Riding the Rapido

The Rapido

The Rapido in autumn, viewed from the Skyline dome
Photo by Thomas Blampied.

The team at Rapido recently achieved a milestone. To celebrate our new Icons of Canadian Steam product launch, we chartered our first actual VIA train and resurrected the “Rapido” between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of us: riding a dome car with full “VIA 1″ first class service between Toronto and Montreal with 70 of our fellow model railroaders and railfans.

For many of our guests, this was their first time riding the train in decades, and their first time ever riding in a dome car. VIA Rail Canada’s on-board staff were exemplary, and everyone aboard the Rapido was made to feel welcome, comfortable and important. Throughout the trip, I heard a great deal of “I’m having the best time!” and “I really need to take the train more often!”

We really enjoyed the fact that railfans could be seen trackside, on bridges and at stations, photographing our train. The engineers got a kick out of it as well, tooting the locomotive horn every time they spotted a trainspotter…

VIA Skyline

Ready to board VIA Skyline 8501 at Toronto Maintenance Centre, 11 October 2015
From left: Bill Schneider, Boaz Shron, Jason Shron, Dalya Shron

Having a dome car in service set this trip above all others. This was the first time a dome car was in revenue service between Toronto and Montreal since 2005. It was the first time a dome was in service during daylight hours on that route since 1985. It was the first dome between Ottawa and Montreal since 1986, and it was the first dome in revenue service between Brockville and Ottawa EVER.

The dome was an unmatched place to relax, watch and photograph the gorgeous fall colours, and commune with people who share similar interests. The discussion was lively, covering all aspects of Canadian railway history and numerous train-related anecdotes. And the LRC coach (on the way there) and club car (on the way back) was a great place to take a break, zone out, and just revel in the unique experience of Canadian train travel.

VIA Skyline

Our dome car at Oshawa Station
Photo by Michael Dobinson.

Rapido Trains Inc. may be Canada’s leading model railroad manufacturer, but more than that we are part of a community. Almost everyone at Rapido is a life-long model railroader and railfan. Rapido is all about bringing model railroaders and railfans together to create a collective community of railroad enthusiasts. Whether our interest is in riding trains, preserving our railway heritage, or recreating trains in miniature, we are all on the same team.

This sense of community permeates everything we do. It’s why we include interior and underbody details on our model passenger trains that you can’t even see. It’s why we’ve spent a hefty chunk of 2015’s profits purchasing and restoring a real VIA Rail Canada sleeping car (which you can read about here). It’s why we organized an unforgettable excursion on board a real VIA train.

I hope the photos below convey the excitement, the relaxation, the memories and the bonding that we all experienced aboard the Rapido. We plan to do more excursions in the future, beginning in 2016 with special runs of our sleeping car, Edmundston, on the Credit Valley Explorer tourist train. Please click here to sign up for our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss the next Ride the Rapido announcement.

Enjoy the photos, and I hope you will join the discussion by adding your comments to this post.


Sunday 11 October 2015
The Rapido: LRC Coach 3353, Skyline 8501
VIA Train 52, Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal

Monday 12 October 2015
The Rapido: LRC Club 3477, Skyline 8501
VIA Train 69, Montreal-Toronto

Rapido approaching Union

Our train – with me visible just inside the car – eases into Union Station.
We’re almost ready to pick up our passengers!
Photo by Lance Gleich.

LRC Union StationWelcoming our passengers aboard The Rapido at Toronto’s Union Station

Toronto Skyline

The view from the dome as we are ready to depart
Photo by Matt Soknacki.

Leaving Union Station

Leaving Union Station.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

The Rapido and the GO TrainMeeting a GO Train just east of Union Station.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Boaz and Dalya Shron

Conductors-In-Training Boaz and Dalya Shron punch tickets in the dome.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

The Rapido at Oshawa

Train 52 arrives at Oshawa Station.
Photo by David E. Hill.

Departing OshawaDeparting Oshawa. Train 52 (rear) and 62 (front) depart Toronto as a J-Train (joined train). In Brockville yard they are split, with 62 going straight to Montreal and 52 going to Ottawa first and ultimately to Montreal.
Photo by Michael Dobinson.

VIA Wine Glass

VIA provided full business class service to passengers on board The Rapido, including complimentary hot meal and beverages. We diehard VIA fans still call this “VIA 1″ and even “Club” service. CN and VIA initially referrred to their first-class cars as “Club Cars” and most VIA employees still use this terminology today even though most were born after “Club” service disappeared from the timetable!
Photo by Matt Soknacki.

The Rapido Skyline in Kingston

The Rapido approaches Kingston Station.
Photo courtesy the Gagnon family. A Gaggle of Gagnons was out to photograph us!

Arriving KingstonArriving in Kingston Station.
Photo by Michael Dobinson.

Departing KingstonThe Rapido crosses Counter Street en route for Ottawa and Montreal.
Photo by Michael Dobinson.

VIA trains split at Brockville

Train 62 heads off to Montreal, leaving 52 behind.
This happens every day at Brockville Yard.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

In the Skyline Dome

Making history! The Rapido Skyline is in virgin-dome territory.
We have just left Brockville and are on VIA’s Smiths Falls subdivision to Ottawa.

VIA Skyline DomeA lovely photo through the Skyline dome.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

On Board the Rapido

Throughout the trip, the sound most prevalent was the sound of laughter. Everyone was having a wonderful time, and the terrible jokes and all-round silliness added to that.
Photo by Marc Winegust.

Meeting train 47 at Smiths Falls

Meeting Train 47 at Smiths Falls, Ontario
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Skyline 8501 at Smiths Falls

That’s me in the Skyline, chatting with photographer Michael Dobinson.
Michael chased our train all the way to Montreal!
Photo by Michael Dobinson.

Michael DobinsonAnd that’s Michael on the platform at Smiths Falls! Meeting Michael was a lot of fun.

RDCs at Ottawa

A treat for railfans: parked at Ottawa was this trio of rebuilt RDCs.

RDCs at Ottawa

Here’s an atmospheric shot of RDC-1 6105.
6105 was formerly CN D-105, built by Budd in 1957.
Rapido just happens to be manufacturing the RDC in HO scale.
Click here to reserve yours.
Photo by Matt Soknacki.


The mail & express RDC-4 was a rarity, but CP and CN owned half of all of the
RDC-4s ever built. Together they had… seven. Most CN and CP RDCs were transferred to VIA in 1978, but 6251 was one of a handful that stayed with CP. Formerly CP 9251, VIA only bought it in 2010!
Photo by Gareth Bayer.

Jason Shron in Ottawa

I won’t deny it. Running an excursion like this was a LOT OF FUN.
Here I am hamming it up for the camera at Ottawa station.
Photo by Richard Longpre.

VIA on-board crew

Our wonderful hosts aboard the Rapido were (left to right):
Les Friesen, Jade Watson and Marc-Alexandre Leger
I was on Marc’s first or second trip as a VIA employee nine years ago, when I used to travel every month between Toronto and Montreal. 
He’s young now – so he must have been a baby back then!


Here’s a stunning photo of our train taken by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Dan Garcia

Dan Garcia and Bill Schneider enjoy a “quiet” lunch in our LRC coach. You could hear them laughing from the next car!
Photo by Marc Winegust.

VIA 52 Rapido

52 passes through a cacophany of colours on the Alexandria Subdivision…
Photo by Raymond S. Farand. 

VIA Skyline

…with our Skyline dome as a postscript.
Photo by Raymond S. Farand.

Skyline at Dorval

Everyone except for me and the kids (and Marc Winegust, our videographer) got off at Dorval. VIA called and apologized for putting us on the north track. “Are you kidding?” I asked. “The passengers loved the rare chance to get off on the north track. They actually complimented us on it!” We’re training VIA on how to handle railfans… That’s me seeing everyone off from the vestibule window.
Photo by Mark Kaluza.

Rapido at Dorval

Our train pulls out of Dorval en route for Central Station.
Photo by Gareth Bayer.

The Shrons

The kids and I had the dome to ourselves for the last few miles of the trip. Here we are crossing the Lachine Canal. It’s times like these that encourage my friend, Mark Kaluza, to say “Jason, I wish you were my dad.” I’m very lucky – and so are the kids – that we have the chance to do stuff like this.
Photo by Marc Winegust.

Il Focaccio Restaurant

After arrival in Dorval the Rapido passengers were shuttled between the Fairfield Inn & Suites Hotel, Restaurant Foccacio, Hobby Junction Express, and the West Island Modular Railroad Club. Even with two sittings, we basically took over the restaurant.
Photo by Gareth Bayer.

Turbo on the WIMRC layout

At the club, Gino Palladini’s monster CN Turbo was the star of the action…

Dalya Shron

…especially when operated by Dalya!

Boaz Shron

“Hey Daddy – How do you use this Digitrax thing? This layout isn’t NCE!”

View at Dorval

The view from the Fairfield Inn & Suites is pretty phenomenal if you like trains!
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Dorval Station

Early morning action on the CN mainline.
Photo by Thomas Blampied.

ExporailWe hired two city buses to take the Rapido passengers to St-Constant. Exporail is one of the finest railway museums I’ve been to. People on the ground like Steve Cheasley, Kevin Robinson and Len Thibault are truly dedicated to the preservation of Canada’s railway heritage. The VIA collection could use more donations to help keep it preserved. The VIA LRC, Park Car, FP9A and Eureka Sleeper are all in need of TLC. If you want to send a donation to Exporail, please indicate on the cheque that it is for the VIA collection. Every little bit helps.
Photo by Thomas Blampied.

Dan and Mike

Rapido’s Human Direction Signs. Mike Mitchell and Dan Garcia direct the hordes standing just behind the camera. Really. Though Mike seems utterly fascinated by something to the left of the camera. You have to wonder what it is…
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Jason Shron Exporail Always loving a bit of drama, we properly unveiled our new line of Canadian steam engines, Icons of Canadian Steam. At my signal the Rapido guys let the fabric covers drop. There was a spontaneous round of applause and cheering, and all of us at Rapido felt really proud to be able to do what we do.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.


That was one serious crowd! Guests joined us from as far away as New York, Vermont and New Brunswick. Dave Jenkins (far right) had a particularly good time. All of the Rapido passengers spent money at his store, Hobby Junction Express!
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Rapido team

Dan Garcia, Thomas Blampied and Mike Mitchell had complimentary T-shirts and Icons of Canadian Steam product brochures at the ready for the Rapido passengers.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Interview Les Halmos Jason Shron

Les Halmos from Model Railroad Hobbyist interviewed me for their readers. Last time Les interviewed me, I developed a thick Quebecois accent by the end of the interview. Hey! I’m from Montreal! This time I was careful to keep that in check, at least to avoid Les laughing and pointing at me.
Photo by Thomas Blampied.

2850 Royal Hudson

The star of the show at Exporail was Canadian Pacific Royal Hudson 2850.
The Royal Hudson is the first locomotive in our steam series.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Royal Hudson 2850

2850 has been beautifully maintained by Exporail.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Locomotives at Exporail

After the launch there was plenty of time to wander through the exhibits and see Canada’s largest collection of preserved locomotives. A full buffet lunch was also provided.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Exporail Excursion

Newly-repainted SW1200RS #1382 hauled short excursions using a CN coach formerly used on the Montreal-Two Mountains commuter service. Boaz and Dalya panicked on board as they thought the train was going back to Central Station!
Photo by Gareth Bayer.


You know, for a class of locomotive seven strong, it’s quite amazing that three are still around. RDC-4 9250 is preserved at Exporail, while two of its sisters are still in service for VIA Rail Canada.
Photo by Gareth Bayer.

Mike Mitchell

Our buses brought us to Montreal’s Central Station. New Rapido recruit Mike Mitchell served as yet another human sign. Once he put up the placard, he was descended upon by Central Station security who were convinced he was starting a protest. I dove across a bunch of startled passengers to save Mike from being arrested.
Photo by Gareth Bayer.

VIA train 69

We soon boarded train 69 for Toronto. It was late arriving in the station because they forgot two cars… ours! Here is a view of our two P42DC locomotives as viewed from the Skyline, now firmly attached to the rear of the train.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

VIA 1 Business Class

On this trip we were given a newly-refurbished LRC “Business Class” club car. The spacious seats were much appreciated by a rather pooped-out crowd. After the sun set, many of our travellers took the opportunity to doze off.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

VIA at Turcot

The one tunnel on the route from Montreal to Toronto is man-made. The Turcot Interchange is such a convoluted example of Montreal’s 1960s and 1970s Jetsons-inspired transportation planning that it was easiest to hide the tracks in a box and build the various soaring concrete expressways above it. Now, as Montreal planners belatedly discover that concrete actually needs to be maintained, those expressways are all falling down. This entire region of Montreal will be completely rebuilt in the coming years, including the railway alignment.
Photo by Stephen J. Gardiner.

Skyline Lounge As Dalya and I checked everyone’s tickets, the atmosphere in the Skyline was becoming even more laid-back. On any excursion, the return trip is always more subdued than the outward journey, but train travel allows that. You don’t always have to be “on” when you are on the train.
Photo by Matt Soknacki.

Out the rear of the train.

Riding in the vestibule is not permitted, and we warned everyone that they would be escorted off the train if they did. However, as the vestibule was on the rear the VIA employees permitted our passengers to open the rear door to grab a photo or two out the rear of the train. You really get a sense of speed when looking out the rear with the door open, and this photo captures that beautifully.
Photo by Bob Scott.

Skyline Dome

As the sun started to set, the truly diehard dome devotees could be found upstairs. Once the sun was down, the dome became a place for relaxation and jovial conversation.
Photo by Lance Gleich.

VIA at sunset

The opportunities for photography, even as the sun was setting, were extraordinary. The leaves in this photo look like they are on fire.
Photo by Lance Gleich.

Skyline Lounge

By nightfall we had been together for almost two days. Friendships had been established and about 40 people could be found in the Skyline car… just having a blast. As I walked through the car I could hear the sounds of different conversations and laughter mingling together. It felt like a country pub. If VIA could once again incorporate a lounge car on most trips and find a way to communicate this sense of togetherness to its potential passengers, everyone would choose the train. There is no other form of transport so enjoyable.
Photo by Lance Gleich.

Skyline at Night

The Skyline coffee shop as viewed from the Kingston Station platform. We were in the middle of the “most obscure railway trivia game ever” in which passengers’ knowledge of completely useless bits of VIA and Rapido history was tested. Our winners, Marc Goldstein and Nick Coryn, each received $300 worth of Rapido products. Now everyone can proudly claim that they know the names of the three manufacturers of the seats found in old blue and yellow VIA coaches. (They are Heywood Wakefield, Mount Royal and Delta Furniture, in case anyone stops you on the street and asks.)
Photo by Eric Gagnon.

VIA crew

Our crew on the return journey was wonderful again. From left to right, they were Ellen Lussier, Andrew Racine and Maude Desrosiers, making a silly face because I complained she wasn’t smiling enough! Due to the train’s late placement at Central Station, it was a mad scramble to get everything ready. But the passengers never had a clue. Ellen hadn’t worked a Skyline since she was trained as a VIA employee a few years ago, so it was a case of “trial by fire” as she came to grips with an unfamiliar car. She excelled and everyone assumed she works Skylines all the time.

VIA Skyline at night

After two full days, the trip was over. We were sad to leave the train, but eager to get home to our beds. Thanks are owed to Mike McGrattan for organizing the whole event. We were sorry that he couldn’t be on board with us and I hope that this blog makes him feel like he was there. He was certainly with us in spirit. Thanks are also owed to our organizers at VIA Rail Canada: Pierre Santoni, Ina Ross, Zeke Medeiros and “Peter in Central Station” Pierre and Ina deserve an award for their going the extra mile – the original plan fell through and they had to organize the trip from scratch at the last minute. Again, nobody could tell. Everything went absolutely smoothly. What an incredible journey.
Photo by Thomas Blampied. 

Train 52 – Sunday 11 October 2015
Departing Toronto 09:25

P42DC 907 – Train 62
LRC Club 3470 – Train 62
LRC Coach 3319 – Train 62
LRC Coach 3327 – Train 62
LRC Coach 3320 – Train 62
F40PH-2D 6406 – Train 52
LRC Club 3475 – Train 52
LRC Coach 3361 – Train 52
LRC Coach 3364 – Train 52
LRC Coach 3366 – Train 52
LRC Coach 3353 – Train 52
Skyline 8501 – Train 52

Train 69 – Monday 12 October 2015
Departing Montreal 17:00

P42DC 906
P42DC 902
LRC Club 3478
LRC Coach 3352
LRC Coach 3363
LRC Coach 3300
LRC Coach 3353
LRC Club 3477
Skyline 8501