Dispatches from the Field: The Canadian Rockies.


We traveled through the Canadian Rockies, in awe at virtually every curve. We’ve enjoyed the national parks there in years past, but Mt. Rundle never gets old:


The Rockies figure large in the story of the Canadian Transcontinental Railroad, which is filled with adventure, corruption, and intrigue, much like the story of its US counterpart. The captains of industry who connected the “Eastern Shore” to the “Western Strand” were pretty greedy bastards. Nevertheless, they are honored by statues, artwork, and place-names all over the place.

last spike

When I was young, my dad gave me a copy of the seminal book on this, the “Last Spike” by Pierre Burton, which reads much like Stephen E. Ambrose’s “Nothing Like it in the World” for the American railroad. I learned most of my Canadian railroad history, however, from Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy.” Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot

Revelstoke is the closest town to the place where the construction crews going west and east met. Out of obligation, therefore, it has a railroad museum. Not a very large or impressive museum, but they do have a big steam locomotive. The massiveness always amazes me.


I’ve seen many and what I find most interesting are the controls and instruments that the crews had to know how to use in order to get the train to move without the boiler blowing up. Every bit as complex and difficult, and way more physically demanding, than what an airline pilot has to deal with today, and I suspect even my airline pilot friends might agree with that.

Steam engine controls

No simulators back then either.


7 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Field: The Canadian Rockies.

  1. A very young Gordon Lightfoot. Don’t think I’ve every heard the trilogy before. Thanks for sharing.
    Will lift a glass of bubbly for you two today–great day for an eclipse here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Be sure to listen to “In the Lee of Christian Island,” a Lightfoot song about his sailboat. Fun fact: my Dad and I once went on a trip to find Christian Island because of the song. A local guided us to the place Lightfoot was talking about, and confirmed he used to keep a sailboat there.


      1. Wow, I didn’t see your comment about looking for the island. I have wondered if there was such a place.
        Keep your commentary coming, I enjoy it a lot, in fact look for it every day.


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