Questions about Via's Canadian

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Questions about Via's Canadian
Posted by GN_Fan on Saturday, February 15, 2020 2:47 AM
I’ve been taking coast-to-coast Amtrak trips from Boston to The PNW, but because of Airplane Anderson’s cuts on Amtrak, I’ve decided to live a decades-old dream of riding the Canadian.  So, I’m planning to take it from Toronto to Vancouver in early May but have several questions.  If I can swing it, I’d like to get a Prestige room for myself and my wife, and if things work out OK, we’ll be joined by another couple who will be staying in a cabin for two.  It’s obvious we’ll be in different cars and may have a different standing as far as access goes.  My questions are:

(1) It’s my understand that there will be two diners, and I’m assuming one is for coach and the other for sleepers.  The question my friend asked is whether we can eat together.  I think it’s a no brainer and we will be able to, so if I’m wrong, please clue me in.

(2) I’ve read somewhere that the Park car can, at times, be restricted to Prestige class only.  If that’s the case, can they join us as our guests?

(3)The train can be long…like 25-30 cars.  Everyone is in their 70’s and I just had knee replacement surgery and my wife has Parkinson’s, and both of us will have difficulty transiting a moving train.  Can anyone give me a clue how many cars it would be to the diner, more or less?  I need just a ballpark figure.  And related to that, if need-be, can we get the food delivered to our cabin like they do on Amtrak?  That is, if Amtrak has any edible food any more.

(4)Is there any physical difference between a cabin for 2 and a discounted cabin for 2?  I’m assuming it’s a pricing thing, but I may be wrong.

Any help here is appreciated and a big thank you in advance.
Tags: Canadian , VIA
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Posted by Deggesty on Saturday, February 15, 2020 8:13 AM

It has been several years since my wife and I traveled between Vancouver and Toronto, so the practices may have changed. Then, the first class cars were arranged in blocks as follows: three sleepers, a dome lounge, a diner, and three sleepers, and passengers in those six sleepers ate in the diner in the center. There were as many blocks as were needed. The Park car was one of the six in the last block.

A "cabin for two" for two is a "cabin for two," whether it is a bedroom or compartment, and there is no difference in pricing, even though a compartment is a little longer than a bedroom. 

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Posted by PJS1 on Saturday, February 15, 2020 9:57 AM

The most effective way to get your questions answered is to call VIA or send them a note with the questions.  They will respond, especially if you have booked your trip, and you can give them the booking number. 

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Posted by runnerdude48 on Monday, February 17, 2020 1:40 PM

For four people in their 70s and with mobility issues your best option is to fly.  For the price you are paying for a Prestige Class sleeper and a double bedroom you can buy four first class tickets on Air Canada.  Not only will you be more comfortable, you'll get there the same day you leave, have very good food and service, have a choice of flight times and not have to worry about arriving horribly late thereby taking up some of your vacation time.  And remember, in Prestige Class you'll have a double bed but in the double bedroom someone will have to sleep in the upper level bunk bed which is not easy to negotiate on a moving train.

Of course you will miss the scenery which is beautiful but, if that is emportant, fly to Calgary or Edmonton and rent a full size car and drive to Vancouver.  You'll have the freedom to stop where you want for as long as you want and enjoy the outdoors.  A couple of days in Banff, Lake Louise and/or Jasper can be a wonderful addition to you trip.  Plus you can put your car on a ferry and visit Victoria which is a wonderful city.  Harder to do without  car but I believe there is a bus option.

If driving isn't your thing then look into Rocky Mountaineer. It isn't for the "feint of wallet" but if you are considering a Prestige Class bedroom then money must not be an object.  Same great scenery but you don't take the chance of missing it because of lateness and passing through in the dead of night.  Plus you sleep in a hotel bed and take a shower that aren't moving although you can probably do that on The Canadian while sitting on a siding for 9 hours somewhere east of Winnipeg as has happened to some friends of mine awhile back.

I have taken both the Canadian and Super Continental back in the mid-70s prior to Via.  They were great trips but as I get older I find overnight train travel is not as comfortable as it once was and enjoy the ease, comfort and convenience of first class air travel instead.  But in any event, enjoy your trip using whatever means of transportation you use.

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Posted by GN_Fan on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 3:44 PM
Runnerdude48 –
 
My situation is probably a lot different than you envision as there is more to the story than just money, time, or convenience.  My concern was that if it’s 17 cars to the diner and 17 cars back, that might be somewhat of an issue when traveling at speed.  My wife and I are expats that are retired in Italy, and have been for the past 15 years.  Neither of us drive anymore since public transport here is very good, so neither of us even have a driver’s license…they expired more than a decade ago, besides driving is a chore and no fun at all. 
 
Flying is even worse, as you have to endure cramped seats, poor food, no elbow room, no scenery, and the blasted security checks.  Neither is any kind of an option we would even consider.  The Canadian has been a decades long dream of mine, kinda like taking the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which is considerably shorter…unless you travel to Istanbul.   And ya, we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Venice, so hopping on the Orient Express to London is an easy trip, but where is the rest of my family?  Not anywhere close, not even in the same hemisphere.
 
We have relatives on both American coasts…in Maine and in California.  We’ve been flying trans-Atlantic to Boston, spending time in Maine, then taking Amtrak directly to Frisco or to Frisco via Seattle.  That worked great until Airplane Anderson cut the food out and replaced it with rubber chicken and a plastic box, then sold off the Pacific Parlour cars that served a wonderful slow-cooked, bone-in leg of lamb.  That’s all gone….so Canada here we come.  And ya, I travel upper bunk…cramped but not a biggie.  The flight from Frisco going home is a 24 hour door-to-door ordeal….Frisco, Munich, Trieste, and I don’t want to do it twice…once is enough.  We fly Lufthansa, cramped seats and all, and it’s still 20 times better than United, which is the absolute pits.  NEVER AGAIN.  Lufthansa’s food is better than average, but no cigar.  Elbow room is ZERO.
 
It’s nice that you got to travel the Canadian and the Super Continental back in the day.  Back then, I took many round trips on the North Coast Ltd between Missoula, MT and Chicago…mostly by coach, and a slumbercoach if I could.  Many miles on the Mainstreeter too.  I traveled the Builder and Western Star back in the GN days, the Century from Chicago to New York, and on Illinois Central…the City of New Orleans, The Seminole, The Ilini, the City of Miami, and even the Southern Express.  There also was some un-named train between Dothan and Montgomery, Ala on the L&N.  Of all the travel I’ve done, by car, bus, train, and ship, the train beats everything by a long shot.  And ya, I’ve taken a ship from Venice to Athens, and it wasn’t much fun….froze to death in July and couldn’t shut off the air.  It was 95 or so in Venice, 110 in Athens, and 40 below in our room…my wife got sick over it.  So even if I’m going on 77, around the world travel is not a biggie, just inconvenient as hell and REALLY long.  Going thru multiple passport controls, security screenings,  and luggage inspections is bad enough, so I want to make the trip as pleasant as possible.  As one wag opined  “It’s better to have a pleasant journey than to just arrive.”
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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 7:09 PM

GN_Fan
That worked great until Airplane Anderson cut the food out and replaced it with rubber chicken and a plastic box, then sold off the Pacific Parlour cars that served a wonderful slow-cooked, bone-in leg of lamb.  That’s all gone

 

Not to argue a point, but Anderson only did what Congress directed him to do.  Congress was the entity that demanded that the food service, by the end of 2020, could not lose money.  There was no way a full-service dining car could break even without charging $40 for a hot dog.

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 8:48 PM

York1
Not to argue a point, but Anderson only did what Congress directed him to do.  Congress was the entity that demanded that the food service, by the end of 2020, could not lose money. 

So what's Congress going to do if the food service still loses money?

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 8:51 PM

GN Fan, unless VIA has made a major change in how the cars are coupled, you have to go through no more than three cars to reach a diner, with each diner serving the passengers in no more than six sleepers, with three on one side and a dome lounge and three on the other side. If you have accommodations in the Park car, you would go through three cars.

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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 9:04 PM

MidlandMike
So what's Congress going to do if the food service still loses money?

Probably nothing.  My point is that Anderson was hired to do something that is mandated by Congress.

People blame him and write letters to him.

They should be writing their Congressmen instead.

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Posted by PJS1 on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 10:45 PM
According to the FY20-FY25 Service Line Plan, Amtrak expects to reduce its direct contribution food and beverage losses from $54.7 million in FY20 to $42.8 million in FY25. 
 
By FY25 the company plans to recover 80 percent of the cost of its food and beverage offerings before state contributions.  After state contributions it expects the recovery factor to be 88 percent. 
 
The company proposes to zero out the food and beverage losses and breakeven with undefined cost management and revenue generative initiatives along with ticket revenue allocations. Sounds like there is some smoke and mirrors in management’s plans.
 
According to several prior IG reports, approximately 90 percent of Amtrak’s loss on food and beverages is attributable to the long-distance trains.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 10:52 PM

What part of The Canadian's route is on Amtrak?

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Posted by NKP guy on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 8:04 AM

York1
They should be writing their Congressmen instead.

A fat lot of good that would do.

Congresssmen don't care at all about how Amtrak runs its trains.

At least when people vent about trains in this forum they might get an intelligent response from someone who knows something about the topic.

Ever write your Congressman and receive, weeks later, a form letter that barely addresses the subject you wrote about?  

And why is it out of the question for Anderson to inform Congress that their mandate to make dining cars profit centers for Amtrak is simply not achieveable or desirable without jeopardizing Congress' mandate to operate a national passenger rail system?

 

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Posted by PJS1 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 8:18 AM

BaltACD
 What part of The Canadian's route is on Amtrak? 

The Amtrak data is in response to Midland Mikes comment, "So what's Congress going to do if the food service still loses money?"

It in turn was a response to Anderson's role in fixing the food and beverage problem at Amtrak.  

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:57 AM

NKP guy
Congresssmen don't care at all about how Amtrak runs its trains.

Because depending on your letter and clarity they presume the same of you.   

Far better to target a Congress person on the specific subcommittee of transportation that has staff that meets with Amtrak regularly.    Even better still find the Amtrak State person in your state that monitors the Amtrak contracts and works with Amtrak on corridor improvements.   Can tell you from personal experience not all of them know as much as the readers of this Forum about Amtraks past failures or past internal politics and they would benefit from some outside input.    Best method of communication is to pick up the phone and call and you usually will be put in touch with a member of the Congress members staff that actually attends Amtrak Executive meetings and can take your issue to a specific Amtrak Executive as well as communicate their response back to you.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 11:14 AM

NKP guy
Congresssmen don't care at all about how Amtrak runs its trains.

Tell that to the lady who represents the five people that wanted to use their Hoverounds on Amtrak earlier this year.  She has a decidedly different opinion, and since she is actually in Congress I think it deserves more weight than yours.

And why is it out of the question for Anderson to inform Congress that their mandate to make dining cars profit centers for Amtrak is simply not achieveable or desirable without jeopardizing Congress' mandate to operate a national passenger rail system?

You seem to assume "Congress" is monolithic and rational, and that it really cares that its 'mandate to stop losses' specifically relates to food service, as opposed to pinching some pennies from relatively unpopular line-items that might be used for more "nationally-important" programs or priorities.

In addition, there are often poor consequences for agency line and staff personnel who 'talk back' to Congresspeople or tell them stuff they'd rather not hear.  I don't know if Wick Moorman's apparently sudden decline in favor involved any frank discussions with politicians, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised.  

Anderson, in my opinion, is doing something very clever -- he is finding relatively high-profile Scrooge-like things that the mandate implicitly calls for, like cancelling toys for tots, restricting access by private-car owners, and the various forms of cutting back food services ... and then sitting back to await the groundswell of pressure and influence of various sorts on Congress to do something about it.  This is really the only way the mandate will ... or even could ... be adapted over time to address any problem that can't be made 'self-supporting' by deadline time.

I'll grant you that writing or e-mailing a representative's office, especially with some form letter or diatribe, is highly unlikely to produce the 'intended' response.  There are other ways to communicate, however, including via the press, or through other connections (including, not being cynical, contributions or 'party' participation).  I am watching with some interest to see where the mandate goes as it comes time to be 'realized' ... will it be extended 'after the manner of PTC'? will parts of it be quietly excused or dropped? will definitions be revised or 'bent' so that some costs of food service, for example the strict union commissary system, get bundled in with other costs to appear less directly loss-producing?  I think it also pays to keep tracking 'official' responses to Anderson's detail provocations to see which ones are 'accepted' and which are challenged.

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 12:22 PM

Overmod
Anderson, in my opinion, is doing something very clever -- he is finding relatively high-profile Scrooge-like things that the mandate implicitly calls for, like cancelling toys for tots, restricting access by private-car owners, and the various forms of cutting back food services ... and then sitting back to await the groundswell of pressure and influence of various sorts on Congress to do something about it. 

 

Overmod, I agree.  For 50 years, outside of the Northeast, very little was accomplished with Amtrak.

My opinion is that in 15-20 years, the U.S. may look back on Anderson as being responsible for finally moving Amtrak forward.

Of course, I might be wrong, and the U.S. may look back on Anderson as the one who killed long distance train service.  However, I don't think so.

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 1:36 PM

PJS1
 
BaltACD
 What part of The Canadian's route is on Amtrak?  

The Amtrak data is in response to Midland Mikes comment, "So what's Congress going to do if the food service still loses money?"

It in turn was a response to Anderson's role in fixing the food and beverage problem at Amtrak.  

Which still begs the question since Congress has no say about VIA or the operation of the Canadian.  Congress and Anderson will never fix anything on The Canadian (and I doubt they will fix anything on Amtrak).

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Posted by GN_Fan on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:09 PM

York1

 It makes no difference to me whether it's Anderson who cut the food or Congress.  The fact is that I refuse to spend big bucks to eat out of a shoe box.  If Congress wants that, so be it, but I'm not going to have any part of it.  It's akin to staying a night or two at the Hilton, and not having any hot water.  And ya, it's happened to me, and I've never stayed at another Hilton.  There's too many alternatives.  In this case, I'll go via Canada.  The hell with Anderson or Congress.

 
GN_Fan
That worked great until Airplane Anderson cut the food out and replaced it with rubber chicken and a plastic box, then sold off the Pacific Parlour cars that served a wonderful slow-cooked, bone-in leg of lamb.  That’s all gone

 

 

Not to argue a point, but Anderson only did what Congress directed him to do.  Congress was the entity that demanded that the food service, by the end of 2020, could not lose money.  There was no way a full-service dining car could break even without charging $40 for a hot dog.

 

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:33 PM

GN Fan: SFO to Trieste via Munich is less than 24 hours.

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Posted by n012944 on Thursday, February 20, 2020 11:14 AM

NKP guy

 

 
York1
They should be writing their Congressmen instead.

 

A fat lot of good that would do.

Congresssmen don't care at all about how Amtrak runs its trains.

At least when people vent about trains in this forum they might get an intelligent response from someone who knows something about the topic.

Ever write your Congressman and receive, weeks later, a form letter that barely addresses the subject you wrote about?  

And why is it out of the question for Anderson to inform Congress that their mandate to make dining cars profit centers for Amtrak is simply not achieveable or desirable without jeopardizing Congress' mandate to operate a national passenger rail system?

 

 

 

If Congress didn't care about how Amtrak runs its trains, why did they bother to pass a mandate about dining not losing money?

 

By the way, Congress did not pass a mandate that dining cars must be "profit centers", just eliminate all finacial losses on dining carservice by the end of 2020. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, February 20, 2020 12:48 PM

n012944

 

 
NKP guy

 

 
York1
They should be writing their Congressmen instead.

 

A fat lot of good that would do.

Congresssmen don't care at all about how Amtrak runs its trains.

At least when people vent about trains in this forum they might get an intelligent response from someone who knows something about the topic.

Ever write your Congressman and receive, weeks later, a form letter that barely addresses the subject you wrote about?  

And why is it out of the question for Anderson to inform Congress that their mandate to make dining cars profit centers for Amtrak is simply not achieveable or desirable without jeopardizing Congress' mandate to operate a national passenger rail system?

 

 

 

 

 

If Congress didn't care about how Amtrak runs its trains, why did they bother to pass a mandate about dining not losing money?

 

By the way, Congress did not pass a mandate that dining cars must be "profit centers", just eliminate all finacial losses on dining carservice by the end of 2020. 

 

I'm glad to see you corrected that error. Breaking even on above rail costs of dining car service is possible with modern prep and correct menu charges. Of course some on here expect the equivalent of fine dining on the cheap, i.e. subsidized by taxpayers.

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:20 PM

One of the quotes above is mistakenly under my name.

 

The food service issue seems to be one of the hot issues.  Over the past months, I have read comments that indicate some people would be happy with the dirty bathrooms, unpredicable schedules, and poorly supervised personnel, as long as they get a dining car.

 

GN_Fan
That worked great until Airplane Anderson cut the food out and replaced it with rubber chicken and a plastic box, then sold off the Pacific Parlour cars that served a wonderful slow-cooked, bone-in leg of lamb.  That’s all gone….so Canada here we come. 

 

From Amtrak's beginning, it seems we have tried to run a passenger system with 1950s (1950s' ?) thinking.

I don't have insight on whether or not Anderson is the right man for the job, but at least we are getting some new ideas on needed changes.

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Posted by AMTRAKKER on Friday, February 21, 2020 2:20 PM

My wife and I rode Number 1 just last June. 

If the consist makeup has not changed, if you do buy Prestige, their should be a diner placed against the prestige cars, so just a question of how many prestige cars there are and which you end up in. No more than a 2-3 car walk most likely.

 

No difference in the cabins, tell them to go for the discounted fare. Also, if they call Via they can ask to be placed in a car in the rear of the train, close to the prestige cars, might make it easier for you to meet up, and everyone would be assigned to the same diner. 

The park car is restricted at times, but if you do buy prestige, I would bet there would not be a problem with them joining you. 

Have a nice ride, and hope to hear a trip report afterwards! 

 

 

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Posted by Warren J on Friday, February 21, 2020 6:04 PM

I HAVE RIDDEN ONBOARD VIA'S PRESTIGE CLASS.  Let me explain how Prestige Class works, train-wise:

There are only two modified Chateau-style Prestige sleepers per train.  The Park observation car is at the very rear while the dining car bookends the two cars.  Beyond this dining car are the Sleeper Plus accommodation-cars.  There is another dining car for Sleeper Plus travelers further to the train's front as there may be several more Sleeper Plus cars, depending upon seasonal demand.  After Sleeper Plus are Economy car(s), again depending upon seasonal demand.

Go to VIA Rail's website for information on railcar configurations, etc..  For me, it was a trip that I have well documented for those days when I will be resigned to a rocking chair, only to gaze on the images and narratives I had written of times earlier in my now-68 years.  WOW!!!

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Posted by GN_Fan on Monday, February 24, 2020 9:36 AM

Charlie Hebdo -- umm, it's a close to 24 hours as I care to count.  I'm going "door to door" which includes an hour to SFO, 2 hours to check in, 12 flying hours to Munich, 6 hours to go thru passport control and endure a long layover in Munich, 1 flying hour to Trieste, an hour to deplane, pick up luggage, and go thru customs, than another hour from the airport to home.  I could cut 30 minutes off the last leg by taking a taxi for 60 €, rather than a 3 € bus, but it still is 22.5 to 23 hours door to door.  For me, that's close enough to 24 hours to call it a day.  Besides, there's 9 hours in time zone differences between the two endpoints.  I'm beat when I get home.

[/quote]

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, February 24, 2020 5:09 PM

Try the Lufthansa 2:35pm flight via Munich.  14 hours to Trieste. 

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Posted by GN_Fan on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 5:47 AM

charlie hebdo

Try the Lufthansa 2:35pm flight via Munich.  14 hours to Trieste. 

 

We normally fly that airline because of the superior (for airlines) service, and at a cursory glance, your suggestion appears to be an excellent one.  I do not remember this routing being there in the past, as usually we travel overnight because of the convenience of the dep-arr times.  They have changed the format of their website, so I do not know how tight a layover there is in Munich.  On previous trips, the gates were miles apart, and with me being with 2 hips replaced, and now a knee replacement, my creeking walk relegates us to the old people transport system....the shuttle carts.  It's kinda nice because it's fast and we breeze thru passport control pretty fast, routed via the diplomats and disabled lanes. 

As for the door-to-door timing, it's still going to be 18 hours, which is a lot better than 24.  Thanks a LOT.  And for what it's worth (probably not much), the plane departs at 13:35 which is 1:35 PM.  It took me years to get used to the 24 hour clock.  I always had to do a mental calculation, now after a decade and a half, it's kinda automatic now and I don't have to think about it much.  It's kinda like eating beef. In the US we ate lots of it, and here their beef sucks.  My wife got me into seafood 50 years ago, and now that we live here, I eat beef maybe once every few years, but fish and shellfish goes down my throat twice or so a week.  But, there is a BIG difference between the preparation of the stuff here VS the US, and that's probably why Americans don't like fish much...they cannot cook it so so tastes good.  Crawfish etoufee and Cajun fried catfish in Louisiana are two exceptions, as is Maine lobster in Maine and Alaskan crab legs wherever you can find it....Seattle and Frisco come to mind.  So ya, thaks again for the heads-up on the flight.

 

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Posted by York1 on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 8:58 AM

GN Fan, are you planning this trip for anytime soon?  Will the virus affect the plans?

John       

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Posted by blair on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 10:12 AM

I have ridden The Canadian many times.  

1.  You should have no problem eating together.  I would suggest booking immediately and book both at the same time and ask to be in nearby cars. Check in together at the station and ask to eat together.

2.  I believe early May is before high season.  That being the case all sleeping car passengers will have access to the Park car dome.

3.  You should be no more than about 4 cars from the dining car.  Prestige is immediately forward of the Park car.  You certainly may have food brought to you cheerfully.  The food is excellent.

4.  Cabin for two and discounted cabin for two are identical.  The difference is price largely based on when you book.  If you can get bedroom F it is actually a compartment and thus somewhat larger that the others in the same car.

Hope that is helpful to you.

 

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Posted by Jim Mixter on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 1:52 PM

If you are traveling in the summer,  it may be that the Park Car is for Prestige passengers only. In the off-season, they ask that the front row of the dome be reserved for Prestige, but if the seats are empty, use them, just be ready to let a Prestige patron have your seat.

Most coach passengers eat in the forward Skyline dome car, which serves less expensive meals than the dining cars.  If you want to be sure to sit with your friends, get seating assignments for the same time in the same dining car.  Before boarding (Vancouver or Toronto), be on the lookout in the sleeper patron lounge area for the service manager who will be making seating assignments.  And, for those wanting the largest cabin for two, book by phone rather than online, and ask for Room F, which is about 18 inches bigger than the others.  Have a great trip!!

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