Here comes the bride (again)

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Sunday, October 10, 2010

A few weeks ago I blogged about the wedding party in rural Virginia halted by a CSX freight train (see “We Interrupt This Wedding to Bring You a Freight Train,” Sept. 20). This is getting to be a habit, folks. I’m just back from Canada with another tale of Bride Meets Train.

Calgary, Alta., was the location for this year’s meeting of the Lexington Group, an organization devoted to railroad history and operations. We spend a day as guests of Canadian Pacific Railway aboard a collection of its Royal Canadian Pacific office cars and other passenger equipment. The leading locomotive for the round trip to Banff, Alta., turns out to be CP’s magnificent Royal Hudson, 4-6-4 2816. Behind it, to assist, is a pair of vintage F units.

When our train reaches Banff, one of Canada’s premier resort villages, a photo run-by ensues. But before the train begins its backup for that run-by, I and a few others walk behind the rear car several hundred yards, to be clear of the station platform. That’s where we encounter the bride and groom, dressed for their wedding. It seems they had seen our train go by and wedding or not, want a closer look. So right to trackside they go.

The 2816 begins backing up. As the train nears this man and woman, the CP conductor guiding the movement from the rear platform radios his engineer to stop. I assume he is going to scold the couple for standing too close to the tracks, because in my opinion they were.

No such thing. With the train halted, the conductor opens the trap to lower the steps, swings down and invites the pair aboard. Up they scamper, chattering in a language that resembles Japanese to me. But when one of us on the ground yells “Kiss the bride!” the groom does just that, requiring no translation. After a few minutes, they shake hands with the conductor, get off and watch the train resume its backup. Engine 2816's train ultimately retraces at least a mile of its journey to Banff. Then, with the sound of its whistle as an announcement, here it comes, no doubt with some assist from those two F units. What a symphony of sight and sound it makes passing the Banff depot doing at least 50 mph while whistling for the main road into town.

To ride behind a steam locomotive on a beautiful early autumn day in 2010 is the thrill divine. To experience what I just described makes it just about a perfect day. My thanks to Jim McClellan for the photos, and my thanks to Canadian Pacific for making it all possible.—Fred W. Frailey

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