Tuesday 1 August 2023

Short Report - April becomes May on VIA 14

Rainy day in Moncton. Good time to be on board, but not great for a platform visit!

I've got to be honest - I'm not super great at this whole "blogging" thing. Well, at least in terms of keeping up with a reliable or even semi-frequent posting schedule. That said, I never really set out to try to make this into that kind of blog; it was really just a convenient way to post some trip reports in a full-featured, easy to follow, and generally accessible format. 

I do have a couple of posts I've been meaning to get done for a while, but time always seems to get the better of me. I still want to get one of those done for sure, but you'll have to wait and keep guessing at it for a little while longer (though who knows, maybe this quick write-up will get the creative juices flowing again!)

I did make one trip back at the end of April that I haven't yet written up, so in the interest of not losing another piece of travel history to memory, I've decided to throw it out here in my most bare-bones report yet. Just the facts, ma'am. 

"April becomes May on VIA 14"

That's a very fancy way of saying "I was on VIA train 14 on April 30 to May 1". 

This trip started from Ottawa, as many of these do. Travel in the other direction was with Porter, and was perfectly alright with nothing to note - aside from getting an unexpected move to an unoccupied seat row, which was quite nice. I still haven't had a chance to try their new E2 service, and will be sure to mention that in more detail when I eventually do. For the moment, a few comments on the bus trip and flight in the following photo captions.

Halifax Transit's Route 320 serves the airport (seen here at the Dartmouth Bridge Terminal), using a subgroup of Nova LFS buses modified with small luggage racks inside. These originally wore the standard Metro X livery, but were redecorated a few years ago to this special and eye-catching "Airport Express" scheme. At some point, fares for this service are expected to increase; but for now, it's $4.25, or the use of a bus ticket or pass plus $1.50. 

One thing I didn't realize until I boarded was that the new exterior livery is accompanied by a new interior, with this really eye-catching ceiling decor. Very sharp! The overhead luggage racks can be seen ahead.

My Porter flight for the way up, boarding from the tarmac. I always enjoy getting to board via the stairs, though it's not great when the weather is foul. 

Porter Q400 interior. These are the new slimline seats that were installed during the Covid shutdown. They allowed Porter to fit in an extra row of seats, and they're not nearly as comfortable as the old ones; but still marginally better than some other Q400s (looking at you, WestJet...)

One thing Porter still has going for them is their onboard service. Complimentary coffee and a snack on this early morning flight, adds to a perfectly pleasant 2 hour trip. Didn't hurt that I was relocated to an empty seat pair on boarding.

After a few days in Ottawa, I boarded VIA 26, the early connection for the Ocean. Partial consist:

VIA 26 - April 30, 2023


Ottawa station.

Boarding in Ottawa, from one of the standard low platforms.

This was a very smooth run, and we were early for pretty well the whole 2h trip to Montreal. Just before arrival, an announcement was made that there was an equipment issue, and the train was going to be replaced for the continued trip on to Quebec. Passengers going through could normally stay on the train, but instead they would have to get off in Montreal and be moved over. The ongoing train was another identical LRC set (so no pleasant "new Venture equipment surprise" for those passengers). 

LRC Business class.

LRC Business class. This will be a thing of the past in a few years time, as the new Venture fleet comes online. Those trains feature a very similar layout, but feel quite different inside. 

Business class lunch service; cold salmon plate.

Coffee and dessert after lunch.

Ragged looking CN GP's at Coteau.

Dorval VIA station. VIA, VIA, VIA, VIA...

During the layover in Montreal, I stored my bag at the station and decided to take a walk down to the relatively new railfan park at Pointe St. Charles (whether its strictly intended to be for railfans, I don't know, but it sure fits the bill). This is a rather nice little park that overlooks the Exo (formerly AMT) maintenance centre, the CN yard, and the approaches to Central station. It also shows off the new REM automated rapid transit system, which just opened its first section to the public at the end of last week. 

Here are a few photos from that vantage point, on an unfortunately drab end-of-April day.

REM trains testing, viewed on the walk to PSC.

EXO (former AMT) trains in their yard, with new equipment for VIA 26 and the consist for VIA 14 in the background, both set to deadhead to Central station. The Exo single level Comet cars on the left were recently retired, and their fate is unknown. One of the brand new CRRC bilevels can just be seen on the far right, tucked behind an older Bombardier car. 

VIA 14's equipment backs to the station, with the units smoking as they push up grade. 

VIA 64 arrives from Toronto, with a wrapped P42 and a pair of LRC clubs up front. The second car looks like it had some work done, judging by the darker grey patches along the side.

I also took a short video showing VIA 64 arriving from Toronto, and the consist for my VIA 14 deadheading back to the station ahead of departure. Amidst all this, REM trains were clipping back and forth on regular intervals, testing ahead of the service launch. Apologies in advance for the excess wind noise - I was shooting this on my phone and didn't expect there to be that much of an issue. Still, I thought it was an interesting little video clip to include. 

Entrance to VIA's Montreal Maintenance Centre, not far from the PSC observation area. You can't see much inside here, but the view from the new REM line appears to be excellent. 

After this little diversion, I headed back to the station in time to check in for #14. A short wait around the station, then boarding . Supper options at check-in were 7:15 or 8:45, and I opted for the late option as usual. 

VIA 14 - April 30, 2023

6424 Forward
6418 Backward
7003 Renaissance Baggage
70230 Ren Accessible Coach (not in service)
7512 Ren Sleeper (39)
7518 Ren Sleeper (38)
7506 Ren Sleeper (37)
79501 Ren Accessible Sleeper (30)
7313 Ren Service Car
7401 Ren Diner 
7303 Ren Service Car 
7227 Ren Coach
7602 Ren Transition 
8129 HEP1 Coach 
8219 Chateau Montcalm (40) (forward) (Roomette 08)
8212 Chateau Latour (crew)
8203 Chateau Brûlé (not in service)
8609 HEP1 Baggage 

Departures board in Montreal.

Chateau Montcalm, ready for boarding!

The consist was as-usual for the current train service. Both sets had recently been expanded up to 3 Chateaus in advance of the peak season, but only one was in service on this trip. The gate was up throughout the trip at the rear of Chateau Montcalm, a clear sign to passengers not to go any further. The next car was being used as a crew dorm, as usual. 

I must admit that this trip started in somewhat uncanny territory. I was in the same sleeper (though a different roomette) as I had been on my disastrous Christmas trip. We had the same SM, and much of the same crew. Uh oh... but this trip went much more smoothly, and I made a point of staying up late to watch us pass the spot in Riviere-du-Loup where that last train terminated a few months earlier!

We departed on time, and ran early through the evening, but were 45 minutes behind the next morning. 

Dinner menu. A new menu was launched about a week after this trip, so the current options will have been updated. 

Menu cover, an always odd composite. The Ren cars look the same height as the Skyline, which is somehow smashed up directly against a Ren sleeper (which couldn't happen without a transition car). It's also not clear where this is meant to be...


Main course. Dessert was carrot cake, not shown.

Stop at Ste-Foy, QC.

Breakfast menu.

Breakfast menu options.


Rainy morning views along the Baie des Chaleurs.

Roomette overview from bed. My favourite cozy spot on the train.

There were no stops at Charlo, Jacquet River, or Rogersville on this trip. Made it to Moncton, by now in pouring rain, and departed at 2:32pm.

Rainy stop at Moncton.

Lunch was offered at 12, 1:30, or 3pm. Having had a late breakfast and not feeling that hungry, I opted for the last sitting. Only half of the diner was set, and there were only 4 passengers. 

Lunch menu.

Ren dining car, set for lunch.

Clam chowder.

Chicken shish taouk

Meeting CN 507 at Evans, before Sackville NB. Decently well timed meet.

Dessert heading across the Tantramar marsh.

We did make stops at Sackville and Amherst, but not at Springhill Jct. Ultimately, we would arrive in Halifax around 7pm, a bit over an hour late. 

Halifax, after a very wet walk down the platform.

Aside from the photo observations above, there's not a whole lot more to say about this trip. It was pretty much on par for the usual Ocean experience these days, and I did meet some nice people (including discovering an incredibly coincidental family connection with the person in the roomette across the hall from me). It was nice to actually make it all the way to Halifax smoothly, and after the last trip became one I'll never forget, it was really nice to have one that felt a bit more run-of-the-mill. Which is not to say it wasn't enjoyable, because it certainly was! A shout-out to my sleeper attendant Noah, who did a superb job and helped make this a very pleasant trip. 

On a side note, YouTuber Travis Ridgen, a frequent traveller on The Canadian, recently posted a video about his experience on the Ocean. He's a little more critical of the food and some elements of things, but of course his point of reference is his frequent experience on The Canadian, and of course there's no contest between the two trains! It's always neat to see someone else's experience and thoughts on this train, so the video is worth checking out. It also includes a number of video clips of mine, and I'm happy to see those contribute to a rather nicely assembled production. 


Ok, I'll leave it at that for now. I hope this was still of interest, even as a rather brief report. I'll hopefully be back soon with something a little more unusual and interesting!

Closing with a more summery look! On one of the extremely rare sunny days from this summer, VIA 15 clips along through Shubenacadie NS, July 16, 2023. About a week later, historic rainfalls would cause a major washout near Truro (at CN Hyde, near Millbrook), and cause the Ocean to operate between Montreal and Moncton for three trips in a row. Thankfully, it took only a week for CN to repair the washout, and some more sun has finally followed!

1 comment:

  1. Always good to read about (and see) the Ocean! Thanks for the trip report :)