Saturday, August 12, 2006

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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