CP 1410 (FP7) westbound Train 1, the Canadian stopped at Dorval, Quebec station on September 6, 1965. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



This article is about the Canadian Pacific passenger train. For the VIA train see Canadian Pacific (VIA).

The Canadian (French: Le Canadien) was a transcontinental passenger train operated by the Canadian Pacific.

Before 1955, the Canadian was a Canadian Pacific (CP) train between Toronto and Chicago. On April 24, 1955, CP renamed its best transcontinental train between Montreal/Toronto and Vancouver the Canadian, with new lightweight stainless-steel equipment.


In the years following World War II, passenger trains on the CP 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, CP management, including then-Vice President Norris R. Crump, resolved to upgrade its rolling stock.

In 1953, CP placed an order for 155 stainless steel cars with the Budd Company of Red Lion, Pennsylvania (a Philadelphia suburb) 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 CP refurbished in its own Angus Shops, each fitted-out with Budd-style stainless steel cladding. To complement the new rolling stock, CP 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 would occasionally pulled by a variety of motive power, including Montreal Locomotive Works FPA-2s.


CP FP7 4074 with the Toronto Section of the Canadian in October 6, 1971. Click to enlarge. (By Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

CP Rail's the Canadian at the CP station in Vancouver, BC, October 1978. Click to enlarge. (By Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


CP's Canadian at Sudbury, ON in October 6, 1971. Click to enlarge. (By Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Service under CP

CP 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 CP competitor Canadian National Railways began its own new transcontinental service, the Super Continental, on the same day, CP 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 CN acquired dome cars from the Milwaukee Road.

The train operated with Montreal and Toronto sections, which ran combined west of Sudbury, Ontario. The Montreal section (also serving Ottawa) was known as train 1 westbound and train 2 eastbound, while the Toronto 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 new jet aircraft and increased automobile usage following construction of the Trans-Canada Highway, the CP cancelled The Dominion in 1966, and petitioned the government to discontinue The Canadian in 1970. Although this petition was denied, CP 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.


Canadian Pacific FP7 No. 1417 with Train 1, the Canadian at Ottawa, ON on May 30, 1971. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Service under Via Rail

See Main article: Canadian (VIA)
Via Rail, a federal crown corporation, formally assumed responsibility for CP'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 CP 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.


A postcard depiction of the Canadian Pacific's all stainless steel scenic dome streamliner - the Canadian - in the Canadian Rockies. (CPR Photo, Grant Mann Litho, Vancouver, BC, Public domain)


Postcard depiction of he Canadian in Yoho Valley, Yoho Valley National Park. (CPR photo, Double L Color Prods, Ltd, Banff, AB, Public domain)