Railway Pages Index



We had missed the train ride from Banff to Kamloops via the Spiral Tunnels in June 2013 due to a freight train derailment in the Spiral Tunnels west of Banff and Lake Louise. We still wanted to see that portion of the route. RM management had offered a free two-day trip as compensation, so we took them up on it. After ignoring our emails for two months, RM finally agreed to honour their promises. It wasn't exactly free as we paid for the hotels.

Since we had done the rest of the complete circle tour earlier, we really didn't want to repeat the Kamloops to Vancouver leg then fly home, so we asked to do Banff -- Kamloops -- Jasper instead. This is not a standard two-day trip but RM agreed.
It was a great trip, with its own share of misadventure.

It started inauspiciously. Two hours late leaving Banff due to freight congestion near Calgary, we stopped again (guess where!) at the entrance to the Spiral Tunnels. This time it was a work crew in the tunnel that couldn't get its act together. Three hours later we were finally on our way but made up little time following the freight train ahead of us. By Revelstoke, it was full dark so we missed seeing the lakes around Salmon Arm and the Shuswap, and the arid semi-desert approaching Kamloops. To soothe us, the chefs prepared a very credible supper from unused lunch items. And the wine continued to flow.

Close on 1 AM we hit the hay at a downtown Kamloops hotel. We could sleep in next morning but the rest of the passengers and crew were up at dawn to move on to Vancouver.

Spiral Tunnels
The Spiral Tunnels on the CPR mainline, the cause of the cancelled trip in June and the delay on the replacement trip in September, are world famous and not normally a source of problems for train crews. The complex track design is shown here to illustrate the interesting sightseeing possibilities of the route.

Map of CPR Spiral Tunnels -- Upper Spiral is at bottom of map, Lower Tunnel is near top of map. Each tunnel drops the elevation by about 50 feet, reducing the grade from 4.5% on the "Big Hill" down to a more manageable 2.2%. Kicking Horse River is at the left and Trans-Canada Highway (#1) crosses the CPR twice between the two tunnels. The road on the left goes north to Takakkaw Falls. All this is just west of the Continental Divide on the border between Alberta and British Columbia. Lake Louise AB is off-screen to the top right and Field BC is off-screen to the lower left. The upper tunnel is under Mt Stephen, the lower under Mt Ogden. Image source:

Lake Louise Heritage Station                        Ballast Spreader parked at Banff

Lower Spiral Tunnel from Upper Spiral                                  Kicking Horse River            

Old CPR Station at Field, BC                                                         Park Bridge from the Mountaineer

                                                                                          Impressive waterfall west of Field, BC               Revelstoke to Kamloops, too dark to see

A Very Fine Day: Kamloops
Downtown Kamloops is a lovely old-fashioned town of stone and brick buildings with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Light traffic, quiet buses, and lots of heritage buildings to look at made a very restful day. Riverside Park between downtown and the North Thompson River includes the railway station and a heritage park, a Japanese Garden, riverside beach, swimming pool, water slide, tennis, lawn bowling, and music nightly in the band shell during the summer.

The 1912 vintage class M-3-d steam locomotive ex-CNR 2-8-0 Consolidation #2141, now called "Spirit of Kamloops", was out of service and out of sight undergoing a boiler rebuild. Some antique rolling stock was on display.

Train watching in downtown Kamloops                            Railway bridge over Thompson River

Fort Kamloops history                                      Kamloops Station

Kamloops Station                                     Snowplow at the ready

Kamloops Heritage Railway cars

Kamloops Heritage Railway Logo                                          A strange caboose

Kamloops famous "Red Bridge"

up the Thompson River: kamloops -- jasper
This leg of the journey is very reminiscent of the Fraser River route to Quesnel, with forestry and cattle operations spread across the landscape. Skirting the edge of a river that once had paddle wheel steamers, the train climbs slowly to the same climax -- Mount Robson. This time it was pretty cloudy beyond the halfway mark. Across the Continental Divide to Jasper was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to walk the streets in daylight.

North Thompson River, named after David Thompson, who walked, canoed, and rode horseback for more than 50,000 kilometers to survey and map most of western Canada and northwest USA during the late 1700's

The Mountaineer is turned on a wye here and Via's Canadian spends a couple of hours at the station nearly every day. A neat 2-foot gauge mine engine (decorated as CNR #9) lives in front of the fire hall, as well as the CNR 6015 on display at the station. These plus the hourly freights give a train fan lots to watch. If you are here for the mountains, there's a gondola to the top of The Whistler, the boat ride on Maligne Lake, the trip onto Athabasca Glacier, and much more. Brewster Bus Lines will give you a grand tour.

The 2-foot gauge mining locomotive at the Jasper Fire Hall

Rear end and driver details

Cab interior showing firebox and pressure gauge

THE ADVenture Ends
Next day, we took the Brewster commuter bus via Lake Louise to Banff, grabbed our car and drove home. The adventure was over, 102 days after it had begun, and we had seen Banff and Jasper enough for one year.

Advice: If you want great scenery, fine dining, and super service, try the Rocky Mountaineer. If you want
"on-time", go to Switzerland.

Jasper the Bear - part of Jasper National Park since 1948

Continue to Rocky Mountaineer: Westbound