Across Canada by train

... my once in a lifetime trip

by John Averell

Like most people my age, trains were the real transportation mode we grew up with. Long train trips were common after all, what was the alternative? But the ten days in May 1998 my wife and I spent with a tour group, surpassed anything I had done by train before.

Here is the route across Canada we took. We first flew from Boston to Toronto where the group spent a day in this beautiful city seeing the sights by bus. We boarded our "home" the next day to start the journey across the great country of Canada. We were fortunate to have in our tour group of 44 people a video expert, Tom Wood of Merion, Penn., who diligently took movies everywhere, put it all together into a VHS cassete, and sent copies to everyone in the group. The still pictures used here are taken from Tom's video*. I included only a few pictures here the video remains our wonderful record of the journey.

The tour was sponsored by Grand Circle Travel. The trip from Toronto to Jasper (three days) was on "The Canadian" line of Via Rails, Canada. Then we travelled for two days by Great Canadian Rail on the "Rocky Mountaineer" from Banff to Vancouver.

Shirley and I enjoyed the view and the company in the observation car.

The sleeping accommodations were quite good, if you don't mind a climb to the upper bunk. The roomette was typical of older trains, before the "sleepers" became so small that you have to climb on the toilet seat to get upstairs. (No pictures of the roomettes, unfortunately.) Daytime seating was comfortable, but most of our time was spent in the observation car.

We travelled through Ontario, with its many lakes, and on to Manitoba. Overnight we rode through Saskatchewan and finally arrived in Alberta.

We are now in the Canadian Rockies. We marvelled at the spectacular views everywhere we looked.

Big Horn Sheep grazed on the mountain sides.

We paused for a family of elk in the road.

Our meals on the train were spiffy, with napkins and shared tables.

Leaving Jasper by bus on the way to Banff, we toured the Athabasca glacier in the Columbia ice field. Even in 1998 the effects of global warming were easy to see, with shrinking glaciers all too obvious. I was excited to have a couple of adventures there.

I was determined to drink from a genuine glacier stream. I bend down

And take a handful of cold, clear, pure glacier water.

The guide suddenly said, "Look! There's an avalanche!"

Then only a few seconds later, "There's a second one!" A third came in a few more seconds. The first time the guide had ever seen three in a row.

Beautiful Stanley Park in Vancouver gave us plenty of time and space to wander around.

After two days at Banff in the Caribou Lodge, we boarded our second train. First stop at Kamloops. Along this leg there were lots of rivers, rapids, gorges, waterfalls, and the Columbia River. Then as we neared Vancouver, the land flattened out, and we saw lumber yards and more industrial areas.

We spent another three days in Vancouver, touring around by bus and enjoying this beautiful city. A final farewell dinner finished off the trip. We boarded a plane back to Toronto, and then to Boston to finish our truly memorable experience.

* Apologies for the quality of these pictures, which were grabbed from a DVD video, made from the VHS video cassette. They look better from a distance in the video!

May 7, 2010

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