Rocky Mountaineer “Journey Through the Clouds”
By Dale Graham
Since I was a kid I have had a fascination with trains and over the years I have had the opportunity to travel on a few. The first I can remember was from North Vancouver to Prince George on the old BC RAIL Passenger train when I was 5 or 6, I was afraid to get out of my seat and walk around because the Conductor might kick me off! I have traveled several trains through North America, on the High Speed Trains in Europe at 300 kmh, I have traveled on the “Chepe” Chihuahua Pacifico through the Copper Canyon in Mexico. However the one that I had been wanting to try the most was the Rocky Mountaineer through the Rocky’s.
I had the opportunity do this trip a few days ago and it did not disappoint! From our arrival in Jasper to board the train we could tell that this was going to be a great adventure. We were meet at the curb by a faintly porter that took our bag and walked us over to the Check in desk. As we walked he explained that our bag would be waiting in our hotel in Kamloops (The train only travels during daylight so you do not miss any of the scenery). Checking in was quick and we joined everyone as we waited to board the train.
The Rocky Mountaineer has 2 classes of service, Silver and Gold. Silver class cars are Single level glass domed coach with oversized windows and the Gold is in a two level, glass domed coach with full-length windows and a dining room on the lower level. We were in the Gold Leaf and it was Amazing with the full length windows comfy seats and tons of room.
Day 1 Jasper to Kamloops
As we pulled out of the Station our 4 hosts in our car brought around champagne and we toasted to a wonderful journey. On the first day we passed some of the most incredible scenery you will see in Alberta and British Columbia. Moose Lake and its clear blue-Green color, Mount Robson, Pyramid Falls and then along the Thompson River. All along the journey the Rocky Mountaineer host made sure to tell us the history of the different places that we passed as well as alert us of any wildlife that may be seen. The history along this portion of the trip is quite amazing. At a little place called Canoe River in the 1950’s there was a train crash and 19 soldiers and 2 engineers were killed. The signal man was charged for the accident, his family was friends with John Diefenbaker who became the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, He came to BC passed the Bar Exam and defended him. Read the full story here. We also learned about the Overlanders when we passed “Little Hells Gate”.
We had Breakfast and Lunch on the train in the Dining Room, you have a choice of 5 or 6 Items and everything is made fresh to order. If there was a problem with anything it was quickly taken care of. The quality of the dishes was great and everyone looked forward to the next meal and what would be choices we would have to make. During the day between meals snacks where provided and drink service was always ongoing. It is quite amazing the quality and quantity of the food that is put out from the rather small moving kitchen in the Train Car and the fact that each car has it own kitchen and the same quality is coming out of each car is a testament to the commitment to service that Rocky Mountaineer has to its customers. We spoke to the train manager as couple times as he passed through the train and commented on this to him. He said that their mission is to provide the Best of everything that they can on each journey.
When we arrived in Kamloops we all hoped on buses that are lined up beside the train and took the short 5 minute trip to the hotel. As promised our bags where in our room in the hotel. The next morning we let our bags in the room as instructed and headed back to the Bus to return to the train. This whole operation was the smoothest I have seen, our bus driver called it the “Rocky Mountaineer Bus Ballet”. 12 buses pulling into a parking lot then criss-crossing to get in the right order so they stopped right in front of your train car. Very well done.
Day 2 was Kamloops to Vancouver
This Morning we traveled along Kamloops Lake, Lots of Mountain sheep are along here. Again in the morning we travel along the Thompson River till it meets the Fraser River. On this portion we passed by Rainbow Canyon with its Multi Colored rocks. Many Rapids along the Thompson River. We pass by Ashcroft and its Desert climate Spencer’s Bridge and several little towns along the way to Lytton where the Thompson River meets the Fraser River. During the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush around 10,500 miners and an untold number of hangers-on populated its banks and towns. At Hells Gate, near Boston Bar, the canyon walls rise about 3,300 ft above the rapids and it is the narrowest part of the Canyon. Fish ladders along the river’s side help the salmon to bypass a rockslide that diverted the river during the blasting of the Canadian Northern Railway line in 1913.
We crossed the Cisco bridges—a pair of railway bridges at the throat of a rocky gorge. From south to north, the Canadian Pacific has been on the west side of the canyon, while the Canadian National has been on the east side. Here the two railways switch sides and now have an agreement to allow directional running through the Canyon all eastbound trains CN, CP , Rocky Mountaineer run on the CP line. All westbound trains CN, CP, Rocky Mountaineer use the CN tracks.
The Changes in the scenery on this lag of the trip was very dramatic, from desert like in Kamloops to the Green Forests along the canyons to the Fraser Valley and its Farms and finally in to Vancouver. Again the Hosts we had gave us information on all we saw and gave us the interesting history of the Gold Rush and the building of the Railway though the Fraser Canyon. When we finally arrived in Vancouver it was again a smooth transition to get off the train and our journey came to an end.
This was defiantly one of the better trips we have been on and I am glad we got to check it off our Bucket List. Some of the scenery that you see on this trip is not viewable from the road and with the hosts you never miss anything. Everyone that I talked to on the Train had no complaints. I would defiantly recommend doing this trip. We met some great people onboard and I am now going to look to do the Vancouver to Banff journey. A GREAT JOURNEY.