Friday, November 22, 2013

Jasper Alberta Canada – For Railroad Fans!

One thing that we didn’t expect when we arrived in Jasper on our trip was the fact that Jasper Alberta, despite being in the middle of a Canadian National Park, is truly a railroad town!  The busiest street in downtown Jasper actually faces the rail yard…


This aerial view of Jasper, (‘borrowed’ from Wikipedia), clearly shows the railroad and rail yards, the latter being the tan area right in the middle of the photo.  It isn’t a bad setting either, is it?!
Jasper is literally part of Jasper National Park and as such, it is considered a ‘specialized municipality’.  Governance is shared between the municipality and the federal Parks Canada agency. 
·        To live here, one must meet certain qualifications: Someone whose primary employment is within the park. (Canadian National rail yard employees and assigned VIA Rail personnel are included in this number)

·        Someone who operates a business in the park AND whose presence is needed for the day to day operations of that business.

·        A retired individual who for five consecutive years immediately prior to retirement was primarily employed within the park, OR operated a business in the park AND whose presence was needed for the day to day operations of that business.

·        Somebody who lived in the park at the time of their retirement, AND who was living in the park on July 30, 1981.

·        Someone who attends school full time at a registered educational institution in the park.

·        An individual or their descendants through blood or adoption, who leased public lands in Jasper prior to May 19, 1911.

·        The spouse of anybody referred to above.
The first piece of rolling stock that we saw in Jasper was this VIA Rail F40PH – 2d.  The EMD F40PH is a four-axle 3,000 hp. B-B diesel-electric locomotive, built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division in several variants from 1975 to 1992. 
The railroad station and freight yard at Jasper Alberta provides a great opportunity for train watching to include VIA Rail Canada passenger trains, Canadian National freights and the occasional Rocky Mountaineer tourist train. 

This beautiful Canadian National Mountain 4-8-2 steam locomotive is on display near the historic railroad depot in Jasper. 
This Mountain Type Class U-1-A was built in 1923 by the Canadian Locomotive Company in Kingston Ontario Canada.  It’s 90 ft. 4 ¼ inches long, stands 15 ft. 3 inches tall and it weighs 577,000 lbs. (288 ½ tons) It was placed on display in Jasper in July of 1972. 

One more photo of this impressive locomotive… It’s too bad that its not still in operation as it would something impressive to see!

The Jasper Railway Station was built by the Canadian National Railroad in 1926 following a fire that burned down the original depot.  This station was declared a heritage railway station by the federal government in 1992.
Established in 1813, ‘Jasper House’ was first a North West Company, and later a Hudson's Bay Company fur trade outpost on the York Factory Express trade route to British Columbia.  Jasper National Park itself was established in 1907. The railway siding at the location of the future town site of Jasper was established by Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in 1911.  It was originally named Fitzhugh after a Grand Trunk vice president.  The rail yard is still sometimes referred to as the “Fitzhugh Yard”. 

In addition to the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, the Canadian Northern Railway also began service to ‘Fitzhugh’ in 1912.  The town site was surveyed in 1913 and it was subsequently renamed Jasper after the former fur trade post. By 1931, Jasper was accessible by road from Edmonton, and in 1940 the scenic Icefields Parkway opened, connecting Banff and Jasper.

Timing is everything!  As we were checking out the Jasper Train Station, one of the 6 weekly VIA Rail Canada passenger trains came rolling up to the depot.  VIA Rail Canada is an independent crown corporation that offers intercity passenger rail services in most parts of Canada.
Via Rail actually operates 497 trains per week in 8 Canadian provinces. (Exceptions are Newfoundland/Labrador and Prince Edward Island) VIA uses a network of 7,800 miles of track, almost all of which is owned and operated by Canadian National Rail.  VIA Rail carries approximately 4.1 million passengers each year, with the majority of them on routes along the Quebec City–Montreal- Toronto-Windsor corridor.
For information about VIA Rail, as well as its routes and schedules across Canada, just go to

I was pretty impressed at the length of this VIA train!  It seemed to go on and on… The stopover here in Jasper is for an hour and a half… That has to equal a nice burst of sales 6 times a week for the stores that face the railroad tracks…
As I mentioned previously, the Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian tour company offering Western Canadian vacation packages.  The company operates trains on four rail routes through British Columbia and Alberta. Three different routes start, end or stop at Jasper.

Being located in a National Park and surrounded by wilderness, both the town of Jasper and the rail yard are frequented by local wildlife.  We spotted this healthy looking female Elk walking along the tracks near a road crossing in town. 
Elk are on the top on the list of animals that many wildlife watchers want to see. (Our list is topped by bears…we’ve seen lots of Elk before) Elk are the second largest deer in the park next to moose. Other deer found in the park are caribou, mule deer and white tailed deer.  Elk are also called "wapiti" - Shawnee for "white rump."  FYI…a male elk is correctly called a stag and a female is called a hind.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and continuing our summer trip with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Of course you knew I'd be interested in this post. Interesting info about Jasper and the residence requirements. Love the train shots now I'm off to check the links you provided.

  2. I love the choo-choo train. When I was little we took a train like this from Palermo to Rome, I think it took something like two days. Things haven't improved much though, nowadays it takes 16 hours...if it's on time:) I haven't seen much of Canada, but I studied in Toronto University one whole summer. Beautiful pictures David.

  3. Love these trains!! when I was Little we only travel in trains, wwe dont like buses! these trains look amazing David!!

  4. Of course, you know I'd be interested in this post also, because Bill is a retired RR man. Love those trains! There are certainly a lot of qualifications to reside in Jasper! Interesting bit with the Hudson's Bay Company too. As you probably know, there are many deer here, but I've only seen an elk in the zoo. Pretty impressive looking! And lucky you for seeing one in person. Great informative post!

  5. Dear David, I love the old trains. Brings back nice memories. Blessings to you and Laurie, Catherine

  6. OH how neat. I am a TRAIN lover from WAY BACK... My Dad worked for the railroad --so we got passes and traveled across the country on trains when I was about 8.. SO many wonderful memories!!!!!!

    Hubby and I have talked about taking that train trip across Canada sometime...

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Oh wow that big black one looks something out of the Orient Express! Very cool collection of images, Dave. What a great trip you guys are having :)

    Wishing you all a very wonderful weekend.