Due to several rounds of budget cuts, VIA’s system timetable had shrunk from 68 pages in 1988 to 48 pages in 1996. The Canadian still ran, but on CN’s route through Jasper rather than CP’s route through Banff. CP’s Atlantic was also gone. While these cuts appeared to favor CN over CP, Canadian politicos believed they were actually designed to favor cities with heavy Liberal Party representation, while they penalized cities that had voted Conservative.
Click image to download a 29.6-MB PDF of this timetable.
The Liberals got their comeuppance in 2004 when it was discovered that they had used VIA, among other crown corporations, to direct advertising funds that were supposed to promote Canadian industry to promote their party instead. Ironically, the Liberal Party was probably responsible for more VIA budget cuts than the Conservatives.
I didn’t use a CanRailPass for my 1996 trip on the Chaleur, but I may have considered a longer trip as I picked up this brochure about the pass. The pass was more restricted that the original VIA rail pass, which provided unlimited travel for 15, 22, or 30 days. In 1996, the pass offered 12 days of travel within a 30-day period.
Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this brochure.
The price was lower to compensate for this restriction. In 1978, a 30-day pass during the high season was $350 ($1,278 today), while in 1996 the 12-days-out-of-30 pass was $535 ($785 today). Aside from the pass, most of this brochure is used to advertise connections such as Hertz rental cars, Choice Hotels, and Gray Line.
This menu is a huge upgrade from those used in 1989. Not only is the appearance far better, but the choice of foods is far greater and includes both table d’hôte and a la carte items. This menu includes meals of hot roast beef or turkey, beef stew, Atlantic haddock, and vegetable lasagna, plus a la carte soups, salads, and sandwiches. Desserts include carrot cake, apple crisp, ice cream, and fruit cocktail.
Click image to download a 1.6-MB PDF of this menu.
The table d’hôte menu was a card (below), printed on one side only, inserted into the above menu. It offered grilled monk fish or rack of lamb, with soup, salad, boiled potatoes, snow peas and carrots, beverage, and a pastry tray for dessert. A third meal, which came with everything but the potatoes, peas, and carrots, was pasta primavera with chorizo sausage. Multiply prices by 1.2 to get today’s U.S. dollars. Continue reading
The train to Gaspé is one of the few routes I did not take in 1978, so when I was in Montreal in 1996, I took a few days to ride this train, which was supposed to be one of the most scenic routes in North America. The train included one of Canadian Pacific’s dome cars and, while it was scenic, it doesn’t compare with the Coast Starlight between Oakland and Los Angeles or the California Zephyr between Denver and Salt Lake.
Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this brochure.
Although the view outside the window in this graphic shows Percé Rock, which is supposed to be the scenic highlight of the trip, the couple shown in the coach seats don’t seem too interested in looking at it. This brochure, like an early Amtrak brochure, must be folded correctly to see this image, as the right and left sides are really the two ends of the brochure. Continue reading
In the final day of our journey through VIA’s 1989 dinner menus, we have a choice of chicken and pork ribs in barbeque sauce or rainbow trout. These came with cream of mushroom soup, but like the first menu they also came with whipped potatoes, broccoli, and carrot cake.
Click image to download a 723-KB PDF of this menu.
All of the dinner menus thus consisted of meat or fish entrées. With no a la carte menu, vegetarians were apparently out of luck. I suspect the chef would provide them a meal of everything on the menu but the entrées, with maybe some extra vegetables to make up for the lack of meat or fish.
On the third day of our journey through VIA’s 1989 dining car on the Canadian, the menu offers a choice of roast beef or fillet of sole. These come with vegetable soup, oven-browned potatoes, oriental vegetables, and cheese cake with blueberry sauce.
Click image to download a 729-KB PDF of this menu.
As usual, the price for either entrée is $10.95. Since this works out to less than $14 U.S. dollars in today’s money, this is actually quite reasonable for a complete meal.
I’m not sure if VIA had more than one breakfast and one lunch menu in 1989, but since I only collected one each, perhaps not. However, it did have multiple dinner menus, which would have been offered to travelers on different nights of the journey between Toronto and Vancouver.
Click image to download a 690-KB PDF of this menu.
This one provided a choice of chicken grand-mere or halibut. Instead of consommé, these meals came with cream of tomato soup; instead of whipped potatoes and broccoli, boiled potatoes and carrot sticks; instead of carrot cake, apple pie.
If the breakfast and lunch menus, with four choices of meals, were limited, VIA’s dinner menus were even more limited, with just two meal choices and no a la carte. This menu offers a choice of Swiss steak or fried scallops, neither of which sound very elegant.
Click image to download a 701-KB PDF of this menu.
With fruit or consommé, bread, salad, whipped potatoes, brocolli, beverage, and carrot cake for dessert, the price of either entrée was $10.95 (multiply 1989 Canadian prices by 1.3 to get today’s U.S. dollars). The other side of the menu, which is shown here, has exactly the same beverage menu as was on the lunch menu.
VIA’s lunch menus didn’t offer much more selection than the breakfast menu. The entrées were omelet, cheeseburger, and shrimp salad. There was also a fruit salad but it was much less expensive so it was probably small. Some of the meals come with dessert, but the menu doesn’t say what the dessert was.
Click image to download a 849-KB PDF of this menu.
The other side of the menu has a beverage list, including liquours, beers, wines, and soft drinks (as mixers). The soft drinks must have been available separately for those who didn’t want or were too young for alcohol, but they aren’t listed.
VIA menus in the late 1980s weren’t much better than Amtrak’s, and possibly worse. Only four selections are available on this breakfast menu, and there is no a la carte section.
Click image to download a 533-KB PDF of this menu.
I kept this menu as a souvenir during my 1990 trip on the Canadian. Although the menu is dated November, 1989, VIA no doubt continued using it in January.