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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
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 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 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.
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
Jasper - In-between rainstorms this rather dull
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
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.
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
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.
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)
99 sulphur loads
19:50 CN Q10251-10 (Vancouver Deltaport BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 2630 - 173 platforms!!
20:15 CP 670-248 (Vancouver Sapperton BC-Saskatoon Sutherland SK)
106 potash empties
20:30 CN M30251-10 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker BC)
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 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
22:15 CP 471-09 (Calgary Alyth AB-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
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 6061 - 93 cars (700 is an add to plan train of junk)
23:45 CN M30651-10 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Edmonton Walker AB)
CN 2412 - 172 cars!!!
23:51 CP 470-10 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Calgary Alyth AB)
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)
CEFX 1020 - 104 cars
00:43 CP 115-05 LATE!!!! Look for more 115's (Toronto Yard ON-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
00:47 CN P00151-08 (Toronto ON-Vancouver BC VIA's Canadian)
VIA 6439 - 17 cars
01:20 CP 671-234 (Saskatoon Sutherland SK-North Vancouver BC)
CP 8524 - 124 cars
01:56 CP 177-10 (Calgary CIT AB-Vancouver VIF BC)
CP 5662 - 93 platforms
02:00 CP 806-036 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9736 - 122 cars
02:09 CN Q11251-10 (Vancouver VIT BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 5263 - 89 platforms
02:35 CP 268-09 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Swift Current SK)
CP 9608 - 76 cars
02:55 CP 354-094 (Vancouver BC-Swift Current SK)
CP 9507 - 109 grain empties
03:20 CN Q10131-?? (Toronto BIT ON-Vancouver Deltaport BC)
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
04:18 CP 829-199 (Fording Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9708 - 124 cars
05:10 CN Q10451-10 (Vancouver VIT BC-Montreal Taschereau PQ)
CN 5270 - 53 platforms
05:17 CP 806-037 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9710 - 112 cars
05:22 CP 857-071 (Coal Mountain Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9735 - 124 cars
06:02 CP 267-09 (Calgary Alyth AB-Vancouver Coquitlam BC)
CP 9783 - 86 cars
06:15 CP 317-511 (Kamloops BC-CN Vancouver Thornton BC)
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 9670 - 93 platforms
07:20 CN M30351-10 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
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 8013 - 21 coaches!
09:33 CP 679-937 (Bredenbury Sk-CN Vancouver Thornton BC)
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 8612 - 89 platforms - CP 9667 pushing on rear
10:05 CN E20251-11 (Vancouver Thornton BC-Toronto Mac Yard ON)
CN 5262 - 16 freight, 58 auto racks
10:15 CN E20151-08 (Toronto Mac Yard ON-Vancouver Thornton BC)
CN 5722 - 69 freight, 31 auto racks
10:20 CP 823-022 (Fording Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9765 - 115 cars
10:35 CP 671-259 (Saskatoon Sutherland SK-Vancouver BC)
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 9541 - 66 auto racks
12:25 CP 351-447 (Lethbridge AB-Vancouver BC)
CP 8521 - 114 grain loads
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 8645 - 101 grain loads
13:30 CP 811-158 (Green Hills Mine BC-Roberts Bank BC)
CP 9784 - 115 cars
13:47 V21 leaves eastbound
14:15 CP 812-156 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 8607 - 120 cars
14:30 CN M30151-10 (Edmonton Walker AB-Vancouver Thornton BC)
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 5078 - 50 platforms, 83 freight!!!! Consist of the day no doubt!
15:07 CP 663-041 (Blackfalds AB-Vancouver Port Moody BC)
CP 9562 - 75 cars
15:45 CP 178-11 (Vancouver Coquitlam BC-Calgary CIT AB)
CP 9646 - 90 platforms
15:55 CP 101-07 (Toronto Yard ON-Vancouver VIF BC)
CP 9704 - 10 auto racks, 56 platforms
16:30 CP 850-021 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9651 - 103 cars
17:15 CP 672-311 (Vancouver BC-Saskatoon Sutherland sk)
CP 9303 - 124 potash empties
17:30 CN Q1013x-xx (Toronto BIT ON-Vancouver Deltaport BC)
CN 5530 - 177 platforms!!!
18:15 CN Q10251-11 (Vancouver Deltaport BC-Toronto BIT ON)
CN 5373 - 172 platforms
18:32 CP 820-198 (Roberts Bank BC-Sparwood BC)
CP 9650 - 112 empties
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 6010 - 103 sulphur loads, 46 freight
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
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.
CN Lines SIG