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January 14, 2007:

January 14, 2007:


I got up, had breakfast, and finished packing. Mark and I would be leaving on the Canadian in the evening. Fred called, inviting Mark and I to lunch. At first we thought we would return to Andrew’s house to pick up our luggage, but we were going to Langley, which was a 90 minute drive. We ended up covering our suitcases in garbage bags while Fred drove us to Langley, then to the VIA station.


Fred came and Mark and I loaded our suitcases in the back of Fred’s truck and strapped them down with bungee cords. We then said goodbye to Andrew and hit the road.


We passed near a bus garage before we got on the highway. We soon passed were BC Ferry boats (to Vancouver Island) are maintained and we say one boat in the dry dock. Fred explained that the boat was built shorter that it is today and at one point lengthened by cutting the vessel in two and adding an extra section!


We also talked about the only boat belonging to BC Ferries to sink, the Queen of the North which sank last year after it ran off course and hit a reef. After the sinking, two people were reported missing, and presumed dead. Fred told me a rumor as to what caused the Queen of the North to run off course and hit the reef. At the time the boat went off course, the captain was asleep in his room. The first officer was getting something to eat, and the two crewmembers on the bridge were boyfriend and girlfriend. The rumor was that they crewmembers on the bridge decided that this was the best time to make love to one-another and in the middle of their love making, they bumped the controls, disengaging the auto-pilot and causing the ferry to go off course. However, at the time I wrote this report, the Transport Canada report into the sinking had not been released, so I am neither confirming nor denying this rumor.


One other interesting part of the story is that many surviving passengers weren’t being compensated for the loss of their vehicles because the insurance companies called it an “act of God”. However, as the ferry sank, it went down by the stern. The passengers in the lifeboats could hear their cars smashing into each other as the ship sank.


As we headed towards Langley, we were heading to a Denny’s near a movie theatre. However, we had been given poor directions, and we took a few wrong turns, but we finally arrived at Denny’s.


Mike Cormier was already there and we met up with him. A few minutes later, Ian arrived. We talked a lot about trains and about some of the times we had at SAIT. Our head instructor, (who I don’t like to mention as I had a falling out with a few years ago), now owns a short line railroad in Alberta, the Central Western Railway. While we were at SAIT, we visited that railway’s yard in Stettler, Alberta for some hands-on experience, and each of the times we were there, I had the opportunity to operate the locomotive! The locomotive I operated was a former Conrail GP9. Mike also mentioned that CP seemingly doesn’t pay attention to the “Do not hump” signs on freight cars; they will hump anything that can. On one occasion, they even humped business cars! The business cars actually made a hard coupling which caused the windows on the end of the car to pop out and smash against the rails!


Again, after I graduated from SAIT, I was hoping to have a job with the railways, but never had much luck. My current job at Wal-Mart is okay, but I didn’t move to Calgary for 9-10 months just to work at Wal-Mart!


Mark and I told Mike that we were leaving on the Canadian that night and we would go to Edmonton and Calgary. Fred told us we’d be able to get to the station in plenty of time, but in the chance we missed our train, he’d drive us to a flag stop and/or put us on an eastbound hotshot freight train!


After our lunch, Fred drove us down to the VIA station. On the way, we passed through Surrey and we drove near a yard where several coaches, including some ex VIA cars belonging to a railroad museum in Squamish, British Columbia were being stored. The cars, however, were covered with tarps, and I was unable to photograph them. At one point, I heard a dull thud, but didn’t think much of it.


We got to the station way ahead of time. We went looking for the Rocky Mountaineer station. We then drove near the VIA yard were we saw equipment. Fred thought that what we were looking at would be our train. We soon parked at the VIA station.


            We went inside and Mark picked out our train tickets. I saw the Canadian sitting on the platform as well as a spare trainset. I reached into my pocket and to my horror, found there was no camera! It turns out the thud I heard was my camera falling out of my pocket and landing on the floor as Fred and I found it back in his truck, much to my relief.


Fred also pointed out that Amtrak’s Cascades service also serves Vancouver. However, the customs inspection is done in Vancouver station, not at the boarder like the Maple Leaf back home. I thought, “If only they could do that on the Maple Leaf! Maybe the agents won’t be so anal!”


This reminded me of my last trip when I rode the Maple Leaf across the boarder, I was interviewed by a really anal woman. She asked what I did for a living and when I told her that I worked for Wal-Mart, she asked if Wal-Mart said I could travel. She also gave me a hard time saying that I had to have a return ticket, even though I later checked and confirmed that to travel to the U.S. from Canada on a plane, train, bus, or boat, does NOT require a return ticket.


Meanwhile, Mark checked one of his bags. I was planning on bringing both my bags as carry on, even though Mark and Fred insisted on taking advantage of the baggage car. A VIA employee strongly recommended I check one bag, so I figured instead of arguing, I would give in, even though in the past times I had traveled on trains with baggage cars, I always packed two bags and brought both as carry on.


At some point, Fred left. Meanwhile, Mark and I went outside to photograph trolley buses and the Skytrain, both of which were near the station.






After we had taken some photos and videos, we headed back into the station where we photographed the Canadian with the spare trainset as well as an Amtrak Cascades train that was scheduled to leave 30 minutes after our train was to depart.


The Canadian, (the Park car on the train in the centre of the photo), and the extra trainsets.



Sometime later, it was time to board. Since this was winter, the Canadian isn’t busy, and it had a “bare bones” consist of 2 locomotives, a baggage car, a single coach, a Skyline car, a dining car, three Manor type sleeping cars, and a Park sleeper/observation/dome/lounge. It doesn’t get smaller than that.  Compare that to the peak season where the Canadian can reach lengths of 30 coaches like the Canadian I rode to Washago. I photographed “Strathcona Park” on the end of our train and “Prince Albert Park” on the end of the spare trainset.


Strathcona Park


Prince Albert Park


Mark and I boarded Hep1 coach #8119. I noticed that unlike the other times I rode the Canadian, the display cases that normally hold HO scale locomotives were empty.


The coach was almost empty; there were only 6-7 passengers on board including Mark and myself! We each got a set of 2 seats. Our tickets were taken just before we departed.


The Canadian departed on time. As we left, we passed some coaches on a siding including a third Park car: Waterton Park. We then passed the yard where I saw some equipment stored inside the maintenance building including West Coast Express MP36 #906, their newest locomotive and only MP36.


Mark and I went into the Skyline car. I commented that since our coach was so empty, that everyone could be seated in the dome and there would be seats left over! After a few minutes, we were passing near the Skytrain and near the hobby shop we visited a couple days before, we stopped. We were stopped for about 45 minutes because of signal problems. After 45 minutes, we were underway again.


We went into the dining car for dinner. Dinner was good, but expensive. While we were in the dining car, we passed though the CN yard in Surrey and along the river. We crossed over a bridge, where once again we stopped at a signal for a few minutes.


After dinner, we went into the dome as we passed through Mission, British Columbia. Mission is a flag stop and we passed through because no one was getting on. Mission is also the end of the West Coast Express commuter line and we saw some WCE trains stored in a yard. After leaving Mission, we were in wilderness and it was dark.


In the Skyline car, they showed the movie “Lady in the Water”, something Amtrak no longer does on their trains except for the Auto Train and the Cascades. We didn’t watch the movie.


One thing about the line we are on is that on the Fraser River, the CN line runs on the north side of the river and CP runs on the south side. CN and CP, (and VIA) have an agreement for both railroads to run westbound trains on the CN line and eastbound trains on the CP line between Kamloops and Vancouver.


Eventually, Mark and I decided to call it a night and headed back to the coach. The VIA crew passed out pillows and blankets and we tried to get comfortable and get some sleep, but we found that to be quite difficult, despite the fact the Hep1s are very comfortable.


January 15, 2007:


In the middle of the night, the train had an extended stop at Kamloops. Passengers were allowed onto the platform, but Mark and I stayed on board while we tried to sleep. The train eventually left. We were still running late.


Mark and I headed to the diner for breakfast. While we were in the diner, we passed through a village with a few sidings. One had an SD40 and a plow awaiting its next assignment.



After breakfast, Mark and I went into the dome. We passed a few freights. At one point, I saw a grain car whose trucks were almost completely buried in snow! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of that. I did take two photos of the Canadian as we snaked our way through the Rocky Mountains.




I knew we would be arriving in Jasper in awhile. Jasper was to be an extended stop, but since we were running late, we’d have less time in Jasper.


A few hours later, we were approaching Jasper station which is located in the middle of Jasper Provincial Park. As we approached, I saw what I thought was VIA’s Skeena train. However, it was just an F40 and two baggage cars. I photographed it anyways.



A minute later, we stopped at Jasper station. I got off and photographed both locomotives and all the coaches in the train. Jasper is a service stop where the locomotives are fueled, the train is cleaned and supplies are refreshed. I also took a picture of a CN Steam engine #6015 at the station. For the record, the train consisted of F40PH-2s #6425 and 6412, baggage car #8609, Hep1 coach #8119, Skyline 8515, Diner Alexandra, Osler Manor, Abbot Manor, Burton Manor and Strathcona Park.





Click here to see a complete photo roster of the Canadian:              Photo Roster of the Canadian


Inside the station building was a small hobby shop which I looked into, but didn’t buy anything. I did get some money from an ATM machine in the station. At one point, I saw the first F40 uncouple from the rest of the train.



Meanwhile Mark decided to walk to a CIBC bank a block away from the train station to save himself the service fees. I was worried that the train would leave without him. To add to my worries, an announcement was made that boarding of train #2 was commencing. I told the conductor who assured me that we weren’t leaving right away because a freight train was blocking our exit out of Jasper. Mark then returned and we got on the train.


Mark and I were now seatmates because a fairly large crowd boarded at Jasper. However, we didn’t stay in the coach long and we went to the dining car for lunch. Eventually, the freight train moved. We departed. As we left, I filmed F40PH-2 #6425 parked by itself on the adjacent track. After lunch we went to the dome where we saw some wildlife and some more freight trains. One of these trains had a BC Rail unit in the locomotive consist. I had assumed that another F40 would couple up to 6412, but found that not to be the case as 6412 was leading the Canadian solo. This doesn’t happen too often. There have only been a handful of occasions where the Canadian only had a single locomotive.


After awhile, we went through a tunnel and left Jasper Provincial Park. We soon passed through Hinton. I kept a lookout for any reminders of the crash. The only reminder I saw was the Dalehurst switch sign near where the freight train that collided with the VIA train should have stopped to let the passenger train go by.


Shortly after the switch, we passed a westbound CN freight. I recorded it and narrated saying this was near the sight of the February 8, 1986 crash at Hinton.


I knew that at some point, we would pass the westbound Canadian and a few minutes later, we did. Mark photographed it while I filmed it passing. That train consisted of two F40s and eight coaches.


On board the train, the train crew announced that a few games of Bingo would be played in the Skyline car. Mark and I played. Mark won once, but I didn’t win a single game. After, they played the movie “The Devil wears Prada”.


At one point, we passed some derailed grain cars off to the side of the tracks! I barely got a video as we raced past. It reminded me of my 2005 trip to Timmins when I saw a half dozen boxcars from the Northlander and some derailed gondolas on my Arizona trip!


The train stopped at Edson, Alberta. Edson played a small roll in the story of the Hinton crash as that was where the crew of the freight train involved boarded the freight for the fateful run.


            Since we were over two hours late, Mark and I ended up eating dinner on the Canadian. After dinner, we headed to the dome car. It was pitch black, but then I saw lights in the distance. I guessed that we were approaching Edmonton.


            Soon we were on the outskirts of Edmonton and we passed several houses along the tracks. One of them had a GM fishbowl bus parked in the driveway! Unfortunately it was dark and I couldn’t get a photo of that.


            Mark and I went back to our coach and packed our stuff to be ready to get off in Edmonton. Meanwhile, the train stopped at a signal and we waited and waited. We went to the Skyline car to see what was up. We were stopped at a signal. Soon, I saw a freight train pass on the track next to us. After it passed, I was waiting for the Canadian to go, but we weren’t moving and we were still facing a red signal. I became impatient. Finally, I saw the lights of another freight train.


            As that freight train approached, its headlights were turned off. Mark was a little puzzled why it did that when all of a sudden its engineer turned the lights on full force which caught him by surprise. Soon, we were moving again.


            We approached CN’s main yard in Edmonton which is near the VIA station. I looked out the window and saw a lot of dead power including a GMD1 in the 1000 series and SD40 #5000, CN’s first SD40.


            The VIA station in Edmonton is located on a wye, so the Canadian runs past the station and backs up into the station. As we backed up, we passed F40PH-2 #6437 on the other leg of the wye. It would couple onto the train and lead further east. We arrived three hours late.


            Once Mark and I got off, we took some photos of the train before we went into the station.




Mark’s cousin who we were staying with was waiting. We went to the baggage claim and retrieved our suitcases we checked. After, we loaded them into Mark’s cousin’s car; we went out and took a couple more photos of the Canadian once 6437 was now coupled up.



After, we drove to where Mark’s cousin lived. We chose our bedrooms and eventually called it a night because we were feeling tired since we didn’t get much sleep on the train.




Click to see our day in Edmonton: Day in Edmonton.htm