A Swiss passenger train travels the rail. (Wiki Photo)

Via please come back

When Via Rail service to Revelstoke ended in the 90s, a mock funeral was held

By Sharon Kurtz

Can Revelstoke ever really be a world-class resort town without reliable, affordable transportation? The answer is no. The solution is simple. Revelstoke needs daily passenger trains coming here from the east and the west: Vancouver and Calgary.

Not that many years ago, The Canadian, Via Rail’s signature train, puffed regularly into town. For some reason in the early nineties, The Canadian was rerouted away from its previous and obvious Calgary to Vancouver route and sent north at Kamloops to Jasper and Edmonton. No one would drive such a convoluted route to get from Vancouver to Calgary.

Vicki Kushner who worked as a constituency assistant to Lyle Kristiansen, the NDP MP, when Via rerouted The Canadian told the Review that “it was a sad day in Revelstoke when the last Via passenger train chugged out of Revelstoke.”

Kushner remembers that they even held a mock funeral for the passing of Via’s service on Front street. The MP and other local dignitaries attended, along with a coffin representing the death of passenger service to Revelstoke.

It’s not that passenger trains can’t travel the route safely. The high-end luxury train, the one most people can’t afford, passes through Revelstoke on its way from Vancouver/Kamloops to Lake Louise and Banff. The Rocky Mountaineer’s web site states that their “First Passage to the West” train trip takes tourists through spectacular scenery and past historic sites. It’s also the Rocky Mountaineer’s most popular service.

And, the Rocky Mountaineer is a terrific service. It brings tourists from around the world to experience the majestic scenery that is B.C. They stay, play and pay for the ultimate in train travel. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountaineer passes through Revelstoke without stopping. If the Rocky Mountaineer can successfully chug from Vancouver to Calgary, with an exemplary safety record, why can’t Via Rail do the same?

Both the high-end Rocky Mountaineer, and the more reasonably priced Amtrak passenger train service the southern route from Vancouver to Seattle, Washington. Reasonable priced trains criss-cross the United States, Europe and Asia. Even folks in eastern Canada have affordable and timely train service.

What happened to Revelstoke? Why was a service that worked so well for so long rerouted? Well that no longer matters, but for Revelstoke to be able to compete with the big resort towns in North America and Europe we need Via Rail to return. We have the snow, we have the mountains, we have the people and we have the sprit. What we don’t have is reliable, safe and affordable passenger service.

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