Trekking Tales The fun of VIA Rail travel and its idiosyncrasies: Part 2

Diane, our chatty, knowledgeable conductor had realized her captive audience was, well, captivated by all her tales

Part 2: Prince George to Prince Rupert

After being taken care of so well in Prince George, it just seemed to get better. This was our last day to enjoy the view from train windows.

By now Diane, our chatty, knowledgeable conductor had realized her captive audience was, well, captivated by all her tales. Again we spent most of this day up in the dome car so, when not tending her other many jobs, she came upstairs brimming with more information or letting us know of a point of interest ahead.

It seemed a bizarre omission, but there was no microphone system. Learning the system for signal lights, how the top speed limit is for passenger trains and the lower, slower one for freight trains was easy for observant, train-crazy Merv.

Diane showed us detectors that electronically send messages (somewhere important!) telling the train’s speed, temperature, and noting any problems. A sign a mile ahead of the detector warns the engineers when one is coming up so they can adjust the speed accordingly!

When our conveyance chugged along at a leisurely pace, we knew a freight train was in front of us, and we were not to be within two to five miles of it (depending on the track). And yes, it’s all marked in miles.

Our route was marked in divisions, whose origin was the distance a steam train could travel before needing more coal and water. Some recent changes had sidings shorter than the trains, which occasionally made for some fancy finagling.

Whether or not we were running late we did not bother to find out. We simply enjoyed the sights, and learning all that Diane had to tell us about the people who had lived, or still lived by the tracks.

Further along, the Cedarvale reaction ferry (powered by the current of the Skeena River) was closed when the postmistress there died. The building remains, partly dismembered, because her family was sure she had money hidden within.

We zoomed through many tunnels, through which double-decker freight trains can safely pass.

“Several tunnels had to be removed,” we were told. “Others were heightened, while the floor of some was lowered to permit passage of these high loads.”

After Kitwanga, junction with the highway north to the Yukon, the Seven Sisters stood tall and snow-covered The remote community of Doreen has few buildings, but a life-sized doll, named Doreen of course, waves from an upstairs window in an empty house.

Not far away, Usk has a reaction ferry and Diane told of taking a class from a school in Terrace, one way on the train and looping back by bus after crossing the wide river. By the time I finished asking, “This is Usk?” I was told: “That was Usk!”

Eagles and their nests, ducks, beaver trails and some deer scrambling to safety added to the interest, but train is not the ideal way to see game, I soon realized.

The Skeena River widened, slowed, was shallow and multi-channelled as we came closer to the coast and Prince Rupert. We had left at 8 a.m. and the sun was just below the horizon, leaving us with a colourful sunset as we pulled into Prince Rupert.

 

No more train travel this time around, but more adventures lay ahead.