CP in the Mountains – David Othen

From 1995 onwards Canadian Pacific began to take delivery of the new high-horsepower locomotives with AC traction motors from General Electric and from 1998 onwards from General Motors also. As a result many changes have occurred on the CP mainline through the Rocky, Columbia and Coast mountains and through the Interior Plateau with the Fraser and Thompson valleys.

Now in 1999 the pulsating sound of three, four or five General Motors SD40-2s, often with two mid-train helpers struggling up the steep grades at slow speeds with a heavy unit train has almost disappeared. It has largely been replaced by the whisper of two General Electric AC4400CWs possibly with another as mid-train helper. A quiet General Motors SD90MAC (of which there are only a few) may take the place of one AC4400. Lighter trains are currently still handled by two or three CP or SOO SD40-2s or SD60s.

The rainbow colours of the lease units, often with peeling paint and stencilled reporting marks are also gone. They have been replaced by deep red locomotives bearing either the CPRail dual flags logo (often with the RCMP musical ride logo) or the new Canadian Pacific Railway golden beaver logo (whose attractiveness is often spoilt by red door handles or louvres).

However the magnificent scenery of the mountains is still there to be enjoyed and we hope you will enjoy these photographs.

The Rockies

We begin our trip at the CP yards and diesel shops at Calgary.

Here on 15 June 1999 we see CP SD40 5400 and a rare SD40B, SOO 6450, shunting loaded grain cars in Alyth yards. A train of molten sulphur tank cars and the diesel depot are in the background.

At the depot on 16 June 1999 a wide variety of motive power in different liveries is waiting to be serviced. From left to right we see CP SD40-2 5864 with dual flags, AC4400CW 9671 and SD90MAC 9127 with golden beavers, SD60 6013 in red & white SOO livery and GP38-2s 3023, 3125 and in action red with CPRail logos.

Photo missing – CP lineup at Calgary

From Calgary the line follows the Bow River Valley. About 85 kms west of Calgary we begin to enter the Rocky Mountains. Here, just outside the Banff National Park, is a large quarry and a cement plant operated by Lefarge Canada.

Lafarge 1749

Cement is shipped all across North America from this plant and much of it goes by railcar. Lefarge has its own well maintained and colourful (peacock green and black) GP10 locomotive. Its previous GP7 was bright red and its earlier S-3 was blue and white. True variety, since all three were on the property when we visited!

CP 3049 at the Lafarge facility in Exshaw AB

In these two photos we see two CP GP38-2s 3049 & 3127 collecting loaded cement cars from the plant (Lafarge 1749 is in the background) and then marshalling them in the nearby sidings. The Rockies form a magnificent backdrop.

After passing through Banff the line follows the Bow River more closely as the valley gets narrower. Here we see a westbound container train headed by two SOO SD60s (6019 & 6047) in different liveries with CP SD40-2 5848 passing beside the Bow River as it rounds Morant’s Curve on 13 June 1999.

Beyond Lake Louise a new track was built in the late 1970s and early 80s as part of a grade reduction project. Westbound trains usually use the gentler slope up to the summit of the Kicking Horse Pass.

This photo shows the two grades at Lake Louise with a westbound freight in the late evening headed by CP SD40-2s 5985 & 5475 as it passes the log station (now a restaurant). The line on the right is the newer and less steep line which begins its ascent earlier than that on the left.

The summit of the line is at Stephen close to the Continental Divide and the boundary between Alberta & British Columbia.

Here we see a westbound grain train that has just passed Stephen and is beginning the long descent to Field. AC4400s CP 9584 with the golden beaver logo and CP/SOO 8575 are at the head with 9527 as mid-train helper about a mile back.

Beyond here the line runs along the shore of Wapta Lake with a magnificent snow capped mountain backdrop. Then it descends into the Kicking Horse Valley through the two famous Spiral Tunnels – not so easily seen now that the trees in the area have grown up and are protected as part of the Yoho National Park.

Here we see an eastbound unit train of empty SOO cylindrical hoppers as it climbs towards the entrance to the Upper Spiral Tunnel. A view of the lower spiral tunnel is included in our page on Railroading in British Columbia.

The steep descent continues to Field which is the first crew change point.

In the photo on the left “red barn” SD40-2F 9020 and two SD40-2s – 5767 & 5962 (5767 has its windows covered over to make it a “B” unit) are entering Field with a westbound container train on 12 June 1999. In the picture on the right CP/SOO AC4400 8500 (the second locomotive on the train seen in the photo above) is awaiting the arrival of Extra 9020 West.

Two other photos of trains at Field can be seen on our Railroading in BC page.

From Field to Golden the track follows beside the winding Kicking Horse river through some magnificent scenery. There are many well known photo locations including Ottertail, Leanchoil and the tunnels and bridges in the Kicking Horse Canyon. This area often has mud or snow slides which can close both the railroad and the Trans Canada highway.

The Selkirks and Monashees

Beyond Golden the line skirts an area of swampy land and runs beside the Columbia River until the mouth of the Beaver River. From here two tracks at different grades climb up to Rogers Pass. The older and steeper route crosses the pass through the Connaught tunnel while the newer and gentler grade passes through the Mount Shaughnessy & Mount Macdonald tunnels. Again westbound trains generally use the less steeply graded line.

Here we see three AC4400CWs (9512, 9666 & 9574 – all at the head end) with a hot-shot eastbound container train that is just about to enter the west portal of the Connaught tunnel. Glacier station (now closed) is on the left.

A photograph of a coal train exiting the west portal of the Mount Macdonald tunnel is on our Railroading in BC page.

To the west of the Rogers Pass the line descends through the Illecillewaet Valley to Revelstoke. This scenic town is picturesquely nestled in the mountains and is the next crew change point. The excellent Revelstoke Railway Museum houses CPR 2-8-2 5468 and a CP GP9R diesel simulator. For more information on 2-8-2 5468 see our Canadian Steam Locomotives page.

A GP9R serves as yard switcher at Revelstoke and is seen in this picture on 11 June 1999.

In the picture to the right GE AC4400CW 9589 and GM SD90MAC 9110 head an eastbound empty grain train past the museum on the 11 June 1999. In the picture below 9630 is the mid-train helper on an empty coal train at the same location on the next day.

A photo of the Rocky Mountaineer luxury passenger train at Revelstoke appears on our Railways in BC page.

Just to the west of Revelstoke the line once again crosses the Columbia River and here we see a loaded coal train eastbound across the bridge headed by two AC4400CWs (9683 & 9579) in different liveries.

Further to the west of Revelstoke the line climbs up the Eagle Pass to Three Valley Gap where it crosses the Monashee mountains. About 45 kms from Revelstoke, Craigellachie is reached. In 1885 the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Transcontinental Railway was hammered into place here by Donald Smith.

The cairn and park seen in the picture celebrate this event. CP AC4400CW 9665 is heading a 100 car train of empty coal wagons assisted by 9637 over a kilometer behind. The consists is unusual in that it has only one unit on the head end and is shorter by about 25 cars. The reason for this is that coal trains destined for Roberts Bank near Vancouver were being detoured over Canadian National tracks because a barge had damaged a bridge near Mission and Canadian National’s passing sidings could not handle the longer Canadian Pacific coal trains.

The Interior Plateau and Thompson & Fraser Canyons

Beyond Craigellachie the line travels through forested areas until it reaches Sicamous and Sushwap Lake It then travels beside the lake to Salmon Arm before climbing steeply through agricultural land on a double tracked grade reduction section to a summit at Notch Hill. The line then descends through a heavily forested area past Squilax and on to Kamloops – the next crew change point.

The line then follows the Thompson River. The Canadian National line, which is already following the river, parallels it on the opposite bank. A photo of a CN freight at Kamloops is on our Canadian National West of Edmonton page. Beyond Savona the lines enter Canada’s desert country and pass through Ashcroft, Spences Bridge and the painted canyon before arriving at the junction of the Thompson and Fraser rivers at Lytton.

In this picture we see an eastbound train passing ore cars at Ashcroft. CP 9608 in the golden beaver scheme is leading. The second unit 9509 is also an AC4400CW but has the earlier style of bogie.

Near Spences Bridge we see an eastbound container train headed by four SD40-2s with 6053 in the lead (left), an eastbound empty grain train headed by AC4400CWs 9650 and 9508 each sporting a different livery (right).

Photos missing CP freight at Spences Bridge – Steve

A westbound potash train of SOO line hoppers headed by AC4400 9632 and SD90MAC 9111 is seen here just to the west of Spences Bridge.

For the benefit of railfans and railroad modellers here are close up photographs of the two locomotives. Notice that because of the heat the front door on 9632 has been propped open.

From Lytton the tracks follow the Fraser Canyon southwards (with both lines changing sides of the river at Cisco) The next CP crew change point is at North Bend on the west bank of the river whilst on the east bank Canadian National changes crews at Boston Bar. The lines continue south to Hope. Photographs of trains in the Fraser Canyon can be found on our Railroading in BC page (a CP freight near Hell’s Gate) and in our Canadian National West of Edmonton and GE locomotives pages (freights at Boston Bar)

To the west of Hope the lines leave the mountains and cross the rich agricultural plains to Mission and Vancouver.

Finally we see inside the cab of CP AC4400CW 9617. Canadan Pacific continues to order locomotives with the desk console controls whereas Canadian National has reverted to ordering stand style controls on its SD70 & 75Is. 

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