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19 Photos
Up the River - Again

Actually this story should be titled "Up an Down the Fraser and Thompson Rivers Many Many Times". To obtain these train photos it involved countless trips up and down the river chasing trains. Chasing isn't entirely accurate as I know the route so well I can plan shots in advance of trains so it isn't necessary to chase.
Fraser - Thompson - Jasper

This story started out as a trip to Jasper National Park in Alberta but heavy thunderstorms in the area put an end to that idea. As a result only one photo from Jasper National Park is used here. It tempts me to return some day!
But what about Fraser and Thompson? These two gentlemen have given their names to two rivers that cut through the mountains of British Columbia. Along these two rivers both national railways have driven steel to reach Pacific tidewater from the east.
Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser was born 1776 in the state of New York. Born into an American Loyalist family which fled to Canada after the American Revolution he joined the fur trade as an apprentice clerk with the North West Company being sent to Athabaska. Moving up in the company ranks he was tasked to extend company business into British Columbia. He and 23 men took 36 days following the Fraser River for 520 miles to the Pacific ocean. The Fraser River was named by David Thompson.
David Thompson

David Thompson was born 1770 in London, England. Of Welsh descent he came to Canada at the age of 14 as a Hudson's Bay Clerk in the fur trade exploring a route from York Factory to Lake Athabaska. With a passion for surveys and map making he joined the North West Company in 1797 exploring western North America creating detailed maps of his explorations. The Thompson River was named by Simon Fraser.
I had always assumed these rivers had been named by their discoverer, rather than this quid pro quo arrangement... interesting.
The Two Rivers

The Thompson starts as two rivers, the North Thompson and the South Thompson. Headwater for the South Thompson is Lake Shuswap. From there the South Thompson flows west to Kamloops. The blue-green coloured North Thompson flows from the Rocky Mountains south to join the South Thompson at Kamloops. From this fork the river runs west to Ashcroft where it turns south and west to join the Fraser River at Lytton. There the clear blue-green water of the Thompson mixes with the silty Fraser to continue south through Boston Bar to Hope. From Hope to the Pacific the mighty river spreads out into a large flat delta.
The early explorers, Fraser and Thompson, followed rivers on their explorations because of the ease of travel water and river valleys afforded. So too the railways, and, because of the grade. Canadian Pacific and Canadian National both begin their eastward climb over British Columbia's mountain chains at Vancouver following the Fraser then the Thompson River to Kamloops where they each go there own way. CPR progresses east along the South Thompson while CN tackles the North Thompson reaching Jasper through the Yellowhead Pass.

 Click to enlarge map
The Photo Trip

While rushing northeast to Jasper to photograph trains in the National Park scant heed was paid to photographs along the route. Why bother, time could be spent on the way back, if necessary. With thunderstorms and heavy rains blanketing Jasper National Park for several days this is just what happened. Sitting in a car for two days in the rain was not and option so the photos will start at Jasper and end at Boston Bar. They are arranged that way for this story but a certain amount of leap-frogging occurred.

Jasper - In-between rainstorms this rather dull photo shows a westbound CN mixed freight passing Jasper Lake with Roche Miette's square shoulder in the distance marking the eastern entrance to the National Park. Normally there would be a latitude/longitude coordinate provided with this photo but, frankly, I forgot to get one for you. To reach this location take the one-lane gravel road (calling it a road is flattery) east past the Snaring River overflow campground. Driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle would be advisable.
Louis Creek - Last summer the huge McClure forest fire struck the area around the towns of Barriere and Louis Creek. Many homes in Louis Creek and the sawmill were destroyed. Just to the west of Louis Creek the Thompson River cuts a narrow curved canyon through the hills. Huge winds created by the fire picked up flaming balls of pine needles and hurled them across the river and tracks to the opposite side of the canyon. The result destroyed trees all through the canyon on both sides. The railway managed to come out of this hell storm with little damage except at highway grade crossings, where the timbers were burned. These two photos taken one year later at Exlou West, just west of Louis Creek, show the extent of forest destruction. Some of the trees lower in the canyon escaped damage. Grass has started to grow back farther up the hills. The first photo shows COFC train, CN 5695 West, as it approaches the west end of Exlou siding in the canyon. A little over an hour later intermodal Train 104, CN 5457 East, pulls past signal 10915 hidden by the trees.
North Thompson - Between Tete Jaune Cache and Barriere the North Thomson, highway, and railway are surrounded by heavily treed forests making photo opportunities difficult. Approaching Kamloops the river valley becomes wider and flatter south of Louis Creek. CN 2554 West was photographed running beside the river just north of Kamloops. Canadian National's Kamloops yard is five miles further south. Kamloops is the crew change point between the Clearwater Subdivision, to the east (railway east), and the Ashcroft Sub, to the west. The main line turns geographically west at Kamloops crossing the North Thompson near a wye which can be seen from the highway overpass. This wye is the termination point for the Kamloops Heritage Railway's steam excursion train pulled by ex-CN 2141, a M3d class Consolidation. Their excursion departs from the old CN station in downtown Kamloops during summer months.
Savona - The town of Savona is located near the western tip of Kamloops Lake. CPR tracks reach Savona by following the south shore. CN tracks skirt the northern edge of the lake passing it's western tip they cross underneath the Trans-Canada Highway overpass. CN 2419 West is shown here approaching the highway underpass. Savona is located in the distance amidst the trees on the right.
Walhachin - Pronounced wall-a-sheen, this small community with only one official building, a post office, lies seven miles to the west. CN right-of-way continues along a river level route here while CPR opted to lay tracks higher up the hills. One benefit has been the large gravel pit that still supplies ballast for their track. On this particular date, the detector announced 37 degrees celsius ( 98.6 degrees fahrenheit ) as the crew of CP 9702 East waits in the hole for CP 9783 West to pass.
Down below in the Thompson Valley the road from Walhachin crosses the river and a grade crossing of the CN line. CN 2554 West took 3 hours to reach this point from the location of it's last photograph along the North Thompson.
Ashcroft - The Ashcroft tie plant lies just east of the town site on the south side of the river and is switched by a CPR way freight originating in Kamloops. In this shot, the way freight has just completed it's work at the plant and is heading west towards Ashcroft pulling a caboose, excuse me, End-Riding-Platform and several cars. CN track crosses the river at the top of the photo.
Martel - Further along the river to the west near Martel, an empty Canadian Pacific eastbound coal train hugs the river. With the sharing arrangement between CN and CPR in this part of the canyon, eastbound trains use CPR trackage, while westbounds use CN. This track sharing agreement is in effect between CPR's Nepa and CN's Coho crossover in the east and Mission City / Matsqui at the western end. While this arrangement is the normal procedure CPR tends to run the occasional train against the flow of traffic. CN has removed many of it's sidings along this route so there could be a huge traffic jam were opposite running attempted on their tracks.
Back on the CN side of the river, the same side as the Trans-Canada Highway at this point, COFC carrying CN 2446 West is shown here at Martel. Although impossible for the casual observer to tell it would be a good bet the containers are empty and bound for Roberts Bank Superport for trans-loading onto a ship bound for some Asian port.
 Dash 8-40CM
This closer shot of 2446 was panned as the train passed through Martel. 2446 is a Dash 8-40CM class EF-640b built in 1990.
Spences Bridge - Further to the railway's west lies Spences Bridge. The old junction to CPR's Merritt Subdivision used to be here where CP 9758 East now hauls containers east. Long since removed this sub once provided a link to the coal mines at Merritt and to the Kettle Valley Railway, CPR's southern crossing of British Columbia. In the past, if their main line became blocked, it offered the possibility of an alternate route.
Shared Trackage - West of Nepa (CPR), Coho (CN), eastbound traffic typically uses CPR tracks, such as CN 5384 East shown here.
Skoonka - Under contract number 62 with the CPR Andrew Onderdonk laid track by CPR milepost 78, opposite Skoonka, completing construction in 1884 for a price of 2,056,950 million dollars. As the first railway through the canyon he naturally picked the better route on the canyon's east side. This forced any other railway to construct through the steep rock face at Skoonka requiring tunnels and later rock sheds on the opposite side if they wished to construct their line. CN 2424 West emerges from one of these rock sheds. Sheets of large steel mesh can be seen hung from the rock face above the tracks to keep falling rock close to the rock face and off CN's track.
Signal 814 - West of Skoonka, at CPR milepost 81.4, lies signal eight-fourteen next to the Trans-Canada Highway overpass. CP 9721 East pokes it's nose out in the early morning sun as it heads for Spences Bridge.
Lytton - Further to the west the Thompson and Fraser finally join at Lytton just to the left of this photo. CN 2446 West is shown crossing the railway bridge over the blue-green waters of the Thompson River. The muddy Fraser can be seen in the center distance behind Highway number 12 leading off to Lillooet.
Cisco - South of Lytton lie the Cisco bridges where the railway's switch sides in the canyon. CN's large orange trestle structure carries their tracks back to the east side of the canyon while a smaller black coloured bridge and tunnel does the reverse for CPR. Rocky Mountain Rail Tours operates their trainset through this route and it is shown here eastbound on the CPR line heading for their home-base at Kamloops.
Boston Bar - Meanwhile, CN 2446 West has continued its westerly journey reaching CN's double track just north of Boston Bar lapping another COFC train on the trestle. This steel trestle was constructed here to permit a second track in the space available between the Trans-Canada Highway and the canyon to the left in this photo. The COFC train on the trestle is stopped with the head-end out of sight to the left at Boston Bar East signal.
Boston Bar is the crew change point between the Ashcroft and Yale Subdivisions. CN 5639 West, Train 101, is shown departing shortly after a fresh crew climbed on board.
Traffic Sample

Paul Hammond, who is employed as a Rail Traffic Controller by Canadian Pacific Railway in Calgary, recently published his train-spotting report taken near Ashcroft at CN mile 48.7 of the Ashcroft Sub and CPR mile 47.3 of their Thompson Subdivision over a 24 hour period beginning 10 Jun 2004. This will give you a very good idea of the number of trains transiting shared trackage.
CN Ashcroft Mile 48.7 Ashcroft Sub CP Ashcroft Mile 47.3 Thompson Sub
I start OSing at 19:45 on June 10/2004
CN kicks off the show, and jumps out to a fast lead, but CP will bounce back around 2200...
19:47 CN S71351-10 (Ram River AB-CP Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CN 2542
CN 5317
CN 5510
99 sulphur loads
19:50 CN Q10251-10 (Vancouver Deltaport BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 5636
CN 5251
CN 2630 - 173 platforms!!
20:15 CP 670-248 (Vancouver Sapperton BC-Saskatoon Sutherland SK)
CP 9635
CP 9521
106 potash empties
20:30 CN M30251-10 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker BC)
CN 5515
CN 5233
132 cars
20:53 CN G82851-10 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker AB)
CN 5674 103 cars
21:40 CN M30551-09 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 2564
CN 5522 - 96 cars
That's 5-1 in favour of CN so far...
21:57 CP 811-157 (Greenhills Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9781 - 115 cars
CP 9611
22:15 CP 471-09 (Calgary Alyth AB-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CP 8542
CP 9610 - Lifts 14 concentrate loads for Vancouver and departs with 86 cars
Once 471 finishes his work and pulls in the siding, CP 700 comes flying through...
22:53 CP 700-10 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Calgary Alyth AB)
CP 8505
CP 6078
CP 6061 - 93 cars (700 is an add to plan train of junk)
23:45 CN M30651-10 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker AB)
CN 5648
CN 2412 - 172 cars!!!
23:51 CP 470-10 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Calgary Alyth AB)
CP 8516
CP 9639 - 86 cars Sets off 14 cars for loading into back tracks... Heads over to Semlin to meet 2 westbounds
11 Jun 2004
00:30 CP 603-019 (Pecten AB-Vancouver Port Moody BC)
CP 9751
CEFX 1020 - 104 cars
00:43 CP 115-05 LATE!!!! Look for more 115's (Toronto Yard ON-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CP 8518
00:47 CN P00151-08 (Toronto ON-Vancouver BC VIA's Canadian)
VIA 6433
VIA 6439 - 17 cars
01:20 CP 671-234 (Saskatoon Sutherland SK-North Vancouver BC)
CP 8524 - 124 cars
CEFX 113
01:56 CP 177-10 (Calgary CIT AB-Vancouver VIF BC)
CP 8533
CP 5662 - 93 platforms
02:00 CP 806-036 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9736 - 122 cars
CP 9759
02:09 CN Q11251-10 (Vancouver VIT BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 2452
CN 5263 - 89 platforms
02:35 CP 268-09 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Swift Current SK)
CP 9766
CP 9608 - 76 cars
02:55 CP 354-094 (Vancouver BC-Swift Current SK)
CP 9527
CP 9507 - 109 grain empties
03:20 CN Q10131-?? (Toronto BIT ON-Vancouver Deltaport BC)
CN 56xx
CN 57xx - 139 platforms, I miss the power but manage a car count.
04:17 CP 858-070 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9621 - 108 cars
CP 9730
04:18 CP 829-199 (Fording Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9708 - 124 cars
CP 9757
05:10 CN Q10451-10 (Vancouver VIT BC-Montreal Taschereau PQ)
CN 5768
CN 5270 - 53 platforms
05:17 CP 806-037 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9710 - 112 cars
CP 9769
05:22 CP 857-071 (Coal Mountain Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9735 - 124 cars
CP 9726
06:02 CP 267-09 (Calgary Alyth AB-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CP 9631
CP 9783 - 86 cars
06:15 CP 317-511 (Kamloops BC-CN Vancouver Thornton BC)
CP 9813
CP 9810 - 116 grain loads
06:45 CP 115-06 (Toronto Yard ON-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CP 8614 - 66 cars
Now the eastbound CP Intermodal fleet makes it's daily appearance, generally in the early am many hours after CN's transcon hotshots have left the coast. CN has earlier slots than CP and generally go though in the wee hours like 104 and 112.
06:50 CP 108-11 (Vancouver VIF BC-Montreal PQ)
CP 9603
CP 9660
CP 9670 - 93 platforms
07:20 CN M30351-10 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 2401
CN 5414
CN 5280 - 167 cars!!!
Now a HUGE gap in traffic, which turns out to be good, as I get breakfast and a nap...Then like the temperatures in the Canyon the traffic heats up and doesn't let up for hours...
09:30 CN P60951-10 (Jasper AB-Vancouver BC)
RMR 8011
RMR 8013 - 21 coaches!
09:33 CP 679-937 (Bredenbury Sk-CN Vancouver Thornton BC)
CP 9655
CP 9157 - 110 cars
679 went "conventional" at Semlin for the CN who will handle this train into Vancouver and does not run trains robitized. Seeing 609 across the river and a hot 102 comming east the Thompson RTC holds 679 on the main for CPR's hottest train...
09:40 CP 102-11 (Vancouver VIF-Toronto Yard ON)
CP 8610
CP 8612 - 89 platforms - CP 9667 pushing on rear
10:05 CN E20251-11 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Toronto Mac Yard ON)
CN 2448
CN 5262 - 16 freight, 58 auto racks
10:15 CN E20151-08 (Toronto Mac Yard ON-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 2604
CN 5722 - 69 freight, 31 auto racks
10:20 CP 823-022 (Fording Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9765 - 115 cars
CP 9732
10:35 CP 671-259 (Saskatoon Sutherland SK-Vancouver BC)
CP 9683
CP 9117 - 120 potash loads
10:55 CN A41651-11 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker BC)
CN 2634 - 5 platforms, 36 freight
11:30 CN G82851-11 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Bissel AB)
CN 2675 - 98 grain empties
11:40 CP V21-11 (Kamloops BC-Ashcroft BC Turn)
CP 5621 - 9 cars, van 434558, 23 cars
11:47 CP 106-11 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Toronto Yard ON)
CP 9640
CP 9541 - 66 auto racks
12:25 CP 351-447 (Lethbridge AB-Vancouver BC)
CP 8521 - 114 grain loads
CP 8562
12:58 CN Q11131-08 (Toronto BIT ON-Vancouver VIT BC)
CN 2551 - 104 platforms
13:10 CP V21-11 clears into yard as the RTC needs that siding back!
13:15 CP 830-197 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9740 - 112 cars
CP 8641 - Waits for 2 westbounds
13:20 CP 361-907 (Wilkie SK-CN Vancouver Thornton BC)
CP 9802
CP 8645 - 101 grain loads
13:30 CP 811-158 (Green Hills Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9784 - 115 cars
CP 9643
13:47 V21 leaves eastbound
14:15 CP 812-156 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 8607 - 120 cars
CP 9657
14:30 CN M30151-10 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 5792
CN 5412
CN 1408 - 60 sulphur, 68 freight
14:55 CP 670-243 (Vancouver BC-Bredenbury SK)
CP 9599 - 106 potash empties
15:07 CN M30051-11 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Cloverbar AB)
CN 5440
CN 7055
CN 7047
CN 5078 - 50 platforms, 83 freight!!!! Consist of the day no doubt!
15:07 CP 663-041 (Blackfalds AB-Vancouver Port Moody BC)
CP 9568
CP 9562 - 75 cars
15:45 CP 178-11 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Calgary CIT AB)
CP 8559
CP 9646 - 90 platforms
15:55 CP 101-07 (Toronto Yard ON-Vancouver VIF BC)
CP 9809
CP 9704 - 10 auto racks, 56 platforms
16:30 CP 850-021 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9651 - 103 cars
CP 9738
17:15 CP 672-311 (Vancouver BC-Saskatoon Sutherland sk)
CP 9668
CP 9303 - 124 potash empties
17:30 CN Q1013x-xx (Toronto BIT ON-Vancouver Deltaport BC)
CN 2636
CN 2637
CN 5530 - 177 platforms!!!
18:15 CN Q10251-11 (Vancouver Deltaport BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 5546
CN 9402
CN 5373 - 172 platforms
18:32 CP 820-198 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9650 - 112 empties
CP 9711
19:35 CP 360-086 (Vancouver BC-Red Deer AB)
CP 8506 - 112 grain empties
Just as we started we end with CN...
19:42 CN M30551-10 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 5711
CN 5557
CN 6010 - 103 sulphur loads, 46 freight
Paul Hammond
Calgary, Alberta Canada

That's 22 CN trains and 39 CP trains. A total of 61 trains in 24 hours. CN certainly runs less trains, but with the size of most of their trains, they might come close to running as much traffic. CN runs tons of freight and grain along with sulphur and intermodal, while it's notable that there was not even 1 CN coal train. CP certainly owns coal and sulphur.
To Sum Up

After the disappointment of being rained-out at Jasper these photos along the return route to Vancouver make up for that sense of loss. Traffic flow on was pretty steady and not interrupted by TOP (Track Occupancy Permit) orders for maintenance of way work. Whether this was normal for the period is unknown but certainly appreciated. Perhaps you too can have good luck photographing along this route.

Mapping Software

Streets & Trips is a mapping application sold by the Microsoft Corporation. This article provides a downloadable file so you may locate photographs by their latitude and longitude co-ordinates on your computer. You require Streets & Trips software to be installed for this file to be useful.
Associated Links

Canadian National
Canadian Pacific
CN Lines SIG
Simon Fraser
David Thompson
Spences Bridge
Boston Bar