Canada: Coast to coast by train – Part 5 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Winnipeg to Jasper
Winnipeg’s station was designed by the same architects as Grand Central station in New York. This provides the starting point for this part of the journey with sweeping prairie landscapes and wide open skies ahead.
The rolling grassland and flat prairie alternate for much of the journey to Alberta’s capital at Edmonton. Anyone who thinks the prairies are flat and uninteresting is in for a pleasant surprise. The railway has to leap across valleys on tall, long trestle viaducts, Saskatoon is known as the ‘City of Bridges’, passing fields of potatoes, wheat, rapeseed and sunflowers, all grown in the area’s fertile soils.
Sadly the wonderful wooden grain elevators that punctuated the prairie landscape have largely disappeared now. Each town used to use a different colour and announced its name in large letters on the timber siding. After Melville, look out for whooping cranes and hawks, which are just two of over 260 species of birds found at the nearby Last Mountain Lake bird sanctuary. Lakes fill bowls among hills topped with large cattle ranches as the train heads into oil bearing region beyond Chauvin. This is marked by the bizarre nodding donkeys that dot the ground here and by the dominant oil refineries of Edmonton.
Before entering Jasper National Park, the railway crosses the 1, 230km-long Athabasca River, renowned for its turquoise colour. The stop at Jasper is long enough for passengers to visit the shops along nearby Connaught Drive and admire the extra-large displayed steam locomotive there that used to haul trains like the Canadian.
Westbound, the train leaves Winnipeg late morning and takes about 25 hours; eastbound trains depart in the evening.
At this point, you can decide which line to use for the final part of the trip.
Jasper to Prince Rupert (This is the line we did not take so I can only report what I was told about it locally)
It’s one of Canada’s least travelled railway routes which goes deep into the Canadian Rockies. On leaving Jasper, the train shares the same views of Mount Robson as the Canadian before it strikes North West into wildly changing views. Dense forests, cattle country and many river and creek crossings interchange with huge mountains dotted with remote communities. You will see a lot of discarded tractors and farm machinery which makes this area so different from the prairie farms further east. The train overnights in Prince George, which became a trading post in 1807 and now lives off the lumber and the railway lines that meet here. Then, from Broman Lake, the route follows the Skeena River valley to the sea, gradually widening as it winds through the Coast Mountains on its approach to Prince Rupert.
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