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Via Rail Canada
System map
Via Rail system map
Reporting mark VIA
Locale Canada
Dates of operation 1978–Present
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)
Headquarters 3, Place Ville-Marie, Montreal, Quebec

Via Rail Canada (generally shortened to Via Rail or Via; styled corporately as VIA Rail Canada; pronounced /ˈviə/) is an independent crown corporation offering intercity passenger rail services in Canada. It is headquartered at 3 Place Ville-Marie in Montreal, Quebec.[1]

Via Rail operates 480 trains in eight Canadian provinces (exceptions are Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island) over a network of 14,000 kilometres (8,700 mi) of track, almost all of which is owned and operated by CN Rail. Via carries approximately four million passengers annually,[2] the majority on routes along the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor.




Early Canadian intercity passenger rail

A Via train at the station in London, Ontario

The post-war era saw two developments which would eventually prove disastrous to previously profitable passenger rail transport offered by Canadian National Railways (CNR), the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), and smaller lines. Long-distance Canadian intercity passenger trains began to be replaced with air travel, and short- and middle-distance passenger trains lost mode share to personal automobiles on highways such as the Trans-Canada Highway. Critics of this shift point out that all these new services were subsidized by taxpayers, from construction of highways to construction of airports, making it difficult for rail to compete; opponents of rail point out that the construction of the railways themselves was similarly subsidized. (Ironically, both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific themselves contributed to the growth of air travel through Air Canada and CP Air, which were the two largest airlines in Canada at one time.)[citation needed]

By the 1960s it was obvious to both Canadian National (known as CN after 1960) and CPR that passenger trains were no longer economically viable under traditional market manifestations. CPR sought to rid itself of the burden of operating passenger trains, but federal government regulators and politicians balked, forcing CPR to continue running a minimal service through the 1970s. CN on the other hand, being a Crown corporation, was encouraged by the federal government and political interests to invest in passenger trains. Innovative marketing schemes such as Red, White, and Blue fares, new equipment such as scenic dome cars and rail diesel cars, and services such as Rapido and Turbo trains saw substantial increases in ridership, reversing previous declines.[citation needed]

By the 1970s, CN sought to rid itself of passenger trains. The decline of passenger rail became a federal election issue in 1974 when the government of Pierre Trudeau promised to implement a nation-wide carrier similar to Amtrak in the United States. The bilingual name Via or Via CN originated in 1976 as a marketing term for Canadian National's passenger train services and the Via logo began to appear on CN passenger locomotives and cars, while still carrying CN logos as well. That September, Via published a single timetable with information on both CN and CP trains, marking the first time that Canadians could find all major passenger trains in one publication. In 1977, CN underwent a dramatic restructuring when it placed various non-core freight railway activities into separate subsidiaries such as ferries under CN Marine and passenger trains under Via Rail which was subsequently renamed Via Rail Canada.[citation needed]

The formation of Via Rail Canada

A Via LRC disembarking at Ottawa Train Station

On April 1, 1978, Canadian National's passenger subsidiary Via Rail became a separate Crown corporation, taking with it possession of former CN passenger cars and locomotives. Following several months of negotiation, on October 29, 1978, Via took over operation of CP passenger train services, along with similar possession of cars and locomotives. Passenger train services which were not included in the creation of Via Rail included those offered by BC Rail, Algoma Central Railway, Ontario Northland Railway, Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, various urban commuter train services operated by CN and CP, and remaining CN passenger services in Newfoundland. At this time, Via did not own any trackage and had to pay right-of-way fees to CN and CP, sometimes being the only user of rural branch lines.[citation needed]

Via initially had a tremendous variety of equipment, with much of it in need of replacement, and operated routes stretching from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Prince Rupert, British Columbia and north to Churchill, Manitoba. In excess of 150 scheduled trains per week were in operation, including transcontinental services, regional trains, and corridor services.[citation needed]

While Via is an independent federal Crown corporation mandated to operate as a business, it is hindered by the fact that it was created by an Order-in-Council of the Privy Council, and not from an actual legislation passed by Parliament. If Via were enabled by legislation, the company could be permitted to seek funding on the open money markets as other Crown corporations such as CN have done in the past. It is largely for this reason that critics say Via is vulnerable to federal budget cuts and continues to answer first to its political masters, as opposed to the business decisions needed to ensure the viability of intercity passenger rail service.[citation needed]

First round of cuts

Increased ridership would not be Via's saviour. In 1981, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's government endorsed Minister of Transport Jean-Luc Pépin's plan which cut Via's budget, leading to a 40% reduction in the company's operations. Gone were frequently sold-out trains such as the Super Continental (which reduced Via to operating only one transcontinental train, The Canadian) and the popular Atlantic, among others.[citation needed]

Via Rail F40PH-2 in Windsor, Ontario

Via also sought to reduce its reliance on over 30-year-old second-hand equipment and placed a significant order with Bombardier Transportation for new high-speed locomotives and cars which would be used in its corridor trains. The LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) locomotives and cars utilized advanced technology such as active tilt to increase speed, but proved troublesome and would take several years to work out problems (by 1990 only a handful of LRC locomotives remained in service which were subsequently retired by the arrival of the GE Genesis locomotives in 2001).[citation needed]

Restoration of service

The election of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government in 1984 brought a friend to Via, initially, when several of Mulroney's commitments included rescinding the Via cuts of 1981 by restoring the Super Continental (under pressure from his western caucus), and the Atlantic (under pressure from his eastern caucus and the formidable then-Saint John mayor Elsie Wayne). Mulroney's government gave Via funding to refurbish some of its cars, and purchase new locomotives, this time a more reliable model from General Motors Diesel Division.[citation needed]

It was during this time on February 8, 1986, that Via's eastbound Super Continental collided with a CN freight train near Hinton, Alberta as a result of the freight train crew missing a signal light. The resulting derailment killed 23 people and remains the worst accident in modern Canadian railway history in terms of loss of life.[citation needed]

Second round of cuts

The "Ocean" leaves the station at Amherst, Nova Scotia in July 2006 en route to Halifax. The image shows a vintage stainless steel "Park" observation car at the rear of the train. The other cars are newer Renaissance cars introduced by Via in 2003.

By the late 1980s, inflation and other rising costs were taking their toll on federal budgets and in the Mulroney government's 1989 budget, Via again saw its budget slashed, surpassing even the 1981 cuts under Trudeau. Minister of Transport Benoît Bouchard oversaw the reduction in service on January 15, 1990, when Via's operations were reduced by 55%.[citation needed]

Services such as the Super Continental were cut again, along with numerous disparate rural services such as in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley and Cape Breton Island, western Canada, and in the corridor. The Canadian was also moved from its 'home' rails on CP to the northerly CN route (which the Super Continental had used). The shift to the less-populated (and less scenic) route between Toronto and Vancouver severed major western cities such as Regina and Calgary from the passenger rail network (while at the same time adding major western cities such as Saskatoon and Edmonton to the passenger rail network)and flared western bitterness toward Ottawa.[citation needed]

The official justification for the rerouting was that the trains would serve more remote communities, but the concentration of Conservative-held ridings along the CN route attracted the charge that the move was chiefly political. It was also notable that Harvie André, one of Alberta's federal cabinet ministers who represented Calgary, was fairly public about the fact that he did not care if he never saw a passenger train again in his life.[citation needed]

After these cuts, Via was a much smaller company and immediately took to rationalizing its fleet of cars and locomotives, resulting in a fleet of refurbished stainless steel (HEP-1 and HEP-2 rebuilds, for "head end power") and LRC cars, as well as rationalizing its locomotive fleet with GM and Bombardier (LRC) units.[citation needed]

Third round of cuts

Via was not spared from further cutbacks in Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's government elected in 1993. Minister of Finance Paul Martin's first budget in 1994 saw further Via cuts which saw the popular Atlantic dropped from the schedule, focusing the eastern transcontinental service on the Ocean.[citation needed]

This move was seen as somewhat controversial and politically motivated as the principal cities benefiting from the Atlantic's service were Sherbrooke, Quebec and Saint John, New Brunswick, where, coincidentally or not, the only two Progressive Conservative Party Members of Parliament in Canada were elected in the 1993 federal election which saw Chrétien's Liberal Party take power. The Ocean service which was preserved operates on trackage between Montreal and Halifax running through the lower St. Lawrence River valley and northern New Brunswick. The Minister of Transport in Chrétien's government at the time, Douglas Young, was elected from a district that included Bathurst, New Brunswick, on the Ocean's route. Interestingly, a remote Via service to Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, the Chaleur was also spared from being cut at this time, despite having less ridership than the Atlantic.[citation needed]


VIA Rail P42DC pulling a train towards Montreal

By the late 1990s, rising environmental concerns focusing on reducing dependence on automobiles and airplanes (see Kyoto Accord), as well as rail-friendly Minister of Transport David Collenette, saw modest funding increases to Via. Corridor services were improved with new and faster trains, a weekly tourist train The Bras d'Or returned Via service to Cape Breton Island for the first time since the 1990 cuts, and a commitment was made to continue operating on Vancouver Island, but western Canada continued to languish with the only service provided by the Canadian and a few remote service trains in northern BC and Manitoba.[citation needed]

In a significant new funding program dubbed "Renaissance", a fleet of unused passenger cars which had been built for planned Nightstar sleeper services between locations in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, via the Channel Tunnel, were purchased and adapted following the cancellation of the Nightstar project. The new "Renaissance" cars were swiftly nicknamed déplaisance ("displeasure") by French-speaking employees and customers, due to early problems adapting the equipment for Canadian use. Doors and toilets froze in cold Atlantic Canada temperatures, resulting in delays and service interruptions.[3] New diesel-electric locomotives purchased from General Electric allowed the withdrawal of older locomotives, including the remaining LRC locomotives. The LRC passenger cars were retained and continued to provide much of the Corridor service. This expansion to Via's fleet has permitted scheduling flexibility, particularly in the corridor. Additionally, many passenger stations have been remodelled into rider-friendly destinations, with several hosting co-located transit and regional bus hubs for various municipalities.[citation needed]

On October 24, 2003, federal Minister of Transport David Collenette announced $700 million in new funding over the next 5 years. This funding was far below the $3 billion needed to implement a high-speed rail proposal in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor nicknamed ViaFast, however the funding was intended to "provide for faster, more frequent and more reliable passenger service across Canada.... [preserving] the option for higher speed rail, such as the Via Fast proposal" said Collenette. This new project was to be called "Renaissance II".[4] Critics of "Renaissance II" noted that the majority of spending would take place in the corridor services and not add new trains or improved scheduling to Atlantic and Western Canada.

Fourth round of cuts

On December 18, 2003, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced a freeze in federal spending on all major capital projects, including Via's five-year $700 million capital investment 'Renaissance II' program announced just six weeks earlier by outgoing Prime Minister Chrétien's administration. Critics of Martin's cuts claimed that he was in a distinct conflict of interest as his family through Canada Steamship Lines and various subsidiary and affiliated companies had once had a significant investment in the Voyageur Colonial Bus Lines, an intercity bus line in Quebec and eastern Ontario that is a key competitor of Via Rail.[citation needed]

Route cuts under the Martin government included the withdrawal of the seasonal Bras d'Or tourist train, which ran for the last time in September 2004, and the Montreal-Toronto overnight Enterprise, which was discontinued in September 2005. The Sarnia–Chicago International was also discontinued in April 2004 by Amtrak. Via's portion of the route from Toronto-Sarnia remains in operation as Via was able to use their own equipment to operate the train.[citation needed]

Via's role in the Sponsorship Scandal

Via waiting in Toronto, Ontario for next departure.

The federal Auditor General's report released publicly on February 10, 2004, showed what appeared to be a criminal misdirection of government funds intended for advertising to key Quebec-based supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada. (See Sponsorship scandal) Included in the Auditor General's report was the fact that Via Rail was used as one of several federal government departments, agencies, and Crown corporations to funnel these illicit funds. Forced to act on the Auditor General's report due to its political implications, Prime Minister Paul Martin's government suspended Via Rail President Marc LeFrançois on February 24, 2004, giving him an ultimatum of several days to defend himself against allegations in the report or face further disciplinary action.[citation needed]

Several days later, during LeFrançois's suspension, a former Via Rail marketing department employee, Myriam Bédard, claimed she was fired several years earlier when she questioned company billing practices in dealing with advertising companies. (According to CBC News, an arbitrator's report later concluded that Bédard had voluntarily left Via Rail.) She was publicly belittled by Via Rail Chief Executive Officer Jean Pelletier in national media on February 27, 2004. Pelletier retracted his statements but on March 1, 2004, Pelletier was fired. On March 5, 2004, after failing to adequately defend himself against the allegations in the Auditor General's report, LeFrançois was fired as well.[citation needed]

Increasing problems and reinstated funding

The reversal of funding in 2003 led to a backlog of deferred maintenance and left Via unable to replace or refurbish life-expired locomotives and rolling stock. Regardless, Via ridership increased from 3.8 million in 2005 to 4.1 million in 2006.[5]

On October 11, 2007, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced federal government funding of $691.9 million over five years, of which $519 million is capital funding, and the remainder additional operating funding. The capital funding is earmarked to refurbish Via's fleet of 54 F40 locomotives to meet new emissions standards and extend their service lives by 15–20 years, refurbish the interiors of the LRC coaches, reduce track capacity bottlenecks and speed restrictions in the Windsor-Quebec City Corridor, and make repairs to a number of stations across the network.[6]

This announcement is similar in content to the previous Renaissance II package, and once again can be criticized for not including any new equipment or funding for services outside the Corridor. Shortly after this announcement was made, documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act revealed that delays due to equipment failures had risen by 60% since the previous year. The company attributed this to problems with the aging F40 locomotive fleet.[7]

On January 27, 2009, the Government of Canada announced in its 2009 Economic Action Plan that it will increase funding to Via by $407 million to support improvements to passenger rail services, including higher train frequencies and enhanced on-time performance and speed, particularly in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.[citation needed]

2009 Via Rail strike

On July 21, 2009, Via Rail announced that its engineers would go on strike as of July 24 if no deal was reached by then, Via began cancelling all trains in anticipation of strike. The strike officially began at 12:00 p.m. on July 24 after it became clear that no deal has been reached. Engineers had been without a contract since December 31, 2006. Full service was resumed on July 27, 2009.[8]

Travelling on Via

Travel on Via varies by region as much as class. Many of Via's policies and protocols are the product of running a national train system with varying pressures and needs of different riders, communities, and contexts. The results are wide-ranging travel experiences depending on how far you are travelling and from where to where. Smoking is prohibited on all Via trains.

Classes of service


Business Class LRC interior
Economy Class interior
  • Economy Class (formerly Comfort Class)[9]Economy class seating in the coach cars. Passengers are not always assigned specific seats, and are usually segregated into specific train cars according to passenger destination. Seats are reasonably comfortable, but on the LRC equipment some of them face backwards, in contrast to the traditional North American practice. Some seats also provide only a partial view out the window. Most trains that operate on the "Corridor" offer pay-per-use 802.11b WiFi access, and have AC outlets for laptop use. Snacks, beverages and sandwiches are sold cash and carry.[10]
  • Business Class (formerly Via 1 class)[9] — This is the first-class seating available on most trains in southern Quebec and southern Ontario. It is somewhat reminiscent of air travel in the 1970s, prior to deregulation, when hot meals were offered free of charge. Business Class offers passengers individually reserved seats, more spacious seating with all seats facing the front of the train (except for 2 4-seaters per car), window blinds, inclusive hot three-course meals complete with complementary wine and liqueurs, in-seat AC power outlets along with pay-per-use WiFi access. Business Class passengers are also granted priority boarding and access to the Panorama Lounges at major urban stations. Unlike Economy Class passengers, they do not have to stand in line before boarding the train.
  • Sleeper (formerly known as Comfort Sleeper) — As a class provided to late night passengers on lengthy routes, the sleeper class provides berth sections and single, double and triple bedrooms which feature bunkbeds, electrical outlet, chairs and a private washroom. Each sleeper car (except in the case of Renaissance cars) is equipped with a public shower.


Class Structure as of June 2009

  • Sleeper Touring Class - Available on The Canadian and The Ocean. Sleeper Touring class is simply the new name being used by Via Rail for what was previously "Silver and Blue" class on The Canadian, and "Easterly" class on The Ocean. The descriptions of the class in each case are consistent with the descriptions of the previous class structure (see below). These changes are only of the class nomenclature.[11][12]
  • Touring Class - Available on The Skeena. The description of "Touring" class is identical to that of the previous "Totem" class (see below), and is simply a change of nomenclature.[13]

Previous Class Structure

  • Silver & Blue — A deluxe inclusive travel package onboard the Canadian, which features Sleeper Class accommodation, first-class meals in the dining car, and access to the Skyline car and viewing salons in the glass-domed Park car. Passengers are also given priority boarding over Comfort Class and access to the Silver & Blue Lounge in Toronto Union Station. As of June 2009, Silver and Blue class has ceased to exist.
  • Easterly — All-inclusive tour package onboard the Ocean with access to a tour guide (known as the "Learning Coordinator"), Sleeper accommodation, first-class meals and access to the Park car. The Easterly class was designed to offer a seamless and relaxed learning experience in harmony with the laid back warmth of the Maritimes. Passengers receive priority boarding and access to the Panorama Lounge in Montreal station.[14] As of June 2009, Easterly class has ceased to exist.
  • Totem — Access to the Park car onboard the Skeena. A sub-class called Totem Deluxe provides its passengers with seating in the Panorama car. Totem and Totem Deluxe operates from May to September. As of June 2009, Totem class has ceased to exist.

Compared to other train systems

Travel on Via involves protocols that may make travelling on Via trains somewhat different for seasoned train travellers from other parts of the world. The boarding practices, especially at larger stations, are in some respects similar to plane travel, rather than the usual free boarding from platforms experienced elsewhere, as in the United Kingdom. [15]

Via maintains a comprehensive seating system comparable to plane travel, and requires every passenger to have a seat. Inevitably this means that while there may be actual empty seats on a departing train for instance, they might not be available since the seats are reserved for passengers using the train for a portion of its journey. Although this is not significantly different from other train systems, Via also does not allow standing room on its trains, unlike commuter trains that serve Montreal and Toronto.[16] This might be due to federal transport regulations. This results in 'full' or 'sold-out' trains which cannot be boarded by standing passengers.

Entraining and detraining, seating and coaches

In large stations, such as Toronto or Montreal, Via maintains an extremely orchestrated boarding procedure due to management of its seating arrangements.[citation needed] Passengers line up and are escorted to designated coaches for their destinations rather than being permitted to board 'rush style' directly from the platform. At Toronto and Montreal, some "Comfort class" passengers have to stand in line for as much as one hour. At both Montreal and Toronto, and many other Corridor stations, Via has yet to install ticket barriers, so tickets are checked manually at the time of boarding, and then collected once on the train. Depending on the train, seating is either rush (once you are permitted on the specified coach) or it is assigned prior to boarding. Oddly enough this boarding system is reminiscent of plane checking and travel rather than train travel, making the experience of Via's trains confounding for the more experienced train traveller. In smaller stations passengers are permitted on platforms, but, as above, are ushered towards specific coaches rather than being permitted to board the entire train. The apparent rationale behind such mechanics is governed by the detraining and entraining of coaches for various destinations, as outside Brockville for some Toronto–Montreal/Ottawa trains, and because of platform lengths at smaller stations.

Attention should be paid when boarding Via trains at larger stations: although platforms themselves are listed, often trains are on actual adjacent platforms. For instance, in the case of train 66 departing Toronto passengers often line up at gate 17; however, the train is usually at platform 16 because of the 16:39 arrival of the 61 train from Montreal. Equally, the 61 itself often departs from platform 18, while passengers line up at gate 17.

While not all Via trains have assigned seating, coaches are selected for specific destinations at the very least. This might have to do with variable platform length at Canadian train stations. Inevitably since all passengers travelling to same destination are in the same coach, there is little to no 'turn over' of passengers—something notable to train travel elsewhere.. Sitting beside the same individual for six hours is not uncommon. Equally, because of this, there tends to be no regard for types of train travel experiences—for instance, there are no 'quiet' coaches where headphones and cellphones are banned or have limited use, nor coaches designated for families travelling with small children, or coaches for groups or sports teams.

Detraining Via trains is not as laborious as boarding, however, because there is only one exit per coach, it can take significantly longer than one might expect.[citation needed] The situation is complicated by having all onboard luggage stored in one location next to the only exit. For mid-train coaches it can be easier to exit towards the rear of the coach passing the washrooms to use the exit of the following coach rather than waiting for the long line up.


Via Rail is headquartered at 3 Place Ville-Marie

Via offers pre-boarding assistance to those passengers requiring extra time to board its trains. Though, as platform heights vary across Via stations, actual accessibility may vary. Attention is required when boarding or deboarding trains as there may be steps or a small 'bridge' over the gap between train and platform. In situations like Montreal, this small bridge makes Via coaches easily accessible, while at other stations for some passengers the climb from platform level into the coach could be, depending on mobility, problematic. At most stations, a special wheelchair lift is available for passengers bound to their chairs.

Most trains can only accommodate one passenger traveling in a wheelchair. Furthermore, storage space for wheelchairs belonging to passenger who can transfer to a seat is very limited and can only handle a few types of wheelchairs. This frequently causes availability issues as availability is sold on a first come first served basis. Via Rail's policy is to adhere to the minimum mandated by Transport Canada of one wheelchair seating area per train. As a result, passengers are frequently refused transportation.

At larger stations such as Montreal Central or Toronto Union access to platforms is strictly monitored and controlled. This tends to create a bottleneck detraining as potentially hundreds of travellers with their luggage file onto the one escalator or staircase in operation. This safety hazard may be resolved by the planned rebuilding of Union station over the next few years.

Routes and connections

The Corridor (Windsor – Quebec City)

The Corridor trains run from Windsor, Ontario, in the west through southern Ontario to south-western Quebec to Quebec City. The area offers the greatest concentration of Via trains. About two-thirds of Via's revenue is on this service.


Via's Toronto–Montreal service runs between five and six trains daily with an express departing both cities at 17:00 daily except Saturday. Journey times vary depending on the actual train, with the 17:00 expresses (66 and 67) taking approximately 4 hours 45 minutes, while the following journeys departing at 18:20 from Toronto (68) and 1835 from Montreal (69) take roughly 5 hours and 38 minutes. The first train of the morning in each direction, as well as the express trains, are the only ones that offer a "bar car" service (for business class passengers only).

While travel on the express train is relatively easy (it stops only at Oshawa and Dorval), the 68 and 69 trains can be tedious as they stop at every station between these two large cities. Although the Toronto–Montreal line is double tracked throughout its length (a rarity in Canada), the high volume of freight traffic on the line in recent years has reduced the percentage of passenger trains that arrive on time. Part of the reason for this is that Canadian National abandoned its line from Pembroke to North Bay in the 1990s, with the result that freight traffic between western Canada and Montreal or points east of Montreal now uses the Toronto–Montreal line.

Via is currently working in conjunction with CN to add a third track to portions of this route, which would increase its on-time performance and reduce travel time by up to 30 minutes eventually.

Long-distance routes


Via calls this service The Canadian after a famous Canadian Pacific train that ran between 1955 and 1978, but the name is misleading since the Via version follows the more northerly Canadian National line rather than the historic main line of Canada's first transcontinental railway. Thus the present-day version does not serve Montreal, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Calgary or Banff. It takes almost 87 hours between Toronto and Vancouver, which requires travellers to spend four nights on the train. The original Canadian took only about 68 hours to make the same trip.


This train, known as the Ocean, has operated over essentially the same route since 1903, making it one of the oldest named trains in the world. It travels over the former Intercolonial Railway, built by the federal government as part of the terms on which New Brunswick and Nova Scotia agreed to join Canada. During both world wars the line to Halifax was vitally important to Canada's war effort. The Ocean travels 840 miles in 21 hours, leaving both Montreal and Halifax every day except Tuesday. On the days when it is combined with the Gaspé train the rolling stock resembles that of The Canadian. On the other three days it uses British-style Renaissance rolling stock.

Summary of Via routes

Here is a table summarizing Via's routes across the country.[17]

Route Name Major Stations Frequency Numbers Services
The Canadian Toronto, Sudbury, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, Vancouver Three/week 1 and 2 Economy, Sleeper Touring
Ocean Halifax, Truro, Moncton, Campbellton, Montreal Six/week 14 and 15 Economy, Sleeper, Sleeper Touring
Gaspé–Montreal Gaspé, Percé, Rimouski, Montreal Three/week 16 and 17 Economy, Sleeper
Senneterre–Montreal Senneterre, Montreal Three/week 603–606 Economy
Jonquière–Montreal Jonquière, Montreal Three/week 600–602 Economy
Quebec City – Montreal Quebec City, Drummondville, Saint-Hyacinthe, Montreal Four/day 20–29 and 620, 622 Economy, Business
Montreal–Ottawa / Montreal-Ottawa/Fallowfield Montreal,Dorval, Coteau-du-Lac, Alexandria, Casselman, Ottawa, Fallowfield Six/day 30–39 and 630–632, 634–635, 638–639 Economy, Business
Ottawa–Toronto Ottawa, Smiths Falls, Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Cobourg, Oshawa, Guildwood, Toronto Five/day 40–49 and 640–641, 643, 648 Economy, Business
Montreal–Toronto Montreal, Dorval, Coteau-du-Lac, Cornwall, Kingston, Belleville, Cobourg, Oshawa, Toronto Six/day 52–69 and 652, 667–668 Economy, Business
Toronto–Windsor Toronto, Oakville, Aldershot, Brantford, Woodstock, Ingersoll, London, Glencoe, Chatham, Windsor Four/day 70–79 Economy, Business
Toronto–London Note: two routes: Toronto, Aldershot, Brantford, Woodstock, London, and Toronto, Brampton, Georgetown, Guelph, Kitchener, Stratford, London, Two/day (one on each route) 82, 83, 86, 89, 686 Economy, Business
Toronto–Sarnia Toronto, Brampton, Georgetown, Guelph, Kitchener, Stratford, St. Marys, London, Strathroy, Wyoming, Sarnia Two/day 84–88 Economy
Toronto – Niagara Falls Toronto, Oakville, Aldershot, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls Two/day 90–98 Economy
Sudbury – White River Sudbury, White River Three/week 185 and 186 Economy
Winnipeg–Churchill Winnipeg, The Pas, Pukatawagan, Thompson, Churchill Two/week 692 and 693 Economy, Sleeper
Jasper – Prince Rupert Jasper, Prince George, Prince Rupert Three/week 5 and 6 Economy, Touring
Victoria–Courtenay Victoria, Nanaimo, Courtenay Daily 198–199, 298–299 Economy

As of 2009 with the exception of the Canadian and the Ocean Via Rail no longer has names for the trains, instead calling them by the route they travel.[18]

Weekend services are reduced on some of the daily routes, and may operate at different times, in which case they operate under different train numbers.

International connections are provided by agreement with Amtrak and include the Maple Leaf, operating between New York's Pennsylvania Station and Toronto's Union Station via Albany and Buffalo. The Adirondack is an exclusive Amtrak train operating between Montreal's Gare Centrale (Central Station) and New York City's Penn Station. Amtrak Cascades offers service between Vancouver and Seattle, Washington.

Northern Ontario connections are also available by Ontario Northland Railway and their Northlander train service to Washago, Huntsville, North Bay and all points north to Cochrane. This train operates six days a week with a north and south bound. The train also offers a café car for snacks and beverages.

Rolling stock

This list includes those vehicles currently in use by Via and those that have been retired.


Via locomotive in London
Via FP9ARM number 6300 in Vancouver
Budd RDC-1 at Qualicum Beach Station on Vancouver Island
Builder Model Current Fleet Years of service Notes
General Motors Diesel F40PH-2 54 1987-present Had 58. Rebuild underway. The Rebuilt engines will have the same paint scheme as the P42 and will feature a 3rd headlight, extended cab, and a separate diesel engine to drive the HEP. 6400 was the prototype but 6402 will be the example for the rest of the fleet to follow. As of January 1, 2010, units 6400 (wrecked prototype), 6402, 6417, 6437, 6443, 6452, 6454, and 6457 have been rebuilt.

Originally delivered as nos. 6400-6459; 6447 wrecked in 1997 Biggar, SK derailment; 6423 was wrecked in 1999 in Chatham, ON collision; 6450 was wrecked at Miramichi, NB in 2000; 6400 was wrecked at St-Charles, QC in 2010; 6422 and 6430 have also been wrecked; all 6 locomotives were written off from the roster.

General Electric / GE Transportation Systems P42 Genesis 21 2001-present Delivered as Nos. 900-920. Operates exclusively on LRC, HEP1/HEP2, Renaissance consists in Quebec-Windsor Corridor. Currently the entire fleet is being fitted with a 3rd headlight. VIA also allocated funding in September of 2009 to overhaul all 21 P42s, with upgrades including structural repairs and winterization of the locomotives.[19]

-#902 was delivered in a slightly different paint scheme, with a second blue stripe above the yellow stripe on the side of the locomotive. On August 17th, 2009, 902 caught fire while leading train 46 into Ottawa, ON. It has been repaired, and reentered service in early January, 2010. It no longer has the unique paint scheme.

General Motors Diesel FP9ARM 1 Rebuilt by CN for Via in the early 1980s. Had 15. Ex-CNR with only 1 unit number 6300 is left on the roster. Used as the shop switcher at Via's Vancouver Maintenance Centre.
General Motors Diesel SW1000 2
United Aircraft TurboTrain Had 3. Five seven car trainsets were introduced by CN in 1968, withdrawn for modifications in 1970, relaunched with three nine car trainsets in 1971, transferred to Via in 1976,ran until 1982 when replaced by the LRC sets. Holds the Canadian rail speed record of 140 mph/ Ex. CN (retired)
Bombardier Transportation LRC-2 (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) 1981-2002 All have been retired; some still in storage and for sale at Via's shops in Toronto, Montreal.
Bombardier Transportation LRC-3 1981-2002 All have been retired; some still in storage and for sale at Via's shops in Toronto, Montreal.
Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-4 1976-1993 Ex. CN (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works FPB-4 1976-1993 Ex. CN (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-2 1976-1983 Ex. CN (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works FPB-2 1976-1983 Ex. CN (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-2u Ex. CN (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works FPB-2u Ex. CN (retired)
General Motors Diesel FP9 Ex. CN and CP (retired)
General Motors Diesel F9B Ex. CN (retired)
General Motors Diesel FP7A Ex. CP (retired)
Montreal Locomotive Works RS-10 ex-CP Rail (retired)
General Motors Electro-Motive Division E8A ex-CP Rail
Budd Company Rail Diesel Car RDC-1 3 Had 24. Two are still in service on Vancouver Island as the Malahat/ Ex.-CP and CN
Budd Company Rail Diesel Car RDC-2 2 Had 12. Two are still in service on Lake Superior as The Sudburian/ Ex.-CP and CN
Budd Company Rail Diesel Car RDC-3 Had 10. All retired./ Ex.-CP and CN
Budd Company Rail Diesel Car RDC-4 1 Had 7. One is still in service as Lake Superior between White River and Sudbury./ Ex.-CP and CN
Budd Company Rail Diesel Car RDC-9 Had 6. All retired./ Ex. CN
General Motors Electro-Motive Division F59PH 4 2009+ In late December of 2009, VIA leased 4 F59PH locomotives from RBRX leasing. These locomotives, numbered 18521, 18522, 18524, and 18529, were originally built for and operated by Toronto's GO Transit (numbered as 521, 522, 524, and 529), before being replaced by new Motive Power Industries MP40PH-3C locomotives. Since late December 2009, 18521 and 18522 have been operating on VIA Rail's service between Montreal and Jonquiere and Senneterre, in Quebec. These locomotives are expected to be used for the duration of the F40PH-2d and P42 rebuild/overhaul period, preventing locomotive shortages.[20]

Passenger cars

Dining car interior — the Canadian
The Prince Albert Park sleeping/dome car at the rear of The Canadian
A 'Light Rapid Comfortable (LRC) club car.
  • Coach car — Seating for use by Comfort Class passengers. All seats face in the direction the train is travelling, with the exception of family and group seating at each end of the car. Any row of seats can be rotated to create a 4-seat area. AC power outlets are found in LRC coaches in the row of seats directly adjacent to the washroom area. LRC cars seat 68 while Renaissance cars seat 49.
  • Club car — Seating for use by Business Class passengers. All seats face forward with the exception of two on the left forward bulkhead and two in the rear, forming 4-seat communal areas. The rear area features a large fold-top table. All seating is equipped with AC power outlets. Windows also have curtains.
  • Transcontinental Coach car — Coach cars of the Canadian with fully reclining chairs with extending leg rests.
  • Sleeper car — Consists of open berth sections and single (known as "roomettes" by seasoned passengers), double and triple bedrooms (triples- or drawing rooms as there are also known as- are available in the "CHATEAU" Series cars and parks cars only.) Bedrooms feature bunkbeds, seating, and private toilets. The car is equipped with public shower facilities.
  • Park car — What Via Rail calls its "flagship car", this two-level railcar is situated in the very rear of the rolling stock. Its amenities include a bar, lounge, three double bedrooms and one triple bedroom (also known as a drawing room), and the panoramic glass dome on its upper level.
  • Dining car — Restaurant on rails, complete with tablecloth and reservations. A Renaissance dining car holds 48 places in eight tables for four and eight tables for two. An ex-CPR budd dining car seats 48 in a dozen four-seat tables.
  • Service Car — A lounge area for Business Class passengers travelling in Renaissance cars.
  • Skyline car — Features a coffee shop, lounge, and panoramic dome seating.
  • Panorama car — A fully glass-enclosed seating car of the Skeena.
  • Baggage car — Non-passenger car designed for carrying checked baggage.
Builder Model Qty Notes
Alstom "Renaissance" baggage car 12 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7000-7011. Originally meant to be sleeping cars.
Alstom "Renaissance" club car 14 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7100-7113. Originally made for Nightstar but never used.
Alstom "Renaissance" coach car 33 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7200-7232. Originally made for Nightstar but never used.
Alstom "Renaissance" service car 20 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7300-7316 and 7354-7359. Units 7354-7359 are empty shells not yet put into service.
Alstom "Renaissance" dining car 3 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7400-7402. Originally meant to have single bedrooms.
Alstom "Renaissance" sleeping car 57 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7500-7589. 29 cars inactive and stored in Thunder Bay.
Alstom "Renaissance" baggage transition car 3 Built 1995-96, Service 2002. Units 7600 to 7602. Corridor through car for passengers and coupler for Park car.
Bombardier Transportation LRC coach car 72 Built 1981-84. Purchased new. Units 3300-3399.
Bombardier Transportation LRC club car 26 Built 1984. Purchased new. Units 3451-3475 and 3600-3601. Kitchenette placed differently on 3600-3601.
Budd Company Coach car 43 Built 1946-55. Acquired 1978, mostly from CP. Units 8100-8147.
Budd Company Château sleeping car (HEP) 29 Built 1954. Acquired 1978 from CP. Units 8201-8229.
Budd Company Manor sleeping car (HEP) 40 Built 1954-55. Acquired 1978 from CP. Units 8301-8342.
Budd Company Dining car (HEP) 13 Built 1955. Acquired 1978 from CP. Units 8401-8418.
Budd Company Skyline dome car (HEP) 16 Built 1954-55. Acquired 1978 from CP. Units 8500-8517.
Budd Company Baggage car 19 Built 1954-55, 1963. Acquired 1978, mostly from CP. Units 8600-8623.
Budd Company Park car (HEP) 14 Built 1954. Acquired 1978 from CP. Units 8702-8718.
Canadian Car and Foundry Café-coach car 1 Built 1954. Acquired early 1980s. Unit 3248. In service with Keewatin Railway Company.
Budd Company Coach car (HEP) 10 Built 1947-49. Acquired 1989-2000, mostly from Amtrak. Units 4000-4009.
Budd Company Coach car 23 Built 1947-53. Acquired 1989-2000, mostly from Amtrak. Completely stripped and rebuilt. Units 4100-4125.
Canadian Car and Foundry Baggage coach car 2 Built 1954. Acquired 1978. Units 5648-5649. In service with Keewatin Railway Company.
Colorado Railcar Panoramic coach car 3 Built 2000. Acquired 2002. Units 1720-1722.
Canadian Car and Foundry Lounge car 1 Built 1954. Acquired early 2002. Unit 1750.
Budd Company Observation club car 1 Built 1939. Acquired 2002 from BC Rail. Unit 1751. Inactive and stored in Montreal.
National Steel Car Baggage car 1 Built 1951. Acquired 1978. Unit 9631. The last one remaining is used on the Hudson Bay.
Pullman Standard Coach car Retired
Pullman Standard 6-6-4 sleeper car Retired
Pullman Standard 4-8-4 sleeper car Retired

Demo units

Product list and details
 Make/Model   Description   Fleet size   Year acquired   Year retired   Notes 
Colorado Railcar Aero DMU lead car proposal only
Colorado Railcar Single-level ADA DMU coach
Pullman Standard Superliner 1 set 1985 demonstration on Supercontinental in Western Canada; borrowed from Amtrak
Adtranz IC3 Flexliner 1 set 1995 borrowed from Israeli railways

See also

Railway companies that used to carry passengers include:

Other publicly owned regional passenger carriers:

Via may maintain the railcars for some of these services, such as West coast Express.

Privately owned Canadian Via Rail competitors and connecting lines:


  1. ^ "Access to Information." Via Rail. Retrieved on June 9, 2009.
  2. ^ "Via Rail Annual Report 2005". ViaRail. 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-10. 
  3. ^ Transport 2000 Hotline
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Via gets hundreds of millions in federal funding". CBC. 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  6. ^ "Backgrounder: New Funding For Via Rail Canada". Via Rail. 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  7. ^ "Via train late? You're not alone". The Globe and Mail. 2007-10-20. Retrieved 2007-10-23. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "VIA Rail / All our trains". Via Rail. 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-10. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^

Further reading

  • Allen, Tom (2001). Rolling Home: A Cross-Canada Railroad Memoir. Toronto: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-88473-1. 
  • Greenlaw, Christopher (2007). Via Rail. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press. ISBN 0-7603-2529-4. 
  • Pindell, Terry (1992). Last train to Toronto: a Canadian rail odyssey. 115 West 18th Street, New York, New York 10011: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.. ISBN 0-8050-1574-4. 
  • Hanus, Chris & Shaske, John (2009). Canada By Train: The Complete Via Rail Travel Guide ISBN 978-0-9730897-5-2

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Rail travel in Canada article)

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

Although trains are not nearly as ubiquitous and convenient a mode of travel in North America as in Europe, they remain popular with some travelers because of the spacious design of the cars, the scenic routes, and the overall comfort of the train ride. Some people prefer to take trains because they do not require long waits at security like at airports, or because they are uncomfortable with flying. Unfortunately, unlike their European counterparts, passenger trains in Canada outside the urban cores can often be off-schedule, sometimes up to several hours late. Train rides in Canada often take much longer than car rides and plane rides, but, when the service is running well, the unique experience can trump the long ride.

All trains will have coach seats. For longer rides many trains have sleeper rooms. The price of these rooms depends on the quality - whether or not there is a sink, or a private shower/toilet. You will pay a considerable supplement for sleeper car service in addition to the regular fare.


Canada's railway system primarily transports freight, and freight has priority over rail-line use. Therefore, passenger trains are often delayed. The country's two major railway companies, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway, turned over operation of their passenger services in 1978 to VIA Rail Canada. In addition to VIA Rail, a few smaller railways in remote areas of Canada also offer passenger service. As well, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver have commuter rail systems. There are also a large number of companies that offer excursion services primarily geared towards tourists.

Peak periods

The peak periods for most rail companies in North America is somewhere between March/April to September, however, you should check with the rail company. In the off-peak season, prices drop significantly on most carriers.

Tickets and Passes

Different passes are available. There is the North American rail pass which is good for unlimited travel in a month, and travel within both the USA and Canada is typically required. Foreigners may be able to get better deals.

  • Canrailpass [1] Valid on any train and route that VIA Rail operates and allows the holder one seat in "Comfort class." The pass allows passengers 12 to 15 days of unlimited travel within a 30 day period.


Passengers may be able to get discounts by checking websites, having an AAA or CAA membership, being a veteran, being a senior citizen, or have a student ID.

  • Students (who, for those 18 and over, must have an ISIC [2] to prove eligibility) get 35% off economy class
  • Youth (18-25) get 25% off economy class, 10% off sleeper class, and 10% off multi-day passes
  • Seniors (60+) get 10% off economy class.

Look out for the rail sale section of the website. You can snag $70 one way coach fares between Chicago and the West Coast. You may get a sleeper with these fares, upon paying the supplement, if they are available.

Effective April 1, 2005, to obtain a discount on Amtrak trains, passengers must reserve three days in advance on all trains.

  • VIA Rail Canada [3]
  • Rocky Mountaineer Vacations [4] This company is privately owned and operates most of its routes in Southwestern Canada. The company's GoldLeaf Service - Vancouver to Banff won the title of “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” at the 2005 World Travel Awards.
  • Canadian National Railway (CN) [5] While CN turned its passenger services over to VIA Rail in 1978, it acquired the Algoma Central Railway in 2001 and operates passenger services on this line, most notably the Agawa Canyon Tour Train.
  • Ontario Northland Railway [6] This railway, owned by the province of Ontario, operates in the remote northern part of the province. It operates several passenger services, including the Polar Bear Express tourist train (Cochrane-Moosonee) and the Northlander (Toronto-North Bay-Cochrane).
  • Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) [7] While CPR turned its passenger services over to VIA Rail in 1978, it inaugurated its luxury Royal Canadian Pacific service in 2000.
  • Canada Via Rail Tours (CPR) [8] Train tours and vacations through Canada on Canada's only true rail experience, VIA Rail.
  • Amtrak has stops in Vancouver, Montréal and Toronto.
  • John Steel Rail Tours [9] North America's Rail Travel Specialists
  • Brewster [10]
  • Canada Your Way [11]Canadian vacation package experts, with a strong specialty in rail and train holidays

For more tour operators, see VIA Rail tour operator website [12]

  • Vacations By Rail [13]The Trusted Authority on Rail Travel in Canada

For more tour operators, see VIA Rail tour operator website [14]

  • The Canadian, [15]. Runs from Toronto to Vancouver via Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Jasper. VIA Rail's flagship service and now the only remaining service to cross Canada's prairies. The complete journey takes three days. A seat in Comfort (economy or coach) is around $550 before discounts; comfortable sleeper accommodations are also available.
  • The Hudson Bay, [16]. Connecting with the Canadian in Winnipeg, the Hudson Bay takes travelers from the south to the far north of the province of Manitoba, with three departures a week to Churchill via The Pas and Thompson. A connecting state-subsidised service is available from The Pas to Pukatawagan, principally for the native communities in that region of Manitoba. The train is popular with winter tourists who travel north to see Churchill's population of polar bears and tends to sell out early.
  • The Skeena, [17]. The Skeena connects with the Canadian in Jasper National Park and operates to Prince Rupert. From Prince Rupert one can take ferries to Alaska or Queen Charlotte islands.
  • Quebec - Ontario Corridor, [18]. VIA Rail's offers its most comprehensive intercity passenger service between the cities of Quebec City , Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston Toronto, Sarnia and Windsor. This route operates more than 30 departures in either direction on weekdays, and is as popular with business travellers as tourists due to fast services that are, in most cases, as fast downtown-to-downtown as commercial airlines.

Special stops

VIA Rail offers hikers, kayakers and residents of remote regions the option of special stops at almost any point on several rural routes, as long as passengers purchase their tickets and specify their exact destination 48 hours in advance. This is not available on all routes: most importantly, the Quebec-Ontario corridor is excluded, as are the prairies west of Winnipeg. Please consult the link for more information on stops that are permitted. [20].


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