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 timberley
Alright, I just made my return trip on The Ocean this past Friday-Saturday (Feb. 27-28), and so have a few points of comparison to add. This time around, it was the Ren cars as opposed to the Budd set (which left Halifax Saturday afternoon for Montreal). Traveling coach class again, I had a better sense of exactly how the to cars compare. I was in the single seat row, which I will say is a major plus for the Ren cars when you're traveling alone (if you can get it of course).

Basically, here are the things I prefer about the Renaissance coaches:
- smoother ride. Definitely less bouncing and rattling than the Budd cars.
- Individual window shades. I know some people complain about the fact that they cut the window in half, but face it, it's a lot better than having the person sitting in front of you close the blind blocking your window as well
- Under the seat storage. Although I suppose this just really makes up for the absolute lack of overhead storage.
- Individual seating (I already mentioned). As a frequent solo passenger, this can be a welcome break.
- between-car transitions. Very smooth and quiet.

But right about there the pluses end. Overall, I'd still pick the Budd consist. The biggest reason is the availability of the Skyline Dome/Lounge car. Yes, the Ren cars have the Park car in the summer, but it'll be quite some time before I see the day I can afford to travel Easterly class. And yes, they have the service cars, but those things have barely any room in them! All it took was 3 people sitting strategically, and I couldn't find anywhere that seemed appropriate to sit without disturbing someone. If you're interested in meeting other passengers on the train, your chances are pretty limited on the Renaissance.

I think, to be honest, that the Ren cars are much better suited to the high-speed shorter Corridor runs, at least as far as the coaches and service cars go. In that application, I think they can compare with (although still not beat) the LRC's.

Anyway, my overall trip was quite good. Although I must make another comment on the staff. On my first train (Train 60 to Montreal), there was a purely lovely attendant in our car, who was incredibly polite and friendly. Another one of the onboard crew came through at one point, and was very much the same.

However, once I got on the Ocean, things changed. Yes, there was one fellow on board who was collecting tickets who seemed quite friendly, but the main attendant in our car was, well.... She never smiled. When she was handing out pillows and blankets she more just tossed them on to me, and walked past. I said very politely "thank you" each time, but she never acknowledged it. She was also handling the counter in the service car at one point, and gave the same impression. She didn't even say anything like "can I help you?", she just stood and waited for me to ask for something. When I did, she grabbed it, handed it to me and asked for the money. While I got it out (exact change, I should mention), she was putting other things in order, and then took it and moved on to the next customer, with no word of thanks. Unfortunately, I've dealt with more people around VIA that are like her, rather than the first attendant I mentioned. Perhaps VIA needs to better stress the common courtesies in their training.

Of course this particular staff member gave me some strange looks when, at one of the smoke breaks, I got out and started crouching down with my camera to take pictures of the truly bizarre couplers and what-not between the Renaissance coaches....but to be fair, a lot of people would give me strange looks for that too!

All-in-all, the second half of my round trip was fully satisfactory, and I look forward to my next opportunity (which will likely be a 1-way at the end of May)!
  by ramonesfan
it sounds like via rail is not any better with additude then amtrak is. the only thing via is better at then amtrak is that via rail knows how to maintain there cars to a higher standard.
  by jp1822
Very surprised to hear about the bad "attitude" or service on VIA's Ocean. I have always had great service on VIA trains - corridor, Ocean, Chaleur, Canadian, Skeena all included. However, I have commented as well that the Renaissance Service Cars are less than satisfactory when it comes to trying to operate as both as a cafe and lounge. Even though they did some work on these cars (new upholstery etc.) it just wasn't enough. The service cars really need to be re-configured so there is better seating for all - sleeper and coach passengers. There's a lot of wasted space in these "Renaissance Service Cars." When the Park Dome/Lounge Car is in operation for Easterly Class passengers, this helps the Ocean consist - but just for Easterly class passengers and for only part of the year.

Some other descent "lounge/cafe" car really needs to emerge from the Renaissance Service cars - particularly for the Ocean. It's too bad that a "Renaissance Sleeper shell" (which are to be scrapped) was also not transformed into a descent lounge for each of the three Ocean consists. I even suggested this for the "transition car" (a lounge of sorts) at one time, but that car is positione at the rear of the train set (or front of the train set as a baggage car) largely to facilitate the regular ex-CP Budd stainless steel equipment (i.e. Park Dome/Lounge Car). Having coach or sleeping car passengers endure the route of the Ocean from just their sleeper or coach and then the diner, is somewhat restrictive for what most VIA overnight trains offer. The Diner on the Hudson Bay Route even doubles as a diner and lounge of sorts.
  by marquisofmississauga
Certainly Easterly Class fares are quite high, but so are the "Comfort sleeper" fares in the summer. There's not a lot of difference between the two in the peak season. The huge difference comes in autumn, after 7th September, when the Easterly Class fares stay at the peak (until the Easterly season ends on 14th October) yet off-peak fares are available in the Comfort sleepers.

There are some discounts: coupons are sent to VIA Preference members at the two higher levels. Last summer my wife and I both received an additional special coupon for 45% off. Rather surprisingly, there are already some half-price tickets for the summer season being sold for both the Ocean and the Canadian. This Express site is updated every Wednesday. The deals are good, but the catch is: no changes or cancellations permitted.

  by chriskay
marquisofmississauga wrote:Certainly Easterly Class fares are quite high, but so are the "Comfort sleeper" fares in the summer. There's not a lot of difference between the two in the peak season. The huge difference comes in autumn, after 7th September
This is precisely why I like to travel in the winter. Plus it's less busy.