VIA Rail Ontario – Québec Corridor – Train Equipment

When riding in the Ontario – Québec Corridor, you might find yourself traveling in one of three different types of train cars: LRC, Stainless Steel, or Renaissance. Determining which type of equipment your train has is difficult to impossible during the online reservation process without some specific tips. If you’re interested in knowing which type of equipment your next VIA Rail trip in the corridor will have follow these steps:

Search for your trip with your origin, destination, and departure date, then take a look at the results:

VIA train search result

See the little  to the right of the class of service? Click that and a separate pop up window will open:

Pop up window

Instructions for the next step vary according to your web browser. In the example above, the URL of the webpage is not visible, and on a Mac in Safari, I choose: View -> Show Toolbar. After using whatever feature in your web browser that reveals the URL, you’ll need to make the window wider so that you can see the whole address, like this:

Cool, now you can determine which equipment your train will have. Here are some examples:

LRC equipment, see the LRC in the URL?

Stainless Steel equipment, see the HP2 in the URL?

Renaissance equipment, see the REN in the URL?

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Amtrak and I are sort of breaking up

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If you’ve been checking this site since February 2011 for changes, thank you! Lots has changed regarding my interest in blogging and trains since that time.

Several changes this year have lead to changes to this blog; MobileMe has transitioned to iCloud, iWeb software updates have slowed or stopped, and I’ve grown bored and disappointed with Amtrak.

I may elaborate in the future about my waning interest in Amtrak, but for now, please enjoy the new URL: www.northamericabyrail.com. I’m making the blog my main web interest and I’ve abandoned my previous domain with Amtrak in the URL.

And yes, that gem of a photo above is an early indicator of my train travel passion.

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A few photos from Winnipeg to Vancouver

Here are some much delayed photos from Winnipeg to Vancouver. These were taken in February 2011.

After arriving in Winnipeg, I explored the outside of the station before going back inside to check out the railroad museum:

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Here’s a shot of us meeting a Canadian National freight train. The Rocky Mountaineer cars up front are interesting, but break up an almost perfect looking Canadian:

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We had several dinners in the dining car, which in this picture is set for dinner including white china and navy linens on the table and chairs:

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My last dinner on the train was rack of lamb with a blueberry balsamic sauce, au gratin potatoes and vegetables:

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Some great scenery shots approaching Jasper and then inside Jasper National Park:

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While in Jasper, the station crew cleans windows including the dome cars, VIA Rail is a class act:

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The on board staff was also great, providing some scenery commentary, beer and wine tastings:

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Boarding the Canadian from the VIA Rail Panorama Lounge

My trip aboard The Canadian began in the Panorama Lounge inside Toronto’s Union Station. Passengers traveling in Business, Sleeper or Sleeper Touring class are welcome to use the Panorama Lounges available at large stations in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. If you are familiar with Amtrak’s Club Acela or Metropolitan Lounges, VIA Rail’s Panorama Lounge is similar. If you are not familiar with these lounges, let me describe some of the features.

Ticket agents are available at the entrance to the lounge to welcome you and assist you with ticketing needs. As you check into the lounge the agents will help describe the boarding process and special situations for your train departure. Inside the Panorama Lounge, you’ll find comfortable seats and tables, some work desks with office chairs, a soft drink beverage bar, newspapers, timetables, and in some cases toilets. One important distinction from some of the Amtrak lounges, is that the Panorama Lounges do not have day bag storage. Bag services in VIA Rail stations are provided by the baggage staff of the station from their baggage room location. Passengers traveling in Sleeper and Sleeper Touring class may day check bags for no charge with the station baggage staff. Please be sure to have your tickets available for validation by the baggage staff. The soft drink bar includes sodas, coffee, tea, and bottled water.

My most recent experience with the Panorama Lounge was in Toronto for the westbound departure of VIA Rail’s Train 1, The Canadian. The train is scheduled to depart at 2200, 10:00 PM. Just as described by the Panorama Lounge attendant, the Service Manager for the train came into the lounge at 8:45 PM to invite all passengers to the check in desk outside the lounge. Only one member of each traveling party was needed at the check in desk.

At the check in desk, the Service Manager collected my ticket, checked my name off his manifest, and then described the location of my sleeping accommodations along with the name of my sleeping car attendant. For this trip, I was in car 121, room B, with Service Attendant Cal. After finishing the check in with the Service Manager, he asked me to check in with the Service Coordinator of the dining car. Here I made reservations for the first full day of dining. Breakfast was first come, first served between 6:30 AM and 9:00 AM. Lunch and dinner were by reservation and there were first, second, and third seating options offered. One receives the same seating order for both meals. So, if you choose the first seating for lunch, you’ll be in the first seating for dinner. Example sittings for lunch/dinner: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM, 12:30 PM & 7:00 PM, 2:00 PM & 9:00 PM. For my first trip on board the Canadian, I choose the second sitting for lunch and dinner, 12:30 PM & 7:00 PM. After I had received all the welcome information and reservations from the service manager and service coordinator, I was told to hang out in the lounge for boarding around 9:15 PM.

Between the ticket collection and boarding time, I visited the baggage room to pick up my bags that had been day checked there. Back in the lounge, right on time at 9:15 PM, the Service Manager came into the lounge to announce the boarding of The Canadian. You could tell everyone was very excited about the journey as we all streamed out to track 20 for boarding. At the top of the stairs a station agent was checking for the sleeping car number and directing passengers in the right direction. I was directed at the top of the stairs to turn right and head to the first open door, where I met Cal, the sleeping car attendant for the rear half of car 121 and the entire car 122.

Sleeping Car attendants at VIA Rail are assigned one and a half sleeping cars. In the case of The Canadian, this equals 33 beds per sleeping car attendant (Manor series cars), less than the 42 beds of an Amtrak Superliner Sleeping Car attendant but more than the 30 beds of an Amtrak Viewliner Sleeping Car attendant.

Cal directed me up the steps of sleeping car 121, named Rogers Manor. He told me to turn left at the top of the steps and head down the hallway till I reached bedroom B. As I approached bedroom B (a VIA Rail Cabin for Two), the beds were made for sleeping. Both lower and upper beds were ready, along with the ladder in place for climbing to the upper bed. The sheets were pulled back in a triangle, the white sheets were clean and bright against the green duvet cover. Each bed had two plump and soft pillows at the head end. A basket of towels and toiletries was on top of the vanity. There were several washcloths and hand towels inside the basket. Beside the towels, bottles of lotion, mouth wash and shampoo joined wrapped soap and ear plugs. Next to the toiletries basket was a copy of The Canadian route guide, with two VIA Rail chocolates placed on top. To the side of the vanity there was a folder pocket attached to the wall holding a guide to train services, VIA Rail souvenir catalog, and the latest issue of their railroad magazine, Destinations. Finally, above the vanity were some drawstring bags holding full size towels for morning showers.

Around 9:40 PM, the service manager made a PA announcement about the welcome aboard reception in the Park car at the end of the train. Canadian sparkling wine and hors d’oeuvres were being served. I could hear Cal coming down the hallway introducing himself and giving an orientation about the sleeping car to guests down the hall so I stayed put in my room. It was at the bedroom before mine that Cal discovered that the toilets in the entire 121 car were not functioning. He radioed the Service Manager to have a look at it and call maintenance for help. He continued to work his way down the hallway and he introduced himself to me and oriented me with the features of my room and sleeping car. As departure time continued to get closer and closer, while Cal was giving me all the details of Sleeper Touring class, he was growing more and more concerned about why the toilets were not working. As he finished, he encouraged me to join the reception in the Park Car and that he would follow up with me there about the toilet situation.

I walked to the back of the train, the very last car, Evanglaline Park. The car was now nearing capacity. I climbed up the steps of the dome and found the last unclaimed seat next to Jen, someone I would meet in more detail the next morning at breakfast in the dining car.

We glided out of Toronto Union Station at 10:05 PM on our four night trek to Vancouver, BC. From the forward section of the Park Car dome, I could see our train snake its way through the many slip switches of the interlocking west of Toronto Union Station’s platforms. From my vantage point in the dome car I could see the front of the train. As we approached each signal, I could see the signal change from its indication to proceed to a stop indication as the locomotive passed by. As we picked up speed and slipped out of Toronto late at night my excitement for the journey that lay ahead peaked. I knew then that this was going to be a train trip I would not forget.

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My new VIA Rail family

I met some really incredible people on my trip aboard The Canadian. The greatest part of the trip was the fun and interesting conversations I had along the way. We met people not only from Canada but from a few other countries including USA, England, New Zealand, and Australia. By the last two days, a new family had formed from among this melting pot with a matriarch, patriarch, five boys and an uncle everyone loved!

Meet my VIA Rail family:


Judy and Peter from Massachusetts (sorry Peter that I clicked while you were blinking)


Dave from Albany, New York and Joe from Connecticut


Colin from Ottawa, Ontario


Bryce from Ontario with Peter and Judy


Doug from Ontario (our “uncle”… He left us early in Rivers, but kept us laughing and listening to his stories until the moment they had to drag him off the train!)

More action shots of the “fam”.


Joe and Dave in the Park Car dome


Joe in Winnipeg


Joe taking pictures in the dome car (we were both shutter bugs)


Up in the dome car


Joe and Bryce


Judy, Colin, Peter and Joe


Peter, Joe, Dave and Bryce


Part of the extended family, Park Car attendant Deborah with Colin.


David (me) and Joe in Vancouver

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A few photos from Toronto to Winnipeg

Hello, We arrived in Winnipeg ten minutes late this morning, and will be here for four hours while VIA Rail services the train, a very important task in the freezing cold of Canada. The on board staff was able to start up the toilets in my sleeping car the morning after Toronto, and they’ve been working flawlessly ever since.

I’ll need to post some stories from on board, in the mean time, please enjoy some photos.

After boarding in Toronto, beds are made and ready for sleeping. There was a welcome aboard reception with champagne and appetizers in the Park car.

There are two Rocky Mountaineer cars between the two locomotives:

My room in a day time setup:

Evanglaline Park:

Arriving in Winnipeg:

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VIA Rail train 72 from Windsor to Toronto


VIA Rail Train 72 ready for departure from Windsor.

VIA Rail Train 72, corridor service from Windsor to Toronto was everything that the Amtrak Wolverine was not. The food service options for economy and business class were of a higher quality. The train interior had an attention to detail and color pallet that was worthy of a first class experience. The car attendants and operating crew members were friendly and helpful. The VIA Rail train ran five minutes late, the Amtrak train fifty-three minutes late.

Boarding began at 9:15 AM. There were about 20 passengers seated in Business Class departing Windsor. Prior to departure, the car attendant made his rounds to check with passengers seated near emergency exits that they were knowledgeable about how to open the windows in case of emergency. The car attendant approached me and asked that I learn how to operate the car exit doors. I appreciate how VIA Rail consistently demonstrates their commitment to passenger safety by ensuring that passengers are well informed about the safety features of the train for every departure. This is very different from Amtrak’s approach, which is to mention the safety instruction card on the PA every other departure.


A pair of Business Class seats


The Business Class car after all the passengers had departed

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