What Travel Writers Say

Big Valley, Alberta

© By Joei Carlton Hossack

  At my age, it might have been an unconscious decision. As a gray-haired, travel author sitting in bookstores hour after hour autographing books, from time to time, I receive wonderful and spontaneous invitations, and after years of nodding politely, thanking shyly and refusing gently, I now accept some invitations with gusto - and with fabulous results. Through one of these spur-of-the-moment invitations, I ended up in Big Valley, Alberta. As I was signing books (Free Spirit - Born to Wander, a collection of short travel essays) at Save-On-Foods in Red Deer, Cindy Mailer asked if I had heard about the train that starts in Stettler and ends in Big Valley, her home for the last six years. Stettler is located in the heart of central Alberta and is a leisurely three hour drive from Calgary, two and one-half hours from Edmonton. I confessed that I hadn't, so she proceeded to tell me about it.
     The Alberta Prairie Railway Excursion offers a variety of day trips aboard a 1920 Baldwin Consolidation 2-8-0 steam or a 1958 diesel locomotive powered train. During the journey, on board the train, you travel through the beautiful rolling and treed countryside of Alberta's parkland. Excursions begin and end in Stettler with on-board entertainment, a live commentary explaining the trip, gunfights, and the occasional train robbery along the way. The train is brought to a screeching halt by the dreaded outlaw "Bolton Gang," known to frequent these parts. But fear not, the Canadian Metis hero, Gabriel Dumont, arrives to end their evil ways. After a short but furious gun battle, the money that the outlaws took from passengers is retrieved. Since it's impossible to tell who the money belongs to, it is donated to a number of children's charities. There are a couple of concessions and children's play areas and the Lone Star Saloon - in case you can't wait for the full-course buffet dinner at Jubilee Hall, built in 1964 on the occasion of the village's Golden Jubilee.


     The village of Big Valley is located 80 km east of Innisfail, near the junction of highways 590 and 56. Teepee rings, a buffalo jump and other Indian lore testify to centuries of Blackfoot and Cree Indian activities. Situated in an ancient river bed, it was incorporated as a village in 1914. Big Valley's many attractions include a restored railway station, round house interpretive center, the beautifully restored 1916 St. Edmund's Church and the historic 1920 brick bank building still used as a bank and insurance office. Jimmy Jock Boardwalk sits on the former location of a Chinese café owned by the late Jimmy Jock. There are six small businesses in the horseshoe-shaped boardwalk - two art galleries, a shop selling antiques and collectibles, a fudge factory, barbershop, a saloon, and a tea-room with the best cinnamon buns made by owner Vivian Hulley herself.
     When the train arrives in Big Valley with 200-400 people on board, the population of the town explodes to more than double, but there is always room for one more - you.

Joei Carlton Hossack is the author of (1) Everyone's Dream Everyone's Nightmare (2) Kiss This Florida, I'm Outta Here (3) A Million Miles from Home (4) Alaska Bound and Gagged (5) Free Spirit - Born to Wander and (6) Chasing the Lost Dream. She is an entertaining and inspirational speaker specializing in world travel and writing/publishing and promotion. She can be reached at JoeiCarlton@Hotmail.com & www.joeicarlton.com. Joei is extremely well known in the RV community. She lives and thrives in a 10-foot truck camper. When off the truck, it sits on 4 electric jacks (1 at each corner). The camper sits in the bed of an F-250, 3/4 ton diesel truck.

      Click for Innisfail, Alberta Forecast

Photo Credits
Alberta Tourism, Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions

If you go
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Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions: www.absteamtrain.com
Big Valley: http://www.villagebigvalley.ca/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_valley_alberta

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Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/



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