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Labour Day Weekend Trip on the Alberta Prairie Railway ~ September 4th, 2005

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Little did I realize that before the end of the day, I would have my first steam engine cab ride! Although the trip did not start until 11:00, Bob and I arrived at the station early to look around and take pictures. We checked in and picked up our ticket.

Our ticket for today's ride. We were originally scheduled to be in Car 6603 but since that was being used on another trip, we were given seats in "Tracy", a former Canadian Pacific sleeping car.

Canadian National 4-8-2 6060 which is owned by the Rocky Mountain Rail Society. Unfortunately, it was not running this day due to mechanical problems.

Two views of "The Spirit of Alberta", Canadian National 4-8-2 6060. It was presented to the people of Alberta as a gift in 1980, to commemorate the Province of Alberta's 75th anniversary. It has hauled steam excursions out of Toronto, travelled to Vancouver to participate in Steam Expo and delighted passengers across Canada since it rolled was built in 1944.

Our frst view of Alberta Prairie 2-8-0 41, ex. Central Western Railway 9 1989, exx. Magnolia State Railroad Museum 77, exxx. Alabama Railroad Club 77, exxxx. Mississippian 77, exxxxx. St. Louis-San Francisco 77, nee Johnsboro, Lake City and Eastern 41 built in 1920.

The front of the steam engine. When Alberta Prairie received it, the engine was returned to its original No. 41 designation and the colour and lettering re-done to reflect the style used by the Canadian National Railway from 1920 to 1960. It was converted from coal to oil in 1986.

As we were taking photographs, the crew asked if we would like to have a cab ride as it switched in the yard in preparation for making up the train. We immediately replied "Yes!" and this was particularly special to me, since it was my first steam cab ride.

Interior view of the cab of Alberta Prairie 2-8-0 41.

Fireman Red Robinson in the cab of Alberta Prairie 41.

Engineer Gus Annas in the cab of Alberta Prairie 41.

Myself with the fireman and engineer after my first steam engine cab ride. After that fantastic experience, we continued taking photographs before boarding.

Alberta Prairie SW1200 1259, nee CN 1259 1993, the locomotive used for the trains when steam is not running.

The Parrish and Heimbecker grain elevator at Stettler.

The Central Western Railway office at West Stettler. Boarding then commenced and we were given a six-page handout about the steam engine, the organization, attractions in Big Valley (our destination), a mileage guide and some interesting information for today's trip, including the rail mileage (42.4 miles), departure and arrival times, the time when lunch was served, the car hosts and crew, which cars had washrooms, among other useful information.

Alberta Prairie Railway offers rail excursions on board a vintage passenger train lasting between five and six hours, a full course buffet meal at destination, entertainment, sightseeing and, with a few exceptions, a train robbery. The destination is Big Valley, the divisional point for the Canadian Northern Railway in the early 1900's. Feature attractions include a restored 1912 Canadian Northern station, St. Edmund's Church, rail car museum, McAlister Motors - community museum, hand-tool and collectables museum, and roundhouse and elevator museums.

Two views en route to Big Valley. There were not many curves on the route, making photographing the train a little difficult. Upon arrival at Big Valley, there was almost a two-hour layover so pictures were taken of the consist before lunch and exploring the area.

Alberta Prairie Railway (APXX) sleeper-lounge 6744 "Glen Sutton" (ex. Central Western Railway 1920, exx. privately owned "Verdun", exxx. Canadian Pacific work car 411923 1980, exxxx. CP 8-4 sleeper "Verdun" 1960, nee CPR 10 compartment "Glen Orchard". Built 1921.

APXX coach 6744 (ex. Canadian National MU trailer 6744 1995, exxx. CN T-5 1969). Built 1952 for Montreal commuter service.

APXX combine 2808 (ex. CNR work car 61183 1991, exx. CN combine 7203 1987, exxx. CN colonist-sleeper 2808 1956, nee Canadian Northern colonist- sleeper 7258. Built 1919.

APXX sleeping car 1002 "Tracy" (ex Alberta Railroad Museum 1002 1994, exx. Colonist Railcar Society "Commonwealth", exxx. CP 12-1 sleeper "Tracy", nee CPR 12-1 sleeper "Solsgirth"). Built 1931.

APXX lounge car 5802 "Lone Star" (ex. CNR 4955 1991, nee CNR 5082 1969). Built 1924.

APXX open air car 66305 (nee CNR flatcar 663045). Built 1957.

APXX wooden caboose 79146 (ex. CNR 79146, exx. CNR boxcar 406806, nee Canadian Northern boxcar 86912). Built 1919 and rebuilt 1957. Owned by the Canadian Northern Society.

Rail cars parked next to the grain elevator at Big Valley.

Our train at Big Valley. We then walked over to the lunch tent and enjoyed a meal of roast beef, potatoes, vegetables, salad and roll with three types of dessert which was delicious. It was then time to take more photographs

Alberta Prairie 2-8-0 41 preparing for the return trip to Stettler.

The station at Big Valley. Since the train was in front of the station, there was no opportunity to take a photograph of the station's front.

The semaphore signal on the Big Valley station.

A diagram and photographs of a prairie sentinel - the grain elevator inside the restored Big Valley one.

Vintage Canadian Pacific posters on display inside the grain elevator promoting Canada to one and all.

Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator museum.

Canadian National baggage car 9006 (ex. Alberta Prairie 9006 1992, exx. CNR 61170 1991, exxx. CNR 81382 1987, nee CNR 9006 1974). Built 1954 and used by the Canadian Northern Society as museum display car.

Canadian National baggage car 9098 (ex. Alberta Prairie 9098 1992, nee CN 9098 1991). Built 1953 and used as museum display car by the Canadian Northern Society.

Two views of the train as it makes its way back to Stettler.

The remains of the Canadian National roundhouse in Big Valley.

Scenery as we leave Big Valley.

The East Central Albert Railway Heritage Society-sponsored station housing Alberta Prairie Steam Tours office in Stettler. We returned, and drove along Highway 12 to the Village of Clive.

The Welcome to Clive sign, taken for my dear Uncle Clive. We continued through Lacombe then on Highway 2A through Bowden, Olds, Disbury, Carstairs, Crossfield and into Calgary for the night. Tomorrow, the much-anticipated visit to Heritage Park.

It had been a fantastic excursion behind Alberta Prairie 2-8-0 41 and very memorable.