Book Review: When Trains Ruled the Rockies

Terry Gainer’s book, “When Trains Ruled the Rockies”, is part autobiography, part history book, and I recommend it for anyone who likes the CPR, or the Banff area. It’s a great read. (buy it on Amazon)

Author Terry Gainer lived in the Banff, Alberta train station from 1948 to 1955 when his father was the station agent. He remained in Banff for several years afterward, working in the station’s baggage room and then as a Red Cap servicing the train and passengers. He had a unique perspective on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s trains and operations at the train station during the zenith of the CPR’s passenger services.

Terry contacted me in the summer of 2016. He was starting research on his book and was looking for a 1948 CPR passenger schedule so he could accurately describe the trains and when they arrived at the station. I provided him with some photos of the relevant pages of the tattered passenger schedule I have from June 20, 1948.

He emailed me again in 2017, looking for some photographic sources to accompany the text of the book. He was kind enough to keep me posted on the progress of his book, and he sent me a copy this spring as thanks for my assistance – totally unnecessary but much appreciated.

This is not a history book. Although Terry does provide a lot of historical detail, it is primarily an autobiography of his early years in Banff. It is a warm and sentimental look back on a way of life that was perfect for a young boy in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s clear that Terry truly loved living there, and his many stories of adventures with friends in the area are engaging and entertaining.

What I really liked were the stories of life in Banff at that time. One example was the Winter Carnivals. Banff was not yet a year-round attraction; tourists only came during the summer. The town organized an annual winter carnival to attract people to the town, and the CPR offered special fares to help bring people in from Calgary and beyond. This tradition began in 1917 and continued until 1957.

This 252 page paperback includes a generous 64 pages of colour and black and white photographs in the centre, featuring Terry and his family, trains, the station, and life in Banff. Terry even used one of my phone shots of the CPR timetable; if I had known it was going to be in the book, I would have taken a little more care!

You can get this book at the following locations (and probably more):

This book is available on Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle e-book, or in some bookstores.

Check out the Facebook page for the book!

(disclaimer: I receive a small commission from Amazon if you buy the book through their links, at no additional cost to you.)

3 thoughts on “Book Review: When Trains Ruled the Rockies”

  1. I will have to get it, sounds great. My first ride on the Canadian was in June 1958 between Winnipeg and Toronto, and I thought I was in heaven it was so comfortable sleeping and sightseeing along the way.

  2. Sounds like a good read!
    We just were out to the coast last week and back and saw so many trains at different locations. We happened to catch a train going through the spiral tunnels which was pretty cool. Would be neat to be on a train going through there!!

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