“Look! I can see the engine!”

As far back as I can remember—and, trust me, that’s a long way—it was always a big deal whenever I was able to catch a glimpse of the locomotive from where I was sitting in the train.

I can recall pressing my cheek to the cool window glass to get the best possible view towards the front of the train.

At any rate, the fascination persists—for me, anyway—and I try to keep my camera ready for a shot of the head end whenever I travel. Here are three. 

This is a view from the dome on top of the Park Car–that’s the last car on VIA Rail’s classic trains. Each of these classic rail cars is named for a national park in Canada and each is the last car in the consist. In addition to the viewing dome, each Park Car includes two separate lounge areas. One features over-stuffed chairs and soft drinks, snacks and a coffee urn; the other, in the center of the car, has an attendant who serves snacks and beverages of one’s choice. In this photo, passengers in the dome on VIA’s train #1 get their first look at the Canadian Rockies.

This photo was taken from my roomette on the westbound California Zephyr as the train passes through one of the many canyons the train passes through on the 100-plus miles as it follows the Colorado River through a series of canyons strung out between Winter Park and Glenwood Springs. Except for the coldest winter months, there are rafters on the river.  This stretch of the Zephyr’s route, and the two-plus hours the next day spent crossing the Sierras by way of Donner Pass is why the California Zephyr is considered by most veteran rail travelers to be the most scenic route of all Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

This is another shot of VIA Rail’s westbound train,The Canadian, taken in the late summer. It’s the most popular time of year and, as you can see, the number of rail cars expands to meet the demand.  As I recall, this train had two dining cars and three dome cars. In this photo, the train skirts one of the many lakes in the area.  Next stop—still more than an hour away and well back into the mountains—the town of Jasper, Alberta.

These are wonderful trains. The equipment is classic and beautifully maintained. The food on Trains 1 and 2 (the Toronto-Winnipeg-Vancouver train) is included in the fare and is beautifully prepared on board.

Unfortunately, these VIA trains operate at the mercy of CN, the host railroad. Delays have been accounted for in schedules that have been revised many times, but these trains, no matter in which direction they’re operating, a likely to be many hours late