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 domefoamer
I'm now planning my first Canadian excursion via VIA. Viva!

My first preference would be to ride the Budd-bodied Ocean between Montreal and Quebec City, but sadly my schedule doesn't fit with the days these are offered. So I'm wondering if there's any significant difference between the Ocean's renaissance consist and the regular five-a-day corridor trains? I imagine the Ocean might have better food, but who knows? Someone else, I bet.

I'm looking to get over a foul trip on the Cardinal this spring and entice my wife into more rail trips way up there... So which would you choose? One of each, that's probably best, right?
  by warwgn3
I'd go for the Renaissance cars, Hands down. They may be narrower and a little tight, but at least they have a service bar car with a lounge in their train sets.

LRC's are nice and comfortable, but they don't offer much, and one would feel like they're confined to their seat, much like a bus or plane, and have no real reason to leave their seat, other than to use the facilities. Anything more than a couple of hours on an LRC, and I get restless, and need to do something to stretch my legs.
  by timberley
I've ridden the Ocean quite a number of times in both the Budd cars and the Renaissance cars, at various times of year, so I'm quite familiar with both sets of equipment.

The difference between the consists is like this: In the corridor, VIA runs Ren consists of typically 1 baggage car, 1 business (first-class) coach, a service car, and a series (usually 4-5) coach cars. ONLY passengers in business class have access to the Service car, which offers a small lounge and a food-counter. Passengers riding in Economy coach have only access to at-seat snack service. They cannot use the lounge.

On the Ocean, the consist is typically:

2-5 coaches
(Economy) Service Car
(Sleeper Class) Service Car
Sleepers (usually 5 or more)
Park Car (in the summer)

If travelling in Economy coach, your accommodations are essentially the same as in the Corridor. The coaches themselves are exactly the same as in the corridor (same seats, etc). The only difference is that you have access to the first service car. You can sit in the lounge (when there's room...it's pretty small), and snack service is available at the food counter. The major difference on the Ocean is there is a dining car. If service is slow, you can often get into the dining car for dinner, lunch, or breakfast. Unfortunately first preference goes to sleeper passengers. If there are enough of them (like in the summer, or peak holiday season), no one in the coaches can eat in the diner. However, in the off-season, you can usually get in on request. You have to ask though. If you do, the food is actually very good. It's not quite as good on the Ren cars (since it's all just reheated, whereas on the Budd cars there is an actual kitchen with grill), but it's still a very nice meal, and a lovely atmosphere. The dining car staff is usually really lovely too.

If you choose to upgrade to sleeper class, you get all the amenities that go with that. Check out VIA Rail's website for the description of classes, and sleeper accommodations. If you upgrade further to Sleeper Touring, you can access the Park Dome-Observation car at the end of the train (the one Budd car still regularly used). This service is only available during the summer and around Christmas time.

Whichever way you travel, it's a really nice trip. I do much prefer when I can get on the Budd set though (more comfortable seats, better lounge, dome car for all passengers, and better dining), but you can't always manage that. It's still a great trip in the Renaissance cars. The only thing is that those seats can get kind of uncomfortable after many hours in them. You really need to get up and walk around every now and then.

However you end up doing it, have a great trip! I'll be on the Ocean again both ways between Truro and Montreal around Christmas time (hopefully on the Budd equipment), and I'm looking forward to it as much as always!
  by domefoamer
Thanks, Tim, that's very descriptive. I don't think I'll spring for sleeper for a four-hour ride between MTR and QC. Unless they rent them by the hour, which would imply that the Ocean is even more fun than I suspect it is.
  by NeoArashi
The Ocean is awesome. I've done it from Charny to Moncton last year, and going from Charny to Halifax in 2 weeks (Bough my tickets 2 months ago!)I was on a single bench, and god, I sure didn't regret my trip at all!
  by timberley
Glad I could help!

I suppose I didn't read you rpost 100% accurately, so I didn't realize that you were only going as far as Quebec! In that case, coach should be plenty comfy. If the price doesn't vary much from the Corridor options, then it's probably a nicer trip. The only thing is that it's a slightly slower way to go (longer station stops due to loading sleepers).

One other option you might consider is that certain days the Gaspe train (Train 16/17, formerly the Chaleur) runs, and it is always all Budd equipment. Check around on the VIA booking site. You may be able to ride that train some days the same as you would the Ocean, since you're going along the section of route they share. It's your other possible Budd option.
If you are riding the Ocean or Chaleur (the Gaspe train) between Montreal and Quebec City……they use Charny Station on the south shore and you would take a shuttle bus over to Palais Station in Quebec City.

On days the trains are running combined (Wed, Fri, & Sun) Charny passengers are assigned to the Chaleur portion which is a Budd consist including a Skyline Dome Car. The Skyline also serves full meals (or a reduced menu with snack-type meals in the off-season) There is no access to the Ocean’s Diner on the combined train.

On days when only the Ocean is running (Mon, Thur, & Sat) you would have a Renaissance Train to Charny or possibly a Budd consist in the off-season.
  by warwgn3
I've done the Chaleur from Montreal to Gaspe... on the trip out, the skyline was acting as a make shift diner because there was something wrong with the the full dining car (not sure what), but the crew did an excellent job making up for it. For the trip back we had the full diner, and all was good. The food was wonderful, and the service was beond top notch. I had no idea that economy passengers had access to the skyline car, never the less, I'd do the trip again in a heart beat if I could afford it.

http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c131/ ... C_1700.jpg
http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c131/ ... C_1726.jpg
  by domefoamer
Fascinating! So many possibilities, so unlike US rail travel. You actually have different equipment on different days? Too bad I can't make full use of it this time. We're boxed in by prior commitments to making the run east on Tuesday (when the Ocean sleeps) and back on Thursday (when the Ocean rolls by in the wee pre-dawn hours). I'm not sure if there's an possibility to utilize the Chaleur at a decent hour? VIA's website doesn't provide an easy way to find train names, listing only numbers. I'll call the friendly VIA ticketmonger again tomorrow.

It's silly to go all that way (from Denver) and rode a corridor train on the route of a classic, but that's the breaks. At least I expect to enjoy Amtrak's last dome car on the Adirondack, both ways...
  by timberley
You may have difficulty finding VIA train names because VIA discontinued most of them in the last few years. The only named trains left are The Canadian and The Ocean. The others now go by their routes, ie: The Chaleur is now the Montreal-Gaspe Train, etc.

For your reference, The Chaleur is VIA Trains 16 (east) and 17 (west).
  by Tadman
@warwgn3, where are those pics taken? Those are great.
  by warwgn3
Tadman wrote:@warwgn3, where are those pics taken? Those are great.
The top pic was taken at a beach near Barachois Quebec. That particular spot is popular for rail fans. We then chased the train all the way to Douglastown Quebec, where we had to do some off-roading in a Toyota Camry rental car to get the 2nd pic. The train was the Eastbound Chaleur we were waiting for... we boarded that same train for it's westbound trip back to Montreal. The equipment used is was as follows:

6410 Lead
8623 Baggage
8132 Coach
8500 Skyline Dome
8411 Imperial Diner
8220 Chateau Papineau
8218 Chateau Marquette
8222 Chateau Richelieu
8225 Chateau Rouville (deadhead)

We we had single roomette accommodations in Chateau Marquette on both trips.