Archive for the ‘Trains’ Category

Now That Doesn’t Make Sense

Bought a train ticket today and handed over the plastic.

Metro train person: “PIN or sign?”

Me: “PIN thanks.”

Metro train person: “You need to sign it anyway.”

Me: “That doesn’t make sense.”

Metro train person: “I guess it’s just a double check.”

Me: (rolled eyes)

Metro train person: “I guess it’s just a double check for your benefit.”


Oh, and have a Merry Christmas, Metro train person.

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Alright, I admit it. I’m a train nut as well. About 12 months ago, Carol and I did a Steamrail Victoria trip to Seymour, with visits to three local wineries before the return trip. This was an absolutely fantastic day – Steamrail Victoria (http://www.steamrail.com.au) does a great job and deserves your support.

Here’s some of the photos I took on the day, of the train itself, and some of the locomotives and rolling stock at the museum in Seymour.

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Readers of Part 1 will know that we’d worked our way from Melbourne to Banff. The next morning, I was back at the railway station to see Rocky Mountaineer heading off on its return journey to Vancouver.

Rocky Mountaineer Vancouver Bound

We were then transferred to our coach for a day trip that turned out to be as equally spectacular as the second day on the train. From Banff, we made the short trip to Lake Louise, where our luggage was deposited and we had a short period to have a look around. Absolutely spectacular!

It was then back onto the coach, with only about 15 passengers for the day fortunately. Carol and I try to avoid organised coach tours, but they’re even worse when the coach is full. No one had sat in the front seat of the coach, and our driver, a lovely young European guy who had not been in Canada all that long, suggested we move into the seat. Boy were we glad we took his advice. The big windscreen at the front of the coach was perfect for taking photo after photo of the spectacular scenery.

On The Road

On The Road

On The RoadAfter experiencing scenery like what’s in these photos for the whole trip, we arrived at a small helicopter operation for the next part of the adventure. Our package included a 20 minute helicopter ride over some glaciers and boy, was I looking forward to this. I’d never flown in a helicopter before, for one reason. Secondly, I knew the scenery was going to be great. Carol couldn’t be convinced to come unfortunately – her fear of heights getting the better of her. Unfortunately, the loadings weren’t such that I could go a second time, so we just claimed our refund. Damn!

Helicopter Glacier Trip

Helicopter Glacier TripHelicopter Glacier Trip

Helicopter Glacier TripHelicopter Glacier Trip

From the heliport, it was off to a “typical” Canadian ranch for a pleasant, if unspectacular, lunch. Nothing special about the ranch, although as always seemed to be the case, the surrounding scenery was brilliant. And Carol caught up with an old friend at the ranch.

Scenery at the ranch

Carol & bear

From the ranch, it was back on the road to Lake Louise. It was amazing the amount of wildlife in the fields and treed areas beside the highway. However, everyone on the coach had one thing in mind. We needed to see a bear. A live one that is, not Carol’s friend from the ranch. We travelled a bit further on our return journey and then, at the same time as the words “What’s that?” were exiting my mouth, I was conscious our driver had his foot on the brake and we were slowing right down as we were approaching the black objects on the right hand side of the bus (the side we were on thankfully). It was then apparent what it was – a mother black beer and her two cubs, fresh from a swim in the nearby creek. And we were right at the front of the bearjam, a long line of coaches and cars waiting to get a look at these spectacular animals. They were so close. We quite literally would had stepped straight off the coach and been amongst them.

Black bear

Black bearBlack bear

The rest of the journey back to Lake Louise was uneventful, but certainly comprised more spectacular scenary. You can never have too much spectacular scenery, that’s what I always say. On arrival at Lake Louise, we tipped our driver, who provided us with a fantastic day’s entertainment. I wish I could remember his name to acknowledge him publicly. We spent the night at Fairmont Lake Louise. I’d like to acknowledge them publicly, but I can’t. It left a lot to be desired, as:

  • They lost one of our bags, which thankfully turned up later;
  • The room was stinking hot because the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. We had to get a service guy in to fix it;
  • The air conditioning was extremely noisy (after it was fixed that is);
  • The internet wouldn’t work properly and we had to get the service guy back to look at that.

To their credit, on my complaint, they did all the right customer service things that I would expect of that standard of organisation. But at the end of the day, LAX (and air travel in the US in general for that matter) and the Fairmont Lake Louise were the low points of a great trip.

The next day provided an opportunity to take some quite spectacular photos of a half frozen Lake Louise and the hotel, prior to  another organised coach trip, this time with a full load of people and an irritating coach driver.

Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise

Fairmont Lake Louise

Lake Louise

We travelled around Banff for the day, looking at a variety of different things, before ending up in Calgary that afternoon. The highlights of the day in Banff were Bow Falls, the trip up the cable car to Sulphur Mountain and the wild longhorn sheep that held us up while they ate the salt off the road. Thoughts on Banff? Extremely pretty. Expensive (well that’s a surprise). The sort of falseness that seems to go with a lot of ski resorts. Probably not in the list of Top 10 places to which I want to go back.Bow Falls


Sulphur Mountain


BanffBanffLonghorn sheep

The International Hotel in Calgery was great, although from memory, we had to get a second room because the first one had two single beds. Now that wasn’t going to work, was it? It just had a nice comfortable feel about it though, like your favourite pair of jeans. And free internet. Wow. That first night in Calgery, we dined in the main mall in the city area – very pleasant sitting outside and taking in another new city.


The next morning we split up – I headed off to do my usual walking tour of the city and Carol off to the shops. I think a pattern was forming. After the walk, including a trip up the Calgary Tower and a walk out on the glass, I jumped a suburban light rail (not again) and went out to where they hold the Calgary Stampede, “the Greatest Show on Earth” (their words, not mine). When Carol and I hooked up later in the day, we jumped another train and went through the Calgary Zoo for the afternoon (don’t ask my why). Our friend Geoff in Ottawa had lived in Calgary for quite a while and used to spend way more time at the Unicorn than he should have, so he demanded a photo. Here it is, Brother.

Calgary Tower

Calgary TowerCalgary Stampede

Calgary Light RailCalgary Zoo

The Unicorn


So the end of another busy day, a very ordinary Chinese meal, a good sleep and then off to Calgary Airport for our flight to Ottawa, but that will be Part 3.

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Carol and I travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer in May 2008, the train that runs through the Rockies between Vancouver and Banff. I submitted one of more than 2,000 photos I took to their photo competition. Didn’t win anything, but was wrapped to find a thumbnail of it on their website last night. Wow! It’s at http://www.rockymountaineer.com/guestlounge/share_your_experience/photo_contest.aspx. Scroll down to the text “Most Captivating” – it’s the photo of Lake Louise immediately below that text. For the record, here’s the real version.

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