Thursday, February 25, 2016


I'm going to back into this story, sort of. A year or so ago, I put an entry into my IRS Schedule C at tax time for "Research". In the box went the cost of a ride on the "Rocky Mountaneer" - a tour train running from Vancuver to Banff, BC up in Canada. I wasn't kidding. This was research. Enjoyable, yes, but research just the same.  Why? Because this route took me through the famed spiral tunnels built by the Canadian Pacific to ease their trains over the the awful incline around Kicking Horse Pass up in the Rockies. Before, they had to contend with the "Big Hill" and many train wrecks. I knew that sooner than later I would be writing about this area, and I was right.

So what exactly did I glean from this trip? First, the obvious things - the grand views of sloping mountains and thickets of evergreens. Could have managed that from a picture, though. It was the other things, those descriptions that glue a reader to the scene, that I was able to translate from experience. The crisp air. The faint mix of pine, oil, and ballast dust along the tracks. The sound of the rails and ties flexing and clacking under the train's weight. And the tunnels, of course. Ever go on one of those cave tours where they turn out the lights. Yeah. Like that. And colder, too. And then there's the steep ravines and glimpse of the river with its mix of greens and grays as it winds by the small town of Field. The sounds of quiet beyond the train's passage.

These are the things that build worlds around the reader and make them imagine reaching out to touch those rocky walls and sniff the dark confines. The same things I experienced, now transcribed as a background.

Research FTW.