Action at Castle Mountain

I was at Castle Junction in Banff National Park on July 7, trackside by the CP Laggan subdivision. After the Rocky Mountaineer passed by, I remained there, hoping for more trains.

I had my scanner with me, and I heard a train leaving the Eldon siding west of me. I decided to move to the “sun side” of the tracks, which meant that Castle Mountain was more or less behind me and couldn’t be in the photo with the train.

Eventually CP 8161 East came rolling along in brilliant sunlight. I did my best to include at least a piece of Castle Mountain in the photo.

CP 8161 East

CP 8161 passing Castle Mountain in Banff National Park
CP 8161 passing Castle Mountain in Banff National Park

In restrospect, I probably should have stood on the other side of the equipment box. That silver box sure dominates the photo.

It’s nice to see a clean locomotive leading the train!

Clean CP 8161 leading
Clean CP 8161 leading

This train had a lot of power on it – CP 8161, 8006 and 8003 on the head end, with another locomotive mid-train.

Another railfan photographed this train the day before, rolling through Ashcroft BC. At that time it didn’t have CP 8003 on it. Maybe that was added in Kamloops for the hike through the mountains.


The mid-train unit was “yet another GE”, CP 8847.

CP 8847 mid-train
CP 8847 mid-train

Here’s the video I took.

I wasn’t super satisfied with this angle, so I switched to my 70-200mm “long lens” for the next westbound train. It didn’t take long – CP 8786 East was only 10 minutes behind the previous westbound train.

CP 8786 East

CP 8786 at mile 100, CP Laggan subdivision
CP 8786 at mile 100, CP Laggan subdivision

Here’s a long telephoto shot of CP 8786 East near the mile 100 signpost.

A few seconds later, here it is again. I’m not sure which one I like better. What do you think?

CP 8786 East again
CP 8786 East again

This very long intermodal train had CP 8786 and 8045 on the head end, CP 8645 mid-train, and CP 8711 on the tail end. Lots of power to move lots of containers!

The layered look
The layered look

For the “going away” shot, I liked the layers of trees and mountains in the background.

I should mention that CP 8786 East “paused” a bit as it approached me. They turned their lights off and blew their horn. I’m pretty sure there was a bear on the tracks and they were trying to scare it off. I took a few long distance photos but the heat blur really distorted the image:

Is there a bear in the image?
Is there a bear in the image?

Here’s the video of that train.

After the train passed, I walked around a bit and eventually a young couple pulled up to take some photos near the tracks. I chatted with them – they were from Toronto visiting – and they thought there was a bear down the tracks. I took a few long distance photos and I am pretty sure that it was a black bear feeding on some spilled grain.

Maybe a bear?
Maybe a bear?

I wasn’t about to walk down to find out…

At this point I thought I would relocate to the Storm Mountain lookout. It is a few kilometres west of Castle Junction and offers a great view in both directions of the CP track. Many railfans think it is superior to Morant’s Curve in that the Curve has become overgrown with trees and no longer offers the sweeping vista that it used to. I tend to agree.

I drove up to the parking lot by the lookout, and as I stepped out of my car, I heard a train going by. Darn it!!

CP ???? East

I quickly ran toward the tracks with my phone in hand to try to grab a few shots. I totally missed the head end and didn’t manage to photograph the mid-train locomotive, but I did get there to record the tail end locomotive.

CP 9366 bringing up the rear
CP 9366 bringing up the rear

What a view!!

I thought I might have a chance to beat the train to Banff, so I ran back to my car and started driving east.

As I passed through Castle Junction again, I saw a couple of park rangers were standing by the crossing, looking down toward where the bear was.

I was able to get onto Norquay Drive on the west side of Banff before the train made it to the crossing by the train station, and I pulled off to the shoulder to grab the unit numbers as they rocketed through the crossing. CP 8918 and 8506 leading, CP 8892 mid-train, and CP 9366 on the tail end.

Terrible photo of CP 8918 in Banff
Terrible photo of CP 8918 in Banff

I parked on the street near the station and walked over to see if any more trains were coming. I had an hour left before I was due to meet my family for brunch.

The only activity I saw was a few people getting into a CP truck and a backhoe / ballast trailer combination. You may have noticed that in the yard in some of my Rocky Mountaineer photos.

They started heading west soon after the train passed, and I understood they were heading all the way to the Massive siding. That meant they would be on the main line for quite a while = no more trains for me.

That was fine with me. I saw the Rocky Mountaineer and three freight trains – a good haul.

In my next post, we’ll return to Storm Mountain lookout!

Just One More Thing

I’m currently reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. This is a fantasy novel, the first of the Stormlight Archive [Trilogy], and I’m enjoying it so far.

My Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission at no cost to you when you buy something using my links.

I read someone comparing it to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t think they compare well; The Way of Kings is a lot less scholarly, and more accessible, but the two series do have one thing in common – extensively detailed worlds. Middle Earth and Roshar are both very different than the world we live in, and I’d argue Roshar is a lot stranger than Middle Earth.

There are five or six main characters in the book, and as you hear their stories, you get the feeling that their stories are all going to converge at some point. There’s a definite feeling of something massive and earth-shattering gathering in the background.

I’m only halfway through the book so far and I’m hooked. I’m looking forward to finishing the book and moving on to the next two.

Get The Way of Kings from Amazon

8 thoughts on “Action at Castle Mountain”

  1. I think it’s high time the unsung trackside equipment keeping our railways safe and efficient gets its due! Enjoyed all photos as usual. If I had to choose one of CP 8786, I’d take the telephoto shot – has more sense of place.

  2. Hi Steve,
    You might be surprised to hear this, but that last shot of CP 8918- I really like it a lot. I’m enjoying this little miniseries in Banff, as having been there a couple of years ago, many of these locations are familiar to me. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • Hi Marv, it’s always fun to see how others shoot in locations you know. I enjoy that too.

      It’s funny, I almost never shoot the train-at-a-crossing from sideways like 8918, but I like it when other people do. I just don’t think of it, I guess…

  3. I prefer the non-telephoto shot, because the lights are not prominent,

    100 mile sign – 100 miles from where?

    I spent a few weeks in Banff, too many years ago. Massive fond memories. Thanks for these photos

  4. I would say that your picture of CP ???? East turned out just fine even though you didn’t get to see much of the train.

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