Chasing CPR Empress 2816 from Calgary to Canmore

Every time that I’ve chased CP 2816, it’s been eastbound. Never before have I had the chance to actually do a westbound chase.
Today, I finally got that chance.
I almost didn’t. A small crisis at work broke out, and I kept my cell phone at close range. I honestly thought I might get lucky, get off one shot, and then head into the office. But my team is very dedicated and pretty much did everything without any additional input from me. I’m not sure whether to be proud that I don’t have to say anything, or be depressed that I’m simply not needed.
Either way, I got to chase 2816 again. The last time I tried (see [[Surprise birthday weekend in Revelstoke]]), the timetables were so messed up that we didn’t get to actually chase her — she ended up chasing me, and I didn’t get any pictures. Alex was very patient then, but I opted not to drag her out with me on this run.
I started off near Bowness Park, sitting on the edge of Bearspaw Dam Rd., a vantage that I thought might work okay. I probably should have gone further east to the bridge to get a better angle, but hey — it’s a first time, and I gotta try something different. I had a lot of time to doubt myself — the scheduled 9:00 departure should have put 2816 next to me by about 9:10. Assumedly, a late freight train held up the run, and I ended up waiting about a half hour until I could hear the whistle blowing east down the valley. It wasn’t long before I could see smoke, and then the headlights.
Aim, click, run.
The chase was on! After Bearspaw, my next thought for a location was quite a ways out of town. The tricky part is staying ahead of 2816. Bill knows how to run that engine, and Canadian Pacific tends to let her run open rather than put her in sidings. I drove pretty much flat out to Morley Road. There I had to wait about another half hour, along with a few others who got in my frame of view. I hate it when people do that.
Once 2816 had passed, I was off like a shot to Highway 1X, and the overpass at Seebe. I made it with only a minute to spare.
Aim, click click click click (I used the rapid shoot feature), run.
I’d heard that instead of going right to Lake Louise (her end for the day), there would be a three-hour delay in Banff (Bamf!). Not wanting to spend that much time in Banff (Bamf!), I opted for a final picture just east of Canmore, along the 1A. The hard part of that wasn’t so much getting there, but getting there before the train. And to make things more nerve-wracking, I actually had to get far ahead and then run straight at the oncoming train.
One minute to spare, again. Click click click done.
Phone calls to wrap up the problem at the office came up during my return trip. It felt good to get out and chase again. It might be a while before I can do this again.

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  1. Hi Geoff!!
    I can always count on you to get a current update on what is going on with CPR 2816!! There has not been much published on the Web this far in the 2007 season.
    I am thinking that this trip is the GW Travel tour, which I had calulated from their website to have left Calgary on July 3rd not July 2nd.
    From your pictures, wondering two things, if this is the GW Travel tour which goes from Calgary to Vancouver and back again, where is the diesel and the Domed Observation car the tour is suppose to have??

  2. It’s entirely possible that the domed observation car (a borrowed item from the old Zephyr set, I gather) might not have been available. As the train isn’t particularly long, the discussions on the boards suggest that CP is opting to leave the diesel off for the westbound run (it might be back for eastbound, though). 2816 is in excellent shape and wouldn’t have too much trouble running the distance unassisted.

  3. Oh, and yes, this was another GW Travel trip. I’m far from up-to-date (there are others who get there information from some very interesting — and secretive — sources), but I try my best. 🙂

  4. Hi Geoff!!
    Thanks for the information. I’m guessing that it is also possible that no seats were sold for the Domed Observation Car. It’s quite pricey. In fact the whole GW Travel tour is quite pricey, way out of my league!!
    As for the diesel, from what I have been reading on the Web etc. I kinda got the impression that CPR 2816 does not have the power to get up some of the mountain grades by herself, it needs a boast from the diesel and also the dynamic brakes from the diesel. Maybe the diesel is added on after Lake Louise, although from the amateur video that is on the You Tube Web site of CPR 2816 going up Albert Canyon it does not look like there was a diesel on and she slipped 3 to 4 times going up the canyon. It was hard to tell from the video what the weather condition had previously been.

  5. Don’t be fooled by steam. Antiquated it might be, but weak it ain’t. Even vintage steam engines are still comparably powerful to their modern counterparts. The issue (and the reason why they were ultimately doomed) was maintenance and cost of operation. Diesels are a tonne cheaper per mile.

    (There’s even a story of how a similarly-sized locomotive — ex-CN 6060 — accidentally burned out a dynamic brake in a trailing diesel that was trying to slow her down.)

    Two obvious factors are grade and the weight of the following train behind the locomotive. In this case, there are seven cars, including the auxiliary water tender (#35508), the tool car (#29114), and the power car (#96). Add to that the four passenger cars. It’s debatable if it’s more than 2816 normally pulls, but it’s a fairly short train compared to what 2816 pulled in its original operating life.

    The highest mainline grade through the mountains is 2.2% (I think), which is the continental divide between Lake Louise and Field. Westbound isn’t too bad as the raise is less. The eastbound run is worse, as the rise out of Field is a bit of a slog. I think CP usually puts diesel assist on the eastbound legs for that reason.

    The slippage you speak of was after a bout of rain, at least from what I’ve read. Hudsons are okay on grades, though Mountains are better (as eight wheels have better traction than six).

  6. Hello Geoff
    I somehow missed 2816 this year I must have calculated the GW travel somehow wrong, but I just reviewed it again and I don’t know how I missed it, I was waiting at Morants curve and no 2816. I enjoy your diarys/photos of chasing 2816, I have chased her about 7 times now. As for the 2816 power and slipping. I have walked the strech of track in Albert Canyon that Johanne talks about 2816 slipping. There is a grease station used for the tight mountain curves, right before, she is seen slipping. I was on her last year when the breakfast for learning people had her. We went from Kamloops to Golden. Outside of Salmon Arm the diesal assist unit died. 2816 needed no help getting thru the selkirks.
    I wish CP would post all of her movements on their websites.

  7. Thanks, Mike! Always happy to hear that my drivel is actually useful to someone. 😉
    Never hiked along the line in Albert Canyon, but a grease station would certainly explain slippage — I don’t think the steamers ever had something like those.
    CP does post rough schedules, but some are “private” and not publicly announced. That said, they show up on the discussion lists online from various sources, so 2816’s movements rarely go unnoticed.

  8. Go into Beaumont Narural area up the hill at the west end of the last bridge. Park the car on Silver Valley Road and walk down the hill from there to the best angle for you.
    Got a splendid movie of a westbound consist a couple of years ago in the fall. Gorgeous.
    PS Bring a tripod & best to zoom lightly to your composition. As the Empress comes out of the bridge, there will be a good smoke plume. The track grade is slightly uphill, so she’ll be chugging. Also, there is a slight curve there.

  9. Hey Massey!
    Thank you so much for the hint!! Now I just have to figure out where that is on a map, and then go check it out!

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