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Whistler Mountaineer Inaugural Trip ~ May 1st, 2006

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, formerly Great Canadian Railtour Company, initiated the Whistler Mountaineer in 2006. Running north and south each day on the 73.4 mile British Columbia Railway line, the nine-car, two-class train departed North Vancouver at 08:30 and arrived in Whistler at 11:30, then departed at 14:30 and arrived back in North Vancouver at 17:30. The classes of service offered were Coast Classic and Glacier Dome. Travellers in both had access to an open-air heritage observation car built in 1914. Coast Classic has picture windows and unassigned seating and includes a light mealĀ at your seat each way. Besides that glassed-in panorama, the Glacier Dome has fancier dining, with a hot breakfast served outbound from Vancouver and high tea with finger sandwiches and petits fours offered on china during the return journey.

I invited my friend, (the late) Richard Isles, and his friend Susan Hughes to ride the inaugural trip with Bob and I. We took the ferry to Vancouver and on the way to North Vancouver, stopped at the usual haunts but there was not much of interest. After an overnight stay here, we were ready for this special excursion.

Upon arrival at the station, we picked up our tickets then captured the consist of the train.

RMRX GP40-2 8019 (ex. NREX GP40 9963, exx. UP 9963, exxx. UP 861, exxxx. MKT 246, exxxxx. MKT 3152, nee PC 3152) as the lead locomotive.

RMRX GP40-2 8018 (ex. NREX GP40 9960 2006, exx. UP 9960, exxx. UP 678, exxxx. MKT 203, exxxxx. MKT 3133, nee PC 3133) as the second locomotive in the inaugural run of the Whistler Mountaineer.

RMRX power car 9488 (ex. VIA 9488, exx. CN baggage-dorm 9488 1978, exxx. CN sleeper 2073 "Val Rose" 1974, nee New York Central sleeper 10411 " Pigeon Bay" 1960). Built 1948.

RMRX coach 5715 (ex. VIA 5714, exx. CN 7515 1978, nee CN coach 5507 1973). Built 1954.

RMRX Glacier Dome 2001 (ex. VIA coach 5503, exx. CN 5503 1978, exxx. CN 3209 1968, nee CN 5503 1963). Built 1954.

WCXX open car 5998 "Henry Pickering" (ex. CP mountain obseration car 598 1965, nee CP coch 1422 1956). Built 1914. On lease from West Coast Railway Museum in Squamish.

RMR coach 5487 (ex. Funtrain 5487, exx. VIA 5487 1998, nee CN 5487 1978). Acquired 2001.

RMRX coach 5532 (ex. Funtrain 5532, exx. VIA 5532 1998, nee CN 5532 1978). Acquired 2001.

The rear of RMRX coach 5532 with Whistler Mountaineer employee Morgaine giving us a wave. With that, the four of us boarded the Glacier Dome and once underway, partook in a delicious breakfast.

Employees giving the inaugural run of the Whistler Mountaineer a send-off as we departed North Vancouver.

Myself, Richard and Susan aboard the Glacier Dome.

The route goes through West Vancouver, known for its multi-million dollar homes.

A house perched high on a hill overlooking the tracks in the West Vancouver area.

Passing the Britannia Copper Mine, now the British Columbia Mining Museum.

The British Columbia Railway route from North Vancouver goes through Squamish and a southbound freight passed us on the way. Squamish is the home of the West Coast Railway Museum and they celebrated this inaugural run by bringing some of their equipment out for a salute.

WCXX baggage car 9622 "MacDonald Creek" (ex. private owner 69432, exx. CN work car 69432, exxx. VIA 9622, exxxx. CN 9622, nee CN baggage- messenger car 9240). Built 1955.

WCXX coach 5652 "Paul D. Roy" (ex. BCOL 156520 "Capilano" 2002, exx. VIA 5652 1994, nee CN 76-seat coach 5652 1978). Built 1954.

WCXX coach 5596 (ex. BCOL 155960 "Chasm" 2002, exx. VIA 5596 1994, exxx. CN 5596 1978, exxxx. CN 3231 1969, nee CN 5596 1964). Built 1954.

The train approaches the West Coast Railway Museum equipment.

Pacific Great Eastern RS3 561 (ex. BCOL 561 1986). Built 1951.

British Columbia Railway RDC1 BC-21 (ex. SEPTA 9156 1983, nee Reading 1956) and British Columbia Railway RDC3 BC-33 (nee Pacific Great Eastern BC-33 1972) saluting the inagurual run of the Whistler Mountaineer.

The RS3 and RDCs on an adjacent track to the British Columbia Railway main line.

WCXX S3 6503 (ex. United Grain Growers 003 1987, nee Canadian Pacific 6503 1983).

WCXX coach 5652 "Paul D. Roy" (ex. BCOL 156520 "Capilano" 2002, exx. VIA 5652 1994, nee CN 76-seat coach 5652 1978). Built 1954.

WCXX baggage car 9622 "MacDonald Creek" (ex. private owner 69432, exx. CN work car 69432, exxx. VIA 9622, exxxx. CN 9622, nee CN baggage- messenger car 9240). Built 1955.

WCXX FP7 4069 (ex. VIA 6569 1995, exx. VIA 1425 1980, exxx. VIA 4069 1979, exxxx. CP 4069 1978, exxxxx. CP 1425 1965, nee CP 4069 1954). Horns and bells from our train and the West Coast Railway Museum equipment sounded as we passed.

I spent quite a lot of time in the open car, enjoying the sights of the journey between Squamish and Whistler.

The snow-capped mountains of the Tantalus Range, a sub-range of the Pacific Range of the Coast Mountains.

It was a cloudy and cool day but the spring foliage was fully out on the trees.

The Whistler Mountaineer nearing Cheakamus Canyon and Cheakamus River on a 2.2% grade.

Looking directly down at the raging Cheakamus River.

The rear of the train crossing the Cheakamus River at MP 49.6.

Views of the Coastal Range.

Views of the Cheakamus River canyon.

We arrived at Whistler at 11:30 and were greeted by this sign, as well as dignitaries. The four of us detrained and walked around Nita Lake to photograph the train heading north to Wedge (MP 80.1) to turn on the wye there.

Views of the train from across Nita Lake. We walked around a bit but the weather deteriorated and started to lightly snow and hail!

RMRX GP40-2 8019 leads the train at MP 73.4 in preparation for the return trip.

RMRX coach 5487 at MP 73.4. We waited under the shelter of Alta Lake station and once on board, were given hot chocolate which was very welcome and hit the spot.

The Coast Classic emblem of the Whistler Mountaineer.

The Glacier Dome emblem of the Whistler Mountaineer.

Interior views of Glacier Dome 2001.

Interior view of the open section of WCXX 5988 "Henry Pickering".

Interior view of the closed section of WCXX 5988 "Henry Pickering".

Interior view of one of the Coast Classic coaches.

RMRX coach 5487 showing its Canadian National heritage with the number and initials on the door.

The train emerging from the tunnel at MP 55.5 of the former British Columbia Railway Squamish Subidivision (now Canadian National).

The train crossing the Cheakamus Canyon and River on the southbound trip.

Looking down into the Cheakamus Canyon.

The rear of our train crossing the bridge at MP 49.6.

The fast-moving Cheakamus River.

The Cheakamus River and canyon.

Passing a signal that has just turned red on the southbound trip.

Snow-capped mountains loom over the train. The weather greatly improved as we continued south and I returned to the open car to enjoy the trip.

Porteau Cove and Howe Sound as seen from the Whistler Mountaineer.

British Columbia Railway C40-8M 4607 leading a freight train passes us on an adjacent track.

More of the beautiful scenery along the route.

The Queen of Capilano departs Horseshoe Bay, as seen from the Whistler Mountaineer.

Horseshoe Bay Marina.

RMRX GP40-2s 8019 and 8018 lead the southbound Whistler Mountaineer back to North Vancouver.

Sunlight glints off the water as Howe Sound and the train tracks and shore are very close.

Lions Gate Bridge from Ambleside.

Walkway along Burrard Inlet. Upon our return to North Vancouver, we quickly went to the car and dropped Bob off for his trip back to Washington while Richard, Susan and I caught the ferry back to Victoria. It had been an excellent and very memorable trip, and we were all happy to have been a part of history.

Whistler Mountaineer Re-Visited, with my mother August 12th, 2006

I decided that my mother, Audrey, would enjoy this outing and invited her to take the trip with me. Arrangements were made and a little over three months after the inaugural run, I made my second trip on the Whistler Mountaineer.

The ticket for our adventure, Mother's first train excursion.

The trainset at North Vancouver with my mother pictured at left.

Myself ready for another rail journey. We boarded and enjoyed the breakfast then I showed Mother the area where the West Coast Railway Museum equipment had been for the salute.

Our train, led by RMRX GP40 8019 and WCXX FP7 4069 rounding a curve in Squamish.

The Cheakamus River.

I spent some of the trip in the open car and introduced Mother to the sights and sounds of an open car.

Views as the Whistler Mountaineer crossed the Cheakamus Canyon and River at MP 49.6.

Looking down onto the rapids and Cheakamus River from the bridge. Upon our arrival at Whistler, we had plenty of time to look around and have some lunch then waited for the return trip.

The southbound train on its way back.

Crossing the second bridge over the Cheakamus River Canyon. Mother and I enjoyed the afternoon tea and had a very nice ride back to North Vancouver, where we detrained and drove back to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal for the ferry trip back to Victoria.

Although the Whistler Mountaineer was very popular, it unfortunately was discontinued in 2015 when Rocky Mountaineer's Red Leaf service fleet was discontinued. The current iteration of this trip is the Rainforest to Gold Rush route, but it is part of a longer three-day trip that stops in Whistler and Quesnel and terminates in Jasper.

I was very glad to have had the opportunity to ride the Whistler Mountaineer twice and have a few souvenirs from the trip and many memories.