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Restructuring Canadian Rail Service with existing equipment pools

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Seaboard92

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A year ago I was bored at work and I was trying to stay awake on a long shift so I started a project redesigning the entire Canadian rail network. In that I have managed to get a far better utilization rate than what VIA has especially on the Chateau Fleet. I have also managed to grow service and add service over the CP Route across Canada. So please take a look at my proposal.

I did fail at using the entire fleet because I am short one dining car, and three baggage cars. That being said I know a place where VIA could buy those. But to recap the service gains and reductions I'll type them here.

Long Distance Service Gains
-Skeena extended from Jasper, AB-Edmonton, AB as there should be time in its schedule to make it to Edmonton.
-6X Weekly service between Vancouver and Kamloops
-3X Weekly service between Kamloops and Calgary
-2X Weekly service between Calgary and Toronto via Winnipeg
-3X Weekly Service up from 2X between Toronto and Winnipeg on the CN routing
-Daily Service between Sudbury-Toronto
-6X Weekly Service between Montreal-Matapedia
-3X Weekly Service to Gaspe

Corridor Service Gains
-3X Daily service between Calgary and Edmonton
-Daily Palmetto Style Day Train Calgary-Winnipeg
-Daily Palmetto Style Day Train Edmonton-Winnipeg
-Daily Service Thunder Bay-Winnipeg
-3X Daily Service Halifax-St. Johns, NB (also includes the Ocean Moncton-Halifax)

Unchanged Service
-3X Weekly Service Vancouver-Edmonton
-2X Weekly Service Edmonton-Winnipeg
-Hudson Bay Service
-Quebec Rural Trains
-Ontario RDC Service
-3X Weekly Matapedia -Halifax

Service Reductions
-Loss of four Sleeping Car Lines on CN Vancouver-Winnipeg
-Loss of Prestige Service over the entire CN mainline
-Loss of seven Sleeping Car Lines on CN Toronto-Winnipeg
-Forced Connection at Winnipeg on trains on the CN Mainline
-Loss of Baggage Service on the Corridor

Room for Improvement
-Improved time keeping and track speed on the CN route could result in 3X weekly service between Vancouver and Winnipeg via CN
-Improved Run Time on CP between all points can result in 2 Sets operating Vancouver-Toronto, and one short turning Vancouver-Winnipeg instead of Calgary

Note I only worked with the HEP1 and HEP2 Fleets. If I would take some of the LRC fleet these are some other places I would attempt growth.

-Prince Albert-Regina via Saskatoon
-Saskatoon-Calgary
-Winnipeg-St. Paul, MN
-Vancouver-Whistler
-Toronto-Chicago, IL
-Quebec City-Moncton Day Train

Of course some other things need to change and that is mostly CN time keeping on their mainline from Winnipeg to just west of Jasper. I don't think CP is as capacity constrained and could probably get passengers out and over the road reasonably close to schedule.

I look forward to hearing everyones opinions and feedback.
 

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Urban Sky

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Thank you for sharing this interesting and detailed proposal! My apologies in advance for asking this, but what exactly is the problem you are trying to fix? This proposal might be good at what it’s aiming to do, but it’s difficult to tell if you don’t know its objectives...
 
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Willbridge

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Well, we were ready for Edmonton - Winnipeg "daylight" service with the LRC's when they were being delivered and somehow that's been overlooked by the Powers That Be.

It's hard to even talk about it now, but in the 1970's the Skeena was extended to Edmonton during peak travel periods because the capacity was needed. That happened again during the brief life of the Band-Aid Panorama (Winnipeg<>Melville<>Saskatoon<>Edmonton<>Prince Rupert). There is a European tourist market that would fly into Edmonton and ride the Skeena if it was not chopped into little pieces as it is now. Of course they'd have to find the station in Edmonton.

By the time I moved away there were people talking about provincial funding for Edmonton<>Calgary<>Lethbridge<>Shelby but the political people weren't ready for the message that would send.
 

Seaboard92

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Thank you for sharing this interesting and detailed proposal! My apologies in advance for asking this, but what exactly is the problem you are trying to fix? This proposal might be good at what it’s aiming to do, but it’s difficult to tell if you don’t know its objectives...
My objective is the fact that the Canadian passenger rail network avoids a significant amount of towns, and provides an abysmal level of service where it does.

Take the fact that Calgary, Regina, Thunder Bay, and Moose Jaw lack any passenger rail service of any kind. Then look at the Canadian east of Edmonton it only runs two times a day. I was able to upgrade the section to having a daily train as well as the twice weekly service to Winnipeg. Now if I could speed the timetable up over the CN I might be able to extend three times weekly Vancouver-Winnipeg service in addition to the daily corridor style train.

The only section of the network that has less than daily in this proposal is Thunder Bay-White River, ON, Jasper, AB-Kamloops, BC, Calgary, AB-Kamloops, BC, and the two Atlantic trains east of Matapedia, QC.

Well, we were ready for Edmonton - Winnipeg "daylight" service with the LRC's when they were being delivered and somehow that's been overlooked by the Powers That Be.

It's hard to even talk about it now, but in the 1970's the Skeena was extended to Edmonton during peak travel periods because the capacity was needed. That happened again during the brief life of the Band-Aid Panorama (Winnipeg<>Melville<>Saskatoon<>Edmonton<>Prince Rupert). There is a European tourist market that would fly into Edmonton and ride the Skeena if it was not chopped into little pieces as it is now. Of course they'd have to find the station in Edmonton.

By the time I moved away there were people talking about provincial funding for Edmonton<>Calgary<>Lethbridge<>Shelby but the political people weren't ready for the message that would send.
I actually forgot about Lethbridge. I would definitely want to extend that corridor south to that. I think you could pull some ridership if the times were right. And you are absolutely right the Skeena would be a far more popular train if it was extended into Edmonton. Now for that CN would have to be better at dispatching that segment, but with them working on adding a second main that might just work out in a few years.

I didn't even think about a Panorama train that actually would make a lot of sense, and it would give better mobility to the Skeena line where people complain about the overnight stop.
 

John Santos

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Shelby as in Shelby MT? Connect to the EB? Would definitely have considered that when I went to Calgary in Jan/Feb 2018 for work.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Shelby as in Shelby MT? Connect to the EB? Would definitely have considered that when I went to Calgary in Jan/Feb 2018 for work.
If a Winnipeg-Grand Forks connection to the EB has never been establish in the 50 years since Amtrak Day.......and not even a bus connection has lasted.......I see little chance for Calgary-Shelby!
 

Palmland

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Interesting proposal and I like making Via a truly national network with the operation over the CP into Vancouver although I suspect Rocky Mountaineer wouldn’t be too happy. I assume there would still be through cars from Toronto to Vancouver.

And I‘d vote for a reduced service on one of your routes to support a U.S connection via Winnipeg-Grand Forks to Chicago, as NS Via suggests, or even farther west on the route of the Soo-Dominion. And while we’re dreaming, how about restoring narrow gauge service on PEI!
 

NS VIA Fan

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You'd have to go back to the 1920s to find narrow-gauge on PEI. There were through standard-gauge passenger cars handled on the ferry to the mainland until the late '60s and the railway was abandoned there in '89.

It was Newfoundland that had narrow-gauge passenger trains right up 'till 1988. They were never transferred to VIA but were still shown in the VIA Timetable with a note at the top of the page that they were operated by CN.





CN Newfoundland Roadcruiser Bus ticket from 1996.....20 years after nearly everything else had gone to VIA!


[
 

railiner

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Interesting proposal and I like making Via a truly national network with the operation over the CP into Vancouver although I suspect Rocky Mountaineer wouldn’t be too happy. I assume there would still be through cars from Toronto to Vancouver.

And I‘d vote for a reduced service on one of your routes to support a U.S connection via Winnipeg-Grand Forks to Chicago, as NS Via suggests, or even farther west on the route of the Soo-Dominion. And while we’re dreaming, how about restoring narrow gauge service on PEI!
And while we’re dreaming, how about restoring narrow gauge service on PEI!
And how about Railiner Service on Vancouver Island, while we’re at it?😉
 

NS VIA Fan

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Remember?
Yup!......and I had a couple of great rides on it! But that nice little station VIA constructed in Victoria is gone. It was demolished with the construction of the new Johnson Street bridge but the tracks are still in place to about 100 metres west of the bridge (in front of the Delta Hotel).

 

jiml

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Wasn't the Vancouver Island service the victim of very bad track more than low ridership? The passenger numbers weren't great, but the rehab cost just couldn't be justified IIRC.
 

Palmland

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Wasn't the Vancouver Island service the victim of very bad track more than low ridership? The passenger numbers weren't great, but the rehab cost just couldn't be justified IIRC.
That's what I heard. At the time we had a nephew living in Victoria. We were able to see it a few years earlier in Nanaimo and walked through it. I believe it was a crew change there.

I believe it was all upgraded to standard gauge prior to abandonment. Were you perhaps thinking of the other island - Newfoundland?
Thanks for the correction. I had just read an article on the Newfoundland trains but was thinking of PEI as a place still on our bucket list.

-3X Weekly Service to Gaspe
Absolutley! We had a camping trip to Gaspe and loved it. Gorgeous country. But with the small population probably better suited to a DMR rather than a full consist.
 

Seaboard92

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Interesting proposal and I like making Via a truly national network with the operation over the CP into Vancouver although I suspect Rocky Mountaineer wouldn’t be too happy. I assume there would still be through cars from Toronto to Vancouver.

And I‘d vote for a reduced service on one of your routes to support a U.S connection via Winnipeg-Grand Forks to Chicago, as NS Via suggests, or even farther west on the route of the Soo-Dominion. And while we’re dreaming, how about restoring narrow gauge service on PEI!
The goal was to make VIA a truly national network to give the western and Atlantic provinces better mobility. And I think I did a fairly good job. In my proposal the train on CP goes all the way from Vancouver-Toronto two days a week and Vancouver-Calgary once weekly. Now if I could speed the timetable up enough I could potentially get three days service as far as Winnipeg before I start needing cars. I stretched it fairly thin. In the winter when the need for trains is higher due to winter weather condition I might be able to run trains all the way to Toronto three days a week with the seasonal consist shrinking.

Honestly I would love to see the Mountaineer come back to get a Chicago-Vancouver, BC train. To me that would be worth buying more equipment.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Absolutley! We had a camping trip to Gaspe and loved it. Gorgeous country. But with the small population probably better suited to a DMR rather than a full consist.
VIA's Gaspe trains were always substantial and heavy on sleepers. When VIA restructured the routes to the Maritimes in Oct 1979.....the Gaspe train became an RDC reacquiring a connection with the Montreal – Halifax trains at Matapedia. But after 3 years VIA went back to a full service train.....'The Chaleur' and it lasted until 2014 (technically the Chaleur is still only suspended until the track is restored)
 

jiml

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(technically the Chaleur is still only suspended until the track is restored)
Proving that Amtrak doesn't have a monopoly on that strategy. :p

 
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sttom

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Temporarily suspended 6 years ago? What is the record for North American trains being temporarily suspended and never returning?
 

Seaboard92

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VIA's Gaspe trains were always substantial and heavy on sleepers. When VIA restructured the routes to the Maritimes in Oct 1979.....the Gaspe train became an RDC reacquiring a connection with the Montreal – Halifax trains at Matapedia. But after 3 years VIA went back to a full service train.....'The Chaleur' and it lasted until 2014 (technically the Chaleur is still only suspended until the track is restored)
I actually would have liked to have had more sleepers on it but I can't do it because then you have to start making some difficult calls. You can't cut the two cars allotted to the Hudson Bay because that's a political football I wouldn't want to touch.

Then you have the rural CN line from Winnipeg-Toronto where I don't really want to touch the sleepers there because it's a long enough route it's worth the upgrade. That being said however the load factor for sleepers boarding at those stations is probably low enough to justify dropping to one car.

The only place I could see where I could get a total of four sleepers which would give each Gaspe Train two cars in addition is the Canadian if I can cut the four cars in crew dorm status.

The issue then becomes less revenue space for passengers which could be fixed if we went to buying four former crew dorms from private owners off the Amtrak auction. Of course you have to find four owners willing to sell you a perfectly good Budd car. I know for a fact I wouldn't be willing. But you might be able to get some takers.

That being said if VIA would call them and ask for a long term lease I can't imagine anyone balking at it.

VIA is constrained by it's equipment at the moment, and as the Ocean goes back to being a HEP train it's going to be even more constrained.

Personally I don't see why we can't run a daily Canadian with far shorter consist.
 

NS VIA Fan

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Proving that Amtrak doesn't have a monopoly on that strategy. :p
VIA suspended the Chaleur due to track conditions but said they would return when the track is again safe to operate on.

This year there has been major track work completed along the Gaspe Coast including new ties and re-ballasting as well as new bridges and trestles constructed.

Check out this site (it's bilingual) and scroll about half way down for pictures of the major work done constructing a new bridge at the Cascapedia River and also new trestle work:


And if you're on Facebook......search for this group ”Help Save the Railway on the Gaspe Coast” for more photos.
 

jiml

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Interesting. Is there much industry beyond the fan blade company?

As an aside, those fan blade trains are something to see - all across North America. You wonder how they make it around some curves and pass other trains on non-straight track.
 

Urban Sky

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Finally had the time to take a look at your proposal. You really have to start with a timetable before you determine how many sets you need per service:
  • Hudson Bay with two sets: How do you do maintenance and repairs with less than 20 hours scheduled between arrival time of #692 in WNPG and departure of #693, let alone with #692 routinely arriving many hours late?
  • "Daily Palmetto Style Day Train Edmonton-Winnipeg" with two sets: How do you run a daily train with a scheduled one-way run time of (currently) 24-26 hours (and subject to frequent delays of multiple hours) with only two trainsets and without any sleeper accommodation?
  • "Daily Palmetto Style Day Train Calgary-Winnipeg" with two sets: How do you run a daily train with a scheduled one-way run time of 15-16 hours (back in 1989, so likely much longer today, especially if the timings on the CN line are any indication) with only two trainsets and without any sleeper accommodation?
  • When do you perform extensive maintenance (i.e. the kind of maintenance which takes multiple days and sometimes even weeks to perform) or repairs if you assign 100% of your fleet for revenue service?
I'm looking forward to see a more refined version of your proposal, but I would suggest to first start with an assessment of what kind of transportation options are already available on the markets you are contemplating to serve and then determine what kind of travel times and frequencies you would need to become somewhat commercially relevant, before determining what markets might support the reintroduction of passenger rail services... :)

Oh yeah, about these LRC cars you want to re-deploy in the West once the new Corridor fleet arrives:
Via’s LRC (Light, Rapid, Comfortable) fleet was built by Bombardier between 1981 and 1984. The LRCs are in the final phase of a major refurbishment program, but this does not alter the fact that these lightweight train cars were not designed to operate for 36 years and counting. Many are exhibiting structural problems and will need to be replaced soon for safety and reliability reasons.


Proving that Amtrak doesn't have a monopoly on that strategy. :p

Just because you don't grasp the difference between operational funding (i.e. the deficit between train revenues and operating costs, which is automatically paid by the taxpayer) and capital funding (i.e. funding which needs to be approved by the government before it can be used to pay for infrastructure/fleet acquisitions/upgrades), doesn't mean that that there is a conspiracy against restoring services which the federal government has deemed as being part of the mandate of its Crown Corporation. If you insist on blaming someone for the seven years (and counting!) without passenger rail service to the Gaspé peninsula, why not start with the provincial government which could (until very recently) not be bothered to allocate any significant investments into the derelict rail infrastructure it owns...?
 
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NS VIA Fan

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Temporarily suspended 6 years ago? What is the record for North American trains being temporarily suspended and never returning?
VIA is at the mercy of the owners of the infrastructure. If the track has deteriorated.....they can't operate until it's safe and that might take years for the stakeholders to tap funding sources before reconstruction starts.

I'm thinking here of the Chaleur, Malahat and Churchill (Hudson Bay) trains. While CN and CP still owed the track on these branchline routes it was maintained to an acceptable standard. Once the routes passed to short-line freight operators the track was then maintained to their requirements and once the freight disappeared......maintenance deteriorated.

In the case of the Churchill route the shortline operator just walked away after major damage to the track structure from flooding.

The Bras d'Or ended when the CBNS advised they would be applying to abandon the track east of Port Hawkesbury to Sydney.

The Atlantic ended when CP applied to abandon the route across Maine.....and it was actually abandoned for several days before a deal was struck with a short-line operator. Interesting to see CP taking back this route now after 25 years but I don't see the Atlantic returning!

And VIA was forced to move the Canadian to the Bala Subdivision from the more populated route through Barrie and Orillia north of Toronto when CN abandoned the Newmarket Subdivision.

VIA is usually given the option to purchase the routes prior to abandonment but it doesn't make sense when a train is only running tri-weekly. VIA has exercised this option where it does make sense and now owns nearly the entire 230 km line from Brockville to Coteau through Ottawa and also from Chatham to Windsor.
 

NS VIA Fan

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VIA is constrained by it's equipment at the moment, and as the Ocean goes back to being a HEP train it's going to be even more constrained.
Everything I've seen about the Ocean when it returns......is that it will be a 'Hybrid Train' with a mixture of both Budd and Renaissance equipment. VIA needs the Rens to provide the accessible accomodations. The Ren coaches have wheelchair spaces and accessible washrooms and the sleepers have accessible bedrooms.
 
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