Train Travel: My Ride on the Rocky Mountaineer

By Cacinda Maloney

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

Quietly, I sat alone in the train station waiting in the brightly lit station. I had arrived too early and had plenty of time to wait. Slowly I put my head back and with my eyes closed, I imagined the majestic train rolling into the station. Train travel had always been fascinating to me and this was my chance to ride on a luxury train. I envisioned the clanging noise of the bells, as it signaled the trains’ arrival. I nodded off to sleep when the real sounds of the train started to come within hearing distance. I couldn’t tell if it was in my dream or reality, when suddenly I was startled, and I heard the loud rumbling noises of the massive blue and gold tube of metal rolling into the station. I sensed an exciting ripple effect among the now-crowded waiting hall as the massive Rocky Mountaineer Train slid in majestically. The excitement had begun, as it slowly came into view in front of the massive floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the hall. This place was buzzing with enthusiasm and eagerness as the conductor chose one lucky rider to pump the billows that blew the “All Aboard” signal. Then the ceremonial bagpipes begin to play as I searched for my ticket to determine my train number and seat…

7 Things You will NOT see on your trip across the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer!

Photo by Dr. Cacinda Maloney

My train travel trip of a lifetime had begun.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

It would be a two-day train journey from the gorgeous city of Vancouver to the equally gorgeous town of Banff. With its starting point in the gorgeous British Columbia, it winds its way thru the Canadian Rocky Mountains with an overnight in the cowboy town of Kamloops and then on to Banff.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

For my chosen route of train travel, we will go from a city (Vancouver) into the rainforest, then to the snow capped Rocky Mountains and then to an arid desert plateau and then on day two we go back into the mountains climbing upwards as the weather becomes much cooler. It is quite a journey through many climate zones, so if you choose this route, layer your clothing and bring a sweater for this train travel.

7 Things You will NOT see on your trip across the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer!

Photo taken by Dr. Cacinda Maloney

Come along with me as I explore train travel in Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer

I had spent a wonderful few extra nights at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver before heading out and was ready to enjoy the first class scenery, service and meals promised by the President and CEO himself, Randy Powell.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

Known as “The best train experience in the world.” By the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and “One of the world’s greatest trips” by National Geographic, it comes with a hand full of accolades and I was ready to get this party started.

Once onboard, we waved goodbye and screeched towards the outskirts of Vancouver. As we crossed the Fraser Swing Bridge, we begin our assent to the spectacular Coast Mountains. At this point, I am already hungry for breakfast. This was when I found out that the Michelin-accredited chef onboard has a staff of over 80 culinary trained workers helping him prepare meals for all classes of service on the train. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get much better than lox and caviar on eggs for breakfast! This is a luxury train!

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

While rolling thru Fraser Canyon, we spot Hell’s Gate, a popular tourist attraction, located at the narrowest part of the mighty Fraser River.

Mr. Simon Fraser arrived here in 1808 and wrote in his journal:
“We had to pass where no human should venture and surely we had entered the   Gates of Hell.”
Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

The surrounding cliff walls funnel about 200 million gallons of water thru this canyon that is only about 110 feet wide. And this is done every single minute! What an amazing feat! That is twice the volume of water of the Niagara Falls! The power of the rapids seen down below is incredible as the rivers come together and it passes through the smallest midpoint.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer

Rocky Mountaineer has many routes, but for my chosen journey, I went from Vancouver to Banff. One of the major highlights from the itinerary of day one was the Cisco Crossing or Cisco Bridges. This is where we saw two bridges crossing the river at the same spot and it is a favorite of photographers where they can get two bridges in one shot (I will try to get the shot next time, as I didn’t know at the time that it was a thing).

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo by Dr. Cacinda Maloney

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo by Dr. Cacinda Maloney

The two bridges are the black Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) bridge, built in England in the 1880’s and the orange Canadian National Railway (CNR) bridge, which is the largest single span bridge on the line. It crosses 220 feet above the river. The view is stunning!

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Cisco Crossing, Cisco Bridges

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

At the confluence at the Fraser and Thompson rivers, we begin our transition from mountain vistas to the arid interior of the Thompson plateau. One of our first indicators was the rainbow canyon and avalanche alley.

Rainbow Canyon derived its name from the dramatic array of colors reflected in the rocks. When iron, copper and sulfur are exposed to oxygen (due to avalanches and other natural events), the newly exposed minerals provide hues of colors when oxidized. Copper, for example turns green and purple.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Colored Hills, Part of the X-Files was filmed here. — in Savona, British Columbia. Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks Photography

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Kamloops, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks Photography

As we continued on the route and drifted through Western Canada, we saw in the distance the first overnight stop of Kamloops. Greeting us upon arrival was the Kamloops Mountain Patrol on horseback! We overnighted here and continued on the next day to Banff…

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Kamloops, Rocky Mountaineer

Dawn at Kamloops – Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks PhotographyPhotography

Back on the train, it is not long before we encountered the spiral tunnels located outside of the town of Field, which is a great feat of spiral engineering. The steep grade of the mountains caused the engineers to create this spiral system back in the early 1900’s.The construction of these two spiral tunnels allowed them to lessen the grade of the mountain by 2.2% and makes train travel so much easier. This instead of the nearly impossible grade of 4.5 degrees, on “The Big Hill”. This would have required too many puller and pusher engines for every freight train that goes through this section of the Rockies. The train crossed over the entrance when it exited the first tunnel. The tunnel then completes a 270 degree left-hand turn while gaining elevation. A little further up the tracks, it does it again to the right. The Rocky Mountaineer is the ONLY passenger train allowed to traverse this route. The manpower to build these tunnels through sheer rock was about a thousand employees at a cost of almost 1.5 million Canadian dollars. This is one of the steepest and most scenic railway lines in North America.

7 Things You will NOT see on your trip across the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer!

Photo by Dr. Cacinda Maloney

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

The view inside the Rocky Mountaineer while traveling through the Spiral tunnels. It was very dark once inside the tunnel system. Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks Photography

Then, at an elevation of 5332 feet, up next is the Continental Divide, which marks the highest point in our journey and is a geographical phenomenon. The boundary between British Colombia and Alberta Canada provides watershed to two major oceans, where the water to the east flows to the Atlantic Ocean and water to the west flows to the Pacific Ocean! How cool is that?

Then soon after, our final destination on the Rocky Mountaineer has arrived. It is the glorious town of Banff, which is Canada’s very first national park. It is home to bears, elk and bighorn sheep, as well as other wildlife and encompasses 2500 square miles.

Train Travel, Canada, Fairmont Banff. Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks Photography

One of its major attractions is the Banff Springs Hotel, a royal favorite for years. It is one of the only hotels I know of that has a hotel historian. Mr. Dave Mosberg, who has worked at the hotel for 50 years, explains to my group that the hotel gives a “sense of place and a sense of time.” Many major celebrities have graced the halls of this stunningly beautiful hotel. So it was here, that I felt like royalty and rested my head. I said goodnight to two days of train travel on the Rocky Mountaineer, and anticipated a full day in Banff  the following day to explore this stunning masterpiece of a town.

Train Travel, Canada, Luxury train, train ride, Rocky Mountaineer

Photo courtesy of Greg Wilkins of Wilkinswerks Photography

Disclosure: I was hosted by Rocky Mountaineer and Fairmont on my stay while visiting Vancouver to Banff, Canada this year.

For more good reads about Rocky Mountaineer Train Rides :

7 Things You Will Not See on the Rocky Mountaineer

Great Railway Journeys

Rocky Mountaineer – The World’s Greatest Trip

Romance on the Rails  – Rainforest to Gold rush Route

The Icefields Parkway Tour

For 3 Things You Are Going To Miss After Your Rocky Mountaineer Train Journey

First look: Rocky Mountaineer Train

 8 Hours on the Rocky Mountaineer Train

All Aboard! 5 Reasons to Ride the Rocky Mountaineer Train Now

Rocky Mountaineer Train routes quiz: and what mountain animal are you?

Amazing Rocky Mountaineer Train Wildlife Photos. Not.

How Not to Meet People on the Rocky Mountaineer Train

Rocky Mountaineer Train: Scenic Train Routes

Rocky Mountaineer Train Gold Leaf – Tips for Travellers Video

2017-07-10T16:42:28+00:00

2 Comments

  1. Mike's Road Trip December 2, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I so want to do this…looks/sounds like so much fun!

    • Cacinda Maloney December 2, 2015 at 10:55 am

      It would be right up your alley! Only instead of a road… it is a track!

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