip to Halifax, we had a shabby one going down and a refurbished one on the return. The bedrooms were refurbished in the style of the Manor sleepers.
  by mandealco
That's some handy information as Laura & I are planning a trip on the Canadian next June. Is there a prefered direction of travel? Vancouver - Toronto or other way round? I have an N-scale Park car, so riding in the real thing would be awesome.
New Zealand
  by Trainplanner
Hi Everyone,
From Australia and just joined Railroad.Net. My partner and I have booked a rail travel holiday to Canada next August and September (2012) and will be travelling on a number of services across Canada, including Rocky Mountaineer, Royal Canadian Pacific, VIA Rail - The Canadian, The Ocean and various corridor trains out of Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. On The Canadian and The Ocean we have secured Cabin A in the Park car. Apart from the VIA Rail web site it's very difficult to get any real detail about Cabin A, and I was wondering if someone can help us in terms of a cabin diagram, photos or web page for this cabin. We understand it has lower sleeping berths etc, but any other detail would be very much appreciated. Certainly we understand and have seen photos - YouTube of the Park Car in general, but not the cabin. Thanks
  by Trainplanner
Many thanks Ken. No I hadn't seen this feature on the VIA Rail site. Excellent. Regards Graeme
  by Trainplanner
Many thanks for your assistance. Very helpful and I'm looking forward to travelling in the Park car.