VIA’s Canadian – How Many Locomotives?

VIA Rail's "Canadian" with 3 locomotives
VIA Rail’s “Canadian” with 3 locomotives

I posted a photo of a VIA Rail “Canadian” train to Instagram recently that featured the three locomotives on the head end. It sparked a discussion about the rarity of seeing more than two locomotives on the “Canadian”, even though its train length can often exceed 20 cars in the summer.

I dug my sightings list out and did a bit of analysis. I’ve recorded 169 “Canadian” consists between 2004 and 2019 where I have all the locomotive numbers that were on the train. There are a few where I only have the lead locomotive, so I left them out of the list.

What does the data show?

It turns out that it is indeed rare for the train to have more than two locomotives. 91% of the time that I saw the “Canadian”, it had two locomotives.

VIA Rail's Canadian leaving Winnipeg
VIA Rail’s Canadian leaving Winnipeg – with two locomotives

Here’s the data:

  • 91.72% of the time, the “Canadian” had two locomotives
  • In 7.69% of the sightings, VIA 1 or VIA 2 had three locomotives
  • In only 0.59% of my sightings (one sighting), VIA 1 had four locomotives (that was the Coors Light Silver Bullet train)

Maybe you like the data in a pie chart?

Locomotives per train on the “Canadian”
VIA Rail's "Canadian" with the Coors Light Silver Bullet locomotives
VIA Rail’s “Canadian” with the Coors Light Silver Bullet locomotives

More Nerdiness

While I had the statistics on hand, I did a little work in Microsoft Power BI Desktop and came up with a few little graphs.

First up – how often have I seen the “Canadian”? I moved to Winnipeg in 2009 and photographed VIA quite frequently for the first few years, then slacked off for a few years.

VIA Rail "Canadian" sightings per year
VIA Rail “Canadian” sightings per year

I see VIA 1 (Toronto to Vancouver) much more often than VIA 2 (Vancouver to Toronto). The reason is scheduling. Over the past 10 years, VIA 1 typically comes into Winnipeg in the morning and departs around noon, while VIA 2 comes into Winnipeg in the evening or night and departs late at night. The VIA 2 trains I’ve caught have either not been in Winnipeg or have been late.

Speaking of that, where have I seen the “Canadian”?

I don’t get out much, do I? 😉

Finally, I was wondering what the most commonly sighted locomotive was on the “Canadian”. The answer?

Most commonly sighted locomotives on the "Canadian"
Most commonly sighted locomotives on the “Canadian”

VIA 6410 wins by a hair.

VIA 6410, temporarily heading up the "Canadian"
VIA 6410, temporarily heading up the “Canadian”

So there you have it – 91% of the times that I’ve seen the VIA Rail “Canadian”, it had two locomotives.

Just One More Thing

My Power BI Desktop display
My Power BI Desktop display

Microsoft Power BI Desktop is a great tool for visualizing data like this. The best part – it’s free!

If you like playing with statistics and seeing what comes out, you’ll like Power BI. Check it out.

8 thoughts on “VIA’s Canadian – How Many Locomotives?”

  1. Charts and graphs. Charts and graphs.
    Well, they’re useful and quite instantly decipherable.
    That’s why I like them, too.
    Thanks for sharing and tabulating your sightings, Steve!

  2. I own a VIA Canadian trainset. It was a gift in the 1990s. The locomotive that came with it was 6410 in the original F40PH-2 paint scheme.

    The dome car that came in the set was not a Park car. It was a former Sceneramic Dome. The sides of the dome are silver to match the silver Canadian cars. I now know that those cars were never silver in VIA colours, but if they ever were, at least I would know what they would have looked like.

  3. Took the Canadian last summer and it had three. At a station stop I chatted up the head end crew and was told one locomotive kept failing on the road and how they spoke suggested it had done this before on previous runs. Perhaps it’s insurance of sorts should a unit be suspected of being unreliable?

    • Maybe so, Chris! Or maybe the loco just came out of a refit and they want to give it a good run with “insurance” in case it fails?


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