Aboard The Canadian.
VIA Rail Train #1’s consist is two locomotives, a baggage car, one coach, a lounge/cafe car with a dome for the coach passengers, a dining car for sleeping car passengers, four standard sleepers, one Prestige class sleeper and, finally, the traditional bullet-ended Park car bringing up the rear and in which the bedrooms have been converted into Prestige class accommodations.
But here’s the thing: At the end of this month, access to the Park Car will be limited to Prestige Class passengers only. Furthermore, even on this train the first two rows of seats up in the Park car’s dome have hand-written signs duct-taped on them saying “Reserved for Prestige Class”. Granted, Prestige Class passengers are paying several times what the rest of us are for our accommodations, but I went up into the dome this afternoon and there was no one sitting in the first two rows, while the rest of the seats in the dome were all taken.
Even with the 10% discount I got for being a NARP member, my fare for the one-person roomette came to more than $1100, and next month that won’t be good enough to let me sit in the Park car? In fairness, once in the busy season and with more than 20 cars in the consist, passengers in ordinary sleeping car accommodations will be able to use a dome/lounge car toward the middle of the train, but not the classic Park car at the rear of the consist.
I haven’t heard any serious grumbling about the reserved seats up in the dome and my guess is that few if any of the passengers are aware that they will not be permitted to use the Park Car on future trips, but I really do think this is an ill-conceived move.
That aside, it’s been a very good trip and, as in the past, the dining car food is really excellent. The featured entree tonight was a very generous slab of perfectly prepared prime rib. I was seated tonight with a garrulous old guy from New York who rambled on at length about tediously ordinary events in his family lore–among the fascinating tidbits: his late wife would never eat broccoli. I finally excused myself after he proudly informed us that he was 73 years old and had never once voted in any election because “they’re all just a bunch of politicians.” The problem, in a nutshell, is that We get what HE deserves.
I’m writing this at 9:00 p.m. on our second full day. We’re about 90 minutes behind schedule at the moment, caused by being shunted off onto sidings four or five times during the day to allow long freights to rumble by.
With any luck at all, I will post this tomorrow morning. We’re due into Winnipeg around 8:00 a.m. and there will be access to the internet in the station there.
Jim, It is disturbing to hear that the Park car will be reserved for the prestige passengers. I thought I had read in an article a year or two back that that would not be the case. Question – will it just be reserved during the busy summer season or all year round? I’ve been thinking of taking another trip on The Canadian next winter, but it would be a show stopper for me if I couldn’t use the Park car at all.
Unofficial sources now say that VIA is reconsidering that plan. I do know for sure that the on board crews would be very happy if that is indeed the case. They were not looking forward to policing that system.
Certainly the Canadian is one train I do want to experience someday.
If you were describing the consist from front to back it sounds like the sleepers were toward the rear of the train.
Seems like I’ve been on Amtrak trains where the sleepers have sometimes been toward the front and others where they been one the rear.
I don’t recall a discussion about which position in the consist is the preferred location of the sleeper car for most travelers (in cases where I’ve been toward the front, I’ve found the train whistle a bit annoying for sound sleeping).
It would be interesting to get opinions from you and other experienced train travelers.
I’m also curious if some municipalities ask for (or mandate) quiet hours at night in some areas within their borders.
Yes, sleepers are toward the rear, but there was only one coach on this particular train.
You are right. Sometimes sleepers are at the front, other times at the rear. It depends on several factors, usually whether or not Amtrak has the tim or the easy facilities to “turn” the train at any given terminus.
Yes, the whistle is annoying when you’re trying to sleep. But a lot depends on the route … that is, on how many grade crossings there are.
Yes, Amtrak does indeed reduce the volume of the whistles when passing through some towns in the wee hours.