We woke at Kamloops North station, but only it was 6 am and the station is not in the town anyway Regardless, it was up early just to stretch the legs along the track beside to train. After an early breakfast, where we were insulted (as was every other passenger) on our first encounter with the dining car supervisor - a man who considered it his duty to make meals as unpleasant as possible. Still the two junior waiters were friendly. Breakfast was the same each day, but offered sufficient choice. The coffee was undrinkable, so I stuck to water throughout the trip. Apart from cold hash browns, the rest of the breakfast was very good.
We wandered along to the Park car after breakfast, as the scenery was starting to become particularly interesting as we started to climb into the Rockies. Railways are only able to climb easily a 2.5 % gradient, so the skill of the original surveyors was to find a pass where this could be achieved - hence this route over the Yellowhead Pass
In the Park Car some read downstairs, while upstairs the conversation was more animated. The view back from the Park Car was along the track, and one had a particularly good view from here.
Up through the Rockies, the view looking forward from the observation deck of the carriage gave onto a vista of our long train winding away forwards into the middle distance
Past the Pyramid Falls, where we had a brief glimpse of the cascading waters as the train sped by. They were right by the track, so although the train did slow down, we were only abreast of them for a few seconds.
The left hand photo above is looking back from the observation deck, and the right hand one is of Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Mount Robson is a particularly difficult mountain to climb and although only 13,123 ft high, there is a high failure rate on climbing to the top, with only about 10% of attempts being successful. Bad weather defeats many summit attempts, and even in summer the summit is only visible 60% of days, so we were lucky with this clear view.
The train continued to climb up the Yellowhead Pass, skirting many of British Columbia's famous lakes as it did so. The railway travelling east, in fact followed the same lakes as we had followed when travelling west by car two weeks previously.
Finally we reached the top of the pass and dropped gently down the watershed towards Jasper. The right hand photo shows a freight train approaching on the left of our train. Much of the track across Canada is only single track, but it carries a high volume of traffic, and hence the need for our train to stop in "passing places" - short sections with a siding for a train to stop and let the other past. Freight trains were long - up to 150 cars, so it would take 10 to 15 minutes to wait in the siding for the freight to arrive, then pass. I never did crack who got priority, some said the freights, some the passenger train (ours being the only passenger train crossing Canada).
Eventually we saw the signs that we were approaching Jasper. The left hand photo shows the Jasper Cable Car, which we had seen on the ground when staying in Jasper (the cable is the thin line at the bottom left). A few minutes later we arrived at Jasper station. It was around 4.30 in the afternoon. The way the railway operates these days revolves mainly around freight, and so Jasper was one of the few stations along the entire route where we pulled into a town, rather than just a halt in the middle of nowhere to refuel.
So a long walk to the edge of Jasper to see if we could spot elk - no. And eventually back to ... the Bears Paw Bakery to renew my acquaintance with the buns. We were the only customers, so either others from the train had eaten and gone, or to their shame had never found the Bars Paw. Apart from the bun(s), and I took the precaution of buying a few extra to sustain me on the train, it was an opportunity to have a cup of decent coffee after the ersatz stuff on the train.
The competition to the Canadian is the Rocky Mountaineer, a real "luxury" train, which operates only in the Rockies. That train has avoided the problems of sleeping cars by not supplying them, instead stopping at towns and moving the passengers to a hotel for the night, before continuing the journey the following day.
Pulling out of Jasper at 6, it was only 5 hours to reach Edmonton. The rockies were already starting to shrink in size as it grew dark. Tomorrow would see completely different landscape as we entered the Prairies.
The Canadian Train overview