As another front of arctic winds blew into town, turning -8 into -20 and freezing everything solid, a friend and I headed towards the eastern end of the valley, towards the mountains and the much anticipated Christmas train.
Driving the meandering old highway on the north side of the Fraser River, the long, low rays of the late afternoon sun tinged the snow covered valley a rich gold. My favourite cliffs looming above, hung with icy jagged fangs, had me making plans to return today for photos.
Eagles soared over the majestic evergreens and ice-bound river, their 'bald' heads and white tail feathers gleaming in the diminishing light. Strong gusts of wind blasted my car, pushing fiercely against it while blowing the blanket of snow from the flatlands across the highway.
Reaching our destination early, I decided to scout out the train tracks to find a place to see the entire train from a distance, without a lot of people that would crowd the station. Both my friend and I didn't really care about the entertainment, I just wanted to actually watch the train move across the valley, it's brightly lit boxcars reflecting against the snow as it chugged and wound it's way to it's destination.
We found, what we thought was a perfect spot to wait, that would afford us a view of the train, albeit a lot closer than I wanted to be. We'd been informed, at that point, that the train was an hour late. No problem. The markets have taught me well, and I'd come armed with a thermos full of steaming hot herbal tea, knowing my friend is allergic to milk products.
We sat at the side of the road for more than an hour before making our way, in what was now, the dark, back to the train's destination, wondering if we were at the wrong tracks. No, it was delayed yet another hour. By this time, we'd left at 2:30 pm, and it was after 6:30pm. There was no guarantee that it would actually arrive at 7:30 so we made the executive decision to head back near the icy cliffs to my favourite restaurant on the river.
The restaurant looks like an old cottage, it's bright white exterior beckoning to us in the dim light. Inside, wooden beams and walls warm the interior, with french windows along the entire south side offering a spectacular view of the river in daylight. An old stone fireplace glows and crackles, emitting a welcome warmth from the frigid air outside.
After a usual delicious meal, we headed back towards home, a little disappointed in not seeing the train, but certainly not in the company or the dinner. Driving back in the dark, I stopped by a convenience store across from the tracks, to ask if the train had gone by yet. Yes, she asserted, about 30 minutes prior. Darn! Oh well.
I asked my friend to look up when it was due at the next stop, and it showed 8:45. As it was almost 9:00 at this point, we made another executive decision to see if we could catch the train at it's next destination. I have seen the train before, but my friend hasn't. So, back on the road, following the old highway and the tracks, we noted we must be close, as there was quite a stream of cars going the other way.
Not really knowing where the train was stopped, I turned left, following another car towards the tracks. Wow! It's bright Christmas lights pierced the dark, competing successfully against the milky moon that hung above. It's red engine crouched on the tracks, like a cat ready to lunge, it's intense headlight outlining the tracks ahead. The engine was minimally 'dressed' in lights, the boxcars being the main attraction. CP Holiday Train was 'written' in lights over three boxcars, with at least three more behind it completely covered in lights depicting different scenes.
We weren't there more than 5 minutes before we heard the familiar sounds of releasing air and deep chugs from the engine as it prepared to move towards it's next stop. With a final release of air, an ear-splitting blast of it's whistle, the train lurched noisily into the night. Satisfied we'd accomplished pretty much what we'd set out to see and do, home was the next stop.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get any photos of the train as we never did see it moving across the valley, as I'd hoped. When we did see it, there were so many people in front of it, the weather was so cold and my lens wasn't the appropriate one for the close proximity, I didn't get one photo of it. However, we did see it, which was the goal, and delivered the requested food bank items.
The CP Holiday train travels across the country every Christmas, all lit up, stopping in several cities along the way, collecting food and donations for the food bank. One of the boxcars folds down to make a stage, and there's always Santa and a band that plays Christmas carols.
Now that I'm aware of which tracks it takes, in my travels this year, I'll make note of the places that I'd be able to park and get the best photo as it clacks across the valley. I'm not sure why it was so late this year, but it seems the east valley got a little shorted on it's entertainment, as it made up time between then and when we saw it. That being said, I'm not sure they'd have been able to play in the bitter cold and wind that blasted that end of the valley.
As it pulled away from us, we noted the entertainers lounging in one of the boxcars. I would love to be on that train! What fun, to travel across country, bringing joy to not only the people that see it, but also to those that require help from the food banks, although it's a sad commentary on our society that they are a necessity, but I won't go there, in this blog.
Suffice it to say it was a wonderful evening, despite chasing the lights from one end of the valley to the other.
Here's a link to google with some images of the train. It's impossible for me to give it justice with words. Enjoy!CP Holiday Train 2015
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