During the 1950s, the Canadian Pacific Railway wished to replace its fleet of pre-war heavyweight cars and lightweight cars. CP wanted to follow the steps of many American passenger train operators, by acquiring Stainless Steel cars. CP ordered a total of 173 Budd Stainless steel cars; they contained: baggage/dormitory cars, coaches, dome-coach cars (the Skyline cars), dining cars, 4-8-3-1 "Chateau" sleepers, 4-4-6 "Manor" sleepers, and finally, the iconic 3-1 "Park" Dome-Lounge-Sleeper-Bar-Observation cars.
The cars first operated on CP's flagship transcontinental trains, The Canadian and The Dominion. The Canadian was the fastest of the two, and eventually replaced The Dominion as its flagship route.
In 1978, VIA Rail Canada, a separate Crown corporation, was formed when CP's competitor, the Canadian National Railway, trasferred the operation of its routes to the new company. Canadian Pacific also transferred operations to VIA, and in doing so, VIA acquired most of CP's stainless steel rolling stock.
During the 1990s, VIA sought to replace its stainless steel and aluminium cars inherited from CN and CP, using Superliners. However, funding cutbacks in 1990s forced VIA to instead rebuild all Stainless Steel cars to "HEP1" cars. VIA also purchased used Budd cars, to replace the Aluminium cars inherited from CN. They were rebuilt to "HEP2" standards. The HEP conversion was done in order to make the cars compatible for use with the Bombardier LRC locomotives and the GMD F40PH-2Ds VIA owned. HEP2 coaches and club cars can be identified by a blue and yellow stripe above the windows, as opposed to a solid blue stripe above HEP1 cars. Aside from cosmetic looks, the yellow stripe indicates that the car is equipped with drive connections.
Most continue in service today, mainly on VIA's non-Corridor routes (excluding the Ocean and the so-called "Budd Car," which is the only regular RDC train in the world.)
Most of the HEP1 fleet were the original Budd cars bought by CP for service on The Canadian in the 1950s. There were 7 types of cars built for CP. These were:
- Baggage-Dormitories (They were initially built with crew bunks at one end of the car. The 1990 conversions saw that section removed. The cars are now completely dedicated to baggage. Numbers: 8600-8623. Some converted from second hand Union Pacific cars. Used everywhere)
- Coaches (Initially, these coaches had seating similar to the seats in the Skyline dome car. However, the 1990 conversions saw these cars' seats replaced with ex-CN "Daynighter" coach seating, with legrests and a deep recline. Some converted from Amtrak cars. These can be identified from the CP cars by a lack of skirting and a "plate" painted over above the windows. Numbers: 8100-8147. Used everywhere)
- "Skyline" dome-cafe-diner cars (These cars were initially delivered to CP with coach seating on the lower levels. In the 1980s, these cars were rebuilt. The booth under the dome was replaced with a take-out area and the coach seating into a cafe/dining space. Numbers: 8500-8517. Used on routes other than Skeena, Budd Car, and Northern Quebec services to Jonquiere and Seneterre. Occasionally, it may show up on a Corridor service.)
- Full dining cars (Named after luxury CP hotels built in Canada (ex: 8410 Frontenac, after the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, QC. Numbers: 8401-8418. Used on overnight routes)
- "Chateau" 4-8-3-1* (4 berth sections, 8 roomettes in a duplex arrangement, 3 double bedrooms, and one cabin for 3) sleeping cars (Named after famous explorers of Canada. Numbers: 8201-8229. Used on Budd consists on the Ocean, Chaleur, and the Hudson Bay. Sometimes used on The Canadian.)
- "Manor" 4-4-6* ** (4 berth sections, 4 roomettes, 6 double bedrooms) sleeping cars (Named after famous Canadian figures in history. Numbers: 8301-8342. Used on The Canadian.)
- "Park" 3-1 (3 double bedrooms, 1 cabin for 3) dome-lounge-observation-bar-sleeper cars (Named for Canadian National Parks. Numbers: 8702-8718. Used on transcontinental routes and the Skeena. Occasionally may turn up on a Corridor service train.)
(*)-Chateau and Manor sleepers lost one berth section each, and were replaced with a shower facility.
(**)-There is one compartment in the Manor cars (larger than a normal double room). VIA sells it as a double room.
These were purchased from Amtrak to allow the retirement of VIA's older cars inherited from CN.
- HEP2 coach (Outwardly similar to HEP1 coaches, except for a blue-and-yellow stripe above the window. Rebuilt with Regional-style seats similar to LRC coaches. Numbers: 4100-4125. Used on Corridor services and the Skeena.)
- HEP2 Galley Club (These were rebuilt to allow the retirement of VIA's "Club Deluxe" cars it inherited from CN. Cars rebuilt with club car seats and a galley for meal preparation. Outwardly similar to HEP2 coach. Numbers: 4000-4009. Used on Corridor.)
- Deluxe sleeper (Rebuilt "Chateau" sleeper cars with only triple bedrooms. Offers hotel-like amentities and only available for peak season on The Canadian.)
- Deluxe Park car (Bedroom section rebuilt with deluxe triple rooms, similar to Deluxe sleeper. Dome, lounge, and observation sections remain the same, albeit re-upholstered with brown, orange, and white leather, and interior modernized.)