That Train in My Canadian Cycling Horizon

Every few weeks when I’m cycling, a major train pops up on the horizon with dinging bell, 1 or 2  red locomotive engines, pulling a serpentine string of cargo train loads and tanks.  The train is either the Canadian National Railway or the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Like any cyclist, I just hope the frickin’ train is far away and won’t block all traffic at the railroad crossing that I’m about to scoot over by bike.

Train rolls by in Inglewood neighbourhood over a bike path. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong
Train rolls by in Inglewood neighbourhood over a bike path and Elbow River. Calgary AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong

Yet as a Canadian and cyclist who has lived in southern part of Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, I would miss that iconic serpentine train, its  far-off whistle, that winds through my  Canadian consciousness and  history.  After all, the building of the national railroads kickstarted our national economy in the mid 1800’s.  Indeed, the railways served to unite Canadians across thousands of kilometers over our vast terrain during  19th -20th centuries.

Chinese labourers on the Canadian Pacific Rail line in the prairies 1886. After the railway was completed, the men went to work in laundries and restaurants in western and eastern Canada. From Chop Suey Exhibit, Royal Museum of Alberta. Edmonton, AB 2012. Photo by J. Chong
Chinese labourers on the Canadian Pacific Rail line in the prairies 1886. After the railway was completed, the men went to work in laundries and restaurants in western and eastern Canada. From an exhibit, Royal Museum of Alberta. Edmonton, AB 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Even in 21st century, large regions of Canada remain disconnected unless you want to drive hundreds, thousands of kms.  Or deal with our increasingly diminished cross-country bus service or spend money on plane fare.  Like I said in an earlier blog post, Canada is 8,000 km. from west and east coast.2canadian rails

Allow me to show how our railways capture our attention to stop briefly (even if 10 min. feels like eternity) or how different Canadian regions enshrine its

Late 1880's poster marketing Canadian train travel. Some crude, racist imagery of some people are depicted. Parks Canada historic display. Lake Louise AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong
1893 poster marketing Canadian train travel. Some crude, racist imagery of some people are depicted. Parks Canada historic display. Lake Louise AB 2014. Photo by J. Chong

romance and history. There are enough museums across Canada devoted  to Canadian railway history or a piece of it.  And most of it is not about the machinery –more stories on politicians, locals, rise and fall of passenger rail travel.

Toronto –National Trains Poke Through
There are some older railroad overpasses that pass through midtown Toronto where cyclists roll up and down underneath on streets. Most notably, is by Toronto’s lakefront, where there’s  a knot of railway shunting yards. While a lot of this track is now for inter-city commuter trains, Toronto’s economic vitality and transportation hub in 19th – 20th century, started in this area for ship and rail, before cars.

Railway overpass near Casa Loma (a 19th century castle) by Davenport Rd. Toronto ON 2013. Photo by J.Chong
Railway overpass near Casa Loma (a 19th century castle) by Davenport and Spadina Rd. Toronto ON 2013. Photo by J.Chong

By Fort York, near CN Tower  (the tower was built by the other competing rail company, Canadian National Railway), is a railway museum that integrates a defunct railcar turntable track.

Another historic signal of the Canadian Pacific Railway, is a  huge rail tie art sculpture by Front St. It depicts 2 Chinese-Canadian railroad workers in the 1800’s.  No matter that really they did the dangerous dynamite and building work in British Columbian mountains, over 4,000  kms. west of Toronto.

Permanent large art sculpture --Memorial to the Chinese-Canadian Railway Workers who endured hardship and some who died in dangerous mountan work conditions building the railroad in British Columbia. At foot of Front St. and Spadina St. under the CN Tower. Just a 20 min. walk from Chinatown. Toronto ON 2010. Photo by J. Becker
Permanent large art sculpture –Memorial to the Chinese-Canadian Railway Workers who endured hardship and some who died in dangerous mountan work conditions building the railroad in British Columbia. At foot of Front St. and Spadina St. under the CN Tower. Just a 20 min. walk from Chinatown. Toronto ON 2010. Photo by J. Becker
Close-up on sculpture of a Chinese-Canadian railway worker. Toronto ON 2010. Photo by J. Becker
Close-up on sculpture of a Chinese-Canadian railway worker. Toronto ON 2010. Photo by J. Becker
Newly painted Canadian Pacific locomotive crossing over Otonabee River, downtown Peterborough. 120 km. northeast of Toronto, Ontario. 2015. Photo by J.Chong
Newly painted Canadian Pacific locomotive crossing over Otonabee River, downtown Peterborough. 120 km. northeast of Toronto, Ontario. 2015. Photo by J.Chong

Alberta – Rail Jumpstarts  Prairie Development

Railway company advertises cheap arable land to lure farmers to settle in prairies. Glenbow Museum 2013.
Railway company advertises cheap arable land to lure farmers to settle in prairies. Glenbow Museum 2013.

By comparison, Calgary’s development in western Canada, was later than Toronto. Building the Canadian Pacific Railroad in Calgary, coincided shortly after the police, Northwest Mounted Police (now RCMP) planted their Forts for law enforcement across the province.

City and farm development of Canadian prairies was tied often to the railway and law enforcement to bring economic development and civil order. Fort Calgary Heritage site 2015. Photo by J. Chong
City and farm development of Canadian prairies was tied often to the railway and law enforcement to bring economic development and civil order. Fort Calgary Heritage site 2015. Photo by J. Chong

CPR is still a constant reminder to locals living and working nearby with trains running daily through downtown Calgary:  Its rail shunting yard noise and whenever I bike through Calgary’s parks system.  Thankfully, the CPR has decided to stop its long train lines from blocking major bike pathway- rail crossings in Nose Hill Park.

Brush with Disaster- Near Train Collapse During 2013 Flood
As locals, we like to lull ourselves the train line is just another backdrop of local infrastructure chugging through our consciousness.  But a real disaster will shake anyone up.

Just after Calgary’s major 2013 river flood disaster when 100,00 people were evacuated, a cargo train nearly collapsed into the swollen Elbow River from the rail  trestle bridge.

Trestle rail bridge by Ogden under major repair over a bike-pedestrian path and Elbow River. Took months of retrofit from damage in near collapse and train derailment, after city's major river flood that summer. Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J.Chong
Trestle rail bridge by Ogden under major repair over a bike-pedestrian path and Elbow River. Took months of retrofit from damage in near collapse and train derailment, after city’s major river flood that summer. Calgary AB 2013. Photo by J.Chong
Common sight of commercial CPR train passing parallel to bike-pedestrian path. Edgeworthy Park, Calgary AB 2012. Photo by J. Chong.
Common sight of commercial CPR train passing parallel to bike-pedestrian path. Edgeworthy Park, Calgary AB 2012. Photo by J. Chong.

In Lethbridge, 150 km. south of Calgary, there is still an active rail line on top of the world’s highest freestanding iron black trestle bridge. The rail bridge  straddles the natural dips of prairie grassy coulees.  This iron trestle bridge is a tourist attraction since such structures are rare in Canada, even in North America. We wandered into the grassy parkland, in the dying summer heat of 30 degrees C  at sunset. Quite stunning.

World's tallest iron rail trestle bridge straddles over the prairie coulee parkland. Lethbridge, Alberta 2012. Photo by J.Chong
World’s tallest iron rail trestle bridge straddles over the prairie coulee parkland. Lethbridge, Alberta 2012. Photo by J.Chong

British Columbia- Piercing Mountains to  Pacific Gateway 
From the Alberta provincial border, the national railroads ram westward, through foreboding mountain ranges and semi-desert wild terrain.  Here at night you may hear, the train whistle and the train booming through the mountains.   In Revelstoke, a picturesque mountain-ski town of under 6,000 people,  there is a long-time railway museum.

Train in mountains surrounding ski-town of Golden, British Columba 2014. Approx. 200 km. west of the British Columbian-Alberta border. Photo by J.Chong. This area has avalanches every winter which occasionally block car traffic on the TransCanada Highway.

Railway Hires Mountaineering Guides For Tourism
Just 150 km. east of Revelstoke, the mountain town of Golden in British Columbia has  huge railway shunting yards seen while hiking at the edge of town.  Golden’s local museum highlights the contributions of the Swiss

CPR hired a handful of Swiss guides along with their families. They provided wilderness and mountaineering tours for tourists visiting British Columbia and Alberta. Golden Museum, BC. 2014. Photo by J.Chong
CPR hired a handful of Swiss guides along with their families. They provided wilderness and mountaineering tours for tourists visiting British Columbia and Alberta. Golden Museum, BC. 2014. Photo by J.Chong

mountain guides who were contracted from Switzerland in the 1800’s by the Canadian Pacific Railway, to market the natural beauty of Canadian mountain wilderness and forests to tourists.  They led wilderness hiking and for the brave,mountaineering  trips.  In fact, the CPR even built living quarters for the guides and their families, an tiny enclave outside of town, dubbed “Alpine Village”.  Apparently the families lived isolated lives in barebone conditions.

Outdoor mural dedicated to the Swiss mountain guides. Golden, BC 2014. Photo by J.Chong
Outdoor mural dedicated to the Swiss mountain guides. Golden, BC 2014. Photo by J.Chong

All along the railway in British Columbia, are small towns with a piece of its history. There are some engineering feats — The Spiral Rail Tunnels in Yoho National Park by Kicking Horse Pass.  Yes, you heard me in a pristine national  mountain wilderness park of bears, cougars and deer, the railway is saluted for building this marvel.

Spiral Rail Tunnels at Kicking Horse Pass in Yoho National Park, British Columbia 2014. Photo by J.Chong. Engineering feat where rail tunnels were built to allow trains to ascend and descend in a spiral without derailing.
Spiral Rail Tunnels at Kicking Horse Pass in Yoho National Park, British Columbia 2014. Photo by J.Chong. Engineering feat where rail tunnels were built to allow trains to ascend and descend in a spiral without derailing.

Spiral Rail Tunnels – Yoho National Park, BC
To preserve the mountain wilderness, but also ensure train could climb mountain grades and descend without danger, switches and rail tracks were built running through mountain passes near Field and over Kicking Horse River, Alberta by the British Columbia border.  In effect, the engineer at  front locomotive nose of the train can nearly  see the train’s own tail at different grades in a spiral figure-8.  This railway track was modelled after tunnels built in Switzerland and located right near the Trans-Canada highway, another national cross-country transportation route by car or bike. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/yoho/natcul/spirale-spiral.aspx

Train later enters another rail tunnel. Yoho National Park, BC 2014. Photo by J. Becker
Train later enters another rail tunnel. Yoho National Park, BC 2014. Photo by J. Becker
How this mountain pass was named Kicking Horse Pass. Yoho National Park 2014. Photo by J.Chong
How this mountain pass was named Kicking Horse Pass. Yoho National Park 2014. Photo by J.Chong

Railway Land Pricing Greed Over Community Gardens
While Vancouver doesn’t have an active national rail line with freight running through its downtown like Calgary, Vancouverites are reminded of CPR’s presence  –through torn-up locals’ community gardens. For over a decade

Cypress St. community gardens on CPR's rail lands in Arbutus Corridor. Vancouver BC 2013. Even an informal bike path was gradually carved through here. Now a 2015 court case land dispute between CPR and City of Vancouver.
Cypress St. community gardens on CPR’s rail lands in Arbutus Corridor. Vancouver BC 2013. Even an informal bike path was gradually carved through here. Now a 2015 court case land dispute between CPR and City of Vancouver.

there was a benign tolerance by the Canadian Pacific Railway to allow Vancouverites to build various community gardens along its rail line property.  Now, the Arbutus Corridor, where once cycling advocates thought of also a possible bike path, there is now a court case fight between CPR and City of Vancouver over price tag and sale of land.

Community gardens along CPR abandoned rail line were forcibly torn up by the company in past 12 months. Vancouver BC 2015. Photo by J. Becker
Community gardens along CPR abandoned rail line were forcibly torn up by the company in past 12 months. Vancouver BC 2015. Photo by J. Becker

The Goliath, CPR has forcibly torn up the community gardens in the past 12 months while David, the City of Vancouver has stood resolutely  that CPR’s threats to reactivate trains, was just veiled  greed to sell rail property at very high price to the City.

Update:  As of Mar. 7, 2016, City of Vancouver announced signed deal for $55 million dollars to buy the Arbutus CP rail corridor that currently runs through several residential neighbourhoods with the torn up community gardens last year.  CP Rail had original asked for $400 million.  Brief videoclip on start of their public outreach and plans to convert abandoned rail corridor into bike-pedestrian path from downtown Vancouver (False Creek) south to Fraser River.

http://www.vancouversun.com/index.html?__lsa=b82e-37d3

Figurines hold up chandeliers in lobby of Chateau Lake Louise, one of CPR's luxury historic hotels the company built in late 1800's. Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2014. Photo by J. Chong
Figurines hold up chandeliers in lobby of Chateau Lake Louise, one of CPR’s luxury historic hotels the company built in late 1800’s. Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2014. Photo by J. Chong

Railway History Includes Luxe Hotels and CPR Asia-Pacific Steamships
I have barely skimmed over the cultural-historic and political drama of Canadian railways from trains boring through mountain faces to battered community gardens. Nor have I mentioned much about the magnificent legacy of some luxury railway hotels to lure elite 19th century tourists or the steamships that CPR ran between Asia and Canada.

Canadian Pacific Railway also ran a fleet of steamships between China, Japan and Victoria/Vancouver BC. in late 1800's to 1930's. Royal Museum of British Columbia, Victoria BC. 2013. From Chung Collection, University of British Columbia. Photo by J. Chong
Canadian Pacific Railway also ran a fleet of steamships between China, Japan and Victoria/Vancouver BC. in late 1800’s to 1930’s. Royal Museum of British Columbia, Victoria BC. 2013. From Chung Collection, University of British Columbia. Photo by J. Chong
The steamships reflected a clear racial divide in service between the Chjnese and non-Asian passengers. From Chung Collection, University of B.C. 2013. Photo by J.Chong. W. Chung was a Vancouver Chinese-Canadian physician who donated a personal collection of several thousand historic memorabilia and artifacts on Canadian rails, its steamships and Chinese Canadian history.
The steamships reflected a clear racial divide in service between the Chjnese and non-Asian passengers. From Chung Collection, University of B.C. 2013. Photo by J.Chong. W. Chung was a Vancouver Chinese-Canadian physician who donated a personal collection of several thousand historic memorabilia and artifacts on Canadian rails, its steamships and Chinese Canadian history.

But for now, just let me sleep during

Train passing through the town of Banff, Alberta by the Rocky Mountains 2014. Photo by J.Chong
Train passing through the town of Banff, Alberta by the Rocky Mountains at sunset 2014. Photo by J.Chong

my stay in the mountains, lulled by a train whistle and train clattering faraway.  It’s like Canadian call in the far, dark wilderness over history, memory and time.

More Reading
Chong, J. Outdoor Art Work as a Thread to National History Across Canada: Monuments to the Chinese-Canadian Railway Workers. In Cycle Write Blog, Nov. 4, 2010.

1999 CPR sculpture dedicated to the Swiss mountain guides they hired in late 1800's. Front entrance, Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2013. Photo by J.Chong
1999 CPR sculpture dedicated to the Swiss mountain guides they hired in late 1800’s. Front entrance, Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2013. Photo by J.Chong

 

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45 Comments Add yours

  1. TinLizzie72 says:

    I love trains, and have heard that train travel through Canada is the best way to see the countryside. Your photos support this and make me want to do it even more! Thanks for the history, no matter how brief, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Just make sure you plan the train ride between Edmonton Alberta and Vancouver BC, so that you are going through the mountains during the day! By the way, the Amtrak train ride between Vancouver (downtown) and Seattle is wonderful. There’s also a dining car. 🙂 I recommend the morning train with bike car.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. A fascinating article with some good pics. We live within sound of the railway passing through the village, but are so used to it we hardly consciously hear it. Yesterday was stopped at the level crossing by the London-Edinburgh express. We are lucky to have an extensive network here. We’ve also travelled round Europe by train – love it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Thankfully I live 4 km. from a major rail shunting yard. I know that neighbours in that area are bothered by the high pitched squeaking. It’s not the pleasant distant train whistle which one hears in a mountain town here in Canada. I like that sound which is oddly comforting in the evening.

      The Canadian Pacific Railway has an active freight long line that runs its trains at least twice, if not more daily through a river park system where there is a bike path 2 days ago, I managed to cross before the train signals flipped on. 2 hrs. Later I was amazed the train was passing through, again in the other direction. I was there waiting at tail end. Our trains are hugely long..meaning 150 cars full of cargo. Canada does heavily use cargo trains to transport raw materials, fuel, large containers from the shipping ports in Vancouver, Prince Rupert in British Columbia and also from eastern Canada. Shipping is straight on for thousands of kms. one way. I suspect that Europe does not have such lengthy freight trains because many cities and towns are simply packed closer together.

      All the photos in this blog post are cargo freight trains.

      The focus of trains in Europe is on passenger and its wonderful efficiency on the continent. Canada is the opposite, its passenger rail service across the country is very thin.. Lots of reasons in addition to abandonment of smaller passenger rail lines over the last 100 yrs. Sad, actually.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had the infamous Beeching cuts (he was the minister of transport at the time) in the 60s. Lots of local lines were lost. What is interesting is that quite a few are now being resurrected. The one from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders was reopened last year.

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        1. Jean says:

          Hopefully fossil, the resurrected train, continues to have enough passenger traffic. Travelling by train is so much better, especially for longer distances, than bus. Why did the govn’t or was it private sector firm, resurrected the line?

          Like

  3. 2bikesborg says:

    It’s a great post! Like me and you, I suspect many cyclists love trains as well (particularly when they allow easy access for bikes!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      When and if trains allow bikes on board in North American.:) Only certain Canadian and American train routes at certain times, have bike car to store bikes.

      Like

  4. Pit says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post: ever so interesting. Oh my, it makes me long to travel up there and do a train ride. Well, maybe bicycle along the railways, too. If it wasn’t so far from southern Texas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      A train ride between Jasper Alberta (going south) and Vancouver BC, during the day would be scenic. Or between Vancouver BC and Seattle would be great (we’ve done it several times). For the latter, both train stations are downtown. Have you been to Canada, yet?

      Like

      1. Pit says:

        Thanks for the info. I’ve not been to Canada yet – unfortunately. Would certainly be a wonderful experience, but there are still so many places in the (continental) US on my bucket list that I’m doubtful if I ever make it to Canada. But I’m dreaming – all the more because of yoyur posting here. 🙂

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  5. Though I barely use the train as it is too expensive here in Germany and rather boring/ complicated/ delayed non-stop. However they do offer few trips via the old steam locomotive in some great landscapes and those I do love very much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ok, I didn’t realize that the train Deutsch Bahn (?) was too expensive for locals. For North Americans just visiting, European trains are god-sent. More pleasurable (to me) than bus. Well, usually and great if the train accommodates bikes. I realize not every single train does because my partner had to check with ticket agent. I’m not sure where a steam locomotive in Canada would even run. Maybe for just a few km. as a tourist experience.

      I will be taking a high speed train for lst time this year in Europe. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s fairly expensive here by train. Going as a family to the nearest city costs us around 70 euros there and back while by car I spend for gas and parking space together 15-20 euros…
        Indeed only few trains have extra compartments in which you can take bicycles

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        1. Jean says:

          Well, one day when Nathan is a lot older, he’ll appreciate a train ride. As you can see in this thread, everyone has childhood memories of train rides.

          Like

  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean what a well researched article and such gorgeous photos. The one near Lethbridge is absolutely stunning. When I was a child, my Mom, brother and I traveled from Saskatchewan to Quebec by train. It is a most amazing childhood memory. As I read your post so many of those wonderful images i saw through young eyes flooded back. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Sue: I contemplated breaking up the complicated blog post into 2 posts… since the Canadian railway history has human stories and it is important to Canada’s historic development as a country. I appreciate the compliments from a fellow Canadian who has fond memories too. There’s something about trains that’s so attractive to kids and stays in our memories. We were incredibly lucky when we were visiting on a hot summer day, for the train in Lethbridge to be actually chugging along on its trestle rail bridge!! I know how rare that photo is for a tourist to capture. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Very lucky indeed Jean. It’s just fabulous!

        Like

  7. bribikes says:

    This was fun and informative to read, Jean, thanks for sharing! I am not a huge fan of cars or planes, but trains just have that nostalgic feeling to them…maybe it is because I took several amazing train rides across the USA when I was very young.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I wonder if you were 1 of the rare children that did take a transcontinental US train trip. Well, if you ever are on the west coast, the Amtrak train ride between Vancouver BC and Seattle is wonderful. It hugs the Pacific coastline. Certain trains take bikes.

      Like

  8. Mabel Kwong says:

    Amazing culture of the railway train in Canada. Certainly an apt mode of public transport given the geography size of the country. The Chinese-Canadian memorial is fascinating, and it is such a great way to honor the country’s diversity. Good to see the old fashioned kind of trains still chugging away. We do have similar kinds of trains in Melbourne, but they are mainly tucked away in the country as tourist attractions.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      What are the choices on passenger rail in Australia, Mabel? These trains in my photos are cargo, freight trains in Canada. We have only 1 major passenger rail line –VIA rail across the whole country.

      What is the history of the Chinese in Australia? The U.S. also used Chinese men in 1800’s to build their national railroad too. I’m not familiar with monuments there, since I haven’t travelled to look out for them.

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      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        We have the standard commercial trains from the city to the inner suburbs and back. Then we have coaches or trains designed to carry people longer distances out into the country. If you are keen on riding steam trains in Melbourne, you can – there’s the tourist attraction called Puffing Billy.

        The Chinese have long been around in Australia since the Gold Rush era in 1800. Many migrated from abroad to settle and make a living in Australia. Not too sure if many of them built our railways, but they did open a lot of restaurants.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Another Chinese migrant connection and gold rush. Some of the Chinese also came during the Gold Rush era in the mid 1800s in North America. So…3 different Gold Mountain nicknamed countries. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  9. tuckamoredew says:

    Thanks for this post. I always enjoy reading about Canadian railways.

    I have a fondness for trains as I grew up in a house perilously close to the tracks in rural Newfoundland – if a train had ever derailed there our home would have been flattened. Trains would usually pass by twice a day shaking the house and we were so accustomed to it that the 1 AM trains didn’t even wake us. House guests on the other hand. . .

    As kids we’d play on the tracks seeing how far we could walk balancing on the rails (at least a kilometer I’m sure) and would set out coins for passing trains to flatten. Sometimes we’d crawl into a smallish culvert nearby while a train thundered overhead. Back when there were still passenger trains my older siblings would catch river trout and sell them to the cooks on the train.

    Newfoundland has it’s own railroad history, having decided to build a narrow gauge railroad while mainland Canada built a wider gauge. It was a sort of beta vs VHS decision that Newfoundland came out on the losing end of. Train cars arriving off the ferry in NF would have their wheels swapped to narrow gauge wheels in the Port-aux-Basques railyard, the closest town to my own community. This inefficiency contributed to the eventual demise of the railway in the late 80s.

    For some more Albertan train history, a trip to the Alberta Railway Museum just north of Edmonton is well worthwhile if you’re ever in the neighbourhood during its open season. Here are a few pics from a group bike ride to the museum that I was part of a couple of years ago:

    https://tuckamoredew.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/the-unblogged-rides-of-2013-part-2/

    P7013111

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jean says:

    Thx ever so much responding tuck, about the railway in Newfoundland! My only memory of the train in Waterloo, Ontario where I grew up, was the train passing by the Seagram Distillery where one could walk along and spell..whiskey in the air. I’m not sure which rail line it was, unless I checked. 🙂

    This railway post resonated with readers in ways I never quite expected: for many it unearthed childhood memories. I really wanted to steer away from technical matters but more on the human stories around our national railways.. It’s incredibly diverse history across Canada. I wondered how earth I could compress that history of which there are whole books, into 1 blog post. So having personal photos from across Canada over last few years helps a tiny bit. But now, you have added more of it, tuck from the Maritime provinces. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. livelytwist says:

    The Iron Trestle Bridge and Spiral Rail Tunnels are stunning. I enjoyed reading about the history of rail in Canada.

    I’m used to commuter trains in The Netherlands for travelling between cities. In Nigeria, there are ongoing plans to ‘resurrect’ rail transportation. It would serve Nigeria well, especially for transporting goods from North to South and vice-versa. There’s always a rich history associated with railway development. You make me want to look up the history for both countries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Both rail lines (for only cargo freight) are impressive to see. Doubtful that the Netherlands would have the same topographical challenges as Canada did in building national railways.

      Most definitely Canada needs these cross-country national railways for shipping of raw materials and goods since our country is so expansive. Most definitely Nigeria would benefit in further national development of rail lines for economic stimulation.

      We only have 1 cross-country rail-line, VIA Rail for passenger which is pathetic for the size of our country. I have taken the train from Toronto to the Atlantic Coast, as well as a small section through part of the Canadian Rockies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. livelytwist says:

        @only 1 cross-country rail line, I guess people drive a lot then. Flying would be expensive?

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          You got it. Yup. As you might know already, many North American regular car drivers don’t think much of driving 250-300 km. round trip in 1 day. Seriously. It’s 120 km. one way from my city to Banff National Park and Rocky Mountains. Lots of city locals where I live, do that as a day’s outing to get to real wilderness Nature. I have a friend who used to pile into several cars with several family members and they all would drive to Banff and back on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The snow (not this year) can be gorgeous and lush for Christmas.

          In Canada, the greatest frequency of trains is between Toronto and Montreal. I think there are several VIA trains that run daily. It’s 400 kms. one way. It takes over 6-8 hrs. We don’t have high speed/bullet trains in Canada….nor in the US. People in North America really do tend to be car-centric.

          Flying round trip between Vancouver and Calgary is approx. $380.00 or more..that is economy and booking several wks./months in advance. It’s a 1 hr. flight. Distance one way is over 800 kms. One flies into a different time zone.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. Fabulous post, Jean! Who doesn’t like trains? We have many “rails to trails” here in New Hampshire. While it’s nice to have hiking trails, it makes me sad to think that so much of a former way of life has been lost.

    Wonderful pictures– you are, of course, justly famous for same in your blog posts! Loved the old cartoon poster despite its cringe-inducing racist imagery; ditto the sculptures and that absolutely fantastic iron rail trestle bridge in Alberta.

    I was lucky enough to see a train passing thru the spiral rail tunnels during a bike tour of the Canadian Rockies many years ago. I shall never forget the sight of the “head” emerging from one tunnel, while the “tail” was still entering another. An engineering marvel, and a sight that conjures childish glee!

    I had no idea that Chinese workers played such a big part in building Canada’s railroads. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed this post. Great research, excellent presentation– thank you! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      As an American from the east coast, you were lucky to see the long (Canadian) trains go through the spiral tunnels in Yoho National Park! Yes, here in Canada also a lot of rails to trails too. It’s so sad that both Canada and U.S. basically have each only 1 main passenger train line, Via Rail in Canada and Amtrak in the U.S. I would recommend one day taking the Amtrak coast train between Vancouver BC and Seattle since it hugs the coastline, has a dining car and 2 train lines (lst and last one each day) has a bike car for bikes. 🙂 It’s a beautiful trip by train or go through the mountains by train. I find it more comfortable than bus.

      Just yesterday there was a major wooden rail bridge trestle fire in northern Alberta. http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/trestle-bridge-fire-in-northern-alberta-prompts-evacuation-of-school-trailer-park Very sad.

      I believe the Chinese rail workers were also formative in building a big part of the western rail line for the U.S. also.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What a history. GREAT zoom-out of the Alberta train and the snow-packed one below. It’s amazing what man has built with his two hands.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for breezing by HWF. 🙂 U.S. has great rail history since it is a huge country like Canada and its population settlement and economy initially was dependent on rail. It sort of still is, especially given large volume shipments of raw materials and goods. Would your son ever want to try a train trip?

      Like

      1. He would love it. =) We just haven’t had opportunity in the busyness.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Hope you find the time holistic soon. He won’t be a little boy for long. This is a great learning opportunity and adventure transformed into riding the rails.

          Frankly I was abit surprised by the reaction of commenters. I actually in my narrow thinking thought it would be more men responding to trains and railway topic. But it piqued some happy childhood memories of women also here. I’m glad for that since passenger rail is not as heavily used since in North America we don’t have extensive choice on destinations and trip times.

          Like

  14. Inger says:

    I loved seeing those red CPR trains roll through the Rockies, especially during winter when they created a snow storms around them:) We had several spots where we used to stop and watch. A beautiful sight! A you point out – a lot of railway history in the area.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Glad this brought back memories of Canada, especially yes the CPR red locomotive engines at front of their trains… a memorable and also historic icon for Canada. Does Norway have railway history?

      Like

  15. Lani says:

    How did I miss this massive post? I love trains, too. And you do your country and trains such justice with your research and passion on the subject. There are iconic trains and it seems to me that traveling across Canada by train would be one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Yea, it felt abit long when I wrote it up. What surprised me …was the happy memory of trains and rides by both female and male readers for this post. The economic development of Canada did partially hinge on the railway lines

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Sartenada says:

    Great post. I love trains and Your photos beautiful. Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Frankly, I never expected an enthusiastic response from readers. We all have good memories of train rides –especially long ones. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. traingeek says:

    Hey Jean, thanks for commenting on my blog (my Lethbridge post). I’m glad you appreciate trains and keep on cycling!

    Liked by 1 person

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