Expecting a great day today as we’ll be hitting the Rockies finally. The weather is also looking up. I can see the beginnings of a glorious sunrise. Last night’s sunset was rather spoiled by cloud but we did get some nice pink hues under the clouds,
Up early again, it’s before 4 of the am. I think it is to do with the constantly changing time zones. Three so far. Eastern, Central and we are currently on Mountain although all I can see is flat prairie lands. Watch is telling me that sunrise is at 5:12 Edmonton.
It appears that they did manage to fix the engine as we are flying along this morning. However, on waking for a ‘comfort' break at 1:15 I did note that we were in Saskatoon. The train was scheduled to be there at 22:00 so we are running about three hours late currently. We were scheduled to reach Edmonton at 06:22 but we are running late. Noticed on the board in the activities car that we are expecting to arrive at Edmonton at about 09:00 ish (as of best guess at 22:30 last night). I’m in no rush, take your time, I am enjoying myself hugely.
Usually not one to be sitting and doing nothing whilst on holiday. Can’t abide sitting by a pool or on a beach all day. Life’s too short and the world too big with far too much to see and do in one lifetime. However, this sitting on a train is working for me. I like the activity of travelling, the actual physical movement as much as the getting there. I like to see places. Train travel ticks both boxes. I’m able to travel and take in Canada and not worry about directions or feeding stops.
Some fog and mist this morning. Very atmospheric when the train dives into a bank of mist. Gives the world an ethereal feeling. Still 40 minutes from sunrise but already I can tell it is going to be spectacular. Already seeing lakes an rivers on fire this morning.
Green lights red lights shining bright.
As it is primarily a single line track there are signals every mile or so that change from green to red as the train passes through them to warn the trains behind the section is occupied. During the night these red and green light cast beautiful colours down the corrugated aluminium of the train. Almost spellbinding. At each signal there is also a set of gas bottles (propane not petroleum). Apparently, according to our erstwhile guide, Walter, they use the gas in the winter to warm the area around the signals to stop them freezing. Or was it the points for the sidings?
This part of Canada is very flat although there are spikes every few miles that are the trademark grain elevators. Some very old and other brand new. Each and everyone has it’s own paint job and branding. Noticing more and more oil and gas rigs as we head west as well. Boom time at the moment in Saskatchewan. The shale revolution is working for them. Look, donkey. As we are stopping in a siding I note that there are a large number of what look like well-heads around us.
There are still the homesteads about and some do look very attractive in wooded vale settings. i could just move in tomorrow. Just pulling into a siding by small town with a big old grain elevator. How many did we miss during the night?
Last night after putting the laptop away we were lucky enough to spot a couple of herds of bison and also more beaver. Wifey pointed out that many of the small lakes and ponds we are passing have beaver lodges and I’ve noticed a few stumps that have obviously been gnawed at. Very distinctive pointed dome shape.
I have to say that it is ominously looking cloudier in the direction that we are heading and brighter back the way we’ve come. Sun is now just rising behind us and we’re diving through more banks of mist rising of the ponds.
We’ve just passed the town of Edgerton which means we are now in the province of Alberta. And now we are in Wainwright. We should have been here at 03:00 and it’s now 05:40. But at least Wainwright has a rodeo. Siding for another freight train which also seems to have stopped. Looks like we have passengers on-boarding at the front of the train.
We’ve now run out of hot water and coffee, there could be riots I tell you!
Magpie! So this is a one magpie trip.
After Wainwright but before Viking we crossed the valley of the Battle River on a tressle bridge. The Battle River flows through Edmonton. Almost immediately after crossing the river on the left hand side of the track the river has been dammed by beaver in three places. The dams are absolutely huge and hold back a lot of water. Saw about 4 or 5 beaver swimming in the lakes created by the dams. Must have been there some time as the head of the lakes were all weeded up. Even if done by man I’d say they were impressive structures.
Stopped again outside Kinsella which is about 80 miles from Edmonton. Track is on a constant but shallow climb now to Edmonton and then the Rockies so I assume the train will struggle a little more. At Edmonton they are adding another coach. A vista wagon with a glass ceiling. Not sure how much more you would see from that rather than from the observation deck, but then, more people are likely to want to see the Rockies than the woods of the Shield or the plains of the prairie.
Walter the steward is now up and continental breakfast is served. Brunch doesn’t open until 07:30 and will run through until 12:00. Engineer reckons we’ll make Edmonton 9ish. All timings are appended with the ish caveat. I like that. Implicit acceptance that the timetable will always be ‘flexible’. As we will be so late, those departing at Edmonton will be allowed to have the brunch. Another siding.
Joined by Christine about 80 miles out and we had a good chat. Decided then to go for ‘brunch’ and were joined by a young Quebcois lad who was off to find wealth in the oilfields of Alberta. Ordinarily people departing at Edmonton don’t have time for brunch but as we are late he was able to join.
He and his friends are all students. He is studying law at university and the three of them are going to try to find some summer work in the oilfields. Have to say that it sounds difficult just getting the job. They have to hike north to the recruiting camps. They will be camping until they find a job in order to minimise costs. They have to fund some H&S and first aid courses themselves before the mining/oil operations will touch them. They hope to find jobs within a month for the rest of the summer. They are expecting it to be very hard work He did say that he was unsure that his friend studying Literature will mention it. I really liked his positive, go get it attitude. So unlike kids in the UK. And he was the first person that I’ve heard use the, eh, in normal speech. But then he is Quebecois.
Train finally pulled into Edmonton at about 08:45 just as we were finishing brunch. Strangely, the train reversed into the station which is tiny and appears to be in a siding. The station at Edmonton is absolutely tiny. Makes Andover’s station look like a big city terminus. No facilities and no, more importantly, souvenir shop. No tea towels, t-shirts ofr fridge magnets. Oh, the agony.
They split the train to add the new panoramic car. We, after walking the train’s length to stretch our legs, jumped back on board to make sure got a decent seat for the Rockies. Christine suggested sitting on the starboard side which should be the north side as we go through the Rockies in order to shelter from the sun. We’ve taken her advice but have warned her that I’ll let her know if I’m not happy with the choice.
It’s now 09:55 and the train is pulling out two and a half hours late still. Can’t see any time being made up now between Edmonton and Vancouver. Replacement engine is still waiting for us at Jasper and I’d rather not rush the Rockies.
Looking forward to this next bit.
12:35 and we are stopped again approaching Hinton. We’ve passed some very large lakes with equally large houses and stopped on a bridge over a river valley to pick up passengers. The bridge was a fantastic place to stop. Saw a white tailed dear under the bridge. Interesting place for a pickup. It appeared to be just a level crossing with a dirt track. Amazing that you can pretty much get on the train anywhere.
ETA for Jasper is looking like 15:00 so we’ll have made up about 30 minutes. Walter has given us hints and tips for how to scan for wildlife and what to expect. Apparently you start at the front of the train and scan right, then left. The eyes will automatically latch on to any movement. There are mountain sheep and goats, deer, elk, moose and even a bear that comes out to train spot, even takes the car numbers according to Walter. And who am I to disbelieve?
Whiling the afternoon away with a bottle of Fort Garry Dark Ale. Well it is 5 pm somewhere and I feel that the sun is most definitely over the yard arm. At 13:30 we are promised a beer tasting session by our erstwhile host. Who could say no, other than teetotal Wifey?
Observation deck is full in anticipation of the Rockies. According to Walter, the Rockies are over by Kamloops, which will be by 2 am tomorrow. I think we will miss a few of the hills due to the delays, so hoping that what we do see is spectacular. At the moment it is hazy sunshine with fluffy clouds and hoping it clears a little.
We had the beer tasting. A couple of IPAs. One from Fort Garry and one from Granville Island. The Granville Island IPA was very refreshing, not like a traditional IPA at all. Made with honey. Very nice and very refreshing. The Fort Gary didn’t taste as hopy as a normal IPA and was a little heavier than expected, but drinkable.
Eventually made it to Jasper at 15:30. Unfortunately it had started raining at Hinton and continued all the way into Jasper. That meant that the peaks on the way in were shrouded and the camera couldn’t focus past the raindrops on the windows. Did see an Elk just after the tunnel as we entered Jasper National Park.
Stopover was only 45 minutes, but Wifey managed to find two souvenir shops in that time. More t-shirts, fridge magnets and postcards. Had the weirdest feeling standing on terra firma. It actually felt like I was swaying from side to side. Is that how sailors feel after a long cruise?
A lot of people left at Jasper but a lot of people also got on. When they finally called us to board at 17:00 it did feel like a bit of a stampede. Once on board Walter warned us that they were still having problems with the power even after swapping the duff engine out. First sitting for dinner didn’t finally get called until 17:30, but not before Walter had doled out some sparkling wine.
Spent dinner in the company of a lovely old couple, both in their 80s who have been married for all of three years. She is from Rhode Island and he is from New York. The most fantastic accents they both had. They were travelling to Portland Oregan using the Canadian and then going back to Chicago on the Empire Builder. He really loves his trains and we had a chat about steam engines in the UK. There don’t seem to be that many preservation societies in the US that actually run steam trains unlike in the UK.
As we were eating the most stunning scenery was passing us by. We even saw a bear from the dining car having a sleep in a meadow. Two bears spotted already on the trip. Wifey very happy. Dinner was salad and duck for Wifey and tomato soup and beef steak for me. Again the food was superb and it was a long time coming seeing that we had brunch at 07:00.
Back in the observation deck and Walter has another wine tasting session planned once the dinner sittings have been completed and is now wandering around the deck with last night hors’ dourvs (corrected by a Scouser, oh the ignominy). Yum yum.
Again the scenery is simply stunning every which way you look. The mountains are towering above us. We’ve crossed the continental divide over the Yellowknife pass and are just passing through Valemount in British Columbia. We should have been here at 16:00 and it’s now 19:55 so nearly 4 hours behind schedule, but who’s counting, eh?
It’s now started to rain. Can’t really see anything now which is a shame. Chatting with a couple originally from Liverpool who emigrated to Canada in 1967. Made a life in Canada and seem very happy. He started by getting a copy of the yellow pages in Toronto and writing to everyone in his trade. He got a response from every letter and loads of interviews. He says that at the moment there are huge opportunities in Saskatchewan and Alberta at the moment. The lad from this morning giving great credence to that.
Wine tasting has started. Okanagan Riesling is first up. Very fruity and knowing Wifey doesn’t drink Walter tipped her glass into mine. He will be getting a tip at the end of the trip. Top man. Suggests that we are entering prime moose spotting territory. Seeing lots of beaver lodges and dams but not a moose or even a moosette yet.
Train still 2:30 behind schedule as we watch the sun setting on the snow-capped peaks to the east and head off to bed.