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"Doors Open" for VIA Rail Canada Ottawa Anniversary
Via Rail's Ottawa train station a key stop for "Doors Open" day - Station marking 40th anniversary this year

Friday, June 2, 2006

OTTAWA, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - VIA Rail Canada is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Ottawa train station this year, starting with an event on June 3rd and 4th. The official anniversary date is July 31st. This coming weekend, the station will welcome the public as part of the annual "Doors Open" event hosted by the Ontario Heritage Trust. Referred to as Doors Open Ontario, the event brings together communities across Ontario to showcase their heritage sites, ranging from commercial buildings to courthouses, places of worship, gardens and other natural heritage sites.

The Ottawa station, owned by VIA, was designated a heritage station under the federal Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act in 1997. It is the youngest station in Canada to be given such a designation, since normally a building such as this must be at least 40 years old to qualify.

The Bytown Railway Society and Heritage Ottawa are the main organizers of the open doors activity at the station. VIA employees and volunteers will be on hand to give visitors a guided tour, starting with a look at the historical steam locomotive models donated by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, on display at the front of the concourse. Photographs depicting the station's construction and other informative pieces will be displayed throughout the Ottawa station.

    Historical background

The Ottawa train station was designed by John B. Parkin & Associates and was built in 1966. It won the Governor General's Massey Medal for Architecture in 1967. Ottawa's trains once came into downtown Union Station, a short distance from the Parliament buildings, but with the replacement of the railway track beside the Rideau Canal with the Colonel By Drive scenic parkway, built by the National Capital Commission (NCC), the former station was converted into the Government Conference Centre. The NCC was responsible for commissioning the Ottawa train station project 40 years ago.

    A busy station

The Ottawa station saw transcontinental and inter-provincial trains run from 1966 to the 1980s. Today it has ten VIA Rail corridor trains travelling daily to and from Toronto and ten to and from Montreal. The station is also used by major international airlines to check in passengers for flights to Europe, via Pierre Trudeau International Airport in Montreal. The station provides space for baggage, has a barber shop and a "Panorama" first class lounge. There are plans to open a restaurant shortly. The station is also home to a number of architectural and engineering firms as tenants.

Ottawa is VIA's third busiest station in Canada, serving over 700,000 passengers per year. Ottawa's suburban station, an intermodal facility opened in October 2002 at Fallowfield Road in Barrhaven, is the network's 19th busiest and serves over 65,000 passengers per year.

    Another event to note

The 40th anniversary is especially important because it will provide an opportunity to meet the original architects - Gene Kinoshita and Ted Sievenpiper, formerly of John B. Parkin Associates, who will speak at the Canada Science and Technology Museum on June 20th.

    Special moments on VIA trains in Ottawa

    -      The VIA train carrying the body of John Diefenbaker, 13th Prime Minister of Canada, traveled from Ottawa through the prairie toward Saskatoon, his home town, in 1979

    -      Jean-Paul II, the first pontiff to visit Canada, boarded a VIA train in Ottawa in 1984

    -      Upon his death in 2000, Pierre-Elliot Trudeau's casket traveled from Ottawa to Montreal - he was Canada's 15th Prime Minister

    -      In 2005, a special Remembrance Day train carried hundreds of war veterans from Halifax to Ottawa - the trip was organized by VIA Rail employees

    -      In 2006, pop singer Allison Crowe launched her "Rock'n Rail" tour on a VIA train, traveling from British Columbia to Newfoundland, with a stop in Ottawa

    About Heritage Ottawa

Heritage Ottawa serves to advocate on behalf of the preservation of historic buildings and historic landscapes and to educate and inform residents and visitors to Ottawa of the benefits of preserving the city's heritage from the perspectives of history, architecture, qualify of life and tourism.

    About the Bytown Railway Society

The Bytown Railway Society is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization to promote an interest in railways and railway history. The Society publishes several guides and magazines for the benefit of those interested in railway and its history.

    About VIA

As Canada's national passenger rail service, VIA Rail Canada's mandate is to provide efficient, environmentally responsible and cost effective passenger transportation services. Serving more than 450 communities with a network of inter-city, transcontinental and regional trains, demand for rail services continues to grow as more Canadians turn to train travel as a safe and convenient travel choice. For more information, or to reserve a ticket, go to www.viarail.ca or call toll-free 1-888-VIARAIL.

For further information: Contact: Sylvie Bachand, Corporate Communications, VIA Rail Canada, (514) 871-6119, Syvlie_Bachand@viarail.ca