Rocky Mountaineer

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Rocky Mountaineer
Overview
HeadquartersVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Reporting markRMRX
LocaleBritish Columbia and Alberta, Canada
Colorado and Utah, U.S.
Dates of operation1990 (1990)–present
Technical
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Other
Websitewww.rockymountaineer.com Edit this at Wikidata

The Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian rail-tour company based in Vancouver that operates luxury scenic trains on four rail routes in British Columbia, Alberta, Colorado, and Utah.

History[edit]

Via Rail Canada[edit]

The Rocky Mountaineer concept was created by Harry Holmes, (CN Locomotive Engineer) and Pat Crowley (tourism entrepreneur) both of Jasper, Alberta, together they developed a business plan which they presented to Via Rail prior to Expo 86. Designed as an all daylight sightseeing train pulled by the steam locomotive retired CNR 6060 (Bullet Nose Betty class) in the Canadian Rockies. Originally in 1988 it began as a once-weekly Via Rail Canada daytime service between Vancouver and both Calgary and Jasper. The first departure was on May 22, 1988, with a special train for the travel industry and for the traveling public on June 9, 1988, called the Canadian Rockies by Daylight.[1] To maximize scenic views, this service operated only during the day, with an overnight stop in Kamloops. These were express services, with no intermediate stops.[2] On June 4, 1989, Via began its second season of the service, renaming the service the Rocky Mountaineer.[3] The final summer Rocky Mountaineer under Via branding departed Calgary and Jasper on October 12, 1989, and arrived in Vancouver on October 13.[4] Rocky Mountaineer was removed from schedules and marketing in May 1990.[5] After two financially unsuccessful seasons there was to be a change in approach. The Federal Government decided to see if the private sector could do a better job. The then Minister of Transport and the Minister of Finance Michael Wilson decided to sell of the route, equipment, branding and book of business in the fall of 1989. In early November 1989 advertisements were taken out in a number of newspapers soliciting interest in the Rocky Mountaineer.

Private operation of the Rocky Mountaineer[edit]

The federal government curtailed the subsidies to Via Rail in 1989, dramatically reducing services, especially the transcontinental service. The Rocky Mountaineer was a tourist service, and as such the government felt the funds could be better spent on other priorities. They asked then Via Rail and CN Rail CEO Ron Lawless to organize the sale of the route, equipment and book of business to the private sector. The marketing of the Rocky Mountaineer sale started November 12, 1989. The sale process was run by recently retired CN Executive Charles Armstrong. Submissions of interest demonstrating financial and operational capabilities were required by January 15, 1990. Initially there were 20 interested parties, after phase one of the bidding process, that group was reduced to three parties left to make a financial bid. One bidder was Westours Holland America, subsidiary of Carnival cruise line. The other two were a group of Via Rail executives and a Western Canadian entrepreneur.

After the end of the bidding process, in March 1990, the route's equipment, book of business, 12 coaches, two baggage cars, plus assorted equipment and some branding was sold to Vancouver businessman Peter R.B. Armstrong's Armstrong Hospitality Group Ltd. It ran its first train on May 27, 1990.[6]

Awards[edit]

Under private ownership Rocky Mountaineer has become a Canadian Icon, hosting millions of guests from around the world, over the past three decades. these guests spend time in BC and Alberta creating a lot of economic benefits.


Rocky Mountaineer has been awarded the "World's Leading Travel Experience by Train" at the World Travel Awards seven times for its GoldLeaf service as well as the "World's Leading Luxury Train" award 3 times[7] and was recognized by National Geographic Magazine as one of the "World's Best Journeys" in 2007. The Society of American Travel Writers, the world's largest organization of professional travel journalists and photographers, rated the Rocky Mountaineer as the world's top train ride in 2009.[8]

Equipment[edit]

The Rocky Mountaineer boards passengers at Banff, Alberta, showing its former livery
Two Goldleaf double-deck panorama wagons of the Rocky Mountaineer in the station at Jasper

Rocky Mountaineer's fleet:[9]

Previous equipment included GE B36-7 locomotives leased from Santa Fe.[12]

Routes[edit]

Rocky Mountaineer currently operates train journeys on four routes, with three in Canada and one in the United States. Two additional routes (one in Canada and one international) are no longer operated.

  • First Passage to the West: This route travels between Vancouver and Banff, with an overnight stop in Kamloops and an intermediate stop in Lake Louise. It operates primarily on Canadian Pacific Railway trackage, although directional running through the Fraser Canyon means that westbound trains use Canadian National Railway tracks in that area.[13]
  • First Passage to the West Discovery This route travels between Vancouver and Lake Louise via train continuing to Calgary via motorcoach, with an overnight stop in Kamloops and intermediate stops in Banff and Lake Louise. It operates primarily on Canadian Pacific Railway trackage, although directional running through the Fraser Canyon means that westbound trains use Canadian National Railway tracks in that area.[13]
  • First Passage to the West Grand Adventure This route travels between Vancouver and Banff via train continuing to Jasper via motorcoach, with an overnight stop in Kamloops and intermediate stops in Lake Louise and Columbia Icefield. It operates primarily on Canadian Pacific Railway trackage, although directional running through the Fraser Canyon means that westbound trains use Canadian National Railway tracks in that area.[13]
  • Journey Through the Clouds: This route travels between Vancouver and Jasper with an overnight stop in Kamloops. It operates primarily on Canadian National Railway trackage, although directional running through the Fraser Canyon means that eastbound trains use Canadian Pacific Railway tracks in that area.[13]
  • Rainforest to Gold Rush: This route travels between North Vancouver and Jasper, with overnight stops in Whistler and Quesnel. It operates on Canadian National Railway trackage, including ex-BC Rail tracks between North Vancouver and Prince George.[13]
  • Rockies to the Red Rocks: This route travels between Denver and Moab with an overnight stop in Glenwood Springs. It operates on Union Pacific Railroad trackage. Announced in November 2020, this route was initially set to begin service in fall 2021, but this was pushed up, and the first train ran on August 15, 2021.[14]

Former routes[edit]

  • Whistler Mountaineer/Whistler Sea to Sky Climb: This route was a day trip operating between North Vancouver and Whistler on Canadian National Railway trackage. It was discontinued after the 2015 season and incorporated into the overlapping Rainforest to Gold Rush route.[15]
  • Coastal Passage: This route was a day trip operating between Seattle and Vancouver on BNSF Railway trackage, intended to provide travellers from the United States with easier access to the other Vancouver-based routes. It was discontinued after the 2019 season due to low demand.[15]

Service levels[edit]

Upper level of Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf
Lower dining level on GoldLeaf

GoldLeaf[edit]

Operating on all routes except the Rockies to the Red Rocks, Rocky Mountaineer's GoldLeaf service is a custom-designed, bi-level, glass-domed coach with full-length windows and reclining seats that can be rotated to accommodate groups of four. Guests are offered hot meals prepared on board the train, served to them in the lower level dining car.[16][17]

GoldLeaf service is not offered on the Rockies to the Red Rocks route because the coaches exceed the loading gauge; this mainly has to do with the coaches being taller than the Amtrak Superliners and double-stack container trains that frequent the route.[18]

Rocky Mountaineer SilverLeaf

SilverLeaf[edit]

Operating on the same routes as GoldLeaf (and being the only service offered on the Rockies to the Red Rocks route), Rocky Mountaineer's SilverLeaf service is a custom-designed, single-level glass domed coach with oversized windows and reclining seats. Guests are offered breakfast and lunch served at their seat.[16][17]

SilverLeaf Plus[edit]

This service option is only offered on Rocky Mountaineer's Rockies to the Red Rocks route (Denver to Moab). SilverLeaf Plus includes all the benefits of their SilverLeaf Service, plus exclusive access to their newly renovated lounge car. Featuring signature cocktails, the lounge car offers additional space indoors as well as a small outdoor viewing area. This service level offers an elevated dining experience and premium alcoholic beverages.

[16]

Trip structure[edit]

Rocky Mountaineer trains operate exclusively during the day; no sleeper service is offered. All trips include overnight stops at which passengers disembark and stay in hotels.

As Rocky Mountaineer is primarily a rail-tour service, all journeys are end-to-end. Between their origin and destination, trains only stop for overnight layovers, and no passengers may begin or end their journeys at these stations. The one exception to these provisions is the First Passage to the West route, which has an intermediate stop at Lake Louise station, where westbound passengers may board and eastbound passengers may disembark. No tickets are sold solely for the Banff–Lake Louise portion of the trip.

Trains only operate in the tourist season of April to October.

Connecting services[edit]

En route between Banff and Kamloops

Rocky Mountaineer train journeys often include bus connections between stations and hotels. Packages may also include bus connections to nearby cities (such as from Banff to Calgary).

While several cities—including Vancouver, Jasper, and Denver—are served by both Rocky Mountaineer and other passenger rail services (such as Via Rail Canada and Amtrak), no single-ticket rail connections are available.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greenlaw, Christopher (2007). Via Rail. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing. pp. 116–121. ISBN 9780760325292.
  2. ^ Via: Canada's passenger train network. System Timetable. Montreal: Via Rail Canada. May 1, 1988. p. 51.
  3. ^ 1989 Via Rail Annual Report (PDF). Ottawa: Via Rail Canada. December 31, 1989. p. 14. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  4. ^ Via National Timetable (Summer–Fall ed.). Montreal: Via Rail Canada. April 30, 1989. p. 51.
  5. ^ Via National Timetable. Montreal: Via Rail Canada. May 27, 1990. pp. 24–25.
  6. ^ Johnston, Bob (February 2016). "It takes more than scenery". Trains. Vol. 76, no. 2. p. 50.
  7. ^ "Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Service". 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  8. ^ "Travel writers select the world's top 10 train rides". Travel Industry Today. July 16, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  9. ^ "Fact Sheet" (PDF). Rocky Mountaineer. February 25, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c "Fact Sheet" (PDF). Rocky Mountaineer. October 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2, 2016. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  11. ^ "Stadler Goldleaf" (PDF). Stadler. August 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  12. ^ "General Electric Locos in the 1990s". Traingeek. September 25, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Routes". Rocky Mountaineer.
  14. ^ McGough, Will (August 16, 2021). "Canadian luxury scenic train line debuts its first US route". CNN. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Rocky Mountaineer Axes Seattle-Vancouver Route". Latte Luxury News. June 28, 2019.
  16. ^ a b c "Rocky Mountaineer". Rocky Mountaineer.
  17. ^ a b "Rocky Mountaineer: 25 Years of Life Changing Experiences". Canada Train travel Guide. 2015. p. 19.
  18. ^ Johnston, Bob (November 23, 2020). "Rocky Mountaineer targets California Zephyr scenery with SilverLeaf cars". Trains Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]