Rivers from a Train Are Special.

Railroads have to cross rivers and that means bridges. There’s something unique about many of those bridges, although the problem from the rail passengers point of view is that you’re on it, then across it, before you know it.

Here are photos taken from of a few of the many bridges I have crossed while on a train.

This is a tranquil stretch of the Colorado River. We left the mile-high city of Denver about two hours ago on the westbound California Zephyr, climbed to an elevation of 9,000 feet, passed through the 6.2-mile- long Moffat Tunnel and crossed the river on a 50-year-old bridge about 30 seconds ago. From this point it’s about another 90 minutes to the resort town of Glenwood Springs. (Doc Holiday is buried there.) Today is a beautiful June day; February is another story.

They call this the Mighty Mississippi and they ain’t kidding! It’s impossible to put into words just how impressive this river really is. We’re on the Southwest Chief crossing from Iowa into Illinois on a bridge that was replaced just a few years ago. The town of Galesburg is our next stop. It’s about an hour up ahead.

This train–the photo is by the French National Railroad– runs along the French-Spanish border and dates all the way back to the 1920s. Towards the end of its journey, it actually crosses a river (it’s down there somewhere) on a suspension bridge! We were almost all the way across before I realized it (I did feel a slight sway). The informal name for this train is Le Petit Train Jaune (The Little Yellow Train) and it’s operated by the French national railroad. Patronage is about half local, half tourist. Most of the time, one of the rail cars is open to the weather. Start to finish, I believe the entire route is less than 60 miles. Even if you’re not into trains, this is a “must do” visitor experience.

This shot was taken in the dining car of VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train, The Canadian. If I remember correctly, we had either just left Jasper, Alberta, or the town was an hour of so up ahead. We have just crossed the Fraser River, and will follow it off and on all the way into Vancouver, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a white water experience here in the Canadian Rockies, but it becomes a serene, meandering river once the mountains are left behind.

Here’s my favorite “river shot”. For thirty minutes before we got here, someone on The Gahn’s public address system was reminding passengers and crew alike that we were approaching the Fink River. Well, here it is! When I got home, I looked it up in my encyclopedia, where It’s described as “a major intermittent river in Australia.” (Here it’s on one of it’s severe intermittent days!)

And finally, this photo was taken as the Sunset Limited was about halfway across the high bridge over the Pecos River in Texas. Just up ahead is the town of Langtree, where Judge Roy Bean practiced “the only law west of the Pecos.” This is one of the highest railroad bridges in the world. From my little roomette down to the river is about 300 feet. The river comes and goes pretty fast because the train doesn’t slow down to cross the bridge. Before you know it, you find yourself “West of the Pecos” and still traveling at 79 miles-per-hour!

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