Posted by: travelrat | October 1, 2015

The Rocky Mountaineer

Photo by Kris Eichler

Photo by Kris Eichler

I think I was about ten years old when I first started dreaming of the Great North American Train Ride. My Dad’s employer used to give me back numbers of the National Geographic Magazine, within which were adverts for those trans-continental trains … not many people flew, in those days.

Where they differed from the rather Victorian throw-back British Railways was the sleek, modern locos and carriages equipped with Vistadomes, in which you could sit (I suppose you’d have to pay a premium?) and admire the scenery as it unfolded around you. And, they timed the trains so you traversed the bits where there wasn’t much to see by night, when you’d be tucked up in your berth.

When we rode the Ghan in Australia last year, I wondered if the experience might be improved if their carriages incorporated observation domes. Maybe bridge clearances, or something prohibit this? That service differs in that, by night, the train actually stops for a few hours, so that passengers can see the best of the scenery by daylight.

Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer, on which we’re booked to ride next year does stop overnight … but doesn’t have sleeping berths. Instead, passengers de-train, and are accommodated in a hotel in Kamloops, to continue the journey in the morning.

It does have observation domes, though! Those in the Gold Leaf  class are on the top deck, with a dining room beneath; the Silver Leaf carriages are single-deckers, and your food is brought to your seat. Red Leaf  have to be content with the view out of the window.

The route is from Vancouver to Banff over the Kicking Horse Pass … and, for some reason, that name always brings forth a vision of an old-time wood-burning steam loco belching out black smoke as it toils laboriously up the hill.

I don’t expect any toiling here … nevertheless, it should be quite a ride!

Photo by Chris Ratcliff

Photo by Chris Ratcliff



  1. It’ll be gorgeous! I had the good fortune of seeing Banff years ago — the scenery around it was stunning.

    • I’ve seen pictures & video and hear accounts from friends who’ve done it … looking forward to it.

  2. Kris Eichler writes via Facebook:

    We went ‘Redleaf’ & the windows are very large picture windows, so didn’t really feel we were missing out. (Didn’t have Silverleaf then)We could also go outside at the end of the carriage for fresh air or take photos/videos. The food was great & our Hostess, Karen was so nice, helpful & a wealth of knowledge.

    We went from Kamloops to Jasper. Kamloops have an open air concert in the park every night in summer & there are Mounties riding around who are very friendly to o/s visitors, so worth keeping in mind.

    If you go onto Banff I’m wondering if you go through the spiral tunnels, which are figure 8 tunnels carved in the mountain to reduce the gradient of the track. (This could be just for goods trains tho). We saw this from a lookout & you can see the trains still going through one end of the tunnel, whilst the engine is coming out the other end. Fascinating!

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