VIA No. 1, The Canadian is led by newly rebuilt F40PH 6434 near Jasper, Alberta, February 2011. Click to enlarge.

(Timothy Stevens, CC BY-SA <//>, via Wikimedia Commons)


VIA logo


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

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. Via Rail Canada took over in 1978, and, on January 15, 1990, designated the Canadian as its sole transcontinental service, between Toronto and Vancouver-only. (Montreal-Sudbury-Vancouver through service, originally the main section of the train, was discontinued on this date). The new service replaced the former "Super Continental" CN flagship passenger service, and continues to run as of 2022 primarily over Canadian National tracks.


The Canadian leaving Toronto in 1970. Click to enlarge.

(Robert Taylor from Stirling, Canada, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Service under Via Rail

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.

The Super Continental was discontinued in 1981 due to sharp budget cuts. Since then, the Canadian has Via Rail's only true transcontinental train. While the Super Continental was brought back in 1985 amid popular demand, it only ran as far east as Winnipeg.

In the aftermath of another round of deep budget cuts made to Via Rail on January 15, 1990, Via again discontinued the Super Continental, this time permanently. The Canadian was moved from CP trackage to the CN route plied by the Super Continental for its first quarter-century, dropping the Montreal section. The new longer route bypassed Thunder Bay, Regina and Calgary in favor of Saskatoon and Edmonton. This maintained transcontinental service and allowed Via to operate its government-mandated service to small communities along the line. At the same time, the absence of transportation alternatives along the CP route allowed entrepreneur Peter Armstrong to develop the Rocky Mountaineer excursion service. Moreover, while pre-1990 schedules had daily service on both the CP and CN routes, service following the 1990 cuts was a mere three days per week, reduced further to two times a week in the off-season.

In 2007, the schedule was lengthened so that the train now takes four nights, rather than three, to travel between Toronto and Vancouver. The four-night schedule is almost identical (in terms of travel time) with that of the 1940s, despite substantial technological change since then.

In 2013, the train was honored by being featured on the back of the new polymer Canadian ten-dollar note.

As of 2022, Via Rail continues to operate the Canadian using the rebuilt ex-CP Budd passenger equipment.

Due to CN's shortage of capacity on the cross-country line, 12-hour delays had become almost standard. On-time performance had fallen from 84% in 2009 to just 8% in 2017. Continuing delays reached nearly 2 days in length by mid-May, 2018. To address this issue, the schedule was lengthened again, effective July 26, 2018, to four days and four nights in each direction due to continuing schedule-reliability problems on the host railway: CN. This change has almost entirely resolved the issue.

The Canadian currently takes 94 hours 15 minutes westbound vs. 95 hours 29 minutes eastbound. This is 13h50m vs. 12h19m slower than the SSContinental's 80h25m vs. 83h10m and 13h5m vs. 12h24m slower than the Dominion's 81h10m vs. 83h5m schedules from 1952. The difference is entirely due to CN freight traffic being prioritized over passenger traffic along the route.


Route Map of the VIA Canadian in blue. Click to enlarge.

(Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Current operations

When operating on the normal schedule, the Canadian operates twice per week, departing Toronto on Wednesdays and Sundays and Vancouver on Mondays and Fridays. The total journey takes about four days. An additional train operates once-weekly between Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto in the summer months.

The great majority of stations operate as flag stops; passengers boarding or detraining at these stops must give advance notice. On March 21, 2020, the Canadian and most other Via Rail services were suspended due to the pandemic. This suspension continued until December 11, to accommodate inspection and repair work as part of its Heritage Modernization Program. Beginning December 11, the Canadian was reinstated between Winnipeg and Vancouver only and ran once a week. Service to Toronto resumed on May 17, 2021, still operating once a week.


The Canadian in Calgary, 1982. Click to enlarge.

Pierre Fournier, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Service disruptions

In January 2020, service on the Canadian (along with nearly all of Via's other services) was suspended due to the 2020 Canadian pipeline and railway protests and blockades at several points along CN and Metrolinx lines. Partial service was restored in early March.

However, less than a month after the blockades were lifted, the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of the Canada-US border temporarily impacted nearly all Via Rail services. While reduced service continued on the Corridor, all overnight trains except the Winnipeg-Churchill run were initially cancelled. Around 1000 employees across the system were temporarily laid off. Service was gradually restored in stages, with the Toronto-Winnipeg portion of the route being restored first. Service along the full Toronto-Vancouver route was finally restored in December 2020, with a single train running once a week in each direction.

In response to these two major disruptions, Via amended its cancellation policies to allow changes without penalty and full refunds.

In November 2021, service west of Winnipeg was impacted by the November 2021 Pacific Northwest floods. The November 13 westbound train out of Toronto, which was already underway when the floods hit, was halted at Winnipeg. Passengers with final destinations west of Winnipeg were bussed or flown to their final destinations. Service was not restored until December 12. Subsequent trains were significantly delayed between Edmonton and Vancouver by the supply chain backlog of previously stalled freight trains.


The Canadian at Jasper, Alberta. Click to enlarge

(David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Classes of service

The Canadian offers three main classes of service: Economy, Sleeper Plus, and, since 2014, Prestige. It additionally includes one or more dining cars, at least one Skyline (dome) car per class, a Panorama car (west of Edmonton), and a Park car.

Prior to boarding

Sleeper Plus and Prestige passengers have access to the Via Rail business lounge, if available at that station. Prestige passengers are offered exclusive access to a dedicated business lounge area.

Sleeper Plus and Prestige passengers are pre-boarded.

No smoking is permitted in any Via station or on board the Canadian, including e-cigarettes and marijuana. The Canadian will make extended stops at some stations, which allow passengers to step outside the train and smoke if they so desire.

On board

Seating and rooms

Economy class cars are kept separate from sleeper cars. One concierge is assigned to every sleeper car, or sometimes to two sleeper cars. The Prestige rooms are at the very back of the train.

Economy offers reclining seats. Sleeper Plus has a choice of upper/lower berths, a roomette for one, or a cabin for two: each of which features chairs or facing sofa seats during the day and beds at night. Some berths can accommodate two persons. It is also possible to join two adjoining cabins for two to create a space for four people during the day. The second bed in a cabin for two is a pull-down bunk. Prestige offers a significantly larger cabin, with a modular leather sofa during the day which converts to a double bed at night. The Prestige cabin also has a much larger window.

Economy and Sleeper Plus have one washroom per car. Sleeper Plus roomettes and cabins for two include private washroom facilities, and additionally have access to a shared shower in each car. Prestige has both private washroom facilities and private showers.

Meals and entertainment

Sleeper Plus and Prestige include three-course meals in a dining car, including non-alcoholic drinks during meals and coffee/tea/snacks at all hours. Prestige additionally includes unlimited drinks, including alcoholic drinks, with a dedicated concierge who will bring requested drinks to the room. Economy gives access to a cafe car with light meals available for purchase. A Sleeper class which included accommodation but no meals was discontinued in 2015.

Meals include breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is open seating, with an additional continental breakfast available in the Skyline car. Lunch and dinner are served in two or three seatings, usually chosen the previous evening.

All classes have access to their own Skyline car. Sleeper Plus and Prestige passengers also have access to the Panorama car. Prestige passengers have semi-exclusive access to the Park car, a licensed lounge at the back of the train.

Talks and activities are scheduled during the summer months. If a singer or musical group is travelling with the train, separate performances will be available to each class of service.

Prestige uniquely has an in-cabin flat screen television, with a selection of TV channels and movies.

Changes during COVID-19
As of October 30, all Via Rail passengers are required by Canadian law to bring proof of vaccination.

The Prestige class was unavailable until February 14, 2022.

Masks are mandatory at all times in public areas on the train. They may be removed in cabins or nighttime berths, in the shower, or while eating or drinking.

During the initial restart, lunch was served in the cabin or berth seating area. This practice ended with the introduction of the Canadian law requiring proof of vaccination for all intercity public transportation. Shower time slots must be reserved with the car concierge, who disinfects the shower after each use.

All activities have been cancelled. The Panorama car has been discontinued for the duration. Dome cars are open, but with limited seating.


Current Route Map. Click to enlarge.

(Author not set, CC BY 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Service type: Intercity rail
Status: Active
Locale: Canada
Current operator: Via Rail
Former operator: Canadian Pacific
Ridership: 1,579 weekly (FY 2019)
Annual ridership: 82,135 (FY 2019)
Website: Via Rail - The Canadian
Route Termini: Toronto, Ontario / Vancouver, British Columbia
Stops: 65 (55 on request only)
Distance traveled: 4,466 km (2,775 mi)
Average journey time Westbound: 97 hours and 5 minutes Eastbound: 92 hours and 29 minutes
Service frequency: two trains per week in each direction off peak, one extra train per week between Edmonton and Vancouver on peak.
On-board services
Classes: Economy, Sleeper, Prestige
Disabled access: Yes
Seating arrangements: Coach seating
Sleeping arrangements: Berths, bedrooms for one, two or three
Catering facilities: Dining car, Skyline Cafe, take out, in-room service (Prestige Class only), bar
Observation facilities: Skyline car, park car, panoramic dome car (between Edmonton and Vancouver)
Entertainment facilities: Artists on Board Program, WiFi (coming in later 2017 in areas with cell coverage)
Baggage facilities: Checked baggage available at selected stations
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)
Operating speed: 80 mph (130 km/h) (maximum)
Track owners: Metrolinx, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific, BNSF
Timetable numbers: 1, 2 (between Toronto and Vancouver) / 3, 4 (between Edmonton and Vancouver)


See Also:

Royal Canadian Pacific

Named Passenger Trains A-K

Named Passenger Trains L-Z