From a seven week (49 day) fifteen students (1 per province/territory) pilot, Canadian Classroom on Rails / Salle de classe ferroviare canadienne could …
1. doubling the number of students→30 (2/jurisdiction) This would entail adding another sleeper, bringing the number of chartered cars to four)
2. tripling the number of students→45 (3/jurisdiction) would require a third sleeper, (5 CCOR railcars in all. This is a suggested maximum. More than this number could not be served at one dining car setting. Eating together is an important aspect of building a group dynamic.
EXTEND TIME FRAME
3. to 8½ weeks (61 days/2 months) from May 1 through July 1 – 12 days more would permit vital time in francophone regions such as Gaspé (2 days), Senneterre or Jonquière (2 days), Gulf of Saint Lawrence (3 days) and Fundy/Anapolis/Port Royal (2 days) and an additional day each in Québec City, Montréal and Ottawa. This, too, is a maximum; more than two months would be prohibitive for most students/staff.
OFFER MULTIPLE TRIPS
4. a second June-July trip following the same itinerary as the above. Together with 2 above, this would permit handling of 90 students per year. It would be subject to VIA’s capacity at the high season though CCOR cars would not require station platform access at all stops.
5. a third September-October trip following the same itinerary. (VIA trains 1 & 2 cut back to twice-weekly operation at mid-October, but this need not be insurmountable as CCOR use of these trains occurs in the first 36 days of its itinerary.) However, it could be prohibitive for students planning to continue their studies in the fall semester.
USE SPECIAL MOVES THROUGHOUT THE ITINERARY
6. A special chartered train for Canadian Classroom would reduce the need to harmonize with existing schedules except to avoid conflicts in terminals. It would permit greater efficiencies of time, particularly on routes without daily service. It would permit accessing points of interest no scheduled passenger rail service at all such as Hay River in the NT. Hay River is better located than Churchill MB to access all Territorial capitals by air. It is northern terminus of the Great Slave Lake Railway, John Diefenbaker’s project: the only connected rail line North of 60.
Offsetting these advantages is the cost factor. A special move itinerary requires a locomotive throughout and this often entails deadheading engineers in/out, depending on the length of the run. A VIA locomotive crew that leaves “the beaten track” (VIA’s own accustomed route) will need to be supplemented by pilot engineers familiar with the new line.
Costs of a private move are 20+ times that of handling chartered cars on a scheduled train. Carrying an auxiliary generator in a CCOR baggage car can reduce costs, including for doubling of engine crews, resulting from taking a VIA locomotive off of VIA-served lines. In this case a single VIA mechanical officer could oversee VIA equipment off VIA lines, and Classroom could contract with the freight carriers that serve those lines to provide locomotives and crews on a per mile/hour basis. Additional costs in such off-VIA moves could also include insurance.
For these reasons, a special Canadian Classroom train, while ideal, is a distant goal. It would depend on a proven Classroom track record of a few years’ successful operation and widespread publicity for the requisite additional funding to be raised. It would also require active participation by the carriers. Experience has shown that when the railways want something to go, costs can decline considerably! Until then, Classroom… will focus on chartering cars on scheduled trains.
EXPAND USE OF ALTERNATE MOVES OF SURFACE TRAVEL
7. sea travel – Much of Canada’s geography/history is best experienced from the water. An extended/efficient itinerary would permit inclusion of Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Atlantic ferry connections (MV Nordik Express) Rimouski QU→Blanc Sablon NL and the Bay of Fundy ferry in addition to BC Ferries’ Pacific coast trips included in the 2015 pilot.