Jess' Canadian Train Experiences

Staff member: Jess // Trip date: Oct 2010

Jess' Canadian Train Experiences

The Whistler Mountaineer
3rd September 2010

On the 3rd of September 2010, I had the honour of taking the greatest train I have ever taken. This is a very big call, but I think I have taken enough trains to be able to really type it honestly.
At 7:15am, we were collected from our Hotel by the convenient pick-up service that comes free with this train (an added bonus), and by 8am, we were being welcomed onto this amazing train by our 3 incredible hosts, Doug, Kim and Janette.
As we were in Gold Leaf, we were shown to our own dome car, with panoramic windows, and shown to our seating. The seats were very comfortable, and there was plenty of legroom to stretch out, as well as plenty of space to put your bags beneath the seat in front of you.
As soon as we were all seated, Doug was on the microphone welcoming us and assuring us we were in for a fantastic experience. The weather was clear and the atmosphere within the train was already excited, as the train started up and we headed out of the North Vancouver station and begun our winding journey towards Whistler.
To celebrate our departure, we were all given non-alcoholic fruit punch, and all had a toast to the day ahead. The scenery alone on this trip would have made for a truly memorable experience, but the customer service and hospitality shown by the train staff really was above and beyond all I had imaged.
As we passed the many houses in the Northern Shores, we were all surprised to find their residents all standing on their balconies waving to us, with warm friendly smiles. This was to happen for the entire trip, starting from when we left the station, and were farewelled by ground staff. The train seemed to encourage people to wave to us, regardless of what they were doing; they would stop and wave, as well as getting their children to join along. It was good fun to play along and watch as these strangers make these gestures purely to brighten our day. It had a lasting result.
Approximately 40 minutes into the trip, we were advised that it was time for breakfast, which we were all eagerly awaiting as the lovely smells of the cooking food wafted through our carriage. Within a matter of minutes, Doug had served the whole carriage our scrumptious breakfast. This was a mozzarella filled omelette with potato hash, bacon, grilled ham and tomato as well as a small fruit platter and tea or coffee. This was an outstandingly good feed for a train meal. It was not only delicious, but substantial enough to leave us very satisfied until lunch later that day.
There was an almost constant running commentary to keep us informed as to where we were and what we were seeing. Various points of interest were pointed out throughout the journey and with the breathtaking scenery going by at such a steady pace, it was so easy to take great pictures.
After a couple more hours of this relaxing train, we pulled into Whistler Station, greeted by several waving staff members.
As soon as the train stopped, we were all given instructions as to which waiting bus we would be getting on to ferry us into the Whistler village. This was a very easy and well organized and we were within the Whistler Village within a matter of minutes to either grab some lunch, souvenir shop or take the gondola to the peaks of Whistler.
On the return at 2:15pm, we were ferried back to the Whistler Station and hopped back into our seats for the journey home. The good part was that on the return, we got a view of the opposite side of the train, and got totally different photos.
About an hour into the return journey, we were all told we were to get a very yummy surprise and to that it was their signature afternoon tea. This started with a fantastic range of teas to choose from and a lovely fresh scone with jam and cream. This was followed up by some finger sandwiches, much like you would get at any high tea, followed lastly by 3 decadent deserts; a chocolate dipped strawberry, a lemon tart and a cream filled profiterole. It was very good to say the least.
Once we were all festively full, we had another hour to soak up as much of the beautiful surroundings as possible until we drifted slowly back into the North Shore district, greeted again by joggers, families walking their dogs and the people in their homes waving to us and welcoming us back.
The train came to a stop and we were all hesitant to get off. We had made great friends with the hosts, and had been treated so well that we didn't want to leave. We did have to leave though, and so we were shuttled back comfortably to our hotels. Overall an outstanding train with the best customer service and attention to detail I have experienced anywhere. It would be an utter shame to come to Vancouver and not take this train.

The Rocky Mountaineer
6th - 7th September

On the 6th of September, we took a taxi from our hotel in central Vancouver to The Rocky Mountaineer station. This only took about 10 minutes, and by the time we arrived at 7am to check in our luggage and sadly for us it was a dreary morning and quite cold. The check-in procedure was very easy and we were directed to our Gold Leaf check-in area and our bags were tagged and taken for us. We were advised that the bags would be ready for us in our rooms upon our arrival into Kamloops. Before long the "All aboard" was called by all the staff, which was our cue to move to our carriages, in our case quite fast as it started raining heavily.
We were shown into our carriage and told to make our way up the spiral staircase to the dome car with panoramic windows. The seats we were given we would have for the 2 days, so we made sure we got very comfortable.
After an introduction to the staff, we were advised there would be 2 sittings for breakfast, as there was such a large group, and we would be in the 1st group. We were then told to make our way down to the dining car as breakfast was ready. As soon as we chose seats, and got comfortable, we were given a menu and a waiter came around to ask what we would like for breakfast. After we ordered, we were all given a choice of juices, tea or coffee and fresh hot croissants. Within 10 minutes our fresh breakfast that had just been prepared by the chefs was being delivered to our table and we were tucking into some great food. After we finished, we were topped up with more juice, tea and coffee and were given some time to sit and talk to our new acquaintances at the table. We then made our way back upstairs, very full and spent the remainder of the morning trying to spot wildlife out the windows and watching Salmon dive out of the water and the scenery slowly change from lush green to dry arid desert. The alcoholic drinks were included with Gold leaf, and these drinks started at about 11am.
At about 12pm, it was time for the first group to go down for lunch, which took no time at all. The menu was extensive and there was a soup, a main and a desert to choose from. All drinks were included with our tickets too. After our meals we made our way back up to the dome car and played "spot the wildlife" again while talking in the isles to the passengers around us. The terrain changed so frequently, that every hour we would have a different photo opportunity.
At 5:35pm we rolled into Kamloops Station, greeted by horse mounted staff members, waving us in. We were all taken by bus to our hotels, and as promised, our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms upon arrival. We had about an hour in our rooms before being picked up by another bus and taken to the dinner show "Rhythm of the Rails". The drive only took about 10 minutes and we were inside and eating within 20 minutes. The show started after we had all finished eating and having a friendly chat with the people on our table. The show was about a young man who dreams to make it big in the music world by writing a great song. For inspiration he takes The Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver and meets some unlikely friends along the way.
After the show finished, it was about 10:30pm, and we were all growing tired from the long day. We made our way back to the buses and were shuttled back to our hotels for a good night sleep. The next morning was quite early again, and we boarded the shuttle at 7:15am and were taken back to Kamloops station to begin our next leg of this journey.
We got on board and within minutes the train started back up again and it was announced the 1st group for breakfast yesterday would become the 2nd group today, to keep it fair. This meant the back half of the train headed out for breakfast, and as they were gone, we were given tea and coffee and croissants to tide us over until it was our time for breakfast. When we finally did get down to the dining car for breakfast, the menu and service was the same as the day before, but still plenty of variety.
After breakfast, I wanted to spend some time taking photos, so I was out in the open air carriage for a while until the coolness got the better of me. The rest of the morning went quite slow, as we were just beginning to get into some lush terrain again, and at one stage we were advised that there was a bear spotting, and most people in my carriage saw a baby black bear. I did not see it unfortunately.
Because there was such a gap between our breakfast and lunch, when the other group was eating their lunch, we were given a small snack or cheese and a large cracker. By the time lunch had come around we were quite hungry, and tucked into another 3 courses of delicious food, with beverages included. The staff in the dining car were amazing, and we had many jokes with them, which made it all the more enjoyable.
About 2 hours after lunch, the commentary told us that we were officially in the Rockies and the area surrounding us was a national park. It was clear to see from the gorgeous scenery that we had reached the most popular area in Canada, and also why it was so popular. The weather was lovely as we pulled into the Banff station, and we were all quite excited to finally be in the Canadian Rockies.
Our luggage again had been transferred to our hotels, and we didn't need to worry about it at all. The shuttle ride to the hotel was comfortable and quite quick, and we were in our hotel room about 30 minutes after we left the train. All in all a very relaxing and stress free journey, with everything taken care of.

The Canadian: Jasper - Vancouver
14th - 15th September

I did not realize when I booked this train just how great of a journey this would have turned out to be. As the final train on our journey, it was an absolute pleasure to take this overnight train.
We boarded the train at about 2:30pm and found our cabin easily. We were fortunate enough to be given an end cabin, which is slightly larger as it is designed with wheelchair passengers in mind. In addition we had our own toilet within our cabin. Showers were located just outside of our door and were shared, but I didn't really feed the need for one, as we had both showered that morning. Our room was so much bigger than anything I have ever seen in Europe, so much so that you could spread your arms our and not touch anything at all. I was very impressed.
We decided to go for a wander around the train to see what we could find. The first thing we did was find one of the economy cars. This was the one that was the same level as the rest of the train. We got an amazing view from this room, and I was so surprised at how comfortable the seats were. It would have been very easy to have a little nap in there, but we wanted to explore a little more, so we went off to have a look at the dining car. On the way back from viewing the dining car, we accidently found what was to be the best thing about out trip (besides the food), the scenic dome car. We walked up the steps and were greeted happily by other passengers, and instantly struck up conversations and friendships with fellow passengers. The weather was great, and so with the sun shining, it was a very happy and warm atmosphere in there. The train had to stop a couple of times due to power issues, which made the train quite warm, but our carriage assistant was quick to ask if anyone wants water, or anything to drink, and bought it all up there for us. It was not a problem at all.
At 5pm, the first sitting was called for dinner, and that was all of us in the scenic dome car. We were quite peckish by then and were very excited to find a fantastic and rather extensive menu, which started with a soup, salad, then went on to a main, sides of your choice, and a desert with tea, coffee and soft drinks all included. The menu itself was great, but more surprising still was the quality and quantity of this great food. I was used to terrible European train food, and when I took my first mouthful of this food, I could have sworn I was in a fine dining restaurant. It was so delicious! Absolutely everything my mother and I consumed was amazing. We had great company on the train too, which made the time pass very quickly.
After our outstanding dinner and dessert we all made our way back to the scenic dome car to catch a glimpse of the sun going down. Unfortunately we didn't have anything to see as the mountains and trees blocked any views we might have had, but it was quite beautiful anyway.
We ended up staying up there chatting and making jokes until our carriage attendant came up for a "beer tasting" session, where he taught us all about the local beers and their differences. Only a couple of people actually participated, and the rest of us just listened and asked questions. After that we spent some time star gazing and discussing our different cultures and countries before retiring to our cabin at about 9pm.
The beds were made for us when we opened the doors, and there were chocolates on the pillow. The beds were incredibly comfortable and I drifted off not long after my head hit the pillow.
As my mother and I didn't have a watch, we had no way of knowing what time it was, and I didn't want to miss out on breakfast, so I decided to get up, at what I thought was around 7am to get dressed and have something to eat. When I got to the dining car, it was dark and no one was there, so I headed back up to the scenic dome car to watch the sun rise. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had in my life. The carriage was dead silent, and the view was worth a million dollars. It simply cannot be described by words. I was snapped out of my hypnotic state by our friends from the day before, whom when I asked what the time was advised me that it was 6:15am. So I guessed I had gotten up about 5:15am. Oops.
When the dining car finally did open, we were straight in there and had another great menu to choose from which included fruit, eggs, smoked salmon, bacon, potato hash, croissants, tea and coffee, and the option of muesli and yogurt, and various other alternatives. Again, the food was faultless and fantastic. We stayed in there for quite a while drinking tea and watching the scenery change back to what it looked like on the first day of The Rocky Mountaineer.
After breakfast we went back to our rooms to find the beds packed up, and the room back to the day configuration. After freshening up, we went back to the scenic dome car and spent the rest of the journey talking about our holidays and what was next. When the train finally rolled into Vancouver, we did not want to leave. We were actually advised by a train staff member that we had stopped and we could get off the train now... which we knew, but didn't want to believe.
This was such a great train trip that I can't wait to get back to Canada and do this train again, next time for much longer, from Toronto to Vancouver. This train is in a league of its own and puts all overnight services in Europe to shame. To say I highly recommend this train would be a gross understatement. Just like The Whistler Mountaineer, not taking this train would be a complete shame. It was the best ending to our Canadian holiday that we could have dreamed of.

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