Canada Pacific Northwest Transit Adventures

Whistler to Seattle aboard Greyhound, the Train2Main, and Amtrak Cascades Wyeing out of Vancouver

I have to excellent days of skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb and should have paid the $50 for a 50% off third day; the resort is so huge there just wasn’t time to explore all of it. To get to and from the ski area (the HI doesn’t have Ski In/Ski Out access or a free shuttle) I have to rely on BC Transit Buses that cost $2.50 a ride or $7 per day for a day pass, both days I buy day passes and go back to the hostel before returning to the village to go out to dinner. I actually find relatively cheap eateries including El Furniture Wharehouse, a gimmicky restaurant and bar where all food costs $4.95 (I had a surprisingly good Berger ) and getting okay Mexican at a take-out place my second evening. This is the first part of a 32 hour adventure going from Whistler to Glennwood Springs aboard BC Transit, Greyhound Canada (a SkyTrain Joyride), Amtrak Cascades, Central Link, (a few hours sleeping on a bench in the airport), United Airlines, RTD SkyRide, Greyhound and RFTA’s Ride Glenwood Springs. A true transit adventure!

I leave the Hostel on the 9:02am BC Transit Route 1 bus one last time. I pay my $2.50 fare in cash. Greyhound is so finicky about boarding procedures that I’m always early. The transit bus, progressively becomes standing room only gets me to the Whistler Visitor’s Center where the Greyhound stop is (Greyhound also stops at the Whistler Creekside where I could have gotten off the bus but I just assume get on at the visitor’s center for better seating availability) at 9:25. I notice a modern Greyhound Express bus outside that will have modern amenities like power outlets and wifi sitting outside the station. The ticket window reopens at 9:30. I wait for it to open and tell the agent I need my bag tagged to Vancouver. She says “Your only going to Vancouver; we don’t bother to tag those bags.” I head outside to the bus shelter to wait for boarding.

Soon the bus opens and the driver heads inside, at 9:45 the bus driver starts boarding. She tells us to place our baggage in the luggage bays ourselves (I have never been told to personally load my luggage on a Greyhound bus) and we slowly board. I grab a seat towards the front in the rain. The bus slowly fills up and leaves on time at 10:00.

We stop at Whistler Creekside at 10:08 and the bus really fills up, many people doubling up. I’m happy I spent the extra half-hour to get a window seat. Our driver welcomes us aboard the Express Service to Vancouver Pacific Central station making one intermediate stop in Squamish.

It’s a grey day and I spend the ride listening to some school readings and taking a nap. I’m basically asleep before we enter Squamish at 10:45. It’s a quick stop and were on the road again at 10:51.

After leaving Squamish the Sea to Sky Highway becomes extremely scenic as we curve our way down along the ocean. I rode a train along this route northbound to start my Rocky Mountaineer adventure a few years ago but unfortunately since October 31, 2002 when BC rail discontinued its daily RDC train between North Vancouver and Whistler the only option is the highway or the expensive Rocky Mountaineer Whistler Ski to Sky Climb Tourist Train. The curviness of the bus makes me really wish I could be riding a train.

The bus takes a different bridge, not one that goes through downtown and Stanley Park that we took when I left on Sunday. The ride concludes with 15 minutes going down residential streets to finally get to Terminal Avenue. I see the Rocky Mountaineer has a train in its station, its first departures for the spring are in just a few weeks and soon we arrive in Vancouver 15 minutes early, a minute before noon. At Pacific Central Station(15 total Photos) I see the northbound Amtrak Cascades train that I will be riding down to Seattle this evening has just arrived.

I immediately head into the station and go up to the ticket/baggage counter. The reason is to pick up a paper ticket (No roaming charges on an eTicket) and parcel check my bag for the day. I have the slowest VIA agent and discover that parcel check for VIA has gone up to $6 per day, the highest amount I know of. There is also a sign telling agents to charge the $6 for Canadian Checked baggage that is checked before 6:30pm, over 3 hours before the departure. The agent comments that he normally doesn’t bother to charge people this fee because he finds it so ridiculous. As I leave I discretely take a picture and am immediately accosted by a security guard who tells me photography is prohibited, did I notice the signs? The reasoning is “the station is a federal building.” I explain I was just following Amtrak’s policies that allow photography as long as you’re a ticketed passenger. I’m told Amtrak’s jurisdiction ends at the door to the building. I leave and am a bit happy for this incident. Security has told me I can take pictures of Amtrak Cascades on the platform while I board since they don’t have jurisdiction there!

Relieved of my luggage I start walking into Vancouver in the rain. My first stop is a cafe to grab some lunch and use wifi, I have schoolwork and other work to do. I then head to a bookstore to buy a new book about the demise of the Montreal Expos I’ve heard reviewed but doesn’t seem to be available yet in the US. At Chapters it takes me a bit to find it because its in the best sellers 40% off section.

I then head south and end up along False Creek where I find a ferry landing and this tiny little boat that brands itself as AquaBus. I don’t partake in a ride.

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I have a nice walk along False Creek and finally decide to head inland to board SkyTrain at Yaletown/Roadhouse and find myself walking by this former turntable and roundhouse:

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I then head inside and find Canadian Pacific Railway Locomotive #374

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I then get on the SkyTrain at Yaletown/Roundhouse(6 Photos) where I buy my $2.75 ticket.


I take the Canada Line to Waterfront where have to pass through Canada Line(7 Photos) faregates I notice that a main bank of faregates(5 Photos of the main station) have been installed for all SkyTrain Expo and Millennium Line, West Coast Express and SeaBus passengers with separate faregates for the Canada Line since connecting passengers have to pass through the main portion of the station to transfer. There are separate Compass Readers for West Coast Express(1 Photo)


I take the next Expo Line train, that bypasses Main Street/Science World(5 Photos)  to double-back on the Train2Main

I double back to Main Street/Science World(12 Photos)


I have about an hour before I need to head back into the station to clear immigration and board my southbound Amtrak Cascades train. I decide to spend it visiting the Telus Science World for free using my Transit Museum Membership. There is nothing too unique about it and it’s quite small. I do enjoy the special exhibition on legos and travel. It’s clearly written for Americans, not Canadians.


I then head back into Pacific Central Station and retrieve my luggage shortly after 5:00pm. I head to the ticket desk and just get assigned a car number, not an individual seat assignment. I’m told the train will be quite empty this evening. U.S. Immigration is a breeze, I get asked basically nothing. I then have to put my luggage (but not myself) through a Rent-a-Cop security check. I assume their looking for drugs or other contraband? It is unclear. I head outside and decide I might as well check my small suitcase, waiting at baggage claim in Seattle will just make my 7½ hour layover in Seattle a little shorter. I board my car and choose a seat. It’s empty, there just some families (my favorite) sitting at the tables. I head back outside and get a number of photos of the Pacific Central Station(15 total Photos). These include the locked fence and gate that covers the tracks at the end of the platform.  I realize I’m riding the same Mt. Adams Talgo set again without a Cabbage and it hasn’t been wyed during the middle of the day. Also decent pictures of the rear of a Talgo trainset sans cab-car or a second locomotive. Totally bizarre looking with the tops of the fins. I guess us passengers are going to go on a wying adventure.


The crew make announcements saying the train is backwards for a reason because they are going to wye it with us aboard. We back-out at 5:38, this is the only Amtrak train that can leave early. Boarding ends at 5:30 because of US Pre-screening. The reason were leaving early is to wye. I guess with such a light load on a Wednesday evening they decided to let the train leave early instead of wyeing it during the midday layover. We back out of the fenced off platform with a security hard holding an umbrella above his head to open the gate. We pass the VIA shops with a Rocky Mountaineer locomotive in them and the train wash. We then pass the junk yard of the day as I enter new trackage; the Vancouver Station wye. We come to a stop at 5:44, by an empty abandoned looking railway yard. We soon move backward some more passing a sign for Burrad Junction, with lots of abandoned tracks.

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My car is loud (again!) with two families playing cards at the tables, and other large parties at the other sets of seats. Amtrak Cascades, I need a quiet car to write the paper I’m hoping to do on this ride. SkyTrain passes overhead. I’m the only person sitting in the regular seats. We eventually stop at 5:50 in the yard across from the Rocky Mountaineer Station(5 Photos)! and start moving forward.

I see the conductor walking through the train, making it clear that our long wye back-up move is complete. We now pass the VCC-Clark, SkyTrain Station and head forward. We stop again, by it, I assume for another switch. I hear the locomotive speed up as we pass CN Junction. I’m only writing right now because of the wye move. We slowly gather speed in the embankment of nothing-ness, and are on our way following the Expo Line more or less all the way to the river.

  • 5:59 – Pass Renefew Station
  • 6:06 – The safety video starts with Grant Goodeve.
  • 6:13 – As the safety video ends we pass the former New Westminster Station as we approach the bridge across the Fraser River.
  • 6:18 – Stop again, short just because a freight train is crossing it, no boat traffic. We soon start crossing the bridge.
  • 6:23 – We cross under SkyTrain and their two trains running in very close succession, directly following each other.
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  • 6:26 – We finally speed up along a port yard with tons of double-stacks.
  • 6:38 – They announce were stopping for because of a red signal. This crew is doing an excellent job of announcing delays to the journey. It’s an extremely quick stop. We leave and pass Mud Bay Park and see more water.
  • 6:44 – We cross a long bridge over the mudflats. Someone has the gull to skype or doing something on speakerphone. I’m going to try and move after we clear customs. I keep having bad luck and ending up in loud cars. The birds though are nice and scenic. They announce were 17 minutes from Blane and the border inspection. I see a P-15 sign.
  • 6:51 ­– Were 7 minutes from the border.
  • 6:56 – We pass the neat shorefront park along White Rock, including the former White Rock Train station that is now an archives museum.
  • 7:03 – There is a little white sign for the US Canada border and we come to a stop by the lanes.

We move up with an official already aboard. The official simply says anything to declare. I say I’ll I bought was this book, he rools his eyes, takes my form keeps walking. There are some foreigners in the car and the time with them is maybe two minutes. The customs officials have also forced open every door at 7:15 were done and an employee (the Talgo maintenance person) walks through the train closing the doors. I head to the bistro car for some clam chowder from Ivars, that’s one of the best things I found to eat on Amtrak, I notice some specials posted and kind of whish I had tried one of those. I head to the lounge car for a table and its very uncomfortable seats that tip-up. The light fixtures have the Talgo logo on them.

7:37 – We pass a double-stack yard as we go through Bellingham towards the station south of the city. I see a conductor get up to make the Bellingham announcement.

The conductors all leave the car saying “Let’s do this as we arrive in Bellingham at dusk”. We stop at 7:43 as I notice a border patrol car in the parking lot. No one seems to walk down to Business Class. The lounge car is nice and quiet without the conductors talking.

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We leave at 7:48, the conductors walking back nearly as soon as the stop has finished. I see the Talgo mechanic walk through, not saying anything to the conductors. He clearly does his own think. We curve along Pudget Sound, the overcast clouds and rain damping any hopes to a nice sunset. The sound and San Juan Island’s beyond slowly fade from view.

8:03 – Go through one of the tunnels and pass a maintenance train.

I get sick of the café car and the talking conductors and walk the train I find no one is beyond car 6 with car 7 and 8 beyond it totally empty. It is an extremely light load on a Wednesday night. I gab everything and move up to car 7 for quiet, its completely empty but the door is unlocked so I assume I can enter. It looks like seat checks are barely getting used, just for intermediate passengers.

8:16 – We pass what was the original station in Mt.Vernon until 2004, as the announcement is made for the station stop. It is a modular building one passenger walks farther up the train.

We make the station stop at 8:19 as one passenger walks through my car and farther up the train before heading back. It’s a quick stop and then they announce the meet with the northbound that is already waiting for us in the siding but that we can catch a glimpse of it. We keep heading south in the dark. The women who walked through earlier walks back with something from the cafe followed by the Talgo Mechanic. Where I’m sitting is clearly fine.

  • 8:32 – We finally pass the sister southbound Talgo train and the announcement for Stanwood.

We arrive at 8:36 to a completely empty Stanwood Station. I did notice one seat check from someone getting off there. There is then announcement for a left bag in the bistro car itself, I’m amazed how well that seating (a loop around table and some bar stools) is used.

  • 8:54 – Cross the drawbridge
  • 8:59 – The slow crossing of a second drawbridge

We get the announcement for Everett and that the same two cars, one in business class, and one in coach between coaches 3 and 4. I see a Sounder train as we approach the station. They are all lined up on one track. One Sounder Train, the one closest to the station and easiest to photograph has an Amtrak Cascades locomotive. I kind of wish I had saved the $9 and booked my ticket to Everett instead of Seattle (the bus would be included in the Link ride to the airport), but an extra hour of train time (maybe we’ll get delayed) should be helpful. We stop at 9:12, 3 minutes late.

As we approach Everett the Talgo attendant is flipping the seats, I say your not wying the train again, the response is a simple “Nope!” like mind your own business. We stop in Edmonds at 9:38. The only annoyance with grabbing the seat directly near the end of the car for the table is the door keeps on opening each time someone goes in and out of the bathroom in the vestibule.

9:55 – Seattle arrival announcement is long including a thank you for riding Amtrak plug and mentioning calling 1800-USA Rail for all train needs. That’s a first. The displays switch to information about Seattle, mainly transportation and to also call Amtrak for feedback.

10:01 – Street running along the waterfront and then into the tunnel.

We arrive at 10:06, slowly entering Seattle’s King Street Station(35 Photos) across from a couple of parked Superliners and Mount Olympus on the far siding track that is a ways from the station. I get off and the conductor sees me taking pictures. She tells me I can go up to the front of the locomotive for a photo as long as I stay within the yellow lines. I oblige and tell some station staff who unloading the baggage car giving me a questioning look. One says, “That works for me.”


I slowly enter the station getting a few photos and see the baggage is just arriving. I claim my bag; get some more photos of the empty station before the last northbound Cascades train arrives filling the station again.


I then head outside and get some more photos street side including the entrances to the Sounder platform closed off


I soon leave into the train and start a long walk to try and find an all night diner. I discover a hotel I’ve stayed in; the Sixth Avenue Inn has been demolished. I eventually find a nice greasy spoon around 11:15, eat a grilled cheese sandwich, and leave around midnight as April 16, becomes April 17.