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Prince Albert Park on the end of The Canadian.

By Rev Edward Brain, D.D. at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Route Map of the Canadian. The old route is in red, the new route is in blue.

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The Canadian
The Canadian (Le Canadien) is a Canadian transcontinental passenger train operated by Via Rail Canada with service between Union Station in Toronto, Ontario, and Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Before 1955 the Canadian was a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train between Toronto and Chicago. In 1955 CPR renamed its transcontinental route between Montreal/Toronto and Vancouver the Canadian, with new streamlined trains. Via Rail took over in 1978, and in 1990 reduced the Canadian to Toronto - Vancouver service along a Canadian National line.

Canadian Pacific
In the years following World War II, passenger trains on the CPR consisted of a mixture of prewar heavyweight and pre- and post-war lightweight cars, even on its flagship transcontinental The Dominion and its eastern extension, The Atlantic Limited. While these cars were serviceable, American trains of the early 1950s, such as the California Zephyr, had already adopted streamlined all-stainless steel consists featuring domed observation cars. Following an evaluation in 1949 of the dome cars featured on the General Motors / Pullman Standard demonstrator Train of Tomorrow, CPR management, including then Vice President Norris Crump, resolved to upgrade its rolling stock. In 1953, CPR placed an order for 155 stainless steel cars with the Budd Company of Philadelphia that included 18 rear-end dome cars (Park series), 18 Skyline mid-train dome cars, 30 coaches, 18 dining cars and 71 sleeping cars (Manor and Château series). A subsequent order for 18 baggage-crew dormitory cars brought the final to total to 173 cars, sufficient for establishing an entirely new transcontinental service and partially re-equipping The Dominion. The interior design of these new cars was contracted to the Philadelphia architectural firm Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson (a company known for its industrial designs on other prominent passenger trains such as the Pioneer Zephyr), and the resulting furnishings and pastel-shaded colour schemes were widely acclaimed. After deciding to name the Park series dome cars after famous Canadian parks, leading Canadian artists, including members of the Group of Seven, were commissioned to paint suitable murals for these cars. When the decision was made to add budget sleeping cars, the Budd order was supplemented by 22 existing heavyweight sleepers that CPR refurbished in its own Angus Shops, each fitted out with Budd-style stainless steel cladding. To complement the new rolling stock, the CPR ordered General Motors Diesel FP9 locomotives to supplement an existing fleet of FP7s. Although these F-units remained the preferred power for the train, it was occasionally pulled by a variety of motive power, including Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-2s.

Route Map of the Canadian. The old route is in red, the new route is in blue.

CP Rail's flagship train "The Canadian" departs Union Station for Sudbury where it will meet up with the section from Montreal. It will then follow a southern route along the north shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, and then proceed to Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver.    By Robert Taylor from Stirling, Canada - CP Rail - The CanadianUploaded by Skeezix1000, CC BY 2.0,

Prince Albert Park on the end of the Canadian.
CP Rail's flagship train The Canadian departs Union Station for Sudbury where it will meet up with the section from Montreal.
VIA No. 1, The Canadian is led by newly rebuilt F40PH 6434 near Jasper, Alberta.

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VIA No. 1, The Canadian is led by newly rebuilt F40PH 6434 near Jasper, Alberta.

By Timothy Stevens -, CC BY-SA,

Canadian drumhead

CPR christened its new flagship train The Canadian and service began on April 24, 1955. Running time between Montreal and Vancouver was reduced from about 85 to 71 hours, so that passengers spent only three, rather than four, nights en route. Although CPR competitor Canadian National Railways began its own new transcontinental service, the Super Continental, on the same day, CPR was able to boast honestly that The Canadian was "The first and only all-stainless steel 'dome' stream-liner in Canada" — it was not until 1964 that the CNR acquired dome cars from the Milwaukee Road. CPR operated the train in two sections east of Sudbury, Ontario. The section operating between Montreal and Vancouver (also serving Ottawa) was known as train 1 westbound and train 2 eastbound, with a connecting section to or from Toronto splitting or joining at Sudbury (this section was known as train 11 westbound, and train 12 eastbound). Matching its streamlined appearance, The Canadian‍'​s 71 hour westbound schedule was 16 hours faster than that of The Dominion.

Although initially successful, passenger train ridership began to decline in Canada during the 1960s. Facing competition from airlines and increased automobile usage following construction of the Trans-Canada Highway, the CPR cancelled The Dominion in 1966, and petitioned the government to discontinue The Canadian in 1970. Although this petition was denied, CPR during the 1970s attempted to remove itself from the passenger service market. The Canadian was operated at reduced levels, with the government subsidizing 80 percent of its losses.

Via Rail
The federal Crown corporation Via Rail Canada formally assumed responsibility for CPR's passenger services on October 29, 1978, although the Via identity was not assumed by the trains themselves until the following summer. Following the takeover by Via, the Canadian became the company's premier transcontinental train, and initially operated over its old CPR route. It was supplemented by the former CN Super Continental, which operated over the parallel, but more northerly, CN route. The Canadian continued to be operated in two sections east of Sudbury and provided daily service west to Vancouver and east to Toronto and Montreal.

In the aftermath of the deep budget cuts made to Via Rail on January 15, 1990, the Super Continental service was abolished and the Canadian was moved from the CPR route to the Super Continental's CN route. This maintained transcontinental service and allowed Via to operate its government-mandated service to small communities along the line. The new longer route bypassed Regina and Calgary in favor of Saskatoon and Edmonton. Service was reduced to three days per week and two times a week in off season, from previous daily service on both CP and CN routes. In 2007 the schedule was lengthened so that the train now takes four nights, rather than three, to travel between Toronto and Vancouver. The present schedule is almost identical with that of the 1940s over the same route, when CN operated it with steam locomotives. Today, Via Rail continues to operate the Canadian using the CN route with rebuilt ex-CPR Budd passenger equipment.


The Canadian‍‍ '​‍s eastbound journey begins at Vancouver's Pacific Central Station. It uses the BNSF tracks (on which CN and Via have trackage rights) through suburban communities including Burnaby, to New Westminster. After the train crosses the New Westminster Bridge, it enters CN tracks (CN goes to the left/east; BNSF and Amtrak to Seattle go to the right/west) and then passes through several railroad yards and maintenance areas before it reaches Gifford.

CN and CPR have agreements which allow directional travel through the Fraser and Thompson River canyons. Most eastbound trains (CN, CPR, and Via) use the CPR tracks. Most westbound trains (CN, CPR, and Via) use the CN tracks. This allows the Canadian to travel on small portion of its original CPR route. At Gifford, the train diverts from the CN mainline and crosses the Fraser River to Mission, where it enters the CPR track. Mission, is the easternmost terminus of the West Coast Express, a commuter train service that operates on the Canadian‍‍ '​‍s original route from the Waterfront Station (Canadian Pacific station) in downtown Vancouver over the CPR line.

From Mission, the Canadian travels on the CPR route through the Fraser and Thompson river canyons. The CPR stays on the west (north) side of the river until Cisco where it crosses over to the east (south) side of the river. Near Basque (near Lytton), both the CPR and CN are on the same side of the river and have crossovers to access each other's tracks, and it is here that the eastbound Canadian transfers from the CPR back onto the CN line. Shortly thereafter the CN line crosses back over to the west/north side of the Thompson River and makes a few other crossings across the river before the staying on the north/west side for rest of the way into Kamloops and crosses the North Thompson River before arriving at the Kamloops station, which is actually in North Kamloops, across the Thompson River from downtown Kamloops. On their regular schedules, both east and westbound Canadians travel through the Fraser and Thompson river canyons at night.

Westbound, the Canadian stays on the CN tracks all the way into Vancouver. The CN route passes through Painted Canyon in which the train clings about 200 feet (61 m) above the Thompson River and the crossing of CN's 800-foot (240 m) steel-arched bridge over the Fraser River and the CPR mainline at Cisco. After Cisco, the CN mainline stays of the east/south side of the Fraser River all the way to the New Westminster Bridge, following the same route as the eastbound train into Vancouver. The train ends its westbound journey by backing into the station.

Standing at the North Kamloops station, the train is actually facing north and will be traveling north, at least in a northerly direction, for about the next six hours. The train follows the North Thompson River for much of the way, crossing it several times. The scenery changes gradually from the dry, rolling plateau – though miles of irrigation soften the starkness – to the lush, evergreen forests farther north. Narrow valleys bordered by mountains on both sides feature farmlands, pastures, forests, logging camps, and small communities. Clearwater and Blue River are two such communities where the Canadian has flag stops. Near Clearwater, the train crosses the Clearwater River. The Monashee Mountains lie to the east for much of the way to Valemount.

Some of the most dramatic segments along the route occur in this area as the train clings precariously to the mountainsides – particularly Groundhog Mountain and Mount Cheadle. One place in particular is known as Little Hells Gate (Port d'Enfer), an area featuring treacherous rapids on the river similar to those in Hells Gate farther south on the Fraser River. Passengers will note railway slide fences on one side of the train. These wire fences protect the tracks and train from falling debris. When a wire breaks or is compromised, it sends a signal to stop or proceed at a much slower speed. As it is, the train creeps along at a cautious pace – 26–30 miles per hour (42–48 km/h) – along this stretch. It is not difficult to see why. On the other side of the train are views to the North Thomspon River down below as well as toward the often-snow-covered mountains in the distance. One of the prettiest sights in this area is of Pyramid Falls, which cascades 300 feet (91 m) down the side of Mount Cheadle. The train slows down enough for passengers to get close-up looks and maybe get a nice picture or two. The Cariboo Mountains and Slide Mountain are to the west. Malton Range is to the east. The train crosses the Canoe River over a 240-foot (73 m) bridge shortly before arriving Valemount. It was also south of Valemount and north of the Canoe River where the Canoe River crash occurred on November 21, 1950. Memorials can be seen from the train. The icefields of the Albreda Glacier should be visible for several miles.

Valemount, "Valley in the Mountains," sits in a valley surrounded by mountains and is a flag stop for the Canadian. The Selwyn Range is to the east, and the Premier Range is to the west. The Premier Range is so named because some of the peaks are named after prime ministers of Canada, the United Kingdom, and premiers of British Columbia. Mount Sir Wilfrid Laurier (3,516 metres or 11,535 feet) and Mount Sir John Abbott (3,398 metres or 11,148 feet) are two such mountains.

North of Valemount is another area where eastbound and westbound trains (both CN and the Canadian) follow different routes. Out of Valemount, the eastbound train uses the Albreda Subdivision, which continues climbing along and often clings to the side of mountains from which there are views of the mountains and valleys below and beyond. Eventually and finally, the train rounds a sweeping curve (near Jackman, at Milepost 65.5) and heads in a more easterly direction though still high up on the mountainside. Mount Robson comes into view. At 12,972 feet (3,954 m), it is the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. The mountain often makes its own weather and can be seen in its entirety fewer than 20 days a year. Even with the clouds, it can still be a scenic highlight for train passengers. The train has also been passing through Mount Robson Provincial Park. The train passes through a 1,670-foot (510 m) tunnel, where in 1905 an avalanche buried railroad workers, and continues its descent to Redpass, where it joins with the Robson Subdivision. It is lower in elevation and has more favorable grades for westbound trains than the Albreda Subdivision. The Robson Subdivision is used by westbound freights, the westbound Canadian and the westbound Jasper – Prince Rupert train. The eastbound Jasper – Prince Rupert train and eastbound freights off the Tête Jaune Subdivision from Prince George and Prince Rupert use the Albreda Subdivision. Incidentally, Tête Jaune ("Yellowhead" in French) and Yellowhead (Highway, Pass, Mountain, etc.) get their names from Pierre Bostonais, an Iroquois-Métis man who had blond hair.

Redpass Junction is near the western shore of Moose Lake, which is known for its cold, deep waters. It is another scenic highlight, as the train follows along the north shore of the lake for several miles, and there are a couple of splashing waterfalls cascading down from the mountains into the lake. The Selwyn Range borders the south shore of the lake. The train has essentially gone around the range. The Yellowhead Highway (Highway No. 16) parallels the CN tracks to the north.

After Moose Lake, the train travels through a narrow valley nestled between the mountains, crosses the Moose and Fraser rivers and continues following the Fraser. Soon the train comes to the next major scenic highlight of the trip: Yellowhead Lake.Yellowhead Mountain continues to hover overhead to the north (left side of the train going east) while Mounts Rockingham (7,797 feet) and Fitzwilliam (9,549 feet) can be seen to the south(to the right) across the lake. The train finally crosses the Continental Divide at Yellowhead Pass, which at 3,718 feet is the lowest crossing of the divide in North America. There a number of boundaries represented here: between British Columbia and Alberta, the Pacific and Mountain time zones, and Pacific and Arctic watersheds. All rivers west of the divide flow to the Pacific Ocean; rivers east flow to either the Arctic or Atlantic oceans. The train has also left Mount Robson Provincial Park and entered Jasper National Park. Once again the train hugs mountainsides among the Victoria Cross Range (to the north) above the Miette River and creeps through tunnels and past protective slide detector fences. Whistler Mountain is in view as the train descends, rounds a curve and pulls into the Jasper train station.

The Canadian, in both directions, is scheduled to be at the station for an hour and a half as the train is being serviced. The town of Jasper is the headquarters for Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to the "area's 'exceptional natural beauty', 'habitats of rare and endangered species' and its natural landforms such as mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, canyons, limestone caves, and the unique Burgess Shale fossils." The Mount Robson Provincial Park—through which the train has just passed, eastbound; or through which the train is about to pass, westbound—is also a part of that heritage site. Passengers are encouraged to get off the train and wander around downtown Jasper. A visit to the Jasper Park Information Centre will help provide maps and other information about the park and areas the train has been and will be traveling through. Some might wish to visit the shops and restaurants, and/or just enjoy the crisp mountain air and the views of the surrounding mountains. Mount Edith Cavell (11,033 ft) is visible toward the south. Pyramid Mountain( 9,075 ft) and the Victoria Cross Ranges are to the northwest. Whistler's Mountain, to the southwest, has one of the area's more spectacular views and can be reached by the Jasper Tramway.

The station itself has a few attractions: the Jasper Raven Totem Pole, a vintage CN 4-8-2 steam locomotive on display, and inside the station is a café barista that also sells railroad memorabilia and other gifts. The station building was constructed by the CNR in 1926 and was declared a heritage railway station by the federal government in 1992.

Jasper to Edmonton
The town of Jasper sits inside of a big "U," as it relates to the railroad. The railroad comes in from the northwest and rounds a curve into the station. At the station, the train is actually facing northeast. Upon leaving the station, the train continues in a more northeasterly direction rather than due east. Also the train has descended into Jasper from Yellowhead Pass and now climbs a grade shortly after leaving the Jasper rail yards. The train is once again hugging mountainsides overlooking the Athabasca Valley and River and surrounding mountains. There is usually a flock of bighorn sheep grazing on the bluffs above the train (to the north) and possibly down in the valley below. During the winter, they can often be seen licking salt off the highway—Highway 16, also known as the Yellowhead Highway, paying little notice to the traffic or the trains. Other Canadian wildlife that may be seen from the train include bear, deer, elk, mountain goat, and various species of Canadian birds.

To the north/northwest, passengers will see the peaks of the Victoria Cross Range—so named because six of the peaks are named after Canadian recipients of the Victoria Cross. Mount McKean (2743m/9000 ft.) and Mount Zengel (2630m/8629 ft.) are two such mountains that can be seen from the train. Others in the range include Pyramid Mountain(2766m/9075 ft.) and Buttress Mountain (2685m/8809 ft.). Looking southward (across the river), there is the Colin Range. Hawk Mountain (2553m/8376 ft.), Roche Bonhomme (2495m/8186 ft.), and Morro Peak (1678m/5506 ft.) are among the peaks in this range that can be seen. English is the top of the grade, after which the train descends into the Athabasca Valley with all these mountains surrounding the Athabasca River, and the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) is still paralleling the route. The train passes through Henry House.

The train crosses the Snaring River, which has its source in Jasper National Park near the British Columbia border. The river drains several mountains, including its namesake Snaring Mountain. It and Chetamon Mountain (2606m/8550 ft.) and the De Smet Range including the Roche de Smet (2539m/8330 ft.) can be all seen from the train (to the north). The Snaring River Campground is near the confluence of the Snaring and Athabaska Rivers. Looking to the south, passengers can see the Jacques Range including such peaks as Roche Jacques(2603m/8540 ft.) and Cinquefoil Mountain (2259m/7412 ft).

The Athabasca River has its origins from the Columbia Glacier of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, and travels 1,231 km (765 mi) before draining into the Peace-Athabasca Delta near Lake Athabasca south of Fort Chipewyan. From there, its waters flow north as Rivière des Rochers, then joining the Peace River to form the Slave River that empties into Great Slave Lake and discharges through the Mackenzie River system into the Arctic Ocean.

The train reaches the north shore of Jasper Lake and rides along it for several miles. The Yellowhead Highway rides along the south shore of the lake. The lake is a shallow, wide section of the Athabasca River. This has been the site of many CN publicity photographs—including of the Super Continental—through the years, and it is still popular with photographers, railfans, the present-day Canadian and its advertisers and passengers. The Jasper Lake Sand Dunes are on the northwest shore of Jasper Lake and can be seen from the train. They are the only sand dunes eco-system in the Canadian Rockies. Parts of the mainline have been built on causeways away from the shore, which have created several mini lakes. This adds to the effect of being out on the water, creating additional views of the lake, its waters and the forests and mountains surrounding it. The lake is surrounded by mountain ranges, many of which can be seen the train from various places along the lake. They include:

Southeast to southwest:
    Miette Range. Most prominent peaks include Utopia Mountain (2,602 m or 8,537 ft) and Roche Miette (2,316 m or 7,600 ft).
    Jacques Range. Prominent peaks: Cinquefoil Mountain (2,259 m or 7,411 ft), Roche Jacques (2,603 m or 8,540 ft), and Mount Merlin (2,711 m or 8,894 ft).
    Colin Range: Peaks include Mount Colin (2,687 m or 8,816 ft) and Roche Bonhomme(2495m/8186 ft.)

Northwest to northeast:
    Victoria Cross Ranges—so named because six of the peaks are named after Canadian recipients of the Victoria Cross.
    De Smet Range. Prominent peaks include: Roche de Smet, (2,539 m or 8,330 ft) and Mount Greenock (2,065 m or 6,775 ft).
    Bosche Range: Mount Aeolus (2,643 m or 8,671 ft) and Roche à Bosche (2,123 m or 6,965 ft).

The train crosses Stoney River, glides through a 700-ft horseshoe tunnel underneath Disaster Point, and begins riding along the shores of Brûlé Lake. Black Cat Mountain(1800m/5908 ft.) is so named because its top resembles a cat. There is also Mount Solomon (1585m/5200 ft.). The Yellowhead Highway is on the other side of the lake. Folding Mountain (2844m/9331 ft.) should be visible as the train crosses the Athabasca River. The river is now on the north side of the tracks.

Entrance is the official easternmost point of the Canadian Rockies (at least on the CN), however, the Miette Range of the Rockies are usually still visible for many miles as the train heads out across the prairies. Actually, the surrounding landscapes are still heavily forested, the riverbanks are a bit dramatic, but the land is opening up to ever broader valleys, plains, and farmlands. About three miles west of Hinton, the train crosses an impressive trestle over Prairie Creek with the Athabasca still in sight. The train crosses a curved trestle over Sundance Creek then over the McLoed River on a 1,066-foot bridge and Wolf Creek on a 652-foot bridge. The train rides along the shores of three lakes: to the north the Octopus Lake; to the south, Wabamun and Chip. Westbound, train passengers should be able to start seeing mountains (still way off in the distance) just out of Edson crossing the Sundance Creek trestle.

The train finally reaches West Junction which serves as a wye, where the train accesses the Edmonton Via Rail station by backing into it. Both east and westbound trains do this. The train is scheduled to be at the station for an hour as there will be a crew change and other servicing. The Panorama car travels only between Vancouver and Edmonton. Here, the car is taken off (eastbound) or put on (westbound). The Edmonton City Centre Airport (Blatchford Field) is across the street. The skyline of downtown Edmonton is off in the distance.

Historically, this is the northwest point of a loop trains once used to go into downtown Edmonton. Westbound, for example, trains would divert from the mainline at East Junction, head south as far as the CN passenger station, which was inside the CN Tower. The present-day Edmonton Light Rail Transit parallels some of the route, and remnants of the former mainline and railyards can still be seen along the way. The City Centre Campus of Grant MacEwan University lies on what was once CN railyards to the west of the former station. Trains would then swing north and rejoin the mainline at West Junction just north of the present station. Currently trains depart the station by heading out and going to the left westbound, or to the right eastbound.

See more about “The Canadian” at the VIA website: