Visible from the Skytrain window, The Rocky Mountaineer stretches out its long string of metallic blue cars along the rail yards between Commercial-Broadway and Main Street. They shimmer with late light.
The tourists are boarding, or ready to board. Soon the train will slide out of the Via Station and begin her journey eastward.
Once the cross Canada CNR and CPR trains and hotels defined and enlivened a nation. Now that era has receded into history. This tourist train is a nostalgia-inducing relic of a vanishing past.
The last time I saw her was in Jasper last August. A British tour guide needed to have his picture taken in front of the train and he posed while I took a couple of shots. Later I asked a German tourist to take my picture in front of the old Jasper Station.
That small building in the mountains evokes various memories. When I was seven, the stone-faced train station seemed large and cavernous. When I was eighteen, the spacious washroom, with its anteroom and benches, served as a hideout: as I waited to change trains, a man kept following me till I went to ground in the Ladies'.
Last August, I had been driving for many hours when I arrived in Jasper. In the early evening, the mountains were already casting shadows. I had time to stretch my legs, but the road was calling. It would be nearly midnight by the time I made Edmonton.
I wished I could ride the train. I'd sip a lime and tonic and watch the Rocky Mountain wildlife through the windows as the sun set.