Rocky Mountaineer Excursion

Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian sightseeing train running from Vancouver over the Coast and Rocky Mountains to the Lake Louise and Banff National Parks. Mike and Sandy took this trip in October of 2021 with friends Marv and Joni. The train trip itself covers two long days, and runs in the daylight only - guests disembark and sleep in hotels each night.

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Our trip began with a flight to Vancouver, with all the Covid hassles that entails. We enjoyed exploring around the city (with a really good Chinese dinner), and had yet another Covid test as we checked in for the train trip. Passengers can choose the basic train service, or the more luxurious Gold Leaf service, which features two-level dome cars and fancier service and dining.

Once underway, the train took some time getting out of Vancouver, and then the sights really began as we headed up the mountains, following the banks of the Frazer River.The train uses the tracks of Canadian Pacific Railroad, much like Amtrak using BNSF rails, etc.) The dome cars have a dining room on the lower level, and the breakfast and lunch service on board was sensational.

The train route follows the Fraser River through increasingly narrow canyons, including the Hellís Gate area, the fastest flowing part of the river and a bane to early-day travelers. We learned that Canadian National, the Canadian Pacificís arch competitor, built its tracks on the other side of the river -- a Vancouver-bound Rocky Mountaineer train was using their tracks. Some times the line we were on is a single track; sometimes double track, as here where a freight carrying coal being exported to China passed us headed for the coast.

Around 6:30pm, we emerged from the forests, and reached the city of Kamloops, where we spent the night in a hotel. Kamloops is in a "high-mountain-desert" region, in between the Coast Mountain Range and the Rockies. (Think Reno or Salt Lake City, in between the Sierras and the Rockies.)

The next day was up early again, as the train today was to cross most of the Rocky Mountains, stopping at the National Park and resort areas of Lake Louise and Banff (think Vail etc. just before reaching Denver.)
This day the mountains were higher, the woods more dense, the canyons narrower and deeper, and the going slower. We saw the Last Spike location where the Canadian Pacific Railroad completed Canadaís first transcontinental train line (back in 1885). We went through long tunnels and over really high trestles. We crossed the Continental Divide, and shifted to the route of Kicking Horse River heading down the other side from the summit.
Have you heard of the Tehacapi Loop near Bakersfield, where circular tunnels put the locomotive of a train directly above the cars on the back end of the same train? Canada has its version of the same thing, called the Spiral Tunnels, and through them we went.

Here's some more pictures on and around the train.

Our two day train ride came to an end at the Lake Louise train station (featured in the movie Dr. Zhivago), where we checked into the Chateau Lake Louise.

Sightseeing the next morning included Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge, both in the nearby National Park.

A coach transferred us just down the highway a ways to Banff, where we again were accommodated in a 5-star hotel (although not the famous Banff Springs Lodge, where Sandy and Mike stayed back in 2002). A ride on the famous Banff Gondola took us to the top of the mountain overlooking town, and later we saw the rapids (featured in a 1954 Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe movie) and laughed at a herd of elk hanging out on a local golf course.

The next morning our coach took us down the hill to Calgary, just below the east side of the Rockies (think like Denver), where we needed to get our last Covid test of the trip, and enjoyed a nice night in another Fairmont Hotel before flying home.
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