This interesting article was submitted by member George France last year. It reflects George's understanding and insight into railway operations and his perspective on train handling.
THAT OTHER RAILWAY COMPANY.
By: George H France.
In Summer of 2011 Canadian Pacific Railway Company donated the use of their Empress Steam Locomotive #2816 and a Heritage passenger consist for use by Children's Wish Foundation to sell tickets to fund the Charity.
The train would travel up through Alberta with trip segments of about two hours each between Towns and Cities, One way trips at $25:00 each.
I was tipped off by a note in Trains Magazine Newswire in April, with tickets to be available from the Foundation April 28th.
When in Edmonton the train made two trips out to Josephburg and Scotford Yard.
I noted that a round trip was possible on August 04 from Wetaskiwin to Bawlf, then on to Hardisty and back. A full day train ride in four sections for $100:00.
I purchased five seats for myself, neighbor Grant Barkwell who would drive to to and from the train, and my Daughter Mary- Ann and her Husband Alex. and their little girl Mattie.
The March 6th Trains Newsletter advised that #2816 had suffered a mechanical failure and was O.S. for the Summer, but the train would run with heritage diesel power.
Either due to the Postal Disruptions at the time or a failure of the Foundation, there was virtually no advertising of the trains.
There were 144 seats available on the August 04 date but only 90 tickets were sold.
So just after 0800 hrs on a sunny and warm August 04 we assembled on a grassy site beside the CPR Wetaskiwin sidings for a 0900 hrs. departure. About sixty people including several security Police waited past the hour.
The Train arrived at 09:20 and stopped in mid yard, but the consist was reversed so we were asked to walk down the track to the cars. The Alberta Prairie Stettler bus was there with passengers so I hitched a ride down the rough grass.
C.P.R. on train personnel assisted us across the sidings and aboard the cars. The Senior passenger was a man of 102 years who joined C.P.R. when he was 14 years and worked for them until retirement. Next Senior was Peace River George at 81 yrs.
The Consist was C.P.R GP 38 #3084, Covered Wagon B unit #1900 ex service on the Canadian in the 1950s.
Both units painted up in Canadian Pacific Corporate colours and very clean.
Electric generator Box Car, Crew Dormitory Coach, two Museum Artifacts display coaches (locked up), C.P Baggage Car #106, Coach #101 "Dominion", Coach 102 "Ernest Smokey Smith V.C. ", Baggage Car #107. and a very old coach with Celestory roof "Mount Royal".
Baggage 107 had all four doors open with security fencing, an open air observation car. Inside it was stenciled "New York Central #9109", and a faded poster along the side wall promoted the "Pride of the 21st Century"
That was a crack express running out of New York on the N.Y.C.
I had quickly established my wheelchair seat in an open door of Baggage #107, to enjoy the close up of railroading.
A freight with power on both ends was being turned on the wye to follow us East on the main line to Saskatoon. As soon as he cleared we backed down the siding, then proceeded onto the wye and headed East. We soon passed a board that warned of Severe Grade and Curvature. We cautiously descended a narrow ravine into the Battle River Valley, crossed a very flood swollen Battle River then started the climb back up grade, with spectacular views of the largely flooded valley flats.
Approaching Camrose City, and a flat crossing of the C.N. Main Edmonton-Calgary line we were beckoned on by a High Green Board, and as we hammered across the diamond we saw a North bound C.N. freight held at his signal.
Oh., I know, C.N was held up by a late C.P.R., but today a Passenger Varnish had taken superiority over a freight.
We did not stop in Camrose but rolled out across the Alberta Prairie; past not seas of wheat waving in the light breeze, but oceans of bright yellow Canola flowers.
Past Legacy Junction grain terminal with no cars in its yard, then presently Richardson International's new terminal with a yard full of cars waiting for the harvest.
On good track we were up to track speed, which was likely 40 mph on a freight line. The sloughs, ditches creeks were all full to the brim with water and we viewed all manner of bird and animal wildlife busy at their tasks, ignoring our passing.
And so we obtained to Bawlf. Just a siding a quarter mile from the village. No buildings, but a small crowd waiting for the train.
A few passengers detrained to board the Stettler Bus home, and about 30 Bawlfians boarded. They had only learned of this train the day before in an article in their local paper.
Presently the grain fields gave way to gently rolling grass covered sand hills. Heavy rains had caused many washouts and track damage requiring rebuilding here and the last ten miles to Hardisty was all slow order.
Arrived at Hardisty, 97 miles, we stopped on the Main and passengers were invited to step down to go walk about. Hardisty has a big busy yard as it is an oil pipeline to tank car transfer point. Our power cut off and backed down past the cars to seek the wye on the North side of the yard. But three big ES44 Diesels were set out on legs of the wye and crews had to be found to move them.
Eventually our power was turned, then run to the far west end of the yard and so back to our train. Passengers were re-boarding when word came down that the Town of Hardisty had sponsored a barbecue lunch for train crew and passengers. Train crew knew of it but no one told us.
As soon as the train was under way the crew brought baskets of apples, oranges and granola bars. There was no on board catering offered, so we brought picnic baskets.
We were now two hours off the schedule, but once out on the prairie enjoyed some smart running that made up some time.
Our stop at Bawlf was brief then we approached Camrose at track speed. We thundered past the Pipe Factory, with cars of incoming coil steel, and outgoing racks of made pipe.
The train hammered over switches and jointed rail, the engineers hand firmly on the whistle, C.P.R. Express Varnish called on by a High Green for the Diamond. This was dramatic railroading at its best
Then the brakes came on to descend the grade into the Battle Valley cautiously watched by a large herd of Long Horn Cattle. (Was this really year 2011?).
Once across the roaring river, the # 3084 ad # 1900 were throttled up and worked had to climb the grade which is reputed to exceed 2.2% in a couple of places. Very little smoke was evident.
We crested the grade and obtained to Wetaskiwin yard. Two hours off the card, but that was two hours extra train riding for us.
We had missed #2816, of course, and also missed a C.P.R. Conductor and Trainman in full uniform, and there was no famous C.P.R coffee. But Canadian Pacific Railway had put on a fantastic journey into History, and done it very well indeed.
When last did Maroon Varnish grace the Edmonton-Saskatoon line? 50 yrs or more?
The on board train crew helped us across five tracks to end our adventure, and bid a fond farewell. Thank You All.
Peace River George...