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BCRail Whistler Northwind: Behold the spectacular!

by Jerry W. Bird

On April 2, 2001, our editors attended the official launch of BC Rail's Whistler Northwind Summit Service. and what a happy occasion it was, as British Columbia's own railway system joined the big leagues of passenger travel, ranking amongst such world class train trips as offered in Switzerland or aboard the Venice-Simplon- Orient Express. The scenery en route was always tops in the world, now there's equipment and service to match. As the band played Duke Ellington and other great tunes from the 40s, we watched as the fleet of beautifully restored two tone vintage passenger coaches and dining cars rolled in along the landing. Later we had the opportunity of meeting the railways new President and management team (profiles to come), and all were impressed by the high quality of service that marked the company's history making entrance into the major leagues.


(See Rail Map ) BC Rail currently provides daily passenger transportation from its southern terminal, near my home (during high schol years) on Pemberton Avenue in North Vancouver, British Columbia to the Northern city of Prince George via the popular Cariboo Prospector train. The company operates a fleet of self-propelled, air-conditioned Budd cars.

Whistler Northwind's Summit Service guests enjoy the benefits of a private rail-end Club Car that dates back to 1939. This beautifully decorated lounge includes an elegant service bar and complete sound and video centre.

West Coast
Railway Museum,
Squamish, BC
Don't miss it!

BC Rail way Map

Pacific Starlight Dinner Train offers a sample of BC Rail hospitality.

BCRAIL Main Stops
North Vancouver
Gold Rush Trail
Williams Lake
Prince George

An additional summer train, the Whistler Explorer between Whistler and Kelly Lake is used extensively by tour groups from overseas and the United States. BC Rail also operates the popular Royal Hudson steam train excursion from North Vancouver to Squamish between June and September. It is truly a classic piece of machinery, definitely one of the most photographed trains in Canada. I look forward to its friendly whistle tooting its greeting as this historic train passes by my favourite summer time haunt at West Vancouver's Dundarave Beach. We never miss a chance to wave hello to the passengers and crew.

Information Lines: (604) 984-5246 or (604) 631-3500,
FAX: (604) 984-5505 , Toll free: (B.C.) 1-800-339-8752 (USA and outside B.C.) 1-800-663-8238

Royal Canadian Pacific Circle Tour: Calgary return via Kicking Horse,Crowsnest Pass, Golden, Lethbridge

One of the highlights of last summer's return to Calgary and Alberta Foothills Country, was the opportunity to visit a grand new 'Railtour' product being introduced by Canadian Pacific Railway, adjacent to the elegantly refurbished Palliser Hotel. Here we were given a private tour through the museum facilities and the various railcars that have been beautifully restored to carry tourists and corporate parties on the 'trip of a lifetime,' through the blue Canadian Rockies. While there will be a variety of rail tours leaving from Calgary, the most popular tour heads west through the Kicking Horse Pass, then swings south at Golden, following the Columbia River to the Cranbrook- Kimberly area in BC's East Kootenays. At the town of Elko, the train heads east via the Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge.

The final leg is a return north to Calgary via Vulcan and High River. The map below shows the complete circle tour from Calgary and return. On a separate page you will see a larger, more detailed map of the exciting route the Royal Canadian follows (much more description to come). How timely this visit was, since the previous afternoon was spent reliving a slice of Western Canadian railway history at Calgary's Heritage Park.

This view of railroad equipment and memorabilia set the stage for our real life opportunity at Palliser Square. You and your group should consider such a visit prior to boarding the Royal Canadian Pacific Railtour on the Canadian Rockies Circle Tour, or one of the other options available thanks to a Railway Renaissance in Western Canada and across the country. If you plan to drive a segment of this exciting route between Banff and Cranbrook in the East Kootenays, see 'Hot Springs Heaven' from our Adventure Roads series.

Points of interest

Columbia Valley
Cranbrook- Kimberly

Canada's railways were instrumental in establishing a chain of Great Hotels and Resorts. Across Western Canada, the palatial Banff Springs and Chateau Lake Louise, Victoria's elegant Empress, Hotel Vancouver, Edmonton's Macdonald, Saskatoon's Bessborough, Regina's Hotel Saskatchewan and Calgary's Palliser are all prime examples. Further east there's the Fort Garry, Royal York, Chateau Frontenac and Laurier - the list goes on. Continued.

Question: What about a return to Historic Street Cars as a year-round tourist attraction and revenue generator? See our new series Streetcars & Street Scenes. It makes street sense.

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