An early start was required to get to the Rocky Mountaineer station for 0715, having checked out of our hotel. The Rocky Mountaineer leaves from a different station and seemed to be some sort of converted industrial building. The train was already alongside when we arrived and we were soon asked to board.
The train is split into two classes. Silverleaf is the standard class with single decker carriages with panoramic roofs and food served at passengers’ seats. Goldleaf Class, which we were booked into, uses bespoke double decker carriages. These have seating upstairs, along with panoramic glass roofs, and a dining area on the lower level. Open vestibules for viewing the scenery and lavatories are also downstairs at one end; there’s a lift for those who can’t use the spiral stairs. The seats in the upper deck recline, have integrated heating and tray tables, and have great legroom. The seats are arranged in forward facing airline style (with the ability to swivel when the train reverses after each journey). The higher level also helps passengers to better enjoy the view above trackside trees.
Each carriage has four staff serving passengers (or guests), with two upstairs and two downstairs. Each Goldleaf carriage then has its own kitchen with kitchen staff. our train was about 12 carriages long, with five Goldleaf carriages in two separate parts of the train, a similar number of Silverleaf carriages and other generator and stores carriages making up the total. There were two locomotives at the head of our train.
The train departed on time, first reversing out of the platform, before heading forwards when safely onto the mainline and given permission to proceed. This solved a mystery for me as I’d struggled to work out from satellite mapping how the train got out of the city – there was no obvious direct route from the station platform.
The food service started soon after departing but, as the dining car only had capacity for half the carriage, there were two sittings. We’d been allocated seats near the front of the carriage and were in the first breakfast sitting; those in the second sitting were served coffee & pastries upstairs in their seats to keep their hunger pangs at bay. On the second day of the journey, the sittings reverse with the front half taking second sittings for breakfast and lunch after the rest of the carriage have had their food.
We ate our breakfast (Eggs Benedict for me, but a range of options were available) while the train snaked its way through the suburbs, and across rivers, out of Vancouver. We were sat opposite a honeymooning couple from the UK, two of the only other British passengers we met. Eventually, well over an hour or so into the journey, we started to see lush farmland of the Fraser Valley. After breakfast we vacated the downstairs dining area for our fellow guests to have their breakfast – at about 10am. We continued to be plied with drinks and snacks upstairs, with the staff providing commentary on interesting lineside features and historical information, all in an entertaining fashion.
The scenery changed from verdant farmland of the Fraser Valley to more arid canyons areas as we snaked our way through the lower foothills of the Rockies. At about midday we were called downstairs to lunch – a three course meal with small starters, a good choice of main course (steak, chicken from Fraser Valley, pork, risotto etc) and a dessert. There was also a good choice of local British Columbia wines and beers.
On-train dining of this quality is always a very civilised affair with scenery passing by the windows and attentive service. We were sat opposite an older couple from Alberta and spent a pleasant 90 minutes eating, drinking and soaking up the scenery.
After lunch, the stunning scenery continued, with our train taking the original (Canadian Pacific) route along the west bank of the Thompson River; westbound trains take the later Canadian National rails on the opposite bank. We saw a steady stream of very long westbound freight trains across the river and, at one point, even saw a westbound Rocky Mountaineer pass us on the other track across the river. At one point, we passed through the Jaws of Death gorge, where the riverbanks became particularly steep sided and rapids are formed on the rocky riverbed.
All this time we were plied with snacks and drinks until we entered the outskirts of Kamloops, our home for the night. After again reversing from the mainline into the company’s main depot, we were all put onto a fleet of coaches and taken to our hotels in the town, where our luggage was waiting for us, having travelled separately while we were on the train. It was dark and well past 7pm when we got to our rooms.
Kamloops is a town of 100,000 residents and fairly industrial; there weren’t many enticing restaurant options in the town and so we had some food at the Sandman Signature hotel’s bar before retiring to our room. The next morning we had to be picked up at 0605, so it wasn’t a late night!