To Jonquiere in a Skyline Dome

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by railiner, May 24, 2018.

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  1. May 24, 2018 #1

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

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    Once again, thanks to the good info from fellow AU members, I learned of the temporary assignment of a Skyline Dome car on VIA Rail's tri-weekly train from Montreal to Jonquiere. It is all new mileage for me, so the combination of the two, plus a Tuesday special fare discount, (C$53.00 each way), made this an irresistible offer.

    It was very easy to book and e-ticket on VIA Rail's website, and I also joined their loyalty program.

    I went up on Train 601 on on 22 May. The train consisted of an F40PH locomotive, a baggage car, a coach-snack bar, and the Skyline dome lounge cafe.

    Coupled behind it was the consist for Train 603, which was the same, except no Skyline car. The two trains run as one, until Hervey Junction, where the 603 then heads over to Senneterre.

    It was Victoria Day, a national holiday, and Montreal was very quiet...more like a Sunday morning then a Monday, without commuter's. The train had a fairly light load...not even half full. As soon as I boarded, I dropped my bag, and jacket at my seat, and headed immediately to the dome. There, I met two retired CN employee-railfans, who gave me fantastic info on the railroad, its history, the various branches, yards, and other details. Across from us sat another couple of fans, one of them with a scanner, and translated all pertinent info to me, as I do not speak French. The view from the Skyline dome is fantastic...it's been too long since I rode in the once familiar product of the Budd Company. Much better than a Sightseer Lounge, and better than the full-length Ocean View, as far as railfan viewing goes....

    We departed 0815, on time, and shortly after leaving Gare Central, Serge, the Service Manager came up with a tray of complimentary cookies to welcome us on board. He also took orders for coffee, and returned with same. He later came back to scan our tickets, he delivered hot meals for those that ordered them, and came back three of four more times throughout the trip with comp. snacks and chocolates. An unexpected and appreciated, old-fashioned railroad service. He also filled bar orders. The CN treated us fairly well. We only met one freight train all day, and it only delayed us briefly. However, the train, as light as it was, was not able to maintain the schedule, losing a minute or so between just about every stop....and there were lots of them, as the train stops on request just about anyplace to unload passengers and supplies. There was a lot of that in the lake region. Also, being a school holiday, lots of young children riding just a few miles in several places to get their first train rides. The look on their excited faces when they came up to the dome was priceless...

    The scenery was very nice...several rivers, whitewater rapids, dams, mountains, canyons, bridges, quaint villages, and the huge Lac St.Jean. The weather was perfect. We arrived Jonquiere at 1839, 1:29 minutes late, but who cared?

    There aren't many hotels in Jonquiere, and most of them are a lengthy walk, with a lot more not too far away in Saquenay.

    I decided to try my first experience in a Bed and Breakfast inn, and thru the Hotels. Com website, I found the Auberge Le St.-Georges, just across the river from the depot. It was the former rectory for an attached church, and offered 5 rooms. Mine was named "Emma", on the second floor. It was very clean, had a good bed, and a sink in the room. I did have a private bathroom, but had to cross the corridor to access it. So at night, to use the bathroom, I had to don a robe (supplied), and use my room key to unlock my private bathroom, and the do the same to re-enter my bedroom. A minor inconvenience, but the bathroom was very modern, with a great shower room, and everything was sparkling clean. I believe three of the rooms have the bathroom within.

    Breakfast the next morning was very nice, a fruit bowl, cereals, yogurt, croissants, breads, muffins, made to order omelets, coffee, included in the price.

    I walked back to the depot, which is shared with the local transit bus system. Being the first day back to work and school, it was pretty busy.

    I met my four new friends from the day before, who were also returning on the train. It pulled in from the overnight storage location (an aluminum plant a few miles away) at 0745 for an on time 0810 departure. We returned to the same dome seats we had the day before, except now we would be seeing the view out the opposite side, and in the opposite direction. It was cloudy and overcast most of the day, with an occasional heavy shower. There weren't any school children today, but we still made numerous stops for passenger's on and off...

    Again, we lost a few minutes between each of them. Again the CN timed our freight meets pretty well. For one of them, we had to head into a wye track, and then back out after the long freight cleared us. Back in Hervey Junction, Train 604 was waiting to couple onto our rear. And then the unthinkable.... they actually held a freight on the main, and let us pass it! We did have to negotiate our way thru a yard, throwing manual switches to accomplish it, but...hey, it worked... We also met several AMT Mascouche commuter trains on the double track section approaching Montreal. These were pulled by dual mode ALP-45DP locomotives, that let them take the shortcut thru the Mount Royal tunnel, while we had to take the much longer roundabout route to the west, south, and then back north into Gare Central.

    Once again, Serge delivered outstanding service to us throughout the trip.

    VIA Rail did offer a pretty nice selection of meals, but I brought my own with me, so cannot review them, other than Serge's excellent brewed coffee...

    He served from the snack bar at the end of the coach. The snackbar in the Skyline was closed, but the lounge and dining room were open. There was a pair of tables in the dome, seat back tables at all dome seats. There were also some tables in the coach, as well as seatback tables. The seats themselves were very comfortable, reclined nicely, and had leg rests, although the pitch between seats was insufficient for six-footers to stretch out in. I only sat in them to try out...spent the entire round trip up in the dome...

    We arrived at 1855, 1:40 late, but again, the equipment was great, as was the company, and it was a wonderful experience.

    They may run the domes on the Senneterre trains soon. If so....I'll be back.... [​IMG]
     
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  2. May 24, 2018 #2

    railiner

    railiner

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    Again...having problems getting photo's from computer to post...anyone help? (I've already removed them from my phone to the computer....)
     
  3. May 24, 2018 #3

    OlympianHiawatha

    O

    OlympianHiawatha

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    It's great to see the classic Budds on mainline service and it sounds like yours is almost as nice as the day it first hit the rails. And for that small of a train, the menu looks great. Perfect for a day trip but not an overnight trip.
     
  4. May 24, 2018 #4

    Palmetto

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    I wonder if there's taxi service to meet the train in Jonquière.
     
  5. May 24, 2018 #5

    Bob Dylan

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    Outstanding trip

    And sadly one has to travel to another Country to enjoy such wonderful day trips on a train.

    The ongoing "cuts" and just "the basics" program underway @ Amrrak discourage people from enjoying such journeys.

    Anyone else wonder when Ocean View will be sent to Beech Grove to joint the PPCs in the Heritage Graveyard?
     
  6. May 24, 2018 #6

    railiner

    railiner

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    There is. As a matter of fact, they have an office in the station.

    When planning the trip, at first I was considering taking a taxi to the Saguenay-Bagotville Airport (YBG), 23 km, and flying home. But there were no flights until the next day, so instead decided to ride round trip. And I'm glad I did... [​IMG]
     
  7. May 24, 2018 #7

    railiner

    railiner

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    The menu was indeed very impressive...

    They even had several choices in the “Meal Tray”, and “Table d’hote” listed at the very bottom...

    IMG_1996.jpg IMG_1997.jpg

    As far as the condition of the cars...they are what I would call "nice original"....

    The windows were spotless, and the cars very clean, but the upholstery and carpets were certainly showing their age, and could stand some refurbishing. They were not up to the standards of Amtrak, in that regard, but that was certainly no detriment to my enjoyment of riding them... [​IMG]
     
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  8. May 24, 2018 #8

    railiner

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    I am hoping that day is far, far away. Could be when the car is due for a very heavy shopping, but let's hope that they decide to keep it as a "halo" living historic treasure of the streamliner era, for all future passenger's to experience some day... [​IMG]

    Perhaps, Congress should take a page from the former ICC, when it designated the original California Zephyr, "a unique national asset".... [​IMG]
     
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  9. May 24, 2018 #9

    cpotisch

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    There's a big difference between Ocean View and the PPCs. The PPCs were intended to operate year round, on every Coast Starlight run. Since that train is not state supported, Amtrak was covering all losses on the cars, so it sadly became pretty unjustifiable to keep them running. Ocean View operates on select runs of certain state supported trains, seasonally. It is a way to promote rail travel and tourism, rather than an inherent amenity.
     
  10. Sep 1, 2018 #10

    qc_railfan

    qc_railfan

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    Great article

    I was the one you're talking about in your article, with the scanner, accompanied by my cousin.

    Here are some pics

    André St-Amant

    St-Paulin, Quebec

    via SKYLINE.JPG via6IMG_4643 (2).JPG VIAdome_4630 (2).JPG VIA-IMG_4499.JPG VIA-IMG_4500.JPG
     
  11. Sep 1, 2018 #11

    Palmetto

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    Has the Skyline been withdrawn from service?
     
  12. Sep 2, 2018 #12

    railiner

    railiner

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    Welcome to AU!

    And thanks so much for posting those photo's and the fabulous video's shot from the dome, the "observation platform" (open rear door), and on the ground as well.

    Very much enjoyed your company on the trip, and all the radio translation's you made for us. The only thing I was sorry about, was that you got off (at your home), and did not 'shoot' the fascinating approach into Montreal... [​IMG]
     
  13. Sep 2, 2018 #13

    railiner

    railiner

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    They are not regularly assigned to that train...it was a 'special' for a few trips, like Amtrak does with its Ocean View. But the Skylines do run regularly on other VIA Rail trains....
     
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  14. Sep 2, 2018 #14

    Seaboard92

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    The skylines for the most part are captive to the Canadian. Occasionally the Ocean will operate with one as well for extra dome capacity. The Hudson Bay I believe doesn't use one, neither does the Skeena.
     
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