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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