Rocky Mountaineer

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Rocky Mountaineer
Rocky Mountaineer logo.png
Rocky Mountaineer train.jpg
HeadquartersVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Reporting markRMRX
LocaleBritish Columbia and Alberta, Canada
Colorado and Utah, U.S.
Dates of operation1990 (1990)–present
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge

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.


Via Rail Canada[edit]

The Rocky Mountaineer began as a once-weekly Via Rail Canada daytime service between Vancouver and both Calgary and Jasper 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. Trains departed Vancouver on Sundays; trains to Jasper and Calgary (by way of Banff) departed Kamloops on Monday mornings. These were express services, with no intermediate stops. Return service began westward on Thursdays from Calgary and Jasper, terminating on Friday evening in Vancouver.[2] On June 4, 1989, Via began its second season of the service, renaming the service the Rocky Mountaineer. Scheduling remained the same as the previous season.[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] Via Rail experienced massive reductions in scheduling on January 15, 1990, resulting in the Southern transcontinental service on the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline being terminated. Service on the Rocky Mountaineer continued through the winter of 1990,[5] being removed from schedules and marketing in May 1990.[6]

Private operation[edit]

After the end of Via service on the route in 1990, the route's branding was sold to Vancouver businessman Peter R.B. Armstrong's Armstrong Hospitality Group Ltd. It ran its first train on May 27, 1990.[7]


Rocky Mountaineer has been awarded the "World's Leading Travel Experience by Train" at the World Travel Awards seven times[8] for its GoldLeaf service 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.[9]


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 operates over 75 railcars in its fleet:

Previous equipment included GE B36-7 locomotives leased from BC Rail.[citation needed]


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.[12]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]

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.[14]
  • 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.[14]

Service levels[edit]

Upper level of Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf
Lower dining level on GoldLeaf


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 on board this service are attended to by three to four onboard hosts, in addition to the culinary team. Guests are offered hot meals prepared on board the train, served to them in the lower level dining car. Beverages and snacks are also offered to guests throughout the journey. The two levels of the GoldLeaf coach are accessible by a spiral staircase or an ADA elevator.[15][16]

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.[17]

Rocky Mountaineer SilverLeaf


Operating on the same routes as GoldLeaf (and being the only service offered on the Rockies of 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 onboard are attended to by two to three onboard hosts, and offered a hot entrée option for breakfast and lunch served at their seat and plated to their preference. Complimentary beverages are served throughout the journey, including: wine, beer, spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks. Gourmet snacks are also offered throughout the journey.[15][16]

Trip structure[edit]

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

As Rocky Mountaineer is primarily a railtour service, not an intercity passenger train, 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenlaw, Christopher (2007). Via Rail. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publushing. 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. January 15, 1990. p. 40.
  6. ^ Via National Timetable. Montreal: Via Rail Canada. May 27, 1990. pp. 24–25.
  7. ^ Johnston, Bob (February 2016). "It takes more than scenery". Trains. Vol. 76, no. 2. p. 50.
  8. ^ "Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Service". 2012. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  9. ^ "Travel writers select the world's top 10 train rides". Travel Industry Today. July 16, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "Fact Sheet" (PDF). Rocky Mountaineer. October 2013. Retrieved February 14, 2015.
  11. ^ "Stadler Goldleaf" (PDF). Stadler. August 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  12. ^ a b c "Routes". Rocky Mountaineer.
  13. ^ McGough, Will. "Canadian luxury scenic train line debuts its first US route". CNN. Retrieved August 17, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Rocky Mountaineer Axes Seattle-Vancouver Route". Latte Luxury News. June 28, 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Rocky Mountaineer". Rocky Mountaineer.
  16. ^ a b "Rocky Mountaineer: 25 Years of Life Changing Experiences". Canada Train travel Guide. 2015. p. 19.
  17. ^ Johnston, Bob (November 23, 2020). "Rocky Mountaineer targets California Zephyr scenery with SilverLeaf cars". Trains Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2020.

External links[edit]