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Riding the Canadian Through the Rocky Mountains

A Magical Day on the Train


View North American Train Trip 2022 on Bob Brink's travel map.

October 25, 2022

I had two big days circled on this trip. The first was my day going west through the US Rocky Mountains and the other was this day, heading east though the Canadian Rockies. If the trains and weather cooperated, the scenery promised to be spectacular. My day out of Denver did not disappoint. The train was right on schedule and the weather was perfect. Would today go as well? There would be mountains, but would we be able to see them? A few weeks before my trip, the town of Jasper was having electricity issues due to a wildfire. Tourists were being asked to stay away. It was now under control but still burning. There was no danger, but if it was anything like my day on the Coast Starlight, I might only see smoke. It could also be cloudy, or worse, raining or snowing.

It had been my fifth night of this journey on a train, my fourth different room. All had been quite similar but also quite different. Just like in real estate, location is important. The train horn was quite loud on my first night on the Zephyr since I was in the transition car, the second car from the front of the train. Because I was well back from the engine on this train, I could not hear the horn. But location within the car is also significant. This room was over the wheels so that added squealing to my nighttime sounds. I had read that I should get decent earplugs for the trip but thought that I could get by with listening to noise cancelling sounds using my phone and earbuds. Maybe it will be earplugs on my next train ride.

I woke a few times during the night and was awake for good by 6:00. I read a little. I was working away at my Pierre Berton’s books on the building of Canada’s transcontinental railway. I found them a bit tedious but had vowed to finish before my trip was over. (I did not succeed.) At 6:30 I used my little basin to shave and went off to the dining room for my breakfast.

I was joined by a woman from the UK who had come to Canada to spread the ashes of her uncle who had died during early Covid when visiting was impossible. She had decided to see more of Canada and was taking the train from Vancouver to Edmonton. She seemed to be in a good mood while I was still feeling great, just loving every minute of my latest train ride. I ordered the pancakes and asked for some yoghurt on the side, which was part of the continental breakfast. It was no problem. “Of course, you can have some.”
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A man joined us. He was not happy. “I have slept in tents. I have slept in all sorts of places. But I have never had a worst night. I have to get off this train.” I might not have helped when I asked him if he was going to stay so grumpy when I was so bubbly. Yes, I actually said that to him, maybe not the most prudent thing to do. But he was putting off terrible vibes. I was happy to get free of him. I never saw him again, so maybe he did get off the train that day.

I went back to my room, quickly brushed my teeth, and after a quick chat with Tyler headed to the back dome car. A few other passengers had now discovered the car. The same group would be there throughout the rest of the trip, almost like a club as we would greet each other and chat. But it was never full. I would sit in the back and switch sides as required to capture the scenery. Only one time, and then only for a short while, was the car full enough to make me choose a side.

It was just getting light. I had cleaned the sensor, so my camera was working better. The show began. The mountains were wonderful.

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But I did have some problems. The track was lined with trees. For every good shot I got a corresponding photo of a blurry tree. I also got photos of the old telegraph poles which were still standing long after their useful life. We seemed to be going relatively fast, much faster than when we went through Colorado on the Zephyr. My videos would go in and out of focus as the camera tried to refocus on the trees, which it could not do, and I did not want, and then refocus on the mountains. I might have been able to mitigate some of that, but my video skills are pretty basic and rolling through the mountains was not a good time to experiment.

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There was an announcement that we were passing Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. I might have a photo of it. But I could not tell which mountain it was. One of my fellow passengers commented that he would be told that he took a photo of the wrong mountain. If anyone reading this knows which one is Mount Robson, please let me know.

We arrived in Jasper and had an hour to walk around town. I phoned Po. She told me, “Don’t go too far!”, showing her great confidence in my travelling skills. I assured her that I had it all under control. It would have been hard to get lost in Jasper.

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We had to wait at the station until boarding was announced. I was impressed to see that they were cleaning the windows of the dome cars. This did not happen in Denver.
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After reboarding, I went right back to the dome car. The views were equally spectacular on the east side of Jasper.

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We passed an area that had been impacted by earlier wildfires.

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We saw some bighorn sheep, although I assume they were young ones and females since none had the big horns. I called them mountain goats at first. Wildlife experts can comment.

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The great views ended about the time for lunch. I dutifully reported to the dining room and was seated with the French speaking couple. They said hello and nothing else. I tried my very rusty French and found out that they were originally from France and now live in Quebec. Either they were not comfortable in English or simply did not want to talk. I suspected the latter.

A woman was added to our group. She tried her French as well and met with the same lack of success. But now I had someone interesting to talk to. She is a former ice skater/skating teacher who was in the Ice Capades as a teenager back in the 1960’s and told a story about touring in the US South and taking a local bus. She preferred the back of buses and was not aware that white people were expected to sit in the front. The bus sat for some time before the driver finally pulled away. The woman lives in Manitoba and likes to take the train back and forth to British Columbia. She remains a fan despite experiencing a few major delays, including one that lasted two days.

I had the salmon and capers. It was very good. I also accepted some ice cream for dessert. This was the great on-board dining experience I had hoped for.

We were finishing our coffees and about to leave when our nice service coordinator, Amanda, walked past. I had come up with the idea to take a quick video of her saying hello to my friend from the Amtrak trains. I wanted to show her how much nicer the staff were on Via Rail. I told Amanda about my experience with the waiter on the Zephyr, especially how rude he had been to Jeanne and asked her to say hello. Amanda went far beyond that. You can see why I loved her so much.

I returned to the dome car, but since we were now in the foothills the great views were finished.

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I spent most of the afternoon in my room. Tyler walked past and I asked him to take my photo, the last of my sleeper car photos with my Newfoundland Railway cap.
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At supper I was seated with a retired airline pilot. He now lives in BC. His wife was visiting family, so he decided to take the train to Toronto and then fly back. We were joined by my lunch time companion and a man returning to Ontario from BC where he was visiting family. He really enjoys the train and takes it often. All three were staying in berths and really liked them. I would meet more happy berth passengers the next night and will discuss the pros and cons of rooms and berths in my next post. The two men were part of the rear dome car “club”, so I would see a lot of them before we made it to Toronto.

Oh, I had the trout. Thinking I was eating far too much, I managed to skip the soup and left some of my carrot cake. Well, to be honest, I ate most of it.

I took a shower and retired to my little compartment. It had been a really great day. The scenery was stunning. The day on the Rockies from Denver had the great views extended throughout the entire day, but today’s views were more spectacular. The services provided by Via Rail continued to be outstanding. I was a happy camper or maybe I should say a very satisfied “Cabin for One passenger”.

Posted by Bob Brink 17:53 Archived in Canada Tagged trains canada rocky_mountains via_rail

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Comments

I love train travel,so reading your blog i was with all the way. Great pictures. Thanks for posting

by alectrevor

The mountain scenery is spectacular, especially with the snow and some autumnal colours.

by irenevt

Thanks for the comments, Irene and Alec. I am happy that you are enjoying my blog.

by Bob Brink

Spectacular photos,Bob. Very happy to hear that you were always able to get a seat in the Dome car!

by Tony Turco

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