The flight from Manchester to Toronto was not as interminable as expected. The in-flight films were dire so I listened to the two one-hour long selections of classical music (three times each!) and read a book set during the construction of Ribblehead Viaduct and Blea Moor Tunnel. There were amazing views of Greenland as we passed to the south of it - mountains, cliffs and enormous glaciers, as well as icebergs.
From Toronto I flew on to Halifax in the company of a retired aero-engineer who gave me a running commentary on the journey and some of Canada’s problems. On the far side of Lake Ontario could be seen Buffalo in the USA and the entrance of the Niagara River into the lake. The plane flew over Maine and the Bay of Fundy to approach Nova Scotia from the South-East. I was able to see the long spit on the North coast of Nova Scotia. From Halifax airport I took the shuttle bus to the VIA station which was a five minute walk from my hotel. After a walk in the town the jet lag caught up with me and I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
CN switchers at Halifax container depot
The hotel was very close to the container depot so I walked to an over bridge over the yard entrance and watched a pair of Canadian National locomotives switching. There were no container ships at the berths but I heard that two had been loaded the day before. Then I went to confirm my reservations at the station. Halifax station has one train in and out six days a week to Montreal. Only one of its five platforms is in use, although there is also a VIA maintenance depot by the station. The main concourse has been tastefully restored and evokes the atmosphere of another age. Afterwards I walked along the waterfront- very interesting with a museum of naval history and several preserved ships.
The Halifax skyline from the ferry to Dartmouth
Then I took the ferry across the harbour to Dartmouth - this is the oldest ferry service in N.America. The weather was very pleasant and the 15 minute crossing enjoyable. There were plenty of naval ships in the dockyard (Halifax is the principal naval base of Canada). Opposite the ferry terminal was the CN Dartmouth freight yard with one of the two surviving Montreal Locomotive Works M636 CoCos stabled there.
in Halifax I walked through the town to the Citadel - ramparts, ditches and
barracks - a little like Berwick-upon-Tweed, but still in use as a military base. I
was just in time to see and hear the twelve o'clock gun being fired and the
guard being changed. It was almost as if I were in Edinburgh with soldiers
playing pipes and wearing kilts! Later in my trip I heard all about the Halifax
explosion of 1917, which killed thousands of people when an ammunition ship blew
up in the harbour.
The "Ocean" before departure from Halifax for Montreal
The centre domecar on the "Ocean"
The route of the "Ocean" from Halifax to Montreal
Route map courtesy of VIA
journey across Nova Scotia was initially along the shores of Halifax harbour and
then through forests, past lakes and across cattle ranches. The soil was a reddy
brown and coloured all the rivers.
first stop at Truro showed that the “Ocean” is a real train, not a tour
train, with numerous people boarding and alighting - a pattern which was
repeated for the rest of the journey and explained the length of the train.
During lunch in the restaurant car, the westbound “Ocean” passed us running
late due to have to switch in and out cars at Moncton.
Sackville, Fort Beaesejour was passed - built by the French but promptly
captured by the British. The line came down to the Bay of Fundy on the approach
to New Brunswick - an area of marsh and deep channels. The sea here has one of
the largest tidal ranges anywhere in the world.
train stopped at Moncton for half an hour to refuel the locomotives from
The locos of the "Ocean" are refuelled at Moncton
From the domecar somewhere in New Brunswick
of Bathurst it became dark. Along the Baie des Chaleurs it is quite densely
populated. The train was put in a siding to allow a freight to pass and then
reversed out before pulling forward, thus saving the conductor a long walk to
change the hand operated points. At
Campbelltown a running-gear check was done on the coaches during the stop. At
Matapiedia the section of the "Ocean" from the Gaspé peninsular line was added during a long and
complicated switching process. The train left 60 minutes late with 19 cars and 2
Sunrise at Quebec with the St Lawrence River in foreground
The countryside is mainly arable and to my surprise the line was still single track. Closer to Montreal there were several hills rising above the plain - volcanic plugs. The approach to Montreal was through the inevitable urban sprawl of houses, motorways and industry. The railway crosses over the St. Lawrence on a long single-track bridge before entering the awful underground platforms of Gare Centrale. In Canada platforms in large stations are not for lingering on! An Amtrak train to New York was ready to depart behind a F40PH. The station concourse was reached up escalators and was more like an airport, although without enough seating.
The "Ocean" approaches Gare Central in Montreal
STCUM #406 emu at Deux Montagne
I bought tickets for Deux Montagne, attempting to speak in French but
receiving an answer in English. The trains are made up of three two-car emus
sets in unpainted metal. The line from Montreal Gare Centrale runs through the Mount Royale Tunnel, the
reason for its electrification early this century. It is only in the last three
years that the original locos and coaches have been replaced. It has been
and totally rebuilt at 25 KV AC. The line runs through the suburbs for about 10
miles and has a respectable off-peak service and appears well used.
Montreal Windsor station with STCUM gallery double deck train to Dorien
Back in Montreal I walked across to the Windsor station, the old CP
terminal, which is now used by the suburban diesel services to Dorion. The train
was a three car double deck push-pull set built in the 1950s and propelled by an F
unit in the silver and blue livery of the STCUM (Montreal passenger transit
authority). I alighted at Dorval where the CP and CN main lines parallel each
other. There is a VIA station on the CN and a suburban station on the CP.
STCUM #1301 FP7 at Dorval on a Dorien to Montreal Windsor train
A freight headed a St.L&H SD40-2 #5532 and a SD40 and GP40 leased from HLCX roar west through Dorval
I spent about five hours there with 24 trains passing. A French Canadian
enthusiast was there as well so I gleaned plenty of information from him. The
traffic was a mixture of VIA, STCUM and heavy freights, these latter largely on the CP.
An eastbound freight at Dorval headed by CP Rail SD40-2 #5567 and three more SD40s, the second being a Norfolk Southern loco.
STCUM rush hour commuter train on the CP tracks
STCUM GP9 #1313 on a Montreal Windsor-Beaconsfield
VIA LRC-2 #6917 at the head of a Montreal - Toronto service leaves Dorval on the CN tracks
I returned to Montreal and walked to the student hostel, about 10 minutes from the station. Montreal, as the first large American city I had seen was less intimidating than I expected because the eyes concentrate on the street level and not on the towers. The most obvious difference then is the width of the streets.
I caught the 10.00 Montreal to Toronto. The coaches were refurbished 41xx series Budd cars purchased from Amtrak and refurbished. The cars came from a wide variety of US railroads. The run was pleasant and punctual taking 5 hours 40 minutes.
Route map for Montreal to Toronto Corridor
Route map courtesy of VIA
West of Montreal the line passes through farming country. In places the line has a new alignment due to the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Some parts of the countryside become wider with bare limestone and forests. The whole line is double track and signalled for bi-directional running. In fact the train overtook several freights. There are also frequent 4 track sections with long loops and cross-overs. Once in Ontario the line parallels the CP single track main line for considerable distances. The line also runs along the shores of Lake Ontario for many miles.
The interior of Toronto Union station
On the approach to Toronto new stations have been built for the GO Transit
suburban line (Government of Ontario). Union Station in Toronto has a low
overall roof and at platform level appears largely untouched since steam days.
There are 13 tracks in this rather gloomy train shed. The access to the tracks is from
terminals. VIA's is from the magnificent early 20th century booking hall whilst
GO Transit's is from a low level concourse linked to the subway system.
I took the subway, nicknamed “The
Rocket", to the student hostel where
I was staying. My room was on the 15th floor with an excellent view across the city. The subway has two interconnecting
lines and appears clean and safe even late at night. The cars are unpainted Budd
A GO Transit F59PH arrives at the West end of Toronto Union station.
I returned to Union station to take the 17.19 GO Transit service to Hamilton, formed of eight green and cream double deck air-conditioned cars and an FS9PH diesel. In the large VIA depot west of the city was the 19 car rake of the next day's "Canadian" to Vancouver, as well as a large number of stored RDC single car units formerly used on branch services. Most are likely to be sold to US cities for new suburban services.
Go Transit double-deck driving-car
The line west of Union station is multiple track, with large number of double slip points, gradually reducing to 4, then 3 and eventually 2 tracks in the outer suburbs. I travelled as far as Burlington, a three platform station vvith bus station. After an hour watching trains there I returned to Toronto.
I caught the 07.50 Toronto to Chicago services which was made up of
Superliner double deck coaches and a VIA F4OPH-2. The lower level has seats,
a baggage area and toilets. The corridor connection is on the
upper seated area.
upper seated area.
An Amtrak "Superliner" Coach on the Toronto to Chicago service at London (Ontario)
route to London was via Guelph through rolling farmland. At Guelph station there was a
preserved CNR 4-8-4 steam loco. Arrival
in London was at 10.55, after passing a Sarnia to Toronto
VIA train in a loop west of Guelph. A connecting service to Windsor was in
the platform just ahead of the Chicago service. I talked to the conductor who,
on discovering I was a railfan, gave me a child's card press-out model of a VIA
train! He told me that most freight on the line was at night, but that one had
just been given the
The train to Chicago prepares to leave London
Map of VIA's Corridor services west of Toronto.
Map reproduced courtesy of VIA
I decided to walk across the town to the CP tracks. I arrived at a level
crossing half a mile away to find a CP maintenance crew in their truck so I asked
if anything was due. They said they were waiting for a freight to pass in the
next ten minutes. It was a westbound behind a Norfolk Southern lease
A CP freight heads past the old CPR depot at London with a westbound freight. CP's GP9 #8221 and Norfolk Southern SD40 #1615 power the train.
West from London to Windsor the line crosses flat farmland. At Chatham there is a flat crossing and
an interchange with the CSX - a Chessie System GP40 was standing in the yard.
Further towards Windsor the line runs along the shore of Lake St Clair, an area
obviously popular for boating holidays.
VIA 6404 after arrival at Windsor(Walkerville) with a service from Toronto
One of VIA's modern lightweight coaches seen at London
On arrival at Windsor, where the station is a modern one situated in an industrial areas - mainly distilleries, I walked down to the St. Clair River to look across the water and photograph the tower blocks of Detroit.
The skyline of Detroit seen from the Canadian side of the St. Claire River at Windsor.
The return to Toronto was at 18.00 and the only items of real note were three brand new BNSF locos at London. There was no sign yet of the Class 66s for EWS. The train arrived in Union at 22.00 on time. There had been a large amount of freight going west to the USA just as the conductor had said.
Toronto LRT tram along waterfront.
I took the LRT tram along the waterfront from the stop under Union station to Spandia Avenue. A new tram route was being opened that weekend along this street, after ten year’s construction. Workmen were putting the finishing touches to the works. I went onto the bridge overlooking the west end of Union station and took photos of commuter trains with the CN Tower and Skydome basketball ground in the background. This is probably the only worthwhile place to take photos of trains at Toronto Union. A visit here in the morning rush-hour was definitely worthwhile with almost continuous action.
A CN freight runs east during the morning rush-hour traffic.
A VIA train from Windsor arrives at Toronto Union
At 10.05 I took the Amtrak train bound for New York. The stock was the
strange looking North East Corridor curved-sided Metroliner coaches with very small
windows. At Hamilton the line runs along a bay of Lake Ontario before heading
through freight yards, and past the derilect old CN station at Hamilton and
through steelworks, all at a maximum of 30mph.
Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. A ship was in one of the two locks that lift
Lake Ontario with Lake Erie. A ship was in one of the two locks that lift
Map of VIA's west of Toronto Corridor routes
Map courtesy of VIA
The afternoon New York to Toronto service stands in Niagara Falls station
One of the Metroliner coaches used on the Toronto to New York route.
The morning Toronto to New York train pulls across the International Bridge at Niagara Falls.
Initially this is past the great gorge with whirlpools in it and then after the main highway bridge comes the American Falls and then the Horseshoe Fall itself. The area was less tacky than I had expected with parkland almost reminiscent of a place like Harrogate. I read an account of how until recent years the falls have been cutting back by 1 metre every year, although following water extraction for hydro electricity this is now reduced to about 30cm a year.
The International Road Bridge to the USA at Niagara Falls
Two views of the Falls
Standing at the wall by the crest of the falls the power of
the water is awesome. Upstream of the falls are rapids and the extraction inlets
for the HEP plant.
The route of the "Canadian" from Toronto to Vancouver
Map courtesy of VIA
The tail car of the "Canadian" seen beneath the roof of Toronto union station with the CN Tower behind
down to the waterfront by LRT again and looked at the ships and pleasure steamers. After
that I had a walk
central business district. It’s strange to walk by grills in the pavement and feel
a blast of hot air
.I boarded the the "Canadian” at 10.30, first in line due to my being on the ball when they called us. Luckily my berth was in the second from last car and not one of the intermediate dome-cars .
The "Canadian" stands in Toronto Union station before departure for Vancouver
The train departed late at 11.07 with 19 cars, including a baggage, 4 coach class cars, 4 dome cars and 10 sleepers. The route was out via CN to Snider. As the route from here is now closed we backed up on a spur onto the main CN east-west freight route before heading off to Doncaster and then onto the Bala sub-division towards Washago. At 13.00 running along the shores of Lake Simcoe. The train stopped at Washago at 13.30 and then crossed over the swing bridge over the Severn River- this flows up to Hudson Bay.
Two views taken as the train headed west through Western Ontario and into the Canadian Shield
The train entered the
Canadian Shield a vast area of bare rock, low drumlins and trees. At 15.25 we
passed the holiday resort of Parry Sound with the CP line running
The view from the rear dome-car as the train heads across western Ontario
At 17.30 crossed two vvide rivers., the Pickerel and French
River one after the other. At 18.10 the train entered a very rocky area which is
believed to have been caused by either a meteorite or volcanic activity. The
area around Sudbury is notorious for its nickel mining and slag heaps . The
train stood at Sudbury Junction for a few minutes, a really appallingly
Capreol, where there was a 20 minute stop, I was having dinner so
couldn’t get out. There was a preserved CNR 4-8-2 on the platform. The station
is a division
point with loco depot and yards and several freights were
waiting to follow
or cross us. The countryside continued to be rocky with bogs and beaver lakes in
I woke at 6.00 with the train still running through the Canadian Shield but now two hours late. Apparently an old lady had died during the night and the train had been delayed waiting an ambulance. At Longlac we passed the eastbound “Canadian” running two and a half hours late. The town is apparently multi-lingual and there is a long lake . A freight only branch line diverges here to run to Lake Superior.
The train was
travelling faster and the sun was out. At Armstrong there is a railway division
point and the train was watered here. To do this the train vas moved forward no
less than eight
The "Canadian" stands at Sioux Lookout during its refuelling stop
At Sioux Lookout there was a scheduled 20 minute stop for loco refuelling
but this was considerable extended due to waiting an eastbound freight. The town
here is a real one-horse affair, dust roads, lots of Indians and no phone at the
station so no chance to phone home as planned. West of Sioux country changes to lake country with a floatplane seen
landing on one. The line then climbs into a more rocky and wooded area through several tunnels. Then its more rocks, more lakes,
more islands and more lakes- really very beautiful in the afternoon sun.
wooded area through several tunnels. Then its more rocks, more lakes, more islands and more lakes- really very beautiful in the afternoon sun.
Concerns A young couple and there baby
were dropped off at Farlane Lake to stay in
a holiday cottage. They just climb out onto the trackside and the train pulls
A young couple and there baby
were dropped off at Farlane Lake to stay in
a holiday cottage. They just climb out onto the trackside and the train pulls
Crossing the Red River on the approach to Winnipeg
After Elna comes the changes to the prairies. The line runs straight and the countryside opens up with the occasional farm and road, although it is still heavily wooded. On the approach to Winnipeg the line crosses over one of the flood channels for the Red River.
The "Canadian" approaches the Winnipeg skyline
The buildings of Winnipeg are visible although
it is still 15 miles away.
The "Canadian" pulls into Winnipeg station
All the passengers were required to leave the train for the crew change and cleaning of the train. I went to see the locos being refuelled and to see the first of many long grain trains I would see in the next few days. The station has four platforms with the main concourse being in the subway.
The "Canadian" is fuelled and washed as its stands at Winnipeg station
Winnipeg station exterior
are two services from Winnipeg each running three times a week - the The
the “Hudson Bay” to Churchill. The empty stock of the "Hudson Bay"
passes through on the
avoiding lines behind the station. I went out into the street to look at
Winnipeg close up. Unfortunately time didn't allow me to wander very far. Despite large buildings it has more of a frontier feel to it
than the eastern cities.
The route of the "Canadian"
Map courtesy of VIA
On departure I
went straight to the restaurant car for dinner. We’d
change the two very pretty waitresses for two very attentive
young men, both students working for VIA in the vacation. Nothing seemed too much
trouble for them. At Portage la Prairie there is a complex rail interchange with
the CP and CN lines to Edmonton and Churchill. The main line is well laid,
fairly straight and there are frequent loops and grain elevators. The train’s
speed was now noticeably higher probably about 70mph.
I woke up as the train pulled out of Saskatoon still 2 hours late. Despite what everybody thinks it is clear the prairies are not always completely fiat. There are snow fences along the line in places. It was rather misty to start but this was soon burnt off by the sun.
West of Saskatoon
The prairies soon gave way to rolling countryside
and lakes. There were numerous cattle ranches in this area. The train crossed
from Saskatchewan into Alberta and by Wainwright was only an hour
and 15 minutes late. Around Cockerel is evidence of the oil industry with
nodding donkey oil pumps. The Winnipeg crew obviously had a sense of humour
because at 8.00 there was the sound of a cockerel crow over the loudspeakers!
The Battle River bridge
The line crossed over the 2911 foot long trestle bridge over the mile wide Battle River valley as it climbed to the summit at the head of this valley.
The Battle Valley on a world scale is not important or mighty, but does have quite a history, both politically, and anthropologically. The Battle River was the drain from Glacier Lake Edmonton millions (or thousands) of years ago, after the ice age. It was also the location of many a bloody Indian war (Battle) between the Cree and the Blackfoot Indians c. 150 years ago. The train had earlier passed through the Neutral Hills very near Wainwright, where the Cree and the Blackfoot had drawn their borders and truces, until one or the other decided to infringe on another’s territory…And the battles began. (thanks to Patrick Robinson from Edmonton, Alberta for this information)
The entry into Edmonton was through yards, industrial areas.
The approach to Edmonton station with the traffics of the LRT on right
The line to the VIA station
is a single track that leads into the semi derelict platforms of the former CN
station . Once again the station had a well laid out and pleasant concourse for
just six trains a week. The Edmonton area LRT electric line parallels the VIA
tracks before going underground in the city centre. It uses 2 car light-weight
emus and has some rather futuristic looking stations. I phoned home from
Edmonton, the first time the time zones permitted it. The train backed out of
Edmonton to rejoin the CN main line past the enormous freight yards. VIA has
apparently decided to build a new station here to replace the existing city
The old station at Edmonton (now replaced by a new one on city outskirts)
An Edmonton area 2 car LRT electric multiple unit passes the "Canadian"
of Edmonton the line begins to climb slowly towards the Rockies through forests
and over trestle bridges spanning creeks. Gradually the view opens out and the
mountains can be seen in the distance. Most of the line is double track. Vast
forests stretch as far as the eye can see. I saw at least one forest fire in the
train entered the Jasper National Park the dome car filled up. The steward tried
to organize a competition to spot the bears/goats/moose/elk etc. It all became a
little too American for me. And yes, we did see mountain goats, elk and moose
but no bears. The moose even come down into the rail yard at Jasper and cause
problems for the drivers when they get in the way of trains. Our train was just
30 minutes late arriving in Jasper. As I left the station the maintenance and
cleaning crew were giving the train their
Passengers disembark from the "Canadian" upon arrival at Jasper
hotel was just across the street from the station so, after having a shower, I
headed back for a few hours train watching and spent the rest of the evening
discussing American and British railroads with various rail fans on the platform.
Preserved CNR 4-8-2 #6015
CN coal train heads west through Jasper
CN eastbound double stack headed by SD75#5660 and ex CP SD40-2 #5389 arrive in Jasper
The moose grazing on spilt grain cause problems for the crew of the "Rocky Mountaineer" arriving at Jasper form Vancouver. The loco is GP40-2 #801
Jasper's main street with the railway station on the left
I spent most of the day in and around the station. There was plenty of traffic although it tends to come in batches, three or four trains in an hour and then nothing for an hour or so. I felt so hot and tired by mid afternoon that I went back to the hotel for a sleep! I went out again in the evening and had a pleasant time watching trains.
Grain cars in the advertising livery for Canada and Alberta
"The Canadian" arrives in Jasper from Vancouver on its journey east
Tailcar of "The Canadian"
The route of the "Skeena"
Map courtesy of VIA
CN GP40-2 #9461 at Jasper
A westbound grain train headed by CN SD50 #5401 and Conrail C40-8W #754 leave Jasper
I spent the morning watching trains again and then went for the “Skeena” to Prince George and Prince Rupert. It should have left at 13.00 but the air-conditioning in the first class was faulty so another car was attached meaning we left 45 minutes late. The normal formation was a 2nd, first and bar/dome car.
The "Skeena" prepares to leave Jasper for Prince George and Prince Rupert
train was relatively quiet due to a large number of cancellations by tour firms.
There was a fishing dispute between British Columbia and Alaska which had caused
the blockading of ferries from Prince Rupert and this had scared off a lot of
tourists. We followed a coal train uphill and, unfortunately, there was single
line working. We were, therefore, held for two eastbound freights before
eventually overtaking the coal train. The weather was poor with rain and low
cloud. There are wire fences on the climb to Yellowhead Pass (3700 feet ) to
warn of rock
falls. There were several recent landslides visible. Yellowhead Lake was passed
and after Redpass Junction most of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in Canada,
could be seen. At Redpass there is a very large triangular junction with the
Vancouver line. The legs of the triangular extend over many miles.
Tail-car interior and Vista Dome
Raush Valley the train drew into a siding behind a westbound grain train. After
crossing an eastbound freight both the grain and the “Skeena” set off
together a few hundred yards apart at about 30mph in the same single line
section! Was this against regulations I wonder, or just a desperate measure to
prevent another 30 minutes delay? We eventually overtook the freight at McBride.
The area along the line was unbelievably empty with no sign of
The BC Rail route from Prince George to Vancouver
Prince George BC Rail station
The “Cariboo Prospector”, made up of two British Columbia Railway Budd RDC railcars, left Prince George BCR terminal at 07.00, but was then held in the yard for a northbound freight so eventual departure was nearly 45 minutes late. Initially the line is through farming country with numerous timber mills. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all included in the fare and came on airline style trays, although of slightly better quality.
BC Rail 2 unit RDC at Prince George before working to Vancouver
The landscape through to Quesnel remained a mixture of forest and farmland with two more large pulp mills being located there. An engineer riding to Williams Lake said there are 3 freights a day on the line in each direction. They load up to 10,000 tons and generally have two lead locos plus one or two mid-train radio controlled helper locos.
One of the numerous rail connected timber industry plants
In places on this northern section the train travelled at up to 60mph. The Fraser River at this stage was to the west in a broad valley. At Alexandria the train was put in a dead end siding to allow a northbound freight to pass us, and then reversed out of the siding! A viaduct at Deep Creek was 312 feet above the creek- the train stopped briefly to allow passengers to enjoy the view - despite being late.
BC Rail RS18 #627 and RS3 slug #410 at Williams Lake (taken through window)
Williams Lake, (pop 28000) is a major centre with yet more sawmills. Here a large numbers of passengers joined, many of whom clearly had not had a bath for some days! After another delay for freight traffic the train set off and started its climb into the Cariboo. The line climbs from 1765 feet to the summit at Horme Lake of 3788 feet. The steep part comes after 100 Mile House/Exeter where the grade lasts for 16 miles.
The Cariboo is a vast silty deposit scarred with canyons and
streams. At Kelly Lake there is a turning Y for the daily excursion trains from
Lilloet. The lake itself is in a deep ravine. Between Arden and Polley the line
descends in to the Fraser Canyon and is the longest and most gruelling climb in
North America with an
The Hi-Rail vehicle that patrols the line in front of trains
The Fraser canyon north of Lilloet
The rock falls in the Fraser canyon are notorious. The Canyon is utterly awesome with bare rock or silt valley sides. almost sheer in places and with trees growing out of the bare silt. The track is 2000’ above the valley floor at the start of the grade. At Pavillion ,half vvay down the grade, is British Columbia‘s oldest general store established in 1862. Huge areas of the canyon floor were being used for growing the Chinese herb gin-seng .
The line winds down the mountainside towards Lilloet
crops were covered with black netting. There are two passing loops in the canyon
and both are signalled from Lilloet, for safety reasons I presume, as there are
sheer drops from the trackside. We passed or overtook freights in both loops.
One Canadian woman asked if I was “trainspotting” when I took a particularly
interest in one of them, something she'd heard British rail fans did! At the bottom of the canyon stands, for drying salmon,
caught in the river by Indians, could be seen. In fact one of the flagstops
hereabouts is called Indian Reservation. The railway crosses the lower part of
the canyon on a girder bridge vvith sharp curves at either end.
The RDCs stand in Lilloet station during a short break in the marathon journey from Prince George to Vancouver
The train arrived in Lilloet 2 hours late. BC Rail had dispatched the other RDCs, that were scheduled to be added here, earlier, so our train was able to omit a lot of the stops onwards to Vancouver. The conductor came through the train to ask which stops were required. During the stop at Lilloet, which again wasn’t shortened from the scheduled 20 minutes, I asked the driver if he would be able to make up any time. His reply was no because of the heat kinks in the rails. Indeed it soon became obvious that we were only maintaining the schedule from Lilloet by virtue of omitting the stops.
from Lilloet the line ran along the shores of lakes reminiscent of Norwegian
fords, with several hydro electric plants . Approaching
Whistler, mountains with considerable amounts of snow became visible. Mount
Garibaldi was the highest seen at 8787 feet. The line then descends steeply
through the narrow and spectacular Cheakamus gorge, a narrow rocky ravine with
waterfalls and cataracts.
crew were changed at Squamish for the last hour and a half to Vancouver.
In the workshops here could be seen several more RDCs. Then suddenly around a
corner we came in sight of Howe Sound, the first sea water since Halifax - I’d
done it and crossed North America from coast to
The Howe Sound looking north (photo taken from on board ship)
In the water in pens were logs waiting to be processed for the saw mills. On either side of the sound mountains towered, most still covered with snow and ice. The line hugs the shores of Howe Sound all the way to Vancouver. By now, however, it was nearly dark and I was tired so I didn’t take too much notice. I knew I’d see the line in daylight from the "Royal Hudson" special train a few days later. The views coming into Vancouver with the lights of the city and the floodlit Lions Gate Bridge were pretty spectacular.
were put in a siding again to be passed by yet another freight before arriving
in North Vancouver nearly 2 hours late. Even then BC Rail hadn’t finished with
us, as the evening dining car special train was occupying the main platform so
we had to pass it and then set back into the platform.
a taxi to the hotel. The taxi driver who having found out who
I was and that I was travelling alone suggested that I ought to find a
"nice" girl and that he could help me find one!. He didn ‘t seem to impressed when I said that it was too much trouble and went
quiet. I felt for the first time a little overwhelmed by a North American city, wide roads, tall buildings, bright lights and roaring traffic etc.
but experience of travelling alone has taught me that tomorrow is always a new
day so I didn’t let it bother me too much. Sleep and a nice bed are good
The Skytrain at Pacific Central Station
the Skytrain to the Pacific Central Station. Skytrain is an automated subway and
elevated railway using magnetic induction to control the trains. It’s very
modern and well used. The city portion is in tunnel but the majority is on an
elevated concrete structure. Some stations are island platforms, other stations
have two or three platforms. The trains are 2 or 4 cars long and are white, blue
and red in colour.
Pacific Central Station with stock for "Rocky Mountaineer" on left
Pacific Central Station is the former Canadian National station now used by VIA and Amtrak
trains as well as the Rocky Mountaineer tour trains . There
is also an adjacent Greyhound and local long distance bus station. The ticket
offices are all in the same concourse. It’s a very pleasant terminal but a
The "Canadian" arrives at Vancouver at the end of its three day journey from Toronto
I arrived just in time to see the "Canadian" arrive a little late. It should have come in tail car first after turning on a Y but due to a road accident on a level crossing it had to come in locos first. There’s a VIA maintenance depot adjacent to the station and a surprise was a derelict Budd railcar. There are five platforms with one of these being inside a fenced area for customs examination of the Seattle service. The other tracks were filled with VIA and "Rocky Mountaineer" coaches.
went by Sky Train to Scott Road which is just over the enormous suspension bridge
built for Skytrain across the Fraser River. Vancouver is an enormous suburban
sprawl although quite pleasant. All the buildings are light- white,
pastel shades and light grey. The street names are hung over the roads at
intersections and the whole city is built on an enormous grid iron pattern with
streets running straight for miles. The street signs have the house numbers on for that
section of road.
The rail and road bridges over the Fraser River with a pair of BN diesels coming off the bridge
returned over the river to Columbia station and walked around trying to find
somewhere to watch trains in the New Westminster area. The single track bridge
over the Fraser had an opening span in the single track trestle bridge. I saw a
tanker train and a pair of Burlington Northern switchers. Unfortunately there
was no where to see traffic pleasantly - too many trees and highways with no
pavements to walk on. I went on to the road bridge over the river hoping this
would give a view of the railway but the sidewalk was on the wrong side to see
decided that it would be more profitable to go across to Vancouver Island a
little earlier than planned. I returned to the station in time to see the
arrival of the train from Seattle with an Amtrak diesel pulling a rake of
Spanish built Talgo coaches. Unfortunately I couldn’t photo it because it was
in the security compound.
the bus to Victoria ,which went via the airport and then on the Seattle motorway
through the Fraser River Tunnel before heading west to the Ferry Terminal at
Tswwassen. Across the bay could be seen the Roberts Bay coal, container
and grain terminal, to which so much of CN’ s and CP’ s freight traffic
container and grain terminal, to which so much of CN’ s and CP’ s freight traffic now goes.
The view from the ferry as it approaches Vancouver Island
From the car ferry could be seen Mount Baker in Washington state - an extinct volcano covered in snow and 10778 feet high. The sea was beautifully calm and I spent the whole of the time on deck. The journey through the islands must rank as one of the most beautiful I’ve ever made- narrow channels, mountains, blue seas etc. On docking near Victoria the bus headed straight downtown and dropped me off right outside the hotel door.
An RDC railcar arrives at Victoria and passes over the lifting bridge
I went down to the VIA station of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo line and saw the two car Budd RDC train come in from Courtenay. The raiilway and road cross the harbour on a lifting bridge . Float planes were continually landing and taking off from the harbour, including a small airliner. In the evening I went for a walk around the town - the whole place, as the guidebooks say, is more English than an English town. The architecture is pure Victorian and if it were not for the roads it could be in the UK. I walked around the park and saw a display of country dancing, but decided not to join in despite the notice inviting people to do just that. Then I wandered round the harbour and listened to a Scottish piper- I even left him a dollar!
Victoria harbour with a float plane landing
The RDC 2-car unit about to leave Victoria for Courtenay
I took the Victoria to Nanaimo train leaving at 08.15. On the outskirts of Victoria was a small roundhouse and some evidence of freight traffic. The line is owned by CP. The train passed the naval dockyard at Esquimalt before starting the climb from Langford to the summit at Malahat 650’ above sea level.
The line crosses the Niagara Canyon (260 feet deep) which uses a bridge originally on the CP mainline to Vancouver at Cisco in the Fraser Canyon. Next comes the crossing of the Arbutus Canyon on a curved trestle 220 feet high. The line then descends 900 feet to Duncan. Here there were dozens of totem poles and Indian products on sale. At Chemainus the line reaches the coast and there is B.C.'s largest sawmill. The factory used to have extensive logging lines and a steam loco is preserved by the line. Several large ships were anchored in the bay. Just before Nanaimo the line runs through a former coal mining area with speed restrictions due to subsidence.
On the approach to Nanaimo a line to the ferry terminal branched off to the east. Another freight only line to the west went off into the forests. The conductor told us at Nanaimo that we had ten minutes to go to the cafe across the street for coffee! He told me that the freightcars carrying mainly timber products came over on the train barge from Vancouver and there is a six days a week freight service. There are apparently 3 GP9s for the heavy timber trains, one for the main line pick up freight and on used at the ferry terminal. The passenger service only operates because a treaty require it to be operated in perpetuity.
The RDC at the Courtenay terminus before returning to Victoria
At Parksville tank cars are kept for fighting forest fires. The line crossed over the 1045 feet long French Creek trestle. I phoned home from a rail employee’s mobile phone at Courtenay, the Bell phone being out of order - now that is customer care. We left after a 30 minute turnround at 13.15. 1 left the train at Nanaimo and walked into the town to catch the coach back to Vancouver. On the coach I heard a considerable amount of "native" language being spoken by people of obvious Indian extraction.
The "Queen of Oak Bay arrives at the Nanaimo ferry terminal
Because of the holiday weekend (B.C.Day) the ferry was delayed because of heavy traffic so the bus had to wait about 40 minutes. The ship was "Queen of Oak Bay". The view across the Strait of Georgia to the B.C. mountains became progressively more stunning as the ship neared the mainland. Several cruise ships were seen - Vancouver is a major cruise port for sailings to Alaska.
The Lions Gate Suspension Bridge at Vancouver
The Vancouver waterfront from the M.V."Britannia"
I walked from the hotel down to the harbour to board M.V. "Britannia" for the sailing to Squamish. In the harbour was the "Ryndam", a Holland America cruise liner. The boat sailed under the Lions Gate Bridge and up the Howe Sound.
The Howe Sound
It was a beautiful day and too hot to be on deck for long so stayed at the very front of the observation deck. At Squamish the boat sailed up the river to tie up against a timber wharf.
ex CPR #2860 at Squamish quayside
The "Royal Hudson" steam
train was already stabled there and loaded straight off the roadside. The big
4-6-4 ex CPR No 2860 was being serviced as the boat arrived and loked
magnificent in the sun. I went for a walk around Squamish, the impression being
of low buildings and wide streets. After a phone call to home I joined the train
travelling in coach “Porteau” an ex CNR vehicle built in
One of the BC Rail "Royal Hudson" coaches
train backed up onto the main line before heading off down the Howe Sound to
Vancouver. The Stewamau Chief rock outcrop above Squamish is apparently the
largest piece of granite in the Commonwealth apart from the Rock of Gibraltar!
It was pleasant to see the Howe Sound in the daylight as I hadn't really enjoyed
it at the end of the long trip from Prince George. The line passes the largest
copper mine in the world, now closed and set up as a museum. In North Vancouver
the large yards of the B.C.R. came before we pulled into the station. On the
other track the staff were preparing the coaches for that evening’s Dining Car
Special, which goes up to a loop near Squamish and where the guests can eat and
dance the evening away.
I took the bus to the Seabus terminal and then across the harbour on this strange craft. It’s a very fast double ended ferry with one enormous enclosed deck and automatic doors on either side which allow very fast loading from the undercover bus station.
The former CPR Waterfront terminal now used by West Coast Express services
On arrival at the Waterfront terminal in Vancouver the former CPR
station, I had a surprise. The West Coast Express commuter line was operating a
Sunday evening service to Mission at 18.00. 1 checked return service
possibilities and decided to go to Port Coquitlam and return by bus. The CPR
terminal building has been nicely restored as an interchange between Seabus,
Skytrain, West Coast express and local buses.
West Coast Express F59PH1 at the Vancouver Waterfront terminal
The West Coast Express trains are made up of new air-conditioned double deck coaches pulled by F59PH1 locos and are owned by BC Transit, the bus and ferry operator. The CP line closely follows the river called the Second Narrows past container, grain and sulphur terminals. CP, BN and CN locos were all seen in this area.
CP SW1200 switchers #1209 and #8115 in the yards outside Vancouver
Further out the line becomes more suburban. There are bus terminals at every
station. The station at Port Coquitlam was next to the CP yard but although
I’d thought of staying there for a while I felt rather tired so decided to
return to Vancouver straight away by bus. The yard was obviously vast and there
appeared to be no place I could easily watch traffic. The bus route passed the
sulphur loading dock at Port Moody. Conveyors could be seen loading a ship
directly from the hopper wagons which were lettered “Sultrans” and come from
Albertan mines. The run into the city centre was through one of those inner city
took the airport bus out to the airport, far too early, but I couldn’t think
of anything else worth doing in the time I had. I boarded the 12.00 flight to
Toronto, a Jumbo Boeing 747 and watched the Rockies, and the plains and lakes
pass by underneath. Finally I boarded the 21.15 flight to Manchester and slept
fitfully through the night
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I welcome photos of Canadian locos and rolling stock to add to this page
|Rocky Mountaineer Coach||BN three deck car transporter||Double-stack container wagon|
|GO Transit driving car||CP Business Car||Norfolk Southern SD40-2|
|VIA Sleeping Car||Electro Motive (GM) SD40||Rocky Mountaineer GP40-2|