The train was the primary mode of long-distance transportation in Canada until the 1960s. Among the many types of people who rode CPR trains were new immigrants heading for the prairies, military troops (especially during the two world wars) and upper class tourists. It also custom-built many of its passenger cars at its CPR Angus Shops to be able to meet the demands of the upper class.
The CPR also had a line of Great Lakes ships integrated into its transcontinental service. From 1885 until 1912, these ships linked Owen Sound on Georgian Bay to Fort William. Following a major fire in December 1911 that destroyed the grain elevator, operations were relocated to a new, larger port created by the CPR at Port McNicoll opening in May 1912. Five ships allowed daily service, and included the S.S. Assiniboia, and S.S. Keewatin built in 1908 which remained in use until the end of service. Travellers went by train from Toronto to that Georgian Bay port, then travelled by ship to link with another train at the Lakehead. After World War II, the trains and ships carried automobiles as well as passengers. This service featured what was to become the last boat train in North America. The Steam Boat was a fast, direct connecting train between Toronto and Port McNicoll. The passenger service was discontinued at the end of season in 1965 with one ship, the Keewatin, carrying on in freight service for two more years. It later became a marine museum in the United States.
After World War II, passenger traffic declined as automobiles and aeroplanes became more common, but the CPR continued to innovate in an attempt to keep ridership up. Beginning 9 November 1953, the CPR introduced Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) on many of its lines. Officially called "Dayliners" by the CPR, they were always referred to as Budd Cars by employees. Greatly reduced travel times and reduced costs resulted, which saved service on many lines for a number of years. The CPR would go on to acquire the second largest fleet of RDCs totaling 52 cars. Only the Boston and Maine Railroad had more. This CPR fleet also included the rare model RDC-4 (which consisted of a mail section at one end and a baggage section at the other end with no formal passenger section). On 24 April 1955, the CPR introduced a new luxury transcontinental passenger train, The Canadian. The train provided service between Vancouver and Toronto or Montreal (east of Sudbury; the train was in two sections). The train, which operated on an expedited schedule, was pulled by diesel locomotives, and used new, streamlined, stainless steel rolling stock.
Starting in the 1960s, however, the railway started to discontinue much of its passenger service, particularly on its branch lines. For example, passenger service ended on its line through southern British Columbia and Crowsnest Pass in January 1964, and on its Quebec Central in April 1967, and the transcontinental train The Dominion was dropped in January 1966. On 29 October 1978, CP Rail transferred its passenger services to Via Rail, a new federal Crown corporation that was now responsible for intercity passenger services in Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney presided over major cuts in Via Rail service on 15 January 1990. This ended service by "The Canadian" over CPR rails, and the train was rerouted on the former "Super Continental" route via Canadian National without a change of name. Where both trains had been daily prior to the 15 January 1990, cuts, the surviving "Canadian" was (and is) only a three-times-weekly operation.
In addition to inter-city passenger services, the CPR also provided commuter rail services in Montreal. CP Rail introduced Canada's first bi-level passenger cars here in 1970. On 1 October 1982, the Montreal Urban Community Transit Commission (STCUM) assumed responsibility for the commuter services previously provided by CP Rail. It continues under the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (AMT).
Canadian Pacific Railway currently operates three commuter services under contract. The West Coast Express comprises ten daily trains between downtown Vancouver and its eastern suburbs on behalf of TransLink, a regional transit authority. GO Transit contracts CPR to operate six return trips between Milton and downtown Toronto in Ontario. In Montreal, 59 daily commuter trains run on CPR lines from Lucien-L'Allier Station to Candiac, Rigaud and Blainville–Saint-Jerome on behalf of the AMT. The Rocky Mountaineer excursion train is also crewed (Engineer and Conductor) by CP employees where it operates on their right of way.
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