Saturday, January 15, 2022

VIA Reverses its Skylines in 1982

A  question often asked by VIAphiles is ‘when did VIA reverse their Skylines?’ The term ‘Skyline’ was likely chosen to reflect the Skyline Trail Hikers of the Canadian Rockies. The Skyline Trail Hikers were amateur mountaineers with roots in CPR’s publicity department who held an annual Rocky Mountain hike, beginning in 1933! 

Rapido Trains Inc. aficianados en route to a product launch at Exporail in St-Constant, QC, Skyline 8501 is coupled to No 62/52 approaching Kingston on October 11, 2015. (top - video capture by Erika Gagnon)


As delivered, CP’s Skylines had 26 coach seats in their front (longer) section, contiguous with the 100-series coach(es) that were usually marshalled immediately ahead of the Skyline. Some would say the Skyline and the train looked better this way, as the long front section was similar to the way the Park cars faced, with their shorter lounge section in rear. CP’s design for the Budd cars was contrary to most other Budd-built mid-train dome railroads at the time, whose domes operated with the shorter section forward. When CP Rail paint was applied in 1969, the multimark appeared on the Action Red letterboard at the normal 'rear’ of the car. Sandwiched between VIA coaches 102 (blue-striped) and 5629 still in CN colours, is Skyline 501 (above) with CP Rail markings on a four hours-late VIA No 2 stopped at Portage la Prairie, MB on August 21, 1979.


Around 1982, VIA redesigned the Skylines, replacing the below-dome buffet seating with a take-out snack bar, replacing the coach section with tables and chairs in the now-rear section, with lounge seating in the short section. The sit-down dining section served as an additional dining area for extra-fare passengers. The dome seats were reversed, so that the car operated lounge forward. Some refer to this conversion as a dome-coach to dome-coffee shop transition.

Since there would have been minimal leg room at the new front of the reversed dome, the first pairs of seats were left facing rearwards and two game tables were installed in the resulting four-seaters. Stairs to the dome now ascended toward the front of the dome and the rear of the train. Some contend this floods late-night dome denizens with unwanted light pollution, and removes the ‘best seats in the dome’ for forward-facing dome travel. The redesigned Skyline now separated extra-fare passengers in Dayniters and sleepers from the Canadian’s coach passengers. 

With the drastic cuts to VIA Rail in November 1981, there was less demand for a full diner during the off-season. In fact, the Canadian often ran without a diner in winter, with the train’s Skyline providing food service. An eastbound Corridor Canadian consist photographed at Kingston in early 1982 (above) shows a Skyline operating with the long section forward (train departing to the left of photo). 

VIA publicized their reconfigured Skylines in early-1984. Other than that, the entire 1982-1984 period during the reversing of the Skylines continues to be an under-reported and under-documented time. Railfan pubications of the time did not contain that type of detailed information. Few VIA documents, confirmed shop dates or captioned in-process conversion photos have ever surfaced. Perhaps they never will, now that forty years have come and gone.

The ‘onion’ domes of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brandon, MB form a stately backdrop for VIA No 2’s Skyline 516, its dome nearly empty on June 2, 1984:

This configuration is still in use over 30 years later. When Skylines served as diners, as they did on the Chaleur and Hudson Bay, this configuration made sense. 

During the pandemic suspension of the Canadian, VIA deadheaded some stainless steel equipment to Montreal. Then, prior to resumption of the Canadian in May, 2021 there was another series of deadhead movements. On April 18, 2021 Skyline 8507 trails No 66 through Kingston from Toronto (above). Skylines 8503 and 8516 also headed east the same week.

Running extra...

Discovery Channel is free for the month on our Cogeco! Avert all the dramatic airliner crises and clean up those hellish highway messes you can possibly want!

Don't bother watching The Curse of Oak Island on History Channel. Seems the boys have got bogged down in indigenous jurisdictional issues? A show about finding treasure should not have lasted 10 seasons! Cut to the chase. Show us the gold! American Pickers, also on History Channel, is your best bet. Entertaining, educational, eclectic.

Gotta get this posted quick. Lawrence Welk re-re-re-reruns at 7 pm on our local PBS station, coming on soon!. Hokey yes, but their musicianship and versatility is unparallelled, and worth the cringeworthy brightly-coloured wardrobe.


Unknown said...

For a time the ATLANTIC Ltd. had walkover seats in the Skyline dome to obviate turning the car around at the end of runs Montréal- Saint John N.B.

Joel said...

A phrase I never thought I'd hear again, "Hurry up! Lawrence Welk is on."

Eric said...

Thanks for the additional information, U. Joel, it's a Welk resurgence and here's another one for you, "Wunnerful, wunnerful!

I appreciate your comments!

Tom Box said...

At the 2017 VIA annual public meeting, somebody asked, "Have you ever considered reversing the seating in the Skyline domes similar to the Park cars in order to improve night viewing?" VIA replied, "The seats on the Skyline car are fixed and cannot be turned around. As well, the car itself cannot be turned around as the ventilation system was built to run in one direction and would not work in reverse." It would take some work to turn the seats, but it was done circa 1982, so surely it could be undone. And while I'm no HVAC expert, the claim that the cars have a one-way ventilation system seems fishy.

Eric said...

That is very humorous, Tom! It's like the VIA responder is saying, "Well, I put that heavy bookcase against this wall, but now even though I want to put it on that wall, I'd have to take all those heavy books out, then put them all back in after the move!"

I wonder if a curtain was ever considered for nighttime dome viewers?