Experiencing Eastern Ecstacy

Steam escapes into the cold night air from the rear of "Tweedsmuir Park" as the "Ocean" makes the intermodal station stop at Levis, Quebec, on November 16, 1990. The last steam-heated "Ocean" and "Atlantic" were replaced by HEP trainsets in January 1993. Photo by Pierre Ozorak.

In 1989, Michael Iveson and I ventured from Ottawa to Nova Scotia to ride the trains between Halifax and Yarmouth (Dominion Atlantic) and Halifax and Sydney (CN) before they were cut off (passenger service on these routes was cancelled in January 1990). As a result of timing, we got to spend only a few minutes in Halifax. At the time we decided to come back to see more. The opportunity presented itself on November 10, 1993. The opportunity also included a chance to try out VIA Rail's new Easterly Class.

Easterly Class is the VIA marketing term applied to its Maritimes trains ("Ocean" and "Atlantic"). It offers similar features to the Silver and Blue Class offered on the "Canadian" between Toronto and Vancouver.

Most railfans will be aware that one big feature of both services is that they use refurbished former CP stainless steel cars, with several former U.S.-owned cars added on the Easterly Class trains. As well as modernizing the decor, the workers at AMF changed the cars from steam heat to electrical heat and added a shower in the "Manor" and "Chateau" sleepers. Some minor details that I was unaware of until riding the trains are also of interest.

Years ago, I had a shower on the Australian transcontinental train, the "Indian Pacific". It was very difficult as the shower was small and the water sparse. Certainly this is not the case with the shower in the "Chateau" cars. Two berths have been removed for the shower enclosure. One half of it (about three feet long) allows lots of room to get out of your clothes. The actual shower stall, complete with glass door, comes with a temperature control and a plunger. The plunger is a water-limiter. In both directions, I enjoyed the shower although on the return trip I was startled to look out and see a naked man having a shower. It turned out that there is a mirror on the door into the shower enclosure! One minor problem - passengers in the rear-end "Park" car have to go forward to the first "Chateau" car to utilize the shower. One final note on the shower - the car attendants, on request, provide a plastic bag with towels, wash cloth, soap, shampoo and shower-cap. A very civilized convenience!

One nice touch (for the railfan anyway) is that the "dividers" in the coaches have display cases for HO scale models. I have not read the whole story on how they were chosen, but on the "Atlantic" returning from Halifax, one of the coaches had a superb model of a CP gas-electric. In the next coach there was a well-painted model of a CP SW1200RS. The other models noted were of European prototypes. No steam models were present.

The bar in the "Park" car has a new touch. After leaving Saint John I was able to watch the video "Mr. Baseball" on the VCR in the bar. Interestingly enough, the bar had been so lively on the trip from Montreal to Halifax that the crew had felt no need to show us videos.

Bytown Railway Society,  Branchline, January 1994, page 22.

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