Via Rail Canada Renaissance Cars

The Renaissance cars are the newest passenger equipment Via Rail Canada has acquired. They were designed and built in the 1990s in England by French manufacture Alstom but not purchased by Via Rail until year 2000.

Renaissance equipment on the Ocean at Halifax Station

The Renaissance cars were originally manufactured for a proposed overnight service between the Great Britain and continental Europe via the Euro Tunnel called Nighstar alongside the daytime Eurostar. They were based on the British Rail Mark 4 high speed carriages and optimised for use on long distance services (i.e. the cars were designed for British clearances, which is why a Canadian passenger would find the cars much smaller in every dimension than the usual domestic equipment). However due to competition from low cost airlines, the proposal was withdrawn and the manufacturing of the cars were put on hold.

Contrast in size between Renaissance and the Budd car

Renaissance cars hauled by 8,500 horses of awesomeness

In May 2000, Via Rail expressed interest in purchasing these cars and shipped 3 completed cars to Canada for evaluation in June. Modifications of the cars had to be done to ensure their compatibility with Canadian rail infrastructure and cold winter conditions. In December 2000, Via Rail Canada announced the purchase of all 139 complete and incomplete Nightstar cars to be modified or finished at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay, Ontario as the Renaissance cars. According to Via Rail, the total cost of purchase and modification/completion of the fleet was $160 million Canadian while the market value of the cars was $400-500 million (due to the lack of other interested buyers).

The 2 + 1 seating layout of the Economy Class cabin

The Renaissance cars entered revenue service in 2002. In its early days of operation, the Renaissance fleet was plagued with problems in the winter where the doors and toilets of the carriages would freeze up. To date, the Renaissance cars have been deployed on certain intercity trains between Québec City and Montréal, Montréal and Ottawa, Montréal and Toronto (morning no. 52/3 and evening non-stop no. 66/7), and long distance train the Ocean between Halifax and Montréal. Information about the Renaissance cars including diagrams of the interior can be found here on Via Rail’s website.


Thanks for sharing, it's fun learning more about the history of VIA's fleet!

Vivian is Virtual
VIA Rail's tour guide

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