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Speaker David Rodway: ‘By Train across Canada’

David left HM Forces in 1976 and worked as an accountant until 2000. After he retired, he took a City and Guilds course in Photography and achieved 4 Distinctions at the age of 68. He has been a volunteer photographer with the Woodland Trust since 2007. His work is on display on his website www.davidrodway.org.uk. He took us on a beautiful audio-visual journey by train across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver.

David discovered that taking the Via Rail train directly would have meant crossing the Rocky Mountains during the night. For a photographer, this made no sense and he and his wife therefore broke their journey at Jasper, where they spent time walking in the Rockies. Their journey started in Manchester from where they flew to Toronto. They spent their first day on Lake Ontario and ended it with a birthday dinner in the revolving restaurant of the CN tower. He illustrated his talk with four audio visual presentations covering Niagara Falls and Toronto, the Train Journey, Hiking Trails around Jasper and the Columbia Icefield.

The photographs of Niagara Falls and the nearby America Falls were spectacular. Perhaps the best photographs though, were those of the scenery and flora and fauna he saw on the train journey between Toronto and Vancouver. David showed us pictures of brown bears, elk moose and deer. Others were of the forest and lakes and glaciers in the vast expanses between the two big cities. Man-made subjects included the Cappilano suspension bridge, one of the attractions near Vancouver and the cable car up Grouse Mountain.

The first 1000 miles of the rail journey was mainly through forest and lakes with very few people. The train stopped at Winnipeg and Edmonton before arriving at Jasper, but David showed that the centres of population occupy a tiny part of the country. This presentation was accompanied by the Theme from The Gadfly by Shostakovich.

During the break in the journey at Jasper, they walked some of the hiking trails and took photographs of  wild animals. They were in the area in early May when the snowline was at a low level, but the animals were feeding voraciously on the grass which had started to grow at lower levels. These conditions were ideal for seeing wildlife. We saw pictures of these to sound of Nella Fantasia, played by Melissa Vaneema.

A trip to the Columbia Icefield to see and travel on the Athabasca Glacier went along the Icefield Parkway which had been built by German PoWs in the Second World War. This is one of five glaciers emanating from the icefield. We saw pictures of the 6 wheel drive coaches used to transport tourists on the glacier and of white-water rafting on the Athabasca river to the music of Plaisir d’Amour and Stranger on the Shore.

On leaving Jasper, David took the Rocky Mountaineer, a train which took 2 days to reach Vancouver, stopping at Kamloops at the end of the first day. This was a town built on fur, gold and cattle. It produced more outstanding photographs including views of the North Thompson River, Mount Robson, Lake Kamloops and the Fraser River.

In reply to questions, David said that the train is very long, with 4 sections each having a dome car, a restaurant, sleeping cars and baggage coaches. He showed a photograph of a tree clawed by a bear - making the point that these animals are best avoided. He explained the differences between Grizzly, Brown and Arctic bears. If you are running away from a bear and seek refuge up a tree, a Grizzly will climb the tree after you, while the Brown will push the tree over to get you. If there are no trees, it is probably an Arctic Bear!