Saturday, August 12, 2006

Canadian Rockies, Banff and Calgary 8/9-10/6

After Leaving Lake Louise, I headed down to Banff. Knowing that the eastbound stacker was in the pattern, I hustled east, with thoughts of getting the cliche'd but required "train at the depot" picture by the oft-shown Banff station.
Along the way, I passed another impressive ridge and peak. The TransCanada Highway is limited to 90 kph in Banff National Park (C$8.90 per person per day), and 70 kph over the Continental Divide, before opening up to 90 again when you get to the BC provincial border.

These bridges are across the road about every 40 km in the park, to allow the elk and other wildlife to safely cross the road (there are 2-meter fences along the sides of the four-lane road).

Once I got to Banff, I turned off the main highway, with thoughts of navigating through town along the tracks. However, it was easier than that, as the station and tracks were within a km of the highway, and when I got to the tracks, the best scene of the trip was presented to me.

As I took detail pictures around the perimeter, I found that the locals kept some original character on the outside.

Talking with a British foamer who was there, I would have been right on time for the Rocky Mountain Railtours' arrival from the west, had they been on time, which they weren't. However, as I was finishing the walkaround, my friend the eastbound stacker that had been at Lake Louise came through, with 2 GEs on the head end, and a DPU GE on the rear.

Before I left Banff, I took a scenic route through town (forgetting to look for the famous Canadian Pacific Hotel; the whole chain was sold to Fairmont Hotels some time ago, but it's by the falls of the Bow River in scenic surround), and over "Tunnel Mountain Road," which had an historical marker close to its summit.

On the way back at the hotel, after coming out of a hellacious rainstorm, I swung up to Cochrane, AB, depot hunting. The depot there and all traces are long gone, but I found a westbound in the siding, apparently waiting for a new crew to take it over the mountains.

After a good dinner and night's rest, I picked up my morning Starbucks from the location in the hotel on Thursday, and went for a walkabout, with a particular destination in mind.

While walking through the street tunnel underneath the tracks to get a look at the train side of the CPR station, I found some public art inspired by the railroad.

The south side of the station, a little less grand than the downtown side in its current form, but you can see the remnants of what once was.

At this point, I was three hours away from having to be at the airport, so I checked out of the hotel, retrieved my car, and went on a quest to get a good look at the infamous CP locomotive shops, guided by some Google Maps(.ca) research beforehand. On the way southeast to the shops, I came across the CNRs line.

Filing the alignment for reference in my mind, I followed the eponymous Ogden Road down to the shops, and drove a lap on the city streets, pausing a couple times to take pictures, but mindful of not attracting too much attention.

The latter frame seems to have one of the recently-acquired F-Units for business train service, in freshly-applied vintage paint.

With the time advancing, I came across the CNR yard on the southest side of town and drove its length on the parallel street, finding a couple notable things.

After a couple more stops (my requisite microbrewery souvenir shirt, and PapaBurger lunch at A&W), I was on my way to return the rental car, and home. Given that Calgary is feeling the full effects of the oil boom right now (housing having doubled in price in the last 12 months, 80 percent of downtown office space being occupied by oil companies and banks), I wouldn't expect to be back any time soon, with inflation pricing the conference out. But it was generally an enjoyable trip, and I hope to work west of Field at some point, given additional knowledge of the area.

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Canadian Rockies and Kicking Horse Pass, 8/9/6

I flew to Calgary on August 7 for the every-other-month Fibrechannel standards committee meeting, that previously this year had taken me to Santa Fe, NM and Anchorage (those guys know where to hold meetings! They're making up for that the next time in October, we're in Oklahoma City). After spending all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning in presentations at the hotel, I decided over Wednesday lunch to move my trip to the Rockies up from Thursday (when I was flying back) to Wednesday afternoon, so I'd have more time to work with.
First, the "out the hotel room window" picture:

Apparently, CNR was presenting sponsor for an equestrian meet in town that week; these flags were all around downtown, and at the airport.

Driving west on the TransCanada highway (110 kph posted speed limit until you enter Banff National Park), about 45 minutes from town the scenery started getting interesting.

I decided to work west-to-east, back towards town, starting at Field, BC, about 130 miles west of Calgary. Field was built as a railroad town for the CPR to stage helpers and re-fuel the steam engines before crossing Kicking Horse Pass, and the Continental Divide. Today, it's the west end of the Laggan Sub, which starts in downtown Calgary.

About 5 miles east of Field lays Kicking Horse Pass and the famous Spiral Tunnels of the Canadian Pacific, astride the Continental Divide. The TransCanada Highway lays on the former railroad grade, 4%+, and has informational plaques at an overlook by the lower tunnel.

Luckily for me, the RTC had set up a meet between a couple trains at the siding just west of the pass. First, the westbound came through, going directionally east between the tunnels, before reversing direction (see the diagram above).

Then, the westbound was routed through, to good result (more zoom than 8x is needed there, though).

Driving east, I next went to Lake Louise, AB. The glacial-fed lake of the same name is about 5 miles away, and had a full parking lot of tourists at 5 PM local, so I stopped at the CPR station for a look around, with good results. A stack train on the older (eastbound) alignment was parked, waiting for a westbound to clear the single-track stretch to the east.

Also there are some passenger coaches on display, just to the west of the station (which is now an Italian restaurant).

The westbound showed then, after I'd shot the extent of what was on display. The westbound alignment is grade-separated to ease the climb to the Pass, part of the C$500 million track construction undertaken by CPR in 1989 across Kicking Horse Pass and through Mount MacDonald (which I found out after I got home was another 70 miles west of Field; I wondered where the 10 miles of railroad inside a mountain was I'd not found).

For what it's worth, I also found Morant's Curve after I was home. It's on the east side of Lake Louise, looking west (meaning any pictures I'd have got would have been looking back at the sun when I was there). Filed for future reference.

Part 2, including the best pictures from the trip, coming soon....

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