Quesnel, BC is a small city of 9,300 on the Cariboo plateau. It is the overnight stop on the newest Rocky Mountaineer Rainforest to Gold Rush (Fraser Discovery) Route and was chosen simply because it is exactly halfway on the railroad between Whistler (310 miles south) and Jasper (297 miles north). The more practical choice would have been the much larger town of Prince George, 78 miles north but this would have made the day between Whistler and Prince George too long (probably 14 or 15 hours), instead Quesnel was chosen for the overnight stop on the route debuting in 2006 that results in two scheduled 12 hour days (7:30am to 7:30pm there are time changes). This route runs once weekly in each direction. For the 2012 season the eastbound will be in town on Monday nights and westbound on Wednesday nights.
Arriving passengers first get their room keys distributed, while still sitting on the train just after arrival, by their attendants. Upon stepping off there is a welcoming committee of community members, on my trip a member of the local Lions Club, as well as Miss Quesnel. Then board motor coaches, consisting of a fleet of old ex-Greyhounds, with a BC Transit cutaway van for those in wheelchairs, to their hotels. The small town has few hotels and GoldLeaf passengers are bussed out to the nicest hotel in town, the Sandman located in an industrial area next to a Wal-Mart. The only restaurants there are the Denny's and a bar in the hotel. I was too full from all the food to eat. Needless to say the hotel was basic, the room looked a little warn out, the wallpaper fading in a few places, but clean (all I expect from a hotel room). Passengers spending their vacations staying in all of the Fairmonts were not at all happy with its basic and slight shabbiness. One bus driver did run a short nighttime touring trip to show us the downtown, which was interesting. RedLeaf passengers are put in a Best Western Plus, a hotel in the small downtown with motorcoach service but definitely walkable from the station.
The Quesnel Station still feels like a regular railway station, unlike the overnight stop in Kamloops where a road runs alongside the platform and buses line up one by one. There is two-story non-descript two-story station house with a small waiting and storage room with signage for the Rocky Mountaineer. The town's station was first built in 1921, as a plaque informs passengers, and was the railways terminus until 1952 when it was finally extended the final miles into Prince George. The stop had regularly scheduled BC rail service until as 2002 (when it discontinued all passenger rail service) when the plaque says the station was officially closed). The platform consists of a simple track level strip of concrete, tiling pavers in front of the station house, and mobile-lifts are available for passengers in wheelchairs. There is a small rail yard in the area and the Rocky Mountaineer is moved there overnight to be cleaned and serviced. North of the stationhouse is a large parking lot where the buses line up. A sign at the entrance says Welcome to Quesnel, home of the Rocky Mountaineer. A few overgrown, weeded sidings are north of here.
All photos taken on 29 to 30 September, 2011
Last Updated: 14 November, 2011