A day to don my hat and get on a train for the first time since leaving the UK. My alarm woke me at 6.45 and I snook my bags out on to the landing to avoid waking everyone up as I got ready to depart. I had a quick shower, dressed and went down to see if I could find Jim. He had offered me a lift to the station last night and we agreed that I should knock on his door at 7.15, unfortunately (and nothing to do with drink I am sure) I had forgotten to find out which was his door, I only knew it was the landing below mine. Luckily he was up and his door was ajar.
We left the hostel at 7.25, found a Tim Hortons to get a coffee and bite to eat and he dropped me at the station at 7.40 in plenty of time for the train. Jim gave me his email address and promised to give me any help he could about South America.
After a short wait for the gate to the platform to open we climbed aboard the ViaRail Skeena train to Prince George and Jasper. The train manager Dianne gave us a briefing about the train, its facilities and emergency procedures. This included telling us that 375 people had lost their fights with cars and trains at level crossings in the last year and that Via meant Very Irratic Arrivals, as the train was rarely on time and could be up to 3 hours late depending on freight traffic and other things. She counted all 23 of us and told us that we could each have a seat in the viewing dome if we wished as there were 26. At 8 we left (on time) but had to stop a mile or so from the station to pick up a CN (Canadian National) rail crew from a freight yard.
Dianne had explained that the first few hours from Prince Rupert were the most scenic as we followed the Skeena River and after a few miles we were told that we would be stopping for a picture opportunity. Not something we have ever been offered on the 6.55 from Seamer to Driffield on any morning. You could be very cynical and say that what we were looking at was something common to many modern railways as it was aboriginal pictographs, not disimilar from graffiti but older and with more meaning.
The rail line then followed the river for miles, cutting through the coastal mountains before reaching the flatter land.
Taking pictures through any window is not great, especially after my decision only to bring my point-and-shoot camera not a SLR, so I haven’t got many from the train. I just hope that Google Earth will have lots that show the awesome scenery.
We stopped at two towns on the way to Prince George today, the first Terrace was a quick stop with enough time to have a look in the station gift shop and take a picture of the train.
As well as stopping in Terrace we had to pull in to sidings a few times to let freight trains go the other way laden mainly with shipping containers for Prince Rupert. They usually had 2 or 3 locos and lots of cars, I counted a couple and 187 trucks was the shorter one.
At Smithers we had a longer break, giving us 45 minutes and chance to walk into town to find something to eat. Unfortunately it being Sunday there wasn’t lot open but by walking all the way across town I was able to treat myself to an icecream and a milk-shake from MacDonalds. Canadian towns in themselves tend not to be picturesque, they have no old places like York or Chester and the buildings tend to be variations on rectangular boxes. There are always exceptions and often there a murals to brighten up boring walls.
After leaving Smithers we soon crossed the longest grider bridge in Western Canada at 2.5 km long.
Further on we stopped to let someone off and had to wait for an hour as there was a broken rail ahead. This gave us chance to get off and visit the local post office and take a few pictures. The car parked at the crossing had wheels underneath for going on the rails as did a huge truck we say further on when we got the all-clear to proceed.
We eventually got in to Prince George an hour late but not unhappy.