VIA Rail Skeena (Jasper-Prince Rupert Train) needs more publicity?

Discussion in 'VIA Rail Canada Discussion' started by Swadian Hardcore, May 3, 2014.

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  1. May 3, 2014 #1

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    I've been reading anything I could find about the Skeena in preparation for my planned trip on it. It seems like this train never gets filled much, despite the scenery and the vintage equipment. For example, take a look at the Skeena consists I've found:

    Winter Consist:

    EMD F40PH

    Budd 62-seat Coach

    Budd Park Car

    Summer Touring Consist:

    EMD F40PH

    Budd Baggage Car

    Budd 62-seat Coach

    Budd 68-seat Coach

    Colorado Railcar Panorama Car

    Budd Park Car

    Summer Regular Consist:

    EMD F40PH

    Budd Baggage Car

    Budd 62-seat Coach

    Budd 68-seat Coach

    Budd Park Car

    As you can see the summer consists are much longer than the winter ones, but they all seem too short for this route. And VIA should have some extra equipment lying around after cuts throughout the years. But I've heard that depsite the scenery and lower fares than the Canadian, this route still runs half-empty often.

    Remember, the Canada misses quite a bit of scenery at night, and even worse, that forces you to book an expensive Sleeper ticket or get stuck sleeping in Coach. Instead, the Skeena runs during the day, no need for sleepers, and you can just get a cheap hotel room in Prince George. Exactly the way I plan travel: cut down on overnight segments, sleep in hotels, enjoy the scenery, and make the journey part of your destination. Unfortunately, most North American trains make this impossible, including the CZ and the Canadian, but not the Skeena!

    Then, why doesn't VIA advertise this route more? Why do they keep focusing on the Canadian, which is already very famous, and forgetting about the Skeena? Surely there could be much more passengers riding this route.
     
  2. Sep 7, 2014 #2

    Guest

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    Guest

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    Just arrived in Jasper on the ex Skeena. Nice ride. Only real negative the lack of taxis for the Prince George layover . . . that necessitated walking about a mile from station to hotel and back. The vaunted Panorama car is OK, only OK. Airline-style seating with high backs prevents good views to the front. Meal service is airline style on drop-down trays from carts pushed down the aisle. (The food is VERY good, though.) Most of the Touring Class passengers chose to ride in the Park car, especially the dome, where the views are unmatched.

    A tip for photographers: The large emergency exit windows in the Panorama car seem to be flat optical glass, no wavy distortions as in the molded curved glass in the rest of the car and in the Park car. With a rubber lens hood to block out reflections, you can get very good shots from the train, especially if you kick up the contrast in post processing to overcome the dust on the outside of the window. Both days the vestibule windows of the Panorama car were opened "for fresh air" but nobody yelled at you if you aimed your cameras outside the window. Got some good shots of Mount Robson that way.

    Am glad I made this trip.
     
  3. Sep 7, 2014 #3

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    Why did you just get Economy ticket for a non-Touring-equipped train and ridden in the dome for much less?

    Besides, the Coaches on that train are usually the oldest in VIA Rail's fleet, 1946-1947 Budds. Yes, they're really that old.

    I believe the dome glass is real glass do the reflections are minimal compared to the Panorama Car.

    If you could have gotten a cab ride instead of the Panorama Car, that must be awesome.

    I've heard suggestion to just bring your own lunch onto the train.

    How was the scenery throughout the trip? I know Mount Robson, but that's just one mountain near Jasper, how about farther west? I heard it's just tons of trees.

    So you agree that VIA should market this more and try to get more passengers on it?
     
  4. Sep 7, 2014 #4

    Jean

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    Did this trip a few years back, finding it after a bit of research. It is a complete mystery to me why it is not marketed worldwide. In Australia we get ample marketing of the Rocky Mountaineer, but no-one has heard of the Skeena. We chatted to a passenger from Toronto, who thought he would give his travel agent some business when he went to book. The travel agent insisted there was no such train, so the man went home and booked on the internet.

    The scenery is stunning on both days, both mountains and forests. It also travels along several rivers. The taxi issue is one I have mentioned in reply to several queries about this train. We chose a close-by motel, about 5-10 minutes easy walk and were glad we did, as there seemed to be few taxis, which had to make repeat trips to convey all the waiting passengers.. Not so bad on arrival in the evening, but could make you anxious in the morning.

    We traveled in summer, in first class (called totem class maybe). The food was great. I did investigate the offerings available for economy, which seemed pretty basic, so if anyone chooses this, maybe bringing what you can for at least day 1, would be a good idea.

    One of the pluses for this train is that you can pick up the Alaska ferry in Prince Rupert, for points northward. I also loved the random stops along the way to pick up/drop off locals. This is no doubt part of the purpose of this train. I remember the train stopping somewhere very remote to deliver something, mail or parcels, can't remember, to a place which did not have any other access.

    The staff were tops, easy-going, friendly, but efficient. I say if anyone can take this trip, do it. Who knows how long it will run.
     
  5. Sep 7, 2014 #5

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    My point about Economy is that every other Skeena this summer ran without Touring, but every Skeena ran with the Dome. So if you find a Skeena without Touring, then you can book in Economy and still get the dome. With the dome, the Panorama Car pales in comparison anyway, and the Coaches are classics too.

    Here is the Skeena this summer with the dome, but no Touring: https://www.flickr.com/photos/41465870@N04/14892240008.

    As for ferry connections, there's also BC Ferries from Prince Rupert down to Port Hardy, which is a "whole-daytime cruise". From Port Hardy, bus connections to Vancouver. Also bus connections to Vancouver, Whitehorse, and Fairbanks from Prince George.

    So VIA Rail could really do well to market this more.

    A question about the Park Cars, are they going to refit all of them with Prestige Class or only a few?
     
  6. Sep 7, 2014 #6
    I have no idea what VIA should do to market the Skeena more efficiently. Our Touring Class was full from Prince Rupert to Prince George, thanks to a tour group, but only 20 people from Prince George to Jasper.

    Why didn't I ride coach in a non Touring run? Because I spent three-quarters of a lifetime cheaping out and now that I have saved a little coin it is time to enjoy luxe once in a while. Besides, one gets to meet a better class of snob in Touring. And Touring gets you unlimited free munchies and coffee/tea in the Park car, but none of that on all-coach days.

    Note: The curved windows in both Panorama and Park cars are MOLDED glass, hence contain wavy aberrations that won't do for serious photographers, although the point-and-shoot crowd won't care. The windows in coach are scratched and old. I got some excellent shots through the optically clear emergency exit glass in the Panorama car.
     
  7. Sep 7, 2014 #7
  8. Sep 8, 2014 #8
    You don't see wavy distortions in small photos on the Internet, but I bet 11x14 prints wouid reveal them. These are good amateur shots, by the way. Nice going.
     
  9. Sep 8, 2014 #9

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    How about if you go right up to the front or rear center dome window?? That seems to be flat. Like this: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mtlwestrailfan/8079944918/in/photolist-m82diB-oB7CQY-mP4BJG-o2Nv1z-o1rCvZ-oJH8F8-diZQ89-fjpVvT-fjE69d-98WMqp-fnbJkn-e5u3Gr-mmhgdB-mrHVxc-ohW84e-aepn61-4uRseB-ovrTa4-fri2Ay-89mmUK-3DqPxg-ovrTfK-fpAx91-eft8xU-nHwEis-fzJ4pv-5WwAXf-89RtuV-diZUrr-89pBgJ-DLANR-fN6DXn-7w9jTx-6rdTDE-GKkcK-eft8yN-amo4Lw-AD9a3-5GxxP4-a1FLMB-aerzEH-a1FU2P-aemyhP-7K5x4n-5wdx6P-aeumnS-4uRsGn-fsUM6n-7bcd6V-huaijF.

    Oh yeah, that gives me the "Silver Streak" feel again, the end scene was filmed in Toronto Union Station.

    Also this one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/micgormit/253608900.

    I think the contortions are greatly reduced when one put the camera against the window.

    Edit: Does anyone know if all the Park Cars are getting Prestige Class?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2014
  10. Sep 9, 2014 #10

    lyke99

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    My understanding is that the Prestige class remodel will only be applied to four Park cars and eight Chateau sleepers.
     
  11. Sep 9, 2014 #11

    Swadian Hardcore

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    Are you sure? Because I heard VIA Rail will be introducing Prestige Class on all Canadian consists by next summer. And they probably need a spare as well. How many Canadian consists are there?
     
  12. Sep 9, 2014 #12

    railiner

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    One thing VIA could possibly do, would be to try to jointly market with the Alaska State Ferry coordinated services and/or package's as an alternative to those taking Alaskan cruises. Perhaps even get an airline involved....I was thinking of taking the Canadian/Skeena from the East to Prince Rupert, the Alaska Ferry up to Juneau or Skagway, and then fly back. Perhaps even involve the White Pass RR, with a train/bus ride over to Whitehorse.....could make a very nice vacation....
     
  13. Sep 9, 2014 #13

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    That would be a good idea! They have some spare cars, don't they? Could use those on the Skeena.

    I hope to ride it next year and I hope that when I ride it, the Park Car is still there instead of being converted to Prestige Class.

    Another good idea would be joint tours with Brewster. Heck, Brewster could connect with a tour bus up the Stewart-Cassiar from Kitwanga north to Whitehorse. The Stewart-Cassier Highway is very remote and should be popular with adventurers.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2014
  14. Sep 10, 2014 #14

    lyke99

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    Yes, I am sure. See the link. http://www.julien.ca/railsolutions/en/ This firm did the design work for Prestige class, Amtrak's new inspection car American View, and a number of other projects.
     
  15. Sep 10, 2014 #15

    Swadian Hardcore

    Swadian Hardcore

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    Thanks for the link. I'm happy to see the Skeena will continue to operate with Park Cars, the original kind.
     
  16. Oct 27, 2014 #16

    sldispatcher

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    Is the Skeena worth taking in the winter?
     

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