Discussion of Canadian Passenger Rail Services such as AMT (Montreal), Go Transit (Toronto), VIA Rail, and other Canadian Railways and Transit

Moderator: Ken V

Some Tour operators were advised today (Jan 21) of a tentative 4-night schedule for the Canadian effective Dec 8, 2008.

Train #1
Lv. Toronto Tue, Thur, Sat, 9:00pm
Av. Vancouver Sat, Mon, Wed, 9:30am

Train #2
Lv. Vancouver Tue, Fri, Sun, 8:30pm
Ar. Toronto Sat, Tue, Thur. 9:30am
  by jp1822
An interesting schedule change, and it is tentative being nearly 12 months away. I'd like more details on where the trains are going to park to maintain such schedules, when in fact the Canadian is full of padding now. I sure hope they plan on maintaining what daylight viewing of the Rockies can be had on VIA. And you still need passenger friendly times at Edmonton, Winnnipeg, and other major cities. I think the 9 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. departure times are late. I would have rather seen a schedule where at least you get to board, have dinner, and enjoy the train before retiring for the first night's journey out. Would dinner be offered at such late departure times? Pre-boarding for Silver & Blue? And this is obviously going to cost VIA more money - labor wise etc. I don't get the longer schedules to be honest, be it for the tourist or regular Canadian using the train. And it's ideal to have the overnight section across the praries, let alone the nice stops where one can get off the train at Capreol, Sioux Lookout, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper etc.

Getting the Canadian off the rails by 9:00 a.m., as opposed to 9:30 a.m. would also be better. I like the early arrivals (westbound) at least into Vancouver. I usually skip breakfast on the train and grab breakfast/brunch along the waterfront in Vancouver. It would be nice to see a same day connection to the Skeena out of Jasper, and maintaining same day connection with the Hudson Bay train out of Winnipeg.

But perhaps the change in times will allow for some different scenery to explore along the route. However, I still would like to travel across the prairies at night. Every time I have been on the Canadian, we have been early, or on-time. We even made up over 5 hours of lost time on one journey in winter.

  by marquisofmississauga
On my last two trips on the Canadian I was told by several of the crew (whom I've known for many years) that CN is insisting that VIA lengthen the schedule of the Canadian. The people I was speaking with do not indulge in idle rumours, so I knew something was going to happen.

Although the present schedule of the Canadian is padded, it's not sufficient the way it's been going these days. Although I arrived on time on both of my trips, the Canadian's arrival in Toronto has been seriously delayed on many days. In fact, for several weeks on most of the occasions when I passed through Toronto Union on a night the Canadian was due, it was posted with an ETA of 0200 or even later. It's probably better to simply add a night to the run and let people arrive at a civilised time in the morning rather than being turfed out of their rooms in the middle of the night.

The following tentative times for this new schedule were posted on a Canadian site with the caution that they are not definite:

Train 1
Lv Toronto Tue, Thur, Sat 900PM (No dinner served)
Ar. Winnipeg Thur, Sat, Mon 630AM

(Unclear if meals will be served during this long layover. During the
1980s VIA offered an off-train tour of Winnipeg during a similar long
layover and also offered day rooms at a near-by hotel--but that was
before showers on the train).

Lv. Winnipeg Thur, Sat, Mon 200PM
Ar. Saskatoon Thur, Sat, Mon 800PM

Lv. Saskatoon Thur, Sat, Mon 900PM
Ar. Edmonton Fri, Sun, Tue 700AM

Lv. Edmonton Friday, Sun, Tue 830AM
Ar. Jasper Friday, Sun, Tue 100PM

Lv. Jasper Friday, Sun, Tue 200PM
Ar. Vancouver Sat, Mon, Wed 930AM (Breakfast served)

Train 2
Lv. Vancouver Tue, Fri, Sun 830PM (No dinner served)
Ar. Jasper Wed, Sat, Mon 400PM

Lv. Jasper Wed, Sat, Mon 500PM
Ar. Edmonton Wed, Sat, Mon 1000PM

Lv. Edmonton Thur, Sun, Tue 1259AM
Ar. Saskatoon Thur, Sun, Tue 730AM

Lv. Saskatoon Thur, Sun, Tue 830AM
Ar. Winnipeg Thur, Sun, Tue 800PM

Lv. Winnipeg Thur, Sun, Tue 1100PM
Ar. Toronto Sat, Tue, Thur 930AM (Breakfast served)
  by jp1822
So then why not re-time the eastbound Canadian if that is most problematic. Winter time you would not be seeing a lot of the Canadian mountains east of Jasper, and more than likely, the train will arrive early into Jasper. This is alos going to kill a same day connection with the Hudson Bay Line to Winnipeg. Lot of passengers make this connection. This may open some connections for the Skeena, if it get re-timed a little bit. Again, it would be nice if the Skeena had its terminus changed back to Edmonton. With the schedule below, it may be able to piggyback onto the Canadian - certain days of the week, or if the Skeena's frequencies and timetable is adjusted. That was something that also occurred in VIA's past. Again, most of my experiences with VIA have been westbound and we've always run early or on schedule. Eastbound, I'll admit I've had a more of a mix bag.

  by adrianvia
I really don't understand why this train is so slow. Of course, there are many reasons for it not going as fast as it could, such as priority being given to freight trains, but it still seems to me that this alone does not explain it. The Canadian is not a very viable travel option for most regions that it traverses, due mostly to the high cost and the very slow running. When I travel by public transit, those are the two main factors I consider (cost and time), and VIA rarely is the best option. Which is unfortunate, because I really love taking the train, but I don't have extra money/time when there are faster/cheaper alternatives. I know this train is not mainly marketed for 'point to point' travel, and more to tourism, but these inconvenient schedules alienate many potential customers.

This new schedule is also interesting in that different travel times are allocated between the same cities, in the two directions. For example, why would going from Winnipeg to Saskatoon take only 6 hours (which I actually think is very decent!), but going the other way, it would take 11.5 hours??? This seems very odd to me. Sorry if my post seems very negative, it is not meant to be, I just have very many questions.

  by marquisofmississauga
On all of my trips on the Canadian we have overtaken freight trains. When the freight train being overtaken is longer than the siding (and with some two-mile long freights this happens a lot) this causes a delay to the freight. Obviously CN wants a passenger train that moves along with the freight. Thankfully they don't insist on this in the corridor!

The timings between Winnipeg and Saskatoon must be in error. It is about 760 kilometres (or about 450 miles) so it is unlikely the Canadian is going to do it in six hours. The return time seems too long. I must also question the westbound arrival in Winnipeg of 0630. If that is true, I hope sleeping car passengers can stay on board until a more civilised hour.

  by Tadman
This raises a question of mine - I've hardly traveled on VIA, so I'm not well educated on it. Does the Canadian have much 79mph running like some Amtrak LD's? Or does it go slow because anybody in a hurry between Toronto and Vancouver obviously isn't taking the train?

  by Ken V
First off, Transport Canada doesn't have the same rules as the FRA so there is no magical 79 mph. The equipment used on the Canadian has its own operational speed limit (85 or 90 mph, I believe - the F40's are geared for 90 or 95 depending on the series). I do know that CN imposes a limit of 80 mph on much of the route travelled by the Canadian but I don't know if there is any track with a higher permissible speed. Of course, the train will only go as fast as necessary to meet the schedule demands rather than spending a lot of extra time at station stops. With the new schedule, an on-time Canadian may only go as fast as 60 or 70 mph.

Tadman wrote:This raises a question of mine - I've hardly traveled on VIA, so I'm not well educated on it. Does the Canadian have much 79mph running like some Amtrak LD's? Or does it go slow because anybody in a hurry between Toronto and Vancouver obviously isn't taking the train?
Lots of fast running across the prairies: One of my memorable trips on the Canadian was sitting in the Dome of the Park Car on moon-lit night just after a snowfall a couple of weeks before Christmas. We were high on a ridge above the Assiniboine River Valley and you could look down onto farm houses all lit for the Christmas. We soon crossed from Manitoba into Saskatchewan and begin some straight, fast running. I was using my GPS and watched as the 2 F40s started to pour it on and I clocked us at a steady 80>85mph on CN’s xGrand Trunk Pacific main across the prairies and on into the servicing stop at Melville.

  by Tadman
thanks for the info - nothing like hauling ass in the snow, with the way it deadens sound.

  by marquisofmississauga
It's now official; Reservia today began showing the new four-night schedule effective December. Some of the times differ from what was initially proposed. Departure from Toronto will be 22:00 on the same days of the week as at present: Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. Arrival in Vancouver will be 09:42. The layover in Winnipeg won't be as long as originally suggested, but from 08:01 to 12:00 noon.

Vancouver departures will be Sunday, Tuesday & Friday at 20:30 with arrival in Toronto at 09:30.
  by jp1822
A 10 p.m. or 22:00 hour departure from Toronto westbound? This still seems crazy to me. An 8:00 p.m. or 20:00 hour departure would have been better. And where else is the major padding in this schedule - hopefully in Jasper? I will say one thing - thank goodness for the shorter layover time in Winnipeg. The original schedule was just ridiculous.

I still don't know if this is going to sell well. VIA is banking that this will provide a straight cross-country trip with no layover (or hotel stay) from Halifax to Vancouver. But I just think 4 nights is too much for this train, at least for the westbound train that was less problematic. The later arrival into Vancouver westbound will allow for some daylight viewing of the Frasier River ROW. But no longer for the eastbound, but I think the eastbound will get to see more daylight running of the Rockies from Kamloops to Jasper.

  by marquisofmississauga
I agree that the 22:00 departure time from Toronto is very late. But the same-day connections to and from Montreal, Ottawa, etc. will certainly be helpful to many people.

The turn-around in Toronto is still going to be very tight; it will be half an hour shorter than at present. There have been many problems with the short turn-around time when the train is significantly late, which is often. One can hope that with the extra night it might make it to Toronto on time. But with CN's frequent derailments this could continue to be a problem. Presently, when the Canadian arrives in Toronto very late, it doesn't get out until noon or 2:00 p.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. A delayed departure from Toronto would be extremely uncomfortable for the passengers.

Then there is VIA's occasional short-turning of the Canadian in Capreol. I've seen passengers furious with VIA when facing a 266-mile bus trip when they have paid a small fortune for a first-class train ride. But with a departure from Toronto at 10:00 p.m. they will be looking at an overnight bus trip to Capreol should this happen. In the off-peak season an extra set of equipment can be held at Toronto, but in the summer season (which is late April to early November) that is impossible unless the consists are kept shorter than they have been lately. A VIA manager told me that Toronto-based crews have been trained to work the Canadian so that the usual Winnipeg-based crews won't have to be flown to Toronto when there is a major delay.

Other than Winnipeg (4 hours westbound and 3 hours eastbound) there are no long layovers in the new schedule. The dwell time in Edmonton will be one hour and an hour and a half at Jasper.

  by CPRTim
marquisofmississauga wrote:Then there is VIA's occasional short-turning of the Canadian in Capreol. I've seen passengers furious with VIA when facing a 266-mile bus trip when they have paid a small fortune for a first-class train ride.
I was on one of these bustitutions a couple of years ago but in the opposite direction. We actually arrived into Toronto ahead of the Canadian’s schedule due to the buses faster road trip time. The majority of us were First Class “Silver & Blue” passenger and were well compensated for and accepted the minor inconvenience of a bus ride the last few miles of what had been a great trip across the country. Sure there were a couple of complainers who thought it beneath them to have to take a bus but they were told by the rest of us to lighten up and accept the adventure of travel. I’m sure VIA would rather have run the Canadian through to Toronto if it had been possible. But the bus ride was fast and comfortable on a modern highway coach and appeared to be no big deal to the vast majority involved.
  by jp1822
Yes, it seems that Winnipeg will undergo the longest layover time, but not as long as what was originally proposed. But there still must be some really hidden padding somewhere in the route. Just seems bizarre that Edmonton and Jasper will only have about an 1.5 hour layover, which sometimes it often was now (or at least on my westbound journeys when the train is on-time and arrives early). They must be adding time at Kamloops as well.

But it appears the westbound Canadian will get less time heading east out of Jasper to Edmonton - largely in the dark most of the year. However, it will get more daylight running west from Kamloops to Jasper than at present. Eastbound Canadian seems to get the best through the Canadian Rockies, for the most part, and a little bit of the Frasier River area coming into Vancouver (for a 9:42 a.m. arrival). I suspect there must be padding on arrival times into Toronto and Vancouver respectively. Why such a weird time of 9:42 a.m. for arrival into Vancouver? Toronto arrival is 9:30 a.m. Would have expected similar for Vancouver.

Both trains westbound and eastbound will have about the same amount of time in turning the consist it seems - with the inbound train heading back out as the evening outbound. But since the eastbound run seems to have the most problems - should be interesting.

I thought VIA was still able to maintain an extra trainset in Vancouver year-round - even with the longer consist? Toronto only during off-season. Is this still the case? I'll be venturing out on the Canadian in late August it looks like - for an eastbound run, which I've only taken once before. Typically I only travel westbound. Seems they are definitely running more Chateau sleepers this summer, as they were trying to sell me a single bedroom in a Chateau car, and I definitely prefer a single bedroom in a Manor series car. I know it's most Manor series sleepers in the off season, and a mix in the peak season.

But I thought maybe the Chaleur, running separately from the Ocean this 2008 peak season may get an extra Chateau sleeper or two. And occasionally they added one to the Ocean (adjacent to the Park Car). Not sure if this was for special group arrangements or perhaps a "crew" car. The inventory doesn't really show such for the Ocean in peak season with Easterly Class.