|Prince of Wales Hotel, Waterton National Park
Best vantage point:Postcard view is from knoll north of the hotel
GPS Location: 49:03:50N, 113:54:21W
This scenically superb side-trip is an essential for enthusiasts of railway history. The Prince of Wales Hotel was built not by Canadian Pacific, but by its American rival the Great Northern in 1927 as destination for tourist excursions across the lake from the company’s facilities in Glacier National Park in Montana. For many, the transboundary lure was Alberta’s early abandonment of prohibition in 1923, while it endured in the United States until 1933.
Lundbreck Falls Bridge
Best vantage point: Lundbreck Falls viewpoint, via Highway 3A byway.
GPS N22.214.171.124, W114:12.28.6
Best vantage point: Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, via well-signed access road at west end of the debris field
GPS Location: 49:35:60N, 114:23:39W
You can see how the CPR snaked a new path through the limestone rubble created when the north face of Turtle Mountain collapsed in 1903 and buried the town of Frank. A further disaster was averted by a CPR employee who ran down the track to meet and stop an approaching passenger express. A trail from the interpretive centre includes some of the roadbed of the Frank and Grassy Mountain Railway whose interchange with the CPR lies buried under the rock pile, along with 60 or so bodies deemed impossible to recover. Gruesome, but fascinating.
|Main Street Mainline and Coal Mine Mogul, Crowsnest Pass
Best vantage point: Sidewalk benches of the Stone’s Throw Café
GPS Location: 49:36:28N, 114:26:14W
The Crowsnest Route runs right alongside Main Street in the former town of Bairmore, now a mere neighborhood in the municipal amalgamation collectively called Crowsnest Pass. Enjoy coffee and fresh baking while you watch teams of CPR’s huge GE AC4400CW locomotives glide through town as they catch their breath before hefting long freights over the Continental Divide. Then, take a stroll westward along the track to the displayed, but sadly neglected, Hillcrest Colliery 2-6-0 #11, built by Montreal Locomotive Works in 1914. Unlike many early locomotives disfigured over time by successive modernizations, this old Mogul retains its original high domes and stack and a sharply rounded cab roof.
|Fireless Mine Locomotive, Flumerfelt Park, Crowsnest Pass
Best vantage point: Flumerfelt playground in the Coleman neighbourhood of Crowsnest Pass
GPS Location: 49:38:13N, 114:30:15W
From 1904 til 1954, this fireless, open-cab 0-4-0 built by H.K. Porter Company worked underground for International Coal and Coke. Coal or oil-fired locomotives would inevitably spark methane explosions in mine tunnels, not to mention poison the air needed by miners. The solution was the “air dinky” whose “boiler” was in fact a pressure tank recharged as needed from pipes connected to above-ground air compressor stations.
|Continental Divide Vista
Best vantage point: Highway 3 pullout at west end of Crowsnest Pass GPS Location: 49:38:07N, 114:32:21W
IMAX crews setup a camera here to capture CPR 2816 steaming out of the Crowsnest Pass and along the Crowsnest Valley bottom. You can enjoy the same vantage point, sometimes against a backdrop of weather systems battling each other across the Continental Divide. There is also a great view of Crowsnest Mountain, which was formed by erosion, not volcanic activity. However, just opposite the pullout is the region’s only surface extrusion of volcanic rock. Everything else is sedimentary.
Best vantage point: Large parking area at west end of lake
GPS Location: 49:37:29N, 114:39:10W
The line squeezes between the opposite shoreline of Crowsnest Lake and a massive bluff of limestone. Look carefully for the cave which, in spring, contains a waterfall. The cave walls are decorated with ancient native pictographs, sadly disfigured by layers of contemporary graffiti.
Best vantage point: Take the sharp exit from Highway Three just east of the road’s crest at the Continental Divide.
GPS Location: 49:37:64N, 114:41:24W
There’s plenty of place to park along the shoreline of Summit Lake and then stroll alongside the trains waiting for their turns to cross the Alberta-British Columbia boundary at the Continental Divide. While Island Lake just to the east flows towards Hudson Bay, Summit Lake drains westward towards the Pacific. There is a quite spectacular view of the railway line balanced on a masterfully hewn stone retaining wall at 49:39:55N, 114:45:05W but the Highway 3 shoulders are narrow and stopping is dangerous. There's a safer pullout for westbound drivers just beyond the vantage point. Stopping is ill-advised for eastbound drivers.
Best vantage point: South from Highway 3 on Corbin Road
GPS Location: 49:40:17N, 114:46:43W
The paved road to the mine meets several railway bridge crossings where you can photograph trains crossing Michel Creek as they loop the valley to change elevation. The apex of the loop is at 49:38:29N, 114:47:05W where a wye connects the mainline to a branch leading to Elk Valley Coal’s Coal Mountain mine. You can drive to the end of the road at 49:31:03N, 114:40:36W to see the coal-loading terminal close up and often in action. The immediately adjacent ghost town of Corbin contains several pioneer structures. Corbin is a little piece of Appalachia lost in the Rocky Mountains.
Best vantage point: CPR Station Square, downtown Fernie
GPS Location: 49:30:14N, 115:03:32W
Built in 1908, the former C.P.R. station is the only survivor of a type designed specifically for the Crowsnest Route. Sometime after passenger service was ended in 1964, the station was donated to the City of Fernie and converted into a community arts and crafts centre. A well-intention renovation in 1986 kept the building intact but coloured the exterior a cheerful but historically inappropriate blue. This was partially remedied in 2008 when the original chocolate and cream paint scheme was reapplied. (It’s still not quite right, since some of the siding was incorrectly coated in the maroon of the mid-twentieth century.)
|Fort Steele Steam Train
Best vantage point: Fort Steele Heritage Town
GPS Location: 49:37:07N, 115:37:50W
Forgive the historical howler (the CPR bypassed Fort Steele, effectively turning it into a ghost town) and enjoy a ride through savannah grasslands behind 2-6-2 1077, built in Montreal in 1923 and the operated in logging service until 1969 when it was donated to the province by MacMillan Bloedel. The 20-minute train ride pauses at a viewing platform where you can look down upon CPR trains navigating a large, riverside wye where the Crowsnest Line branches off to Cranbrook and an interchange with Burlington Northern at the Canada-U.S. border. Logging Shay 115 and British 0-4-4 "Dunrobin" built in 1895 are stored in the Fort Steele engine shed which is open to visitors.