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Map showing CPR lines and location of Field, British Columbia.


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Mount Stephen House and the log station at Field in 1905.


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The current station and roundhouse in 1986.


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Field station in 2002 now used only for crew changes.


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CP 9650 East on the south track of the Lake Louise grade separation at milepost 119.


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CP 9136 West on the S curve by O'Hara Lake road crossing.


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CP 9136 West passes Field West signals and electric derail.


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CP 9136 West in Kicking Horse Canyon near Glenogle.


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CP 9540 West passing the newly renovated Field bunkhouse.


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Track Evaluation Car 21 westbound on north track between Lake Louise and Divide.


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SOO 6004 West hauls 7,303 tons upgrade at Divide.


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SOO 6004 West crossing the Ottertail Creek bridge.


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CP 9112 West doing the chicken at one mile per hour with 5,559 tons by Divide, eventually.


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CP 9160 West on north track.


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CP 9512 East climbs the Big Hill.


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CP 9512 East at Morant's Curve.


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Except for a gon full of scrap wheels, an empty eastbound coal train crosses Stoney Creek bridge.


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A Field Trip

 Sign on west end of Field station Field, British Columbia, lies in Yoho National Park at the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Field is the crew change point between the Canadian Pacific Railway's Mountain and Laggan Subdivisions.
Running trade employees typically work the Laggan Sub from Calgary to Field where they layover for rest before returning to Calgary. For the Mountain Sub it's Revelstoke to Field and back. At this time, October 2002, the Field bunkhouse is receiving a makeover so crews sleep at the Lodge in Field or up the "Big Hill" at Wapta Lake Lodge.
 Welcome to Field sign Welcome to Field
Field is a small community, crowded with tourists during the summer, but hibernates through the winter under a healthy snow cover. Meals may be obtained at the beanery attached to the bunkhouse or for a change of pace there's the "Truffle Pigs Cafe and General Store" located in the center of town. I would estimate Field is comprised of perhaps a hundred homes including a post office, school, lodge, and the CPR bunkhouse. The townsite lies within Yoho National Park on the south side of the Kicking Horse River sandwiched between the river and Mount Stephen. Town expansion east or west is blocked on all sides by either the river, mountain, or an avalanche path.
Rail Traffic
Trains generally pass through in both directions but are sometimes "staged", or temporarily stored, in the yard for several hours until they can be forwarded. Westbound trains will tie down their cars and cut-off their power which runs back to the station for a crew change. The process is reversed for departing westbounds.
Stack trains, solid container trains, grain trains, or mixed freight including tankcars, gons of scrap steel, boxcars, or even flatcars with hydro poles appear in no apparent order.
Time Zones
For the railway, Field marks the time zone change between Pacific Time, on the west, and Mountain Time on the east. Just to confuse you further, Pacific Time is used on the Mountain Sub, west of Field, and Mountain Time is used on the Laggan Sub, east of Field, while the townsfolk seem to use Pacific Time, which changes to Mountain Time on the other side of the mountain. So, if you can't tell what time it is, you're normal.
Mountain Subdivision
CPR's Mountain Sub runs west from Field 125.7 miles to Revelstoke. Prominent settlements include Field, Golden, and Revelstoke, the rest holds some pretty spectacular railway engineering. This includes the famous Rogers Pass tunnels, Connaught, MacDonald, and Shaughnessy with it's associated viaduct, and don't forget Stoney Creek, Mountain Creek, and Surprise Creek bridges. Just west of Golden lies KC Junction, the connection to the Windermere Sub which runs south to British Columbia's coal mines and the source of all those coal carrying unit trains visible all the way to Pacific tidewater.
Laggan Subdivision
From Field the Laggan Sub runs east 136.6 miles to Calgary, Alberta. Calgary is one of the province's two largest cities. Major towns east of Field include Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, and Cochrane located on the Trans-Canada Highway. Trains departing Field immediately encounter the "Big Hill", a 2.2 percent grade eased from the original 4.5 percent grade by construction of the Spiral Tunnels in 1909. The Trans-Canada Highway was built on the original grade for most of its route up the hill and gives one a clear understanding of the steepness. It's hard to imagine how steam engines could struggle up this steep incline aptly named the "Big Hill".
Between Divide and Lake Louise the track splits into two roughly parallel tracks separated in elevation. The north track was added in 1978 to ease the climb to Stephen from Lake Louise. Just east of Lake Louise lies Morant's Curve named after CPR's famous photographer, Nicholas Morant. Banff National Park and the other towns are located east of this.
Sunday, 20 October 2002
The day started with a drive to Lake Louise. While making breakfast the scanner went off at milepost 111.0 announcing the presence of a train. This was 5.2 miles east of my position so I knew the train would arrive shortly. However the detector reported one bad axle so the crew radioed the RTC (Rail Traffic Controller). He requested an advisory when they started again. The train passed me about twenty minutes later at Lake Louise but the light was too dim for a decent photo.
As the rising sun began to brighten the snow covered mountain tops I headed west where the Lake Louise grade separation is clearly visible from the Trans-Canada Highway. Pulling clear of the highway CPR milepost 119 offered a view of both the north and south tracks with gorgeous scenery as a backdrop. The air was crisp and clear. It was a perfect shot as an eastbound bomb train with mixed freight pulled into my viewfinder.
A few miles to the west lies the turn-off to O'Hara Lake and a grade crossing. A short wait there and 9136 West rounded the "S" curve into my sights.
Following this train west, after a crew change at Field, another photo caught the train at Field West signals beside the electric derail.
Now running in the Pacific Time Zone the train continued past Ottertail, Leanchoil, Palliser, and into the steep sided Kicking Horse River Canyon just east of Golden. By this time the sun had disappeared but one photo caught the train curving through the canyon. This being the Rockies the weather continued to change throughout the rest of the day with the sun popping out now and then between very brief rain showers.
The day ended well at Field when the sun poked through a grey cloud cover and 9540 West arrived passing the bunkhouse which is currently under renovation.
By midnight all the stars were out and it was cold and clear for 360 degrees. The next day would be promising.
Monday, 21 October 2002
In the morning there wasn't a cloud in sight, until... driving up the "Big Hill" when high cloud cover moved in from the north. There were still a few holes where the sun poked through so hope wasn't entirely lost. Setting up the camera tripod on the north track east of Divide, the first train of the day was anticipated, TEC 21. This is CPR's custom built Track Evaluation Car with a crew car, and support boxcar, pulled by GP-9 number 8218. Camera light alternated dark and light but was just bright enough as TEC 21 passed by westbound.
The camera position was next moved west to milepost 121.5 at Divide. Divide marks the west end of the Lake Louise grade separation where the north and south tracks funnel into parallel tracks until reaching Stephen 1.6 miles west. A shot from the Trans-Canada Highway overpass caught SOO 6004 West climbing the grade.
Chasing this train west I bypassed Field with Ottertail as the target. After a short wait SOO 6004 West was snapped crossing Ottertail bridge 8.2 miles from Field.
With the sun now shining brightly a return trip to Field was in order for lunch at the Truffle Pigs. A combination grocery store, restaurant, liquor store, gift shop, and full of oddities. There was an old worn-out 1930s ice skate on one table, for decoration I guess.
After a good lunch the scanner picked up a conversation between the RTC and a maintenance of way foreman requesting a T.O.P. (Track Occupancy Permit). This would be delayed as a westbound train was climbing the north track at one mile per hour. What? That's correct, ONE mile per hour! The foreman would have to wait. A race up the Big Hill to Divide beat the train there. Sure enough, one mile per hour. Why rush? You can walk faster than this. With all sanders flowing, 4,300 horsepower dragging 5,559 tons behind, SD90MAC number 9112 bounced up and down nearly as much as it progressed forward. Railway men call this "doing the chicken". Personally, I think the hogger and shack should get flight pay for this sort of ride.
Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Tuesday dawned cold and crisp with a light frost covering everything in sight. The weather was more sunny than grey but always seemed to be grey when the shutter release was pressed. Trains were fewer this day for some reason. Perhaps this was CPR's "Two Train Tuesday"?
Much driving back and forth during the day yielded only three decent photos. CP 9160 West and buddy were photographed just east of Divide as they passed by under dull sky. The Big Hill was mostly in shade and still frosty by early afternoon but 9512 East was shot exiting the Big Hill's small tunnel. By the time it had reached Morant's Curve the sun was out in full force producing a pleasant temperature. A final return to Field ended all photography for the day.
An N scale drawing of Field station may be found on page 44 of the March 1996 issue of Mainline Modeler magazine under the title "Canadian Pacific Station; Field, British Columbia" by Patrick Lawson.
Associated Links
Canadian Pacific Railway
Village of Field
Yoho National Park
Mainline Modeler magazine

© 2002 William C. Slim       http://www.okthepk.ca