A Unique North Country Rail Tour
(Click here to skip right to pictures....but you'll miss my witty narrative.)
The West Coast Railway Association sponsored a very special excursion on the CN and BCR from Prince Rupert to Squamish, British Columbia. This was a "repositioning cruise". WCRA's leased trainset had been positioned in Prince Rupert working day excursions for the cruise ships during the summer. With the cruise ship season at its end, the trainset was being returned to Squamish for the winter. This provided a unique opportunity to once again ride the BCRail route South from Prince George (BCRail terminated passenger service on that route in October of 2002). Once you travel the BCRail route, you get hooked on the trip - with scenery like the Fraser River Canyon, Cheakamus Canyon, Anderson and Seton Lakes, this is some of the best scenic railroading in North America.
WCRA's trainset includes an operational FP7A locomotive restored to Canadian Pacific decor, numbered 4609. This is the type of locomotive featured in Max Jacquiard's classic painting of The Canadian at Morant's Curve. There's also a restored open-air observation car, the "Henry Pickering" (previously named the "Mount Garibaldi"), and a generator car to provide electrical power for the coaches. Four Rocky Mountaineer single-level coaches are also in the consist that was returning to Squamish.
We started our trip by taking the Coho ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria. To get to Prince Rupert, WCRA organized an eclectic trip up Vancouver Island, including a ride on VIA's Malahat Dayliner (Budd cars!) from Victoria to Courtenay. A charter coach took us from Courtenay to Port Hardy, with interesting stops at CanFor's Woss and and Beaver Cove operations to see a still-functional logging railroad. From Port Hardy, we traveled on BCFerries' magnificent Inside Passage day cruise to Prince Rupert. This a great way to see the same pristine and rugged scenery typically associated with Alaska cruises - without breaking the bank.
From Prince Rupert, we traveled the same route as VIA's scheduled Skeena train to Prince George. We took a leisurely pace, taking two days (with an overnight in Smithers) to make the journey. Upon arrival in Prince George, we had a couple of hours to explore the Forestry and Railway Museum, where the train was stabled for the night. Departing Prince George, our first night's stop was at Exeter (100 Mile House), and our second day took us to Whistler. The final day of the rail trip brought us to Squamish, with a visit to the Railway Heritage Park.
From Squamish, we headed by coach back to Vancouver, then to Victoria by ferry, returning the next day to Port Angeles by the Coho.
Mom & Dad joined us on this trip, as they have for two other WCRA rail excursions in British Columbia. You can see pictures from our previous trips here. We had a chance to meet again with several travelers we first met on our previous trips, including conductor Roy Crowston from the CN/BCRail operating crew, and WCRA volunteers Dave & Arlone Emmington, Keith Anderson, Phil Brueler, and Ron Pajala.
WCRA hopes to be able to run another passenger special when the trainset is re-positioned to Prince Rupert in the Spring of 2005. If you haven't yet made the rail trip to Prince George on the BCRail route - there will never be a better time!
Many thanks to Bill Johnston and Gordon Hall in the WCRA tours office for organizing this grand adventure.