Ocean (train)

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Ocean (Passenger Train).jpg
A Park car brings up the rear of #14 at Belmont, Nova Scotia on August 13, 2005.
Service type Inter-city rail
Status Operating
Locale Quebec, Canada
Current operator(s) Via Rail (1978–)
Former operator(s) IRC (1904–1918),
CN (1918–1978)
Start Montreal, Quebec
End Halifax, Nova Scotia
Distance travelled 1,346 km (836 mi)
Service frequency 3 times per week
Train number(s) 14, 15 (occasionally 614/615)
On-board services
Class(es) Economy, sleeper, and sleeper touring class
Seating arrangements Reserved coach seat
Catering facilities Dining car, Service car (takeout counter)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Track owner(s) CN (since 2008)
Route map
Distance Station
0 km Montreal (Central Station)
St. Lawrence River - Victoria Bridge
7 km (4.3 mi) Saint-Lambert
Richelieu River
54 km (34 mi) Saint-Hyacinthe
100 km (62 mi) Drummondville
247 km (153 mi) Charny
260 km (160 mi) Levis
311 km (193 mi) Montmagny
371 km (231 mi) La Pocatière
439 km (273 mi) Rivière-du-Loup
482 km (300 mi) Trois-Pistoles
543 km (337 mi) Rimouski
572 km (355 mi) Mont-Joli
619 km (385 mi) Sayabec
643 km (400 mi) Amqui
665 km (413 mi) Causapscal
722 km (449 mi) Matapédia
Montreal – Gaspé train to Gaspé
Restigouche R. - QC/NB border
741 km (460 mi) Campbellton
772 km (480 mi) Charlo
797 km (495 mi) Jacquet River
825 km (513 mi) Petit Rocher
842 km (523 mi) Bathurst
913 km (567 mi) Miramichi
Northwest Miramichi River
Southwest Miramichi River
949 km (590 mi) Rogersville
1,042 km (647 mi) Moncton
1,103 km (685 mi) Sackville
Missaguash R.NB/NS border
1,119 km (695 mi) Amherst
1,146 km (712 mi) Springhill Junction
1,243 km (772 mi) Truro
1,346 km (836 mi) Halifax

The Ocean, previously known as the Ocean Limited, is a Canadian passenger train operated by Via Rail between Montreal, Quebec and Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is currently the oldest continuously operated named passenger train in North America. The Ocean‍‍ '​‍s schedule takes approximately 23 hours, running overnight in both directions. Together with The Canadian and Via's corridor trains, the Ocean provides a transcontinental service.


The Intercolonial Railway of Canada (IRC) inaugurated the Ocean Limited on July 3, 1904, as a summer-only "limited stop" service to supplement the Maritime Express. In Halifax, it connected with the Dominion Atlantic Railway's luxury train, the Flying Bluenose.[1] During the immigration boom of the early 1900s, the Ocean Limited and other passenger trains on its route saw increased use as they provided key wintertime connections for both the Grand Trunk Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway in moving sponsored immigrants to lands in the Prairie provinces.

In 1918, the IRC was merged into the Canadian National Railways (CNR) and the Ocean Limited continued its operation much as before. During both the First and Second World Wars, the Ocean Limited provided important service to the port of Halifax.

In 1964 the Ocean received ex-Milwaukee Road Skytop Lounge lounge-sleeping cars.[2]:30

CNR dropped the "Limited" from the train's name in 1966 as part of the company's adoption of bilingual names.[3]:99[4]:285 Despite the name change references to the Ocean Limited remain commonplace.[5]

During a landslide which affected the old IRC line near Rimouski, Quebec, in 1977, for six months CN diverted the Ocean onto another parallel line several hundred kilometres to the south, maintaining the same Halifax–Montreal schedule times.

In 1976, CN placed operation of all its passenger services under a new division using the marketing slogan "Via". In April 1978 this division was created as a separate Crown corporation named Via Rail Canada, taking with it all CN passenger trains and equipment. The new national passenger rail service did not begin to change train names and operations until 1979, following the October 1978 assumption of all CPR passenger trains and equipment.

The Ocean did not get renamed by Via and in fact became supplanted on the Halifax–Moncton portion of its route in 1985 by another Via train, the Atlantic (formerly the Atlantic Limited), which saw its eastern terminus extended to Halifax from Saint John. This train also assumed the train numbers and equipment of the defunct CN passenger train Scotian, which survived only into the first few years of the Via era.

Under Via, the Ocean underwent several changes in its operation:

  • (1979–1981) Daily operation (seven days a week) in both directions between Halifax-Montreal. Another Via train, the Atlantic also served these cities over a different route.
  • (1981–1985) Daily operation (seven days a week) in both directions, albeit as the only through train between Halifax-Montreal, following cancellation of the Atlantic.
  • (1985–1990) Daily operation (seven days a week) in both directions between Moncton and Montreal, following reinstatement of the Atlantic, which became the through train to Halifax. Passengers on the Ocean were forced to change trains at Moncton.
  • (1990–1994) Operation three days a week in both directions between Halifax and Montreal following Via budget cuts. The Atlantic also operated three days a week and equipment rotated on the two trains. Service between Moncton and Halifax and between Saint-Hyacinthe and Montreal, the only common portions of the two routes, was six days a week.
  • (1994–present) Daily operation (six days a week) in both directions between Halifax and Montreal. The second cancellation of the Atlantic resulted in increased operation on the route of the Ocean. CN sold its portion of the Ocean‍‍ '​‍s route between Rivière-du-Loup, QC, and Moncton, NB, to a shortline operator which operated the section from Rivière-du-Loup to Campbellton as the Chemin de fer Matapédia et du Golfe and the section from Campbellton to Moncton as the New Brunswick East Coast Railway. CN re-acquired these portions on November 3, 2008, and, as a result, the Ocean now again operates solely on CN trackage.[6]
  • October 26, 1998, saw CN abandon its scenic route along the waterfront of Levis, Quebec, which served the combined railway station and ferry terminal. This section of the railway was redeveloped as an urban cycling trail, although the former Levis train station and platform remain. Via Rail was forced to relocate the Ocean stop for the Quebec City region to Charny, necessitating a reverse move in each direction. Via offers a connecting shuttle van service for Ocean passengers between Charny and Quebec City.
  • (2006) The gradual phasing out of the restored stainless steel Budd cars was to have taken place, with all departures in both directions to have been operated in favor of the more modern European-built Renaissance equipment. However, Via has experienced occasional problems with this equipment and has had to press the Budd cars into service as needed. Work on upgrading the Renaissance fleet has resulted in the need to operate one Budd consist (with the two other consists Renaissance outfitted) during the winter season. This is taking place through the winter of 2010–2011 as well as the winter of 2011-2012. A stainless steel Park Car (originally built in 1954) is attached to the end of every train for passengers in Easterly Class during peak season. Due to the European couplers of the Renaissance cars, it is necessary to insert a transition car (numbered 7600-7602) between the Renaissance sleeping cars and the Park Car.
  • (2012) On June 27, 2012, Via Rail Canada announced its intention to reduce frequency on the Ocean from 6 times per week to 3 times per week. Starting October 2012, the Ocean departed Montreal on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and departed Halifax on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
  • (2014) In 2014, CN threatened to abandon the entire Newcastle Subdivision which would have seriously jeopardized the existence of the Ocean. As part of an agreement, the government of New Brunswick announced that it would give $25 million to CN Rail to upgrade and maintain freight service on two separate parts of the line – a northern section and a southern section. CN has committed to spend an equal amount of money to maintain and operate these two pieces for freight services for the next 15 years. However, a 44-mile (70 km) section of track between Bathurst and Moncton was not part of the deal and lack of rail traffic keeps this part of the route from being saved. However, in May 2014, the federal government pledged $10.3 million to rebuild the line to save the Ocean.[7]
  • (2014) The Ocean celebrates its 110th year of service.


Train route (suspended Gaspé branch in brown) (interactive map)

The route taken by the Ocean runs through a very scenic[weasel words] portion of eastern Canada including the Island of Montreal and the city's skyline and suburbs, the lower St. Lawrence River valley, the Matapédia River valley, the south shore of Chaleur Bay and the forests of eastern New Brunswick, the Tantramar Marshes, the Cobequid Mountains and Wentworth Valley, the edge of Cobequid Bay and mixed farmland through central Nova Scotia to Halifax.


During the summer of 2012, the Ocean route was supported by three Renaissance train-sets, typically 12 cars each (but car count can vary) including a baggage car, several coach cars, a dining car, two service cars, multiple sleeping cars, a transition car (see discussion above) and a "Park" Sleeper Buffet-Lounge Dome Observation Car. The Ocean is almost invariably hauled by a pair of London, Ontario-built GM F40PH locomotives, of which all have been upgraded by CAD Railway Industries of Montreal to the F40PH-3 model. Three times per week, the Ocean runs from Montreal to Matapédia, Quebec, joined to Train 16/17, the "Montréal–Gaspé train" (formerly called the Chaleur). In Matapédia, the trains are separated with Train 16 continuing to the Gaspé peninsula and Train 14 (the Ocean) continuing to Halifax (and vice versa with Trains 15/17). Train 16/17 has its own locomotive which runs from Montreal, resulting in the combined trains (14 + 16 and 15 + 17) running with three locomotives between Montreal and Matapédia. The Montréal–Gaspé train uses Budd-built stainless steel passenger cars, including a "Skyline" dome car. It is not possible to pass between the two trains when connected.


Douglas N.W. Smith, The Ocean Limited: A Centennial Tribute (2004)

External links[edit]

Media related to Ocean (train) at Wikimedia Commons