Jump to content

The Journey to the Great White North

Recommended Posts

Well this is my first trip report in awhile. I honestly have several I could write up but I'll start with the freshest one.


A few years ago I became aware that VIA Rail operates an all Budd Ocean Limited for three departures around Christmas because of the increased demand. I've always dreamed of taking the Canadian trains because I've heard they are like traveling back in time to the 1950s. So this year with my new friend Malcolm we decided that we would both like to do the Ocean on the Budd train.


With a little help from our AU friend NSViaFan I was able to figure out which days the all Budd set was going to run. Immediately after he relayed the information to me; Malcolm and I made reservations to take the Renaissance Ocean eastbound, and the Budd Ocean Westbound so we could compare the two products. We had about an hour spent on hold trying to reach someone at VIA so we could use all of our discounts.


Overtime I eventually finished making all of the arrangements for this story. For this trip I utilized three different Amtrak services, 1 rent a car, two airlines, a hotel, an Airbnb, and Malcolm's apartment.


Day 1: P092-17 the Silver Star on DEC 18th.


After Miracle on 34th Street closed at Town Theater in Columbia I raced home to pack my bags. Unfortunately I learned why I shouldn't wait till the last minute to pack two days later when I was looking for shirts. Not that I could have packed earlier because I was in a show that ran for 21 performances.


I had my dad drive me to the Camden station at about five fifteen AM because the train was running about an hour and a half behind schedule. After talking about subjects that interest him more then me the train arrived and I boarded. I ended up being on the side with the station so I was literally able to save to my dad on the platform which I thought was kinda fun. Even though the bed was made I really didn't want to sleep on the Hamlet sub because of my history with the line.


A few years ago I used to have a friend who loved to chase trains and I would always ride with him for the adventure of it so I wanted to see the local landmarks from the track. I normally take 91 into Camden so I've never seen the line in daylight or twilight so my plan was to stay awake to Raleigh. We rolled into daylight around Cheraw pronounced Che rawl and continued our trip north up the Seaboard.


After Hamlet we rolled thru the once busy hump yard on the north side of town and past several stored locomotives before continuing north. I fell asleep when we arrived in Raleigh and woke up to tragic news. When I woke up somewhere near the Virginia State Line I saw on my Facebook feed where Amtrak No. 501 the inaugural bypass train had derailed off a bridge in Washington State.


I immediately called Chamilton to make sure that he was alright not knowing if he was on board. Then proceeded to call all of my other Northwest friends to make sure that they were alright. I even attempted to reach my ex girlfriend in Seattle to make sure her dad wasn't on board the train. After that I called my parents and grandmother to let them know if they heard there was an Amtrak derailment that they knew it wasn't my train incase they heard the tail end of a story.


We arrived in DC about an hour behind which wasn't really that awful then I went over to Senator Warren's office to pick up an autograph for a friend. And I had great timing on the elevator and managed to ride with Sen Warren to her office. After that I walked down to the National Christmas Tree to meet my travel partner Malcolm and to see the Christmas tree railroad.


The two of us then went to an interesting dinner where the plates were old lunch boxes from the 60s and it was decent. We retired early to his apartment because we were scheduled on an early morning regional.


Tuesday: Train No. 110 and the Adirondack


We awoke around two am to very sad news that our two friends Jim and Zach were two of the fatalities aboard the Cascades the day before. Both of us then resolved to enjoy the trip to the fullest as that's what they would have wanted. We then went over to Union Station and proceeded to board Train 110 on the lower level for our overnight jaunt to New York.


It was a unique experience for me because I've never ridden along the NEC after dark to see the skylines and the forests as darkened silhouettes. Shortly thereafter we arrived in Penn Station where I went up to the street long enough to buy breakfast and return to the Club Acela.


After our short connection we were off on the only northbound with a southbound number the Adirondack No. 69 in the last Amfleet II. We had two rows to ourselves so we jumped back and forth somewhat for the good scenery. When we arrived in Albany we had a little surprise as a CDOT CTrain car was on the track next to us.


The conductor asked us north of Saratoga to come with him to the railfan window where he said we would get better photographs so I spent the entire trip from Saratoga springs area to the Canadian Border riding with the railfan window. Everything I've read about this route is very true. It's a very beautiful route.


The train cleared customs rapidly and we arrived in Montreal about one hour early. We then checked into our hotel the Alt Hotel Montreal which isn't too far from the station. We had a room on the 17th floor with a lovely view of the skyline and the south throat of Gare Centrale so we were able to see every long distance train come in and out of the city.


After dropping out bags off at the hotel we took the city bus out to the Grande marche de Noel Christmas market and strolled around there some. I had a lovely pastry that I would love to have again but have no idea what a Beavertail is. It was a lovely Christmas market then we went for a fast dinner at a fast food Mediterranean restaurant.


Wednesday the 19th

We woke up and watched trains pass under our window for about two hours while the temperature raised and packed our bags. After the Adirondack consist backed in we checked out of our room and had a French breakfast. Malcolm took an amazing photo across the restaurant of Amtrak pulling out.


We then strolled around downtown Montreal for several hours after checking out bags in with VIA. The main highlights being Gare Windsor, the Notre Dame basilica, the old port, and several other places. For lunch we went to a pub that wasn't far from our hotel if memory serves me right.


Malcolm needed to buy Christmas gifts for his family so we went into the underground. I was surprised how much of the city is underground. I swear we walked over a mile underground and without signs to the train station I likely would have missed the train.


The Ocean.


We arrived at the station around six In the evening and checked in with the desk in the business lounge. After about fifteen minutes I went and checked in with the service manager and made our reservations for the diner whilst making friends with a fellow traveler.


They started boarding for our train late at about 6:50 and I immediately asked if I had time to walk to the locomotive for a photo and come back of which an employee said ok. So I walked up and grabbed my photo but upon my return to my cars vestibule it was closed and sealed. I looked back towards the head end and there was still about ten people boarding on coach but I knew I wouldn't make it. So I ran down to the park car where a VIA station employee was sitting in a golf cart. He radioed someone who got the park car attendant to open up.


Then I went to my sleeper to find my travel partner searching for his bag that the station agents said would be waiting us in the room which they eventually located.


We pulled out about fifteen minutes late and I was in the park dome as we pulled out. What an amazing sight it was to see the train rounding the tight terminal curves with all of the lights in the Windows. It was like a rolling city. Malcolm and I sat in the park car dome till it was time for dinner. We were held for a CN intermodal freight which caused us to fall further behind before Drummondville.


I was amazed at how festive the dining car was where they had wrapped fake presents along the walls, and the fact that we had real glass and China to eat with; a world above Amtrak. I had beef ribs which were fantastic and Malcolm had the vegetarian dish. After dinner I went to the lead coach to await the fresh air stop at St. Foy. The baggage handler on the train was concerned that I was only wearing a sweater and another shirt as I had left my coat in the room.


The outside temperature I believe was eight degrees and halfway to the locomotive I decided this was too cold and I ran to the front grabbed a fast photo and ran back to the first open door. I walked thru the train and then got a photo of the outside of the Park Car on the second spot.


I then enjoyed sitting in the Park Car with a TTC motorman, his wife, and Malcolm talking about PTC, the state's, trains, and other subjects. They went to bed and I climbed into the dome to sit and ponder life.


There is no better way to reflect on life than in an empty dome watching the signals drop. After sitting by myself for an hour I went to bed and had the best night of sleep I've ever had on a train.


Thursday the 20th


I woke up around Amqui right Aron's sunup meaning we had lost about an hour overnight but that was great for us because we got to see the Matepedia Valley in daylight. Malcolm and I took the front two seats in the Park Dome for this scenic stretch of track. It was beautiful riding along the snow covered valley.


We then had breakfast while the train sat in Campbellton and I had lovely French toast that was a way cut above Amtrak's. After breakfast Malcolm worked on his contracts in the park dome and I sat in the bullet lounge and talked with members of the Canadian military and our TTC friend.


There is some dreadfully slow track in this area that made this part seam very monotonous. We had lunch as we were arriving in Moncton where I had a chicken sandwich also a very good meal.


After Moncton we sat in the Park dome and enjoyed talking to our new friends and the maritime scenery. Darkness befell our train just west of Truro when we started packing up our room.


All in all our trip on the eastbound Ocean was fantastic. After the train we went to the Triangle Pub which was fantastic. I would highly recommend this local eatery with live music. And of note the steak is only two CAD higher than a burger.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great report, thanks for sharing! I too look forward to the return report!😎

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites



Malcolm and I woke up early so that we could take the first city bus to the airport where we were renting a car. It was an easy but cold walk from our AirBNB by the train station to the bus stop by the Old Town Clock. We had breakfast at the Canadian breakfast chain Tim Hortons.


We rented a brand new three series BMW for the day. After picking the car up we drove to three light houses south of Halifax and thru several New England style communities.


After our scenic coastal drive we positioned ourselves along the Halifax Harbor to start our Chase of Train 15 the renaissance Ocean. We had a very successful chase all the way to Springhill Junction despite a traffic back up in Truro. At Springhill Junction we met up with the all Budd Ocean and proceeded to chase it back east to Halifax. Unfortunately the train was late so we ran into darkness around Truro. To celebrate a good chase after we returned the car we went back to the pub from the night before. Again I highly recommend it.




We decided to have breakfast in a bakery that I had noticed on the walk from the pub the night before which turned out to be a great idea. While we were eating it started to snow fairly heavily and we continued strolling around downtown.


We walked up the hill to the Citadel and we had the place to ourselves in the snow which was lovely. We then walked back to the station along the waterfront. It was certainly a lovely but chilly walk.


The all Budd Ocean


We claimed our stored bags from he station agent, checked in with the service manager and shortly it was time to board a true streamliner. After dropping my bag in the room because I had a full thirty minutes I walked up to the locomotive and back. Instead of getting on I stood with our attendant Emily (who was wonderful) and chatted with her and the engineer who had stopped by to see her. I found out that our eastbound counterpart had an engine malfunction (2nd engine wouldn't go above notch five) which has caused them to be about four hours late and that our engineer was hoping to meet them in Moncton.


Shortly after that it was time to head on board and Emily designated me as the safety oriented person to help her in case of a wreck. I believe I made it really easy for her because I work on Budd cars for a living and understand how the doors operate.


As soon as we started rolling it was time for Malcolm and I to report to the diner which was again a rolling time machine. And by far a cut way above an Amtrak diner, and some restaurants that I've eaten at. We enjoyed watching the maritime landscapes that we were chasing in slipping by our windows while we had a great meal.


We left the dining car for the Skyline Dome at Truro so that we could enjoy the area that was the best during our chase the Londenderry-Folly Lake section. In this section we hit some rain which caused both of us to shoot manual from the front seat in the dome. At Springhill Junction we both returned to the Park Car dome so that we would be able to get photos of the entire train rounding some dynamic curves.


After Amherst we ran into freezing rain which caused the dome to lose all visibility so both of us took up seats in the Bullet Lounge. We pulled to a stop in Moncton with our nose on the platform face to face with our eastbound counterpart who reached the station first. The crew asked for my help telling them when we cleared the crossing circuit so we wouldn't foul a crossing while pulling slowly closer to 14.



It was really rather odd because we cleared all of the crossings except for one about a quarter of a mile away and four crossings down the track refused to go up. I then walked up to the furthest coach door so I could walk up for a locomotive picture. 14 backed back onto the mainline and we pulled forward onto the platform.


I walked the length of the train on the icy platform at Moncton where I was mistaken for a VIA employee because my overcoat looks similar to theirs and that I walk with a certain air that makes me look like an employee. I passed the confused passenger onto an actual employee who could better answer their question.


We went to the diner after departing Moncton and had a lovely dinner with a gentleman from Japan who flew all the way to Canada to ride the all Budd Ocean round trip. He didn't speak a lot of English but he was nice to meet none the less.


After dinner Malcolm and I sat in the empty iced over Park Car Dome and listened to folk music off each other's phone. Malcolm retired for the night around eight and I went down to get the consist numbers for Malcolm because he wanted them as the VIA Rail Editor for Canadian Railway Observations magazine. In this process I noticed we were in a station stop and I stepped off at an open door into snow up to my knees.


I excitedly had the service manager take my picture in snow that deep because I thought it was really cool. This station I believe was Bathurst, NB. After that I went to the Mural Lounge and sat with our attendant Emily. And I learned a unique feature of today's train. Of 20 on board employees there were 16 women or 80 percent which in a male dominated industry is very impressive. Even the mechanical person by the title of Train Rider was a women which I think is a step in the right direction.


Talking to the VIA employees they all recommend that I apply to come and work with them because of my past experience on private cars. After awhile we had about three or four employees in the mural lounge with me which was really enjoyable. I tend to fit in more with the employees then I do with the mostly railfan passengers who were in the Park Car.


And something that I really enjoyed watching was how amazing VIA employees are at customer service. Of a side note for that when we were headed east on 14 we asked seeing the train was two hours late if we would get a dinner on the way into Halifax. Our waiter said that the dining car would be closed but if we were hungry to come by the diner and they would whip something up for us. Which is going above and beyond.


At Campbellton, NB I got off to get a photo of the Park car and then stood on the platform with Emily for a bit. I was amazed at how smooth she made the transition from English to French to help two passengers who were sent to the wrong door. It was amazing to watch how great her customer service was.


After Campbellton it was time for her to clock off and get some rest so after saying goodnight to her I sat in the bullet lounge with someone who used to edit The Canadian equivalent to National Geographic and I learned a lot of fascinating things about the region we were traveling in. After saying goodnight to them I tried out the shower in the manor car adjacent to ours which took forever to get hot water but proved to be my best intercity train shower (PVs still beat this).


Christmas Eve Sunday


I set an alarm for about thirty minutes before St Foy because I didn't want to miss a chance to get a picture of our train on the smoke stop. I got out and took photos of our ice covered locomotives and then walked back to my car thru the train. I hopped off for a second on the sleeper spot so I could get a photo of the Park Car at dawn.


Malcolm then woke up and we went to the diner for breakfast which was excellent as all of our VIA meals had been. Instead of sitting in the ice covered dome afterwards we sat in the bullet lounge and chatted with Emily some more. She definitely helped make the trip. Shortly after we arrived into Montreal Gare Centrale and we said our goodbyes to the time machine that was our Ocean.


We walked into the station with our new friends from the train crew and said our goodbyes in the head house. Malcolm then went to tour the railyards of Montreal with the editor in chief of Canadian Railway Observations and I caught VIA Train No. 35.


We had an all LRC consist on train No. 35 as I headed to the Montreal Airport so naturally I got off at the first stop of Dorval. In a weeks time I had ridden every type of rail equipment VIA operates minus the RDC fleet. It was a very short ride to Dorval where I walked up to the engine and took a photo before walking to a waiting shuttle bus to the airport.


The airport was incredibly quiet there wasn't a line for security, or customs which was something I was expecting. I picked up a meal in the terminal and ate at my gate across from a young women with a violin case. What I didn't know was that she would end up being my seat mate for my flight to Dulles.


Over the course of the short flight on board a CRJ200 I believe her and I solved all of the worlds problems, and talked a lot about methods in which you can play the violin; as there is something no AU member knows about me and that is I play violin professionally.


When we arrived in IAD I walked her to her gate for her flight home to France where she was originally from then walked to my flight to Columbia on United.


What made my flight unique was the fact we left from the apron so for the first time in my life I boarded a plane like it was in the 1960s. To add to the vintage feeling of the day.


I shared the exit row with a terrified first time flyer on a CRJ 100. I spent the entire flight comforting and helping the first time flyer stay calm. And I really enjoyed helping her thru something that I absolutely love. It proved to be a very good experience for me. When I arrived home to Columbia I was a bit overdressed with my over coat, a scarf, gloves, a sweater, and a winter shirt for the 60 degree weather that was Christmas Eve in the Carolinas.


Originally I was scheduled to return home on West Jet via Toronto and it was rebooked because they cancelled my flight from YYZ to Charlotte which ended up being good for me. My travel partner Malcolm made it to YYZ on an A330-300 and was stranded overnight as Toronto was pummeled with lake effect snow.


All in all it was a lovely trip and I might just have to make it an annual holiday tradition for myself. In my next post I will share some of the photos I took.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again, what a great trip!😎

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites



Sunrise over Hamlet Yard



Crossing the Potomac at Washington.



Train No. 92 the Silver Star at Washington



The Norwegian Christmas Tree in Union Station.




Union station decorated for the Holidays.



The US Capitol also the place I met my most recent ex and maybe one day my future office.



The National Christmas Tree and a Northeast Regional



Train No. 110 on the lower level.



The future Penn Station

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Train No. 69 at NYP




A commuter train passing by across whatever River it is.



Bear Mountain Bridge.



Bannerman's Castle



I have no idea which bridges these are.



An Amtrak GP38 which is built on an SD40 frame to accommodate a HEP generator.



CTrain cab car that was in Albany fr rebuilding.



Train No. 69 at Albany.



A rocky cut somewhere north of Saratoga.



A short tunnel north of Saratoga.



Meeting our counterpart somewhere.




Running along the lake.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Montreal by night.



Skyline by night.




The grande marche de Noel Christmas market.



The grande marche de Noel



Our rooms view.




The rural services arriving into Montreal.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The morning train to Toronto



The rural services leaving for rural northern Quebec.




Our view in daylight.




VIA Rail P42



The train for Ottawa meeting a RTM train.




Three way meet.



The Adirondack from our room.



The church by the train station.




No idea what this building is.



The Basilica de Notre Dame.



The best looking church in North America.




Old town in the snow.



The old market.



The city from the port.



The former headquarters of the Grand Trunk Railroad.



Gare centrale

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The Ocean under the Bonadventure Tower. Also the Christmas card of mine for people I like.



Empty park car.




The bullet lounge.




Beef Ribs of VIA



The Ocean at St Foy. Man was it cold here.



Revelstoke Park at St Foy



Rural Quebec



Matepedia Valley.



A winter wonderland.



The matapedia valley.



Pineapple Crepes for breakfast

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


A GP9 at Campbellton



The bay of Gaspe



Bay of Gaspe



A snow covered bridge.



The bridge that almost shut this route down.



Our train at Moncton



My lunch a chicken sandwich.




A Black Forest cherry cake.



Check out that grade.



Rounding a curve near Amherst.




Rounding a curve near Amherst.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The Ocean at Halifax.



The baggage room door. Pretty cool eh



Halifax station



The Canadian Air Force.



A lighthouse



The same lighthouse different vantage.



Rural Nova Scotia.



Another lighthouse



Rural Nova Scotia

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The westbound ren consist note the suspension bridge.



Revelstoke Park along the bay.



Train 15 by Milford Station.



Train 15 at Milford Station.



15 at Truro industrial park road.



Truro industrial park road.



15 crossing the folly River.



15 crossing the folly River.



Revelstoke Park over NS 4



15 crossing under NS 4 at Folly Mountain.



15 at Folly Mountain.



15 at Folly Lake.



14 the Budd set at Springhill junction. With the engine my ex and I saw in Vancouver when she said we would ride behind if. Well I did.



14 at folly lake.



14 crossing NS 4



14 crossing the folly River



Tweedsmuir Park

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Downtown Halifax



Our train from the station managers office.



Downtown Halifax.



Downtown Halifax.



The old town clock.



The citadel.




The view from the citadel.






Halifax harbor.



Our train at Halifax.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


The Budd train at Halifax.



Chicken something.



Departing Truro.



Crossing the Folly River.



Rounding a curve.



Looking back towards the rear.



Arriving in Amherst.



Departing Amherst note the code lines.



An all Budd streamliner. What a sight.






Resting at Moncton

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Our train at Moncton



Tweedsmuir Park at Moncton.



A rare sight in Moncton



Lemon pepper chicken.



Look at the snow falling in Bathurst



Look at the snow fall in Bathurst.



My foot on the Bathurst platform. Off the platform was at my knees.



Our train at Campbellton.



A classic platform scene with a ton of snow. All that's missing is steam heat. And my Christmas card for train friends.



The Ocean at St Foy.



An iced over engine at St Foy.



The ocean at St Foy. My Christmas card for people I don't like as much.



Tweedsmuir Park

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


French Toast on the Ocean.



The crew and I built a snowman with the snow that drifted into vestibules. We also had a snowball fight with that snow too. All in great fun.



The Victoria Jubilee Bridge.



Coming into Montreal.



Tweedsmuir Park at Montreal.



The Toronto connection to the Ocean.



Montreal's skyline.



VIA Train No. 35 at Dorval.



My Air Wisconsin CRJ100 at IAD.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Emily's welcome board.



A Christmas gift from VIA Rail.



The Budd Diner.



Room A on the Park

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic pics, were so envious!😉

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

You guys should take the trip next year. It's a lovely winter trip.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Seaboard....Great Trip Report and photos!.....and you certainly got around with such a short time here. That route you took through Truro, past the trestle at East Mines….then on up over Folly Mountain and the Wentworth Valley is my usual stomping grounds and certainly provides some great photo ops. Prior to the tri-weekly schedule….I could occasionally catch the Oceans meeting at Folly Lake.


Glad you got to experience a train ride through the snow storm in northern New Brunswick (one of my favorite time to be riding)....and still not have much of a delay as I know you had some pretty tight connections!!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Seaboard....Great Trip Report and photos!.....and you certainly got around with such a short time here. That route you took through Truro, past the trestle at East Mines….then on up over Folly Mountain and the Wentworth Valley is my usual stomping grounds and certainly provides some great photo ops. Prior to the tri-weekly schedule….I could occasionally catch the Oceans meeting at Folly Lake.


Glad you got to experience a train ride through the snow storm in northern New Brunswick (one of my favorite time to be riding)....and still not have much of a delay as I know you had some pretty tight connections!!

Thank you. It was an incredible route around the Wentworth Valley. I love that part of Nova Scotia. That bridge feels like it's out of the Rockies further west. I would love to see your photos that way. You have more Budd trains coming.


Our only delay really was meeting 14 at Moncton so we did pretty well for ourself. That snowstorm was amazing. I wish it had been daylight for that though. The Ocean has the best beds for sure.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.