TravelS In Canada - 2012 and 2013
High Class Trains In High Class
Some trains have such classic style, we forget
how old they are, like the "Canadian" stainless steel
streamliner with mid-train dome-cars, the tail end
dome-observation-club car, and a diner, coaches or sleepers
tucked in between. This post-war beauty is still running, mostly
for international tourists, not so much for domestic inter-city
travel as in its earlier days.
This trio included extensive visits to Expo-Rail Museum in
Montreal and the Winnipeg Railway Museum. Photos are included on
Railroad Museums and Heritage Parks
section of this website.
The "Rocky Mountaineer" is much newer, with bi-level
observation-dining cars rescued from Alaska, plus some staff
sleeping cars tacked on the end. Passengers sleep in real beds
in real hotels.
There are some fine train-watching in Canada too, as noted at
the end of this page.
Scroll on down to
The "Canadian", Memories of Montreal, The
"Rocky Mountaineer Adventure", Train Watching at Jasper, and Dining Cars at Lake
Edmonton - Saskatoon - Winnipeg - Toronto,
trip was taken in September 2012 from west to east and back
again 10 days later. It did not include the Vancouver to
Edmonton route as that was planned for 2013 on the Mountaineer.
The trip was continued along the St. Lawrence River to Kingston,
then to Ottawa, Canada's capital city, on the afternoon
first-class Via Rail commuter train, complete with wine service.
In all, a very relaxing four day journey.
"Canadian" has been a world-class, world-famous streamline
passenger train initiated by Canadian Pacific Railway in 1955,
using Budd-built stainless steel rolling stock and General Motors E7 diesels. Although the cars are
more than 65 years old, they are still clean, tight, and shiny
- inside and out. Comfort, fittings, food, and staff are top of
the line. Since 1990, trains are operated by Via Rail on Canadian
National rail lines.
GM's "Train of
Tomorrow" of 1947 became the inspiration for the
"Canadian", when it toured North America. GM's demonstrator
train, in blue and silver, consisted of four custom built
Pullman cars (coach, diner, sleeper, observation) each with an
"Astra-Dome" observation deck above the lower level of the car.
Now commonplace, a dome car in 1947 was a novelty..
My father and I visited the "Train of Tomorrow" in Montreal in
1949. It was impressively huge for a 9 year old. And I didn't get
to ride its Canadian cousin until 63 years later.
run from Montreal and Toronto through Winnipeg, Regina, and
Calgary / Banff to Vancouver by the Canadian Pacific Railway, it
was transferred to Via Rail in 1978 and re-routed to Canadian
National tracks in 1990. This made the route longer and slower,
running Toronto to Winnipeg via northern Ontario (instead of the
Lake Superior route), then to Saskatoon and Edmonton / Jasper to
Vancouver. Many have never forgiven Via Rail for this
politically motivated change, as the scenery and roadbed was far better on the
In season, the train boasts 21 cars 3 times a week and is booked
well in advance. It covers 4466 km (2775 miles) in about three
and a half days. This is a full 9 hours slower than the original
71 hour schedule of 1955. Freight trains have priority on the
tracks so the average speed is low (33 mph) and there are
frequent stops to pass opposing traffic.
I rode the "Canadian" in September 2012 to celebrate my 50th
anniversary of graduating from McGill University in Montreal.
The train leaves Edmonton, Alberta eastbound at midnight, so
there is not much to see until Saskatoon next morning. Prairie
scenes and potash mines make up the ride through Saskatchewan to
we change locomotives and service the train, then head into
northern Ontario for two nights en route to Toronto, Ontario.
Fifty tiny towns, 50,000 tiny lakes, and a few billion
trees later, orchards, dairy farms, and the suburbs of southern
Ontario finally show up. It is probably the roughest, wettest
roadbed in the country, and yes, it's boring. A change of
train and a first class coach with excellent food and unlimited
alcohol fueled us on to Ottawa, Canada's capitol city, and my
original home town. After a couple of days sight-seeing in
Ottawa, we drove to Montreal to check out old haunts, old
schools, and old residences of my boyhood days.
food and service on the "Canadian" are five-star and the ride in
the Skyline dome car is superb, even on the rough roadbed. We
slept in a deluxe double berth cabin in a "Manor" series sleeper
eastbound and in a similar unit in a "Park" series observation
car on the way home. In 2014, some of the deluxe cars are being
converted to "super-deluxe" -- the various bedrooms will be much
larger, so fewer passengers per car, at twice the price (or
more). The last three cars of the train will be super-deluxe, so
the peasant-class will not get into the tail-end lounge. They
will have their own Skyline lounge.
The original "Canadian" on CPR tracks along the Bow River, west
of Calgary, Alberta, from a
photo by Nicholas Morant
SCENES ALONG THE WAY
<== Replica of the
derrick that drilled the famous Leduc #1 oilwell at Devon,
Alberta. Oil, gas, grain, cattle, and lumber are big business in
A potash mine near Saskatoon. Potash, oil, grain, and cattle
are the backbone of Saskatchewan's economy.
Head-end from the middle dome car, eastbound at Rivers, Manitoba
Trees in Northern Ontario
Our destinations: Parliament Buildings in Ottawa .....
then on to downtown Montreal by car
Heading home: the ornate Winnipeg Station Reboarding "Banff Park" after a 4 hour stopover
Westbound from the dome of "Banff Park"
Truss bridge over Saskatchewan River in Qu'Appele Valley
Sunset from "Banff Park" dome -- later, moonrise -- one more night
in the sleeper before reaching Edmonton
1960's poster for the trip I never took. The CPR's "Canadian"
was moved to much less scenic CNR tracks before I got around to
riding that train. Lesson learned: Quit procrastinating!
Memories - McGill 50 Year Reunion - 2012
had not been back to Montreal since Expo 67. In 2012, Sonja and I
took the Via Rail "Canadian" from Edmonton to Toronto, continued on
to Ottawa, then drove with my brother and his wife to Montreal to
see our old homes, schools, and other haunts. Amazingly, they were much as
I remembered, with little change or decline. Old Montreal has been
beautifully restored, a far-cry from the grubby, hectic harbour front of my youth. Faster highways, the Metro, and lack of English
signs are the only outward signs of progress, but the downtown traffic and pedestrians are still
frantic. Commuter trains are streamlined diesels instead of
steamers, but when it rains you can still smell the coal dust in the
Previous commitments meant I could not attend
the McGill Engineering "Class of 62" 50th anniversary reunion
in October, but
Bob Smythe, an old school chum, escorted me around McGill,
commenting knowledgably on all the changes and additions. The lower
campus still feels like the refuge it has always been. New and
renovated buildings push outward on the perimeter. Activists are
still active, freshmen looking lost still troop the pathways.
Afterward, we checked out Westmount and Mont Royal lookouts to
compare the skyline with old postcard views from the 1950's. Later
that day, we relived the family outing to Chalet BBQ on Sherbrooke
St West -- menu, flavour, location, and staff (or their clones)
unchanged since 1944. "Plus
best memory brought back in force was the ride on the "Gold Car", an
open-air sightseeing streetcar at ExpoRail (Canada's Railway Museum)
that used to run in summer in Montreal. This was our favourite
outing when we were kids in the 1940's and 50's. The ride, and the
tour of the Museum, was escorted by Steve Cheasley, the museum
President, who generously provided a personalized commentary on the
background and significance of each exhibit. It was a wonderful
re-visit to the railways of my youth, all the way back to my
grandparents early days, with some of the best restorations in the
world on display.
I thought I would feel more nostalgic, even sad, to see these
memories brought to life again, but it was - thankfully - really
pleasant. They say "you can't go home again", but
this trip was pretty close. Like the airline pilots say before
landing in New Zealand, "Set your watches back 40 years"
is in that time zone too.
A few maples were just
beginning to redden, the weather was clear and mild, and the train
trips across half the continent were very restful.
Good food and good companions made this a vacation to remember.
OF MY YOUTH - 50 to 60 YEARS AFTER
Walking the beach at Constance Bay, near Ottawa
Locks on Rideau Canal, downtown Ottawa
Our house on Strathearn Avenue, Montreal West
Montreal West Hardware, where I worked as a teen Montreal
West High School, now Royal West Academy
Royal West Academy
Streamline commuter train
Montreal West Station
"The" Elizaeth Ballentynegrade school
Patricia Avenue fourplex in Notre Dame de Grace
The 1944 apartment building on Decelles in Cote Des Neiges.
The fountains and statues are more recent.
My maternal grandparents house on Claremont Avenue in Westmount
View from Westmount Lookout
St Joseph's Oratory on Queen Mary Road
View from Mount Royal Lookout 2012
McGill University Arts Building from Roddick Gate
"ROCKY MOUNTAINEER" ADVENTURE - 2013
Westbound: Banff - Kamloops - Vancouver
This story recounts the westbound leg of a trip in June 2013 on the
running through spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rocky
Mountains. The basic ride is
from Calgary / Banff to Vancouver or Edmonton / Jasper to
Vancouver (or reverse).
We travelled Banff - Vancouver - Jasper,
with Brewster tour bus from Jasper back to Banff where our car
had been parked. This route is
5 days on the train with stops to overnight at hotels so
the mountains can be seen in daylight. It also gives 15 gourmet
meals and a seemingly infinite supply of snacks and drinks.
Well that was the plan, anyway. Mother Nature and a few technical
problems made the trip a lot more interesting than usual. None
of these issues were the fault of the Mountaineer trains or the
RM team, who coped extremely well. It is also highly unlikely
that our series of adventures will ever be repeated.
Rocky Mountaineer (RM) is the other world-class, world-famous streamline
passenger train and has been operating in Canada since 1990.
The trains are privately owned and run on Canadian Pacific or
Canadian National tracks in Alberta and British Columbia, and
more recently into the state of Washington. They carry about
100,000 passengers a year from late April to early October.
Photos on this page by Sonja.
Mountaineer route map
RM's Gold Leaf service uses custom-built "UltraDome" double
deck rolling stock, lead by rebuilt ex-CNR GP 40-2 locomotives.
The upper deck seats 72 under a full glass dome, with dining for
36 at each seating in the lower level. They were built by
Colorado Car Company, and are identical to those on the Denali
Park line in Alaska. The cars have a kitchen at the front end,
with the bar and snack area above, and an outdoor
balcony/observation deck at the rear, which doubles as the
entrance to the car. This means the train must be turned after
each trip to get everything facing forward again. In Gold Leaf,
try to get a seat mid to rear of the car - it is noisy up front
with all that kitchen and bar activity. Crew cars are tacked on
the end of the train so you can't see back along the track from
the balcony, even if you are on the last dome car.
Silver Leaf service uses single level dome cars with meals
served at the seat, airplane style. Red Leaf service has no
domes but good picture windows. These are refurbished equipment
from CNR's 1950 to 1980's streamliner, the "Trans Continental".
RM trains stop for the night so that
scenery is mostly viewed in daylight. Comfort, fittings, food, and staff are top of
the line. The RM crew tell good stories and provide accurate
history and local lore without being too intrusive.
Silver Leaf Dome
Red Leaf Coach
Photos from RM website
Like Via's "Canadian", the trains run on CPR or CNR tracks
following or meeting 120+ cars of freight. Rail Traffic Control in Calgary does a good job
of guiding trains to "running" meets to reduce downtime along the line, but
breakdowns on the freights are frequent, so each trip on the RM
is an adventure, some more so than others, as will be seen
below. Delays are not usually the fault of the RM system, and
the staff cope with delays very well; food and drink soothes
the savage in most of beasts.
The Train to Nowhere: Banff - Spiral Tunnels - Banff
Our trip was definitely an adventure. It began in mid-June and
didn't end until mid-September. Read on to find out why.
We planned a full circle tour of RM routes starting with Banff
to Vancouver, returning via Whistler, Quesnel and Jasper. The adventure
began at Banff when the RM failed to show due to a broken
coupler on the freight in front of it. After shuttling the
bad-order car to a side track in Banff, the freight trundled
past, followed by our Mountaineer. After loading 550+
passengers, we headed out through the Rockies. Breakfast was
served at noon as we passed Lake Louise. Still climbing through
the great scenery, we crossed the Great Divide at 5332 feet
elevation and stopped before entering the Spiral Tunnels. It
soon became clear that the freight had jumped the track inside
Our hotel in Banff, the Rimrock Resort
After a 3 or 4 hour wait, our train backed downhill to Lake Louise
where we stopped for the lunch (now supper) service. Several more
hours passed, then we backed all the way to Banff, amid
considerable frivolity from the 26 Ausies onboard our car. The
Glenfiddich may have helped. This may be the longest backward passenger
train ride ever undertaken (47 miles), but the Guinness Book of
World Records has no category for this feat.
Meanwhile, back in the office, the RM staff found hotel rooms in Banff for the
entire train load and we disembarked 12 hours after our
departure, right back where we started. RM offered a cash rebate
or a "free" two-day trip as compensation for the delay, even
though it wasn't their fault.
Banff Station - a Canadian Heritage Station
The Cause of it all
RIDE: Banff - KAMLOOPS, BY BUS
The next morning found us all onboard 11 RM buses, hastily
brought in overnight from Kamloops, to get us to Kamloops. These
were old units with 4-speed manual transmissions and a 50 foot
linkage. The drivers had been up most of the night getting to
Banff and were used to short hauls in Kamloops from hotel to
train and back. The gear shifting skills on a few were not up to
highway speeds and Rocky Mountain hills. By the time we reached
the Park Bridge, frantic radio chatter between drivers, and the smell of burning
brake shoes, were very noticeable.
Sharp-eyed bus riders noticed our
train exiting the Spiral Tunnels en route to Kamloops -- but we
were not onboard. The tunnel was now clear and we still had 7
hours to go to catch up.
RM arranged a lunch and museum tour at Three Valley Gap, BC, and
a stop at Craigellachie, BC, where the Last Spike on the first
Canadian transcontinental railway was driven.
A 1922 0-4-0 Mining Locomotive at Three Valley Gap Museum
Craigellachie BC, location of the Last Spike on the Canadian
Pacific Railway Nov 1885
Kamloops Train Yard: Snowplow and MOW Crew Car
finally: KAMLOOPS - VANCOUVER
We boarded our train again early morning and headed through the
spectacular Thompson and Fraser Valleys to Vancouver. This is
the most scenic section of the trip because of the steepness of
the valley walls and dozens of tunnels and bridges. The
intricate track work and bridges on both sides of the rivers
speaks to the difficulty the original track layers faced in the
mid-1880's. We arrived "on-time" but a day late. So was the
train really "on time"? We missed a day touring Vancouver, so I
think it was really late.
On arrival, we got checked-in, walked the Vancouver waterfront,
rode to the top of the lookout on the Harbour Centre Tower, and
feasted on a wonderful Thai dinner on Hastings St. The calendar
was approaching the longest day of the year so there was plenty
of daylight to see the sights. Most RM trips don't arrive much
before 6 PM so it pays to plan for those long daylight hours.
Our train on the Thompson River west of Kamloops
Thompson River Valley
Confluence of Thompson and Fraser Rivers
"The Frog" on the Fraser River
Our Train crossing the Fraser River
Bridges over the mighty Fraser River
Pedestrian Bridge Over Hell's Gate
More Hell's Gate on the Fraser River
Vancouver skyline from Harbour Center
Old CPR Station downtown Vancouver
Ships in Vancouver Harbour
Across the Water: VICTORIA and Butchart Gardens
We had arranged for a bus tour of Vancouver's North Shore,
which we had to drop due to our day-late arrival, and a tour to
Victoria and Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Although RM
promised to rearrange bus reservations for us, this didn't
happen. The hotel concierge fixed us up and we boarded a Pacific
Coach tour that was excellent. The driver was knowledgeable,
spoke well, and loved his work. While on the ferry, we had
breakfast, watched the Gulf Islands pass by, then drove straight
to the Gardens.
World famous from the turn of the 20th century, this is the
"must-see" visit in British Columbia. You could spend days here
if they would let you. Too soon, we re-boarded the bus for a
tour of Victoria's old architecture, the Empress Hotel, and BC's
Legislature buildings. A stroll and snack on the water front
completed a great visit on the Island. Back to the ferry and
late to bed - a long but very pleasant day.
One of the many Gulf Islands
Fishing boats ply the waves
The Other Ferry Boat
Butchart Garden Entrance
The Original Garden In The Quarry
The Famous Rose Garden
One of 400+ Rose Varieties
The Empress Hotel, completed in 1908
BC Legislature Buildings
Victoria's Inner Harbour
- Whistler - Quesnel - Jasper
phase of the trip was more
relaxed - no freight train or
maintenance problems obstructing
the route. Until the floods and
mudslides ended the final bus
ride from Jasper to Banff.
Nature can throw some
interesting curve balls.
to Sky: VANCOUVER - Whistler
This is a short half-day Rocky
Mountaineer ride on single-level
dome cars. Breakfast is served
at your seat, lunch upon arrival
at the Squamish Ceremonial
Center. The views over Vancouver
and English Bay as you climb
from sea level are spectacular.
Container ships and ferries
attest to the vigorous economy
of western Canada, as do the
snazzy homes along the shore of
the Pacific. A native drummer
chants stories of his ancestors
during the trip.
Museum at the Squamish Lil'wat
Cultural Center gives further
insights into the local culture.
Everyone is encouraged to learn
how to make rope from strips of
Squamish drummer onboard the
The rails were originally laid
by the Pacific Great Eastern
Railway (PGE) but they ran
mostly North and not very far
East. Later taken over by BC
Rail and nearly abandoned, the
tracks are now well used by
haul lumber to Vancouver for
export overseas. Whistler was
the site of the 2010 Winter
Olympics -- hard to image on a
sunny summer day. Surrounded by
massive peaks in all directions,
it must have been something to
see in the deep snows of the
Pacific Coast Range in winter.
There is much more to learn here
that is not yet in the
"official" history books..
Lion's Gate Bridge
Gulf Island Ferry
Mountains from the UltraDome
Roiling waters abound
Ceremonial Bear at Squamish
Lil'wat Cultural Center
Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center
at Whistler: Ceremonial
Mask and Eagle
Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center
at Whistler: Dugout Canoe
and Ceremonial Dahl Sheep
The Fraser River: Whistler -
Following the Fraser River
almost due North from Whistler
on CNR tracks, we reverse the
route of the early 18th and 19th
century explores who connected
the west to the east during the
early fur trade, setting the
stage for settlement and
industry. The main industry here
is logging and lumber. Sawmills
and huge log decks dot the
countryside, some abandoned,
others obviously very busy.
Cattle and sheep are here too,
along with elk, deer, bear, and
Meeting the freight
Original settlers cabin, early
Upstream on the Fraser River
Our train in the rain
The Cottonwood Bridge
Quesnel fireplugs are people too
Quesnel - Jasper
This is definitely bush country
- trees as far as the eye can
see. Still lots of lumbering and
stockpiles of logs. We skirt the
city of Prince George as we turn
east to head for Jasper. It
takes a while to climb the long
steady grade to the Continental
Divide near Mount Robson, the
tallest mountain in the Canadian
Rockies at 9281 feet. Large
enough to create its own
weather, we see most of it, with
just a wisp of cloud at the top.
The Yellow Head Pass at 3711
feet is the lowest pass through
the Canadian Rockies, making
Mount Robson appear even more
At Jasper, we
bid farewell to our RM crew and
are escorted to Jasper Park
Lodge, renowned since the 1920's
as "The" place to stay at
Jasper. There is no real
"lodge"; it is a series of 2, 3,
and 4 unit log cabins set in the
woods. The main building houses
restaurant, lounge, spa, pool,
and other amenities. The golf
course is well known too.
Many famous movie stars have
stayed here at some point in
their careers, as well as a few
US Presidents. So if you want to
sleep in the same bed as Marilyn
Monroe, you can do it here. She
won't be there with you
Elk outside Quesnel
Bridge over the upper Fraser
A "Grand" Canyon view
Ancient Lift Bridge from the
Another view of the Lift Bridge
Mount Robson 9281 feet
Jasper's Heritage Station and
the 1932 CNR class U-1-a 4-8-2
Mountain type locomotive #6015
1932 CNR class U-1-a 4-8-2
Mountain type locomotive #6015
Elk downtown Jasper
Lake at Jasper Park Lodge
Cabins at Jasper Park Lodge
The only bears we saw were
Our patio at the Lodge
Elk at the Lodge
CLOSED: JASPER - Columbia ice
fields - JASPER
trip with a Brewster tour bus
should have taken us back to our
car at Banff so we could drive
home. It started out well on a
On the Athabasca Glacier
We stopped at Athabasca Falls,
took the boat trip on Maligne
Lake to Spirit Island, and took
the Ice-Bus up the glacier at
the Columbia Ice Fields. This
bus is amazing, with wheels that
are 10 to 12 feet high. Built by
Foremost Industries in Calgary,
11 buses shuttle tourists up and
down the glacier with a stop on
the ice to check out your
walking skills. I had been
onboard similar flat-bed
versions of the Foremost units,
without the comfy passenger
seats, 35 years earlier while
working in the Canadian Arctic
Islands - brought back some old
Meanwhile, south of us, all hell
was breaking loose. It had been
raining heavily for three days
in the Bow Valley, where Banff
is located. A mud slide blocked
the road south of the ice
fields. The bus driver hastily
gathered us up and headed back
to Jasper in case more slides
trapped us. Back at Jasper Park
Lodge, we learned from the TV
that major floods had washed out
the TransCanada Highway east of
Banff and had isolated Canmore
and several other communities.
No wonder the bus driver was
anxious; his family lived in
Calgary, a city
of a million people, was forced
to evacuate over 100,000
residents and all downtown
office towers were flooded and
out of power for nearly a week
afterward. Most Calgary
residents were back in their
homes a few days or weeks later
but some are not going to see a
"home" for a year or more.
The 13,000 residents of
aptly named High River were out
of their homes for many weeks
and many were still living in
temporary accommodation a year
later. Some have nothing to
return to. Only 4 people were
lost to the flood waters. It has
been reported as the most
expensive natural disaster in
Brewster paid the extra
night at the Lodge, but no one
could predict how long the roads
would be closed, so we rented a
car and drove home by a northern
route untouched by floods. It
was 4 more days before the
Jasper to Banff road was
re-opened and we drove the
rental to pick up our car at
Banff. The town was a ghostly
sight with no tourists; the main
highway to Calgary would remain
closed for another 6 days.
Maligne Lake boat dock
Maligne Lake Tea House
Cruise ship on Maligne Lake
Brazeau Icefield at south end of
Waterfall into Maligne Lake
Columbia Ice Field "Ice-Buggy"
Ice-Buggy Road to Athabasca
An original Bombardier
snow-mobile from the 1960's
THE "ROCKY MOUNTAINEER"
ADVENTURE - 2012
Filling In The Gaps: Banff - Kamloops -
Jasper - Banff
missed the train ride from Banff to Kamloops via the Spiral
Tunnels in June 2013 due to a freight train derailment in the
Spiral Tunnels west of Banff and Lake Louise. We still wanted to
see that portion of the route. RM management had offered a free
two-day trip as compensation, so we took them up on it.
After ignoring our emails for two months, RM finally agreed to honour
their promises. It wasn't exactly free as we paid
for the hotels.
Since we had done the rest of the complete circle tour earlier, we really didn't want to repeat the
Kamloops to Vancouver leg then fly home, so we asked to do Banff
- Kamloops - Jasper instead. This is not a standard two-day
trip but RM agreed. Thanks folks!
It was a great trip, with its own share of misadventure. Bear in
mind it is now September and the daylight is a lot shorter than
TRY THAT AGAIN: BANFF - KAMLOOPS
It started inauspiciously. Two hours late leaving Banff due to
freight congestion near Calgary, we stopped again (guess where!)
at the entrance to the Spiral Tunnels. This time it was a work
crew in the tunnel that couldn't get its act together. Three
hours later we were finally on our way but made up little time
following the freight train ahead of us. By Revelstoke, it was
full dark so we missed seeing the lakes around Salmon Arm and
the Shuswap, and the arid semi-desert approaching Kamloops. To
soothe us, the chefs prepared a very credible supper from unused
lunch items. And the wine continued to flow.
Close on 1 AM we hit the hay at a downtown Kamloops hotel. We
could sleep in next morning but the rest of the passengers and
crew were up at dawn to move on to Vancouver.
The Spiral Tunnels on the CPR mainline, the cause of the
cancelled trip in June and the delay on the replacement trip in
September, are world famous and not normally a source of
problems for train crews. The complex track design is
shown here to illustrate the interesting sightseeing
possibilities of the route.
Map of CPR Spiral Tunnels -- Upper Spiral is at bottom of
map, Lower Tunnel is near top of map.
Each tunnel drops the elevation by about 50 feet, reducing the
grade from 4.5% on the "Big Hill" down to a more manageable 2.2%. Kicking Horse River is at the left and Trans-Canada Highway (#1)
crosses the CPR twice between the two tunnels. The road on the
left goes north to Takakkaw Falls. All this is just west of the
Continental Divide on the border between Alberta and British
Columbia. Lake Louise AB is off-screen to the top right and Field
BC is off-screen to the lower left. The upper tunnel is under Mt
Stephen, the lower under Mt Ogden.
Lake Louise Heritage Station
Ballast Spreader parked at Banff
Lower Spiral Tunnel from Upper Spiral
Kicking Horse River
Old CPR Station at Field, BC
Park Bridge from the Mountaineer
Impressive waterfall west of Field, BC Revelstoke to Kamloops,
too dark to see
A Very Fine Day: Kamloops
Downtown Kamloops is a lovely old-fashioned town of stone and
brick buildings with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants.
Light traffic, quiet buses, and lots of heritage buildings to
look at made a very restful day. Riverside Park between downtown
and the North Thompson River includes the railway station and a
heritage park, a Japanese Garden, riverside beach, swimming pool,
water slide, tennis, lawn bowling, and music nightly in the
band shell during the summer.
The 1912 vintage class M-3-d steam locomotive ex-CNR 2-8-0
Consolidation #2141, now called "Spirit of Kamloops", was out of
service and out of sight undergoing a boiler rebuild. Some
antique rolling stock was on display.
Train watching in downtown Kamloops
Railway bridge over Thompson River
Fort Kamloops history
Snowplow at the ready
Kamloops Heritage Railway cars
Kamloops Heritage Railway Logo
A strange caboose
Kamloops famous "Red Bridge"
up the Thompson River:
Kamloops - jasper
This leg of the journey is very reminiscent of the Fraser River
route to Quesnel, with forestry and cattle operations spread
across the landscape. Skirting the edge of a river that once had
paddle wheel steamers, the train climbs slowly to the same
climax - Mount Robson. This time it was pretty cloudy beyond the
halfway mark. Across the Continental Divide to Jasper was
uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to walk the streets
Thompson River, named after David Thompson, who walked, canoed,
and rode horseback for more than 50,000 kilometers to survey and
map most of western Canada and northwest USA during the late
The Mountaineer is turned on a wye here and Via's Canadian
spends a couple of hours at the station nearly every day.
A neat 2-foot gauge mine
engine (decorated as CNR #9) lives in front of the fire hall, as
well as the CNR 6015 on display at the station. These plus the hourly
freights give a train fan lots to watch. If you are here for the
mountains, there's a gondola to the top of The Whistler, the
boat ride on Maligne Lake, the trip onto Athabasca Glacier, and
much more. Brewster Bus Lines will give you a grand tour.
The 2-foot gauge mining locomotive at the Jasper Fire Hall
Rear end and driver details
Cab interior showing firebox and pressure gauge
THE ADVenture Ends
Next day, we took the Brewster commuter bus via Lake Louise to
Banff, grabbed our car and drove home. The adventure was over,
102 days after it had begun, and we had seen Banff and Jasper enough
for one year. Still want to see Revelstoke to Kamloops, some
Advice: If you want great scenery, fine dining, and super service, try the Rocky
Mountaineer. If you want
"on-time", go to Switzerland. It's beautiful there
Jasper the Bear - part of Jasper National Park since 1948
WATCHING IN JASPER, ALBERTA
Variety In a Mountain Paradise
Jasper, Alberta is only 4 or 5 hours from my home, but we only
get there every 10 years or so. A million or more tourists visit
Jasper and Banff National Parks every year. Once you have seen
the mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, bears, elk, and moose, you have seen it all --
except of course for the changes of the seasons, the previously
untried hiking trails, and the variety of TRAINS that pass
through the area.
On a long weekend in 2003, we stayed at Pine Bungalows with my
family from Ottawa, and toured all the usual sights. During the
evenings, we drank some wine while an elk fell in love with our
little SUV, repeatedly setting off the car alarm with his
amorous advances. True story!
day in downtown Jasper, we saw the arrival of three great
Via Rail Canadian was on its way to Vancouver from Toronto, changed
crews, and moved on after a two hour layover. In a stroke of
pure good luck, the Rocky Mountaineer and American Orient
Express also arrived, departing the following day. These plus a
couple of static displays rounded out a great train watching
weekend among some of the finest scenery in the world.
Although it runs on cables instead of steel rails, the Jasper
SkyTram is worth the trip. Leaving from its base station just
south of Jasper townsite, it climbs to the top of Whistlers
Mountain in 7 minutes.
On a clear day, you can see forever, and
it is windy ALL the time. Boardwalks lead to the observatory and
a short walk on near level ground takes you to the peak of the
mountain. It is named for the whistling marmots that pervade the
place (not for the artist whose mother is so famous).
#9" 0-4-0 MINING Locomotive
There are two static locomotive displays in Jasper: one is a
little 2-foot gauge
0-4-0 mine engine at the Jasper Fire Hall
(was at the CNR station
when these photos were taken).
Some views of
"Old Number 9" in front of Jasper's CNR station in
1994. It is a 2 foot gauge mine locomotive maintained by retired
CNR employees. It never ran on CNR tracks, of course, and has
been on display for many years. It was relocated to the Jasper
Visitor Center across the street from the CNR Station sometime
after these photos were taken. It is now at the Jasper Fire
More views of "Old #9".
#6015 4-8-2 Locomotive
The other static display is a cosmetically restored 1932 CNR
class U-1-a 4-8-2 Mountain type locomotive #6015 on display at
the Jasper station.
CNR #6015 on display at Jasper station, a
1932 CNR class U-1-4-8-2 Mountain type locomotive.
Via Rail #6444 parked in the Jasper Yard.
Miscellaneous equipment in the Jasper Yard.
Mountaineer in Jasper, 2003
Mountaineer arrived from Kamloops, disembarked its passengers,
turned on the wye, and prepared for its departure next morning
for Kamloops and Vancouver. This happens 3 days a week in
summer. Freights with 120+ cars are much more frequent, as this
is one of the two mainlines from China and Japan to eastern
Canada. Double stacks of containers and triple deck auto
carriers are pretty common sights.
Rocky Mountaineer after turning on the Jasper wye, showing the
old paint scheme. We travelled all the RM routes in 2013.
Rocky Mountaineer passenger cars -- old paint scheme.
More 2003 views of the RM.
Orient Express in Jasper, 2003
What was special that day was the arrival of the American Orient
Express, a 20 car luxury train that showed up unexpectedly. It
usually ran in the USA on a few select routes and this trip to
Jasper was probably a one-of-a-kind offering. Unlike the
Mountaineer, in which passengers are housed in hotels overnight,
the AOE has vintage Pullman sleeping cars. Passengers
disembarked into buses for a two day tour of the area. The train
was split in half, turned in two parts on the wye, and parked
for the duration.
The train had very fancy interiors (including
palm trees that could be seen through the windows), with lounge,
diner, and observation cars. In later years, there were dome
observation cars as well.
Sadly, the AOE died in bankruptcy in August 2008 and the
equipment sold by auction in December 2008.
Amtrak diesels at the head end of the American Orient Express.
These were led by a CNR pilot diesel, seen in the top photo.
That crew provided the local intel needed to travel this
mountain route. Railway security shooed us away, preventing
further photos. Must have been some fancy VIPs on board.
Images From The AOE Website
Inside the deluxe suite
Dining car interior
Upstairs in the dome car
Golden suite interior
In the Grand-sleeper
In the lounge car
Grand single sleeper
STATION RESTAURANT - LAKE LOUISE ALBERTA
Lake Louise, located near the peak of the Rocky Mountains in
Banff National Park, is only 2 hours from my home, but we only
get there every 5 years or so. A million or more tourists visit Banff
and Jasper National Parks every year -- maybe that's what keeps
us closer to home. If you
get close, you may have time to see a variety of (mostly)
freight trains or grab a meal in a variety of good eateries.
You can see the
pass through Lake Louise Station every few days in season. The
trans-continental streamliner, CPR's
last ran through here in 1990, at which time the train was
transferred to Via Rail and CNR tracks through Edmonton and
Jasper. It still runs 20+ passenger cars 3 days a week.
Station Restaurant is a historic treasure
located beside the CPR railway tracks, next to
the Bow River in
Lake Louise. Built in 1910 as the CPR
depot, the Station is the oldest building in
Lake Louise. Along with Banff and Jasper
stations, this building was granted Canadian Heritage
in 1991. The building was restored in 1994.
addition to the station building that is the
main restaurant, there are two elegant dining cars named "Delamere"
(built 1925) and "Killarney" (1906). There
were several official cars named "Killarney" on
the CPR over the years. This one is supposed to
be CPR #2,
once the private car of Lord
Shaughnessy, president of the CPR from 1899 to
1918. Side Note: "Killarney" was also
painted a dark
green colour used on CPR Express cars, instead
of the much more common Tuscan red.
Lake Louise Station ==>
In the late 1990's, we were served a very fine
gourmet meal in "Delamere" and were given a tour
of "Killarney". Opulence abounded in every
Fancy china and cutlery, even
fancier woodwork on the interior paneling, made for a luxurious
can be booked for special functions only.
seating up to 26 diners. The main restaurant
features several dining rooms and a huge double
Here are photos of the two dining
cars gleaned from the Internet. My photos
CPR Dining Car "Delamere" at Lake Louise Station
Restaurant. Steps are for VIP diners.
CPR Business Car "Killarney", with observation
platform, at Lake Louise Station Restaurant
These photos of the restaurant in the CPR cars are from a trip in the
late 1990's with my brother and his wife.
Above and Below: CPR dining car "Delamere" at Station
Restaurant, Lake Louise, Alberta.
Inside the "Delamere" dining car. We appear to be
having a good time.
Scenes from inside "Delamere", sometime in the late 1990's.