Whistler Northwind Retrospective
The Whistler Northwind is gone. Born in 2001 it ended its brief life when it was discontinued along with the rest of BC Rail's passenger service at the end of the 2002 season. My first Whistler Northwind article appeared on the Cordova Bay Station web site in April of 2001 just before the service commenced in May of that year. That story and photographs appeared in Trains Magazine around then also. A second article, with updated data and new photos, was published on the Cordova Bay Station web site in August of 2001. This article you see here contains both the original story and second update combined but also includes photos published by BC Rail's Passenger Services department on Compact Disk (CD) for distribution to the general public for advertising purposes.
Supertrain and 6 Buggies
Around 10 a.m., on the morning of 23 Mar 2001, the radio scanner picked up a sardonic request from a BC Rail locomotive engineer in the yard at North Vancouver. He was requesting clearance from the RTC (Rail Traffic Controller) to move the "supertrain and six buggies" down to BC Rail's headquarters at 221 Esplanade Street. The train is properly named the "Whistler Northwind", and when complete, will consist of nine cars and a dedicated locomotive. The reason for moving the train beside the headquarters building was to present it to BC Rail employees and invited guests for their inspection. The engineer's request may have been tongue-in-cheek but supertrain is an apt description for this new train-set. To call the passenger cars "buggies" is most unfair. The cars present extremely well, are very tastefully decorated, and even contain original artwork in the Diner as once appeared on "The Canadian" when new in the fifties.
Special uniformed guides were on hand to direct the visitors through the newly built and refurbished cars. Tents which were set-up beside the train in case of inclement weather proved necessary only to provide shade during a warm sunny day. Under the tents refreshments were made available to the guests.
A train walk-through commenced next to the HEP (Head-End Power) car and exited through the tail-end door of the lounge-observation, the last of six cars on display. A steady stream of visitors trekked through from eleven in the morning till two in the afternoon.
Behind the locomotive and HEP car followed a new Panorama Class coach-observation car, Kitchen car, Dining car, a Summit Class coach-observation car, and ended with the only stainless steel car in the consist, the Summit Class lounge-observation car.
The Coach-Observation cars will be renumbered 1720, 1721, and 1722 when the Whistler Northwind logo is applied. The HEP car, currently not numbered, will become BCOL 1710. The train-set as it will operate is shown in order below:
Locomotive - BCOL 1700 - This diesel-electric locomotive manufactured by the General Electric Corporation is a model B39-8E producing 3,900 horsepower.
Head-End Power car - no number - Bridge River - A HEP car (Head-End Power) is used to produce electricity by a set of synchronized generators for heating, air conditioning, cooking, and other onboard systems. This car also contains storage space for food and refrigerated items. This former Canadian National baggage car (ex-VIA Rail number 9614), constructed in 1954 by Canadian Car & Foundry, saw service on CN's transcontinental premier trains. BC Rail purchased it from the Waterloo Railway of St. Jacobs, Ontario, in 1999. BC Rail's steam shop converted it to provide 480 volt power for the Whistler Northwind.
Dormitory car - BCOL 1711 - Caulfield - Sleeping accommodation of 20 berths for onboard train service staff are provided by this car which includes washroom and shower facilities. Built in 1954 by the Pullman-Standard Company for Canadian National Railways "Super-Continental" this car was an E class sleeping car named "Enfield". It originally contained 8 duplex roomettes, 4 bedrooms, and 4 sections. Two sections have since been removed to provide shower space. The car was refurbished and purchased from the Talgo-LRC company of Livingston, Montana, and delivered in November 2000.
Coach-Observation car - BCOL 1704 - Coast - This all-new construction, single level, coach-observation car, was manufactured by Colorado Railcar Manufacturing Llc. of Fort Lupton, Colorado, in 2000. It contains seating for 66 persons plus 2 wheelchair tie down positions. The car also contains a small galley, service bar, coat storage area, and 2 washrooms. Both Panorama Class coach-observation interiors were designed by Karo Design Resources Inc. of Vancouver, British Columbia. The seats were constructed in St. Leonard, Quebec, by Delta Furniture Co.
Lounge car - BCOL 1750 - Glenfraser - Originally built in 1954 for Canadian National by Canadian Car & Foundry, and then-named "Vernon", this car had seating for 80 but it has since been reduced to 56. There are two lounge areas separated by a service bar located mid-car. Video and music presentations are available at the onboard entertainment center. Purchased from Colorado Railcar Mfg. the interior was designed by Architectura of Vancouver, B.C.
Coach-Observation - BCOL 1705 - Cariboo - This second all-new construction single level coach-observation car was also manufactured by Colorado Railcar. It provides seating for 78 persons and includes a service bar, coat storage area, plus 2 washrooms. Both Panorama Class coach-observation interiors were designed by Karo Design Resources Inc. of Vancouver, B.C. The seats were constructed in St. Leonard, Quebec, by Delta Furniture Co.
Galley car - BCOL 1740 - D'Arcy - This galley car and the dining car, "Strathnaver", were built in 1953 by American Car & Foundry as a set for the Union Pacific Railroad. They are semi-permanently coupled together by a drawbar. Originally used on UP's "City of Denver" the cars were next operated on the "Super Chief" in 1979, ending up in Maine on a ski train, and finally, as a stationary restaurant. The fully equipped galley contains the latest in commercial cooking equipment. Refurbished by Northern Railcar Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the car arrived at BC Rail in November 2000.
Dining car - BCOL 1741 - Strathnaver - The diner is truly unique in that it includes a mural, created by Dana Irving, which runs the length of both sides above the windows. This mural depicts the Whistler Northwind's journey from North Vancouver to Prince George, B.C.
Coach-observation car - BCOL 1703 - Chilcotin - The third all-new coach-observation contains 78 seats and is similar to the others. It too was designed by Karo Design Resources.
Lounge-Parlor car - BCOL 1751 - Pavilion - The round end Lounge-Parlor car marked by a rotating gyro-light above the rear door is the former Florida East Coast, "Bay Biscayne", built by the Budd Company in 1939. The only stainless steel car in the train this historic car once brought up the rear of name trains such as the "Champion" and the "Henry M. Flagler" between New York and Miami. The car was passed on to the Seaboard Air Line, Amtrak, and the Broadway Dinner Train operating out of Nashville, Tennessee. Refurbished and purchased from Talgo-LRC it was received by BC Rail at North Vancouver on 31 January 2001. The custom-designed interior by Architectura provides luxurious seating for 36 guests in two areas separated by the service bar and entertainment center.
The Rail Journey
On 6 May 2001 the Whistler Northwind, a new rail-cruise train-set, will begin luxury service between North Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia. First initiated in B.C. by the "Rocky Mountaineer" and followed by the "Royal Canadian Pacific" in the summer of 2000, rail-cruises are a success here in western Canada. BC Rail obviously intends to capture a share of this high-end market with Whistler Northwind.
Whistler Northwind will operate two trips per week in the 2001 season from May to September. There is a northbound and a southbound option.
The train set departs North Vancouver on Sunday mornings arriving in Whistler at noon to depart Monday morning at 08:15 for 100 Mile House. Leaving 100 Mile House at noon on Tuesday the train arrives in Prince George at 19:40.
Whistler Northwind departs Prince George 08:30 on Wednesdays arriving in 100 Mile House at 16:15. Thursdays see the train leave at 12:30 to arrive in Whistler at 21:15.
Some of the best scenery British Columbia has to offer can be seen from this train. Whistler Northwind follows BC Rail's main line from North Vancouver (Milepost 0) beneath Lions Gate Bridge and through West Vancouver (MP 2.8) turning north to skirt Howe Sound. Beautiful views of the sound can be seen to the west until reaching Squamish (MP 39.5) at the head of the sound where the tracks head inland to the skiing and resort town of Whistler (MP 73.7). From there the route passes Anderson (MP 123-138) and Seton (MP 141-152) Lakes before gaining the town of Lillooet (MP 157.6). Crossing the mighty Fraser River (MP 160.2) trackage continues north to 70 Mile House and Exeter Station (MP 259.5) at 100 Mile House, the second nights destination. After passing Quesnel (MP 384.1) on the third day, the city of Prince George (MP 462.4), population 80,000, is finally reached.
Classes of Service
BC Rail offers two classes of service on the Whistler Northwind, "Summit" and "Panorama". The cost shown below is "per person" based on double occupancy excluding GST. The GST (Canadian federal Goods and Services Tax) is currently seven percent. BC provincial tax is also seven percent. Cancellation, or change, and excess baggage fees may be applied. Cancellation insurance is available. Be sure you understand all the details before making your reservation.
The northbound trip includes accommodation in Whistler and 100 Mile House. Patrons do not sleep on the train. All meals, excluding dinner in Whistler, are included. The southbound trip terminates in Whistler. It includes one night lodging in 100 Mile House and all meals.
There are two all-inclusive travel packages available: The Spa Spoiler - $2545./$1970. and The Flying U Ranch - $2545./$1970. Additionally, extended trips out of Prince George can be arranged to Prince Rupert, Port Hardy, Victoria, Vancouver, Jasper and the Rockies.
BC Rail Passenger Services (This data is no longer valid.)
PO Box 8770
Vancouver BC V6B 4X6
1-800-663-8238 - (604) 984-5632 (fax)
August 2001 Update
If you've been following the pages published on this web site for the past while you will have seen the Whistler Northwind article published on 1 April 2001. It described the new trainset equipment and explained the operation of the train.
This new trainset was first displayed on 23 March 2001 at BC Rail's headquarters in North Vancouver. On 6 May 2001 public service began between North Vancouver and Prince George, returning to Whistler, British Columbia.
There have been a few superficial changes since the initial article described the equipment, route, and operation. Most notably, the Whistler Northwind logo has been added to some cars, while others had their respective name lettered on the side of the car with large letters.
The Whistler Northwind departs North Vancouver every Sunday at 08:15 to arrive in Whistler about noon. On the particular Sunday in this article, 10 Jun 2001, it passed Callaghan Lake Road a couple of miles south of Whistler in wet drizzly weather. Although warm at the train's elevation, the clouds obscured the snow, which was still visible high on the mountain tops. The snow on the mountaintops should remain well into July. It was raining lightly in Whistler upon arrival and passengers hesitated to leave the train while umbrellas were fetched by train staff. From the sharply curved asphalt platform it was a short walk in the rain to awaiting busses. Buses are used to transport the passengers to their hotel in Whistler where they will have a comfortable night's rest before boarding the bus again next morning.
After passengers disembark, the train and staff travel about twelve miles north to Pemberton for their overnight stay. Located in a broad valley surrounded by high peaks, also covered with snow, the Whistler Northwind is stored on a siding recently constructed for that purpose. Both sides of the track have been paved to facilitate access by people and vehicles during it's overnight stay. The siding is located just across the town's main street from a newly built station and concrete platform. All this appears to be brought about as a result of the new Whistler Northwind service.
The next morning, after exploring Whistler, the passengers arrive at Pemberton by bus to continue aboard Whistler Northwind to 100 Mile House and Prince George. They will have an excellent view of British Columbia's scenery through the freshly washed windows, rain or shine.
On this particular trip the consist was comprised of:
1700 General Electric B39-8E
1710 Head End Power car
1711 staff dormitory car
1720 coach "Coastline"
1750 parlour "Glenfraser"
1740 galley "D'arcy"
1741 diner "Strathnaver"
1751 parlour-lounge "Pavilion".
BC Rail CD
Click on the CD case above to view the BC Rail public relations photographs of the Whistler Northwind.
The spectacular and ever-changing scenery of British Columbia is the backdrop for the Whistler Northwind rail tour. 360-degree view, passenger observation coaches accompanied by tastefully refurbished vintage amenity cars carry passengers along the Pacific Ocean, through the BC Coastal Mountain Range, along glacier lakes, raging and meandering rivers, across the plains of cowboy country, and into the rich green forests of the North.
This CD ROM was created to provide you with high-resolution photographs of the Whistler Northwind experience and its journey through the regional flavours of British Columbia. These photos can be reprinted without permission.
2001 - Rob Hart - BC Rail Passenger Services - (604) 984-5579
The last run of the Whistler Northwind occurred at the end of the 2002 season. The three Coach-Observation cars were sold to VIA Rail, refurbished, repainted, and placed in service on VIA's Jasper to Prince Rupert train, the "Skeena", where they are still used today, in 2012.
Ex-BC Rail Coach-Observation car on the Skeena at Jasper, Alberta - Date unknown Ben Wang.
Associated Web Sites
BC Rail (now operated by Canadian National)
Colorado Railcar Manufacturing Llc. (now US Railcar Company)
US Railcar Company
History of Colorado Railcar