Rocky Mountaineer Train Tour

Aug 31st, 2009, 11:22 AM
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Rocky Mountaineer Train Tour

In one of our vacation magazines we found descriptions of various rail trips. This one fascinated us because it's top rated and promises views of the Rockies we wouldn't get any other way. It goes from Chicago to Seattle in 48 hours. We're wondering: what will we miss at night in a sleeper for two?; what can we expect of meals in the dining car?
travel4now is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 04:40 PM
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The meals in the dining car are average, but they are the best thing about the trip.

Good luck making the trip in 48 hours and in seeing much in the way of mountains.

Our sleeper car had ultra-thin mattresses and a crew it took us too long to fine where they went to hide.

Travel articles in magazines are always upbeat. Nobody, it seems, wants to read about places they don't want to go or means by which they don't want to get there.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 05:29 PM
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You got it--I inquired because I was skeptical of the descriptive writing (travel writers want to get printed), and I know that we'd be going through the plains before the mountains. Thanks a lot.
travel4now is offline  
Aug 31st, 2009, 06:23 PM
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I'm assuming this is Amtrak's Empire Builder, Chicago-Seattle. The first day I woke up around Fargo and saw mostly the plains of North Dakota and eastern Montana during the daylight...there were some nice spots, but if Rockies is what you want your fix of, we only arrived at Glacier International Park close to dusk (and this was close to the summer solstice)... the mountains we did see were lovely, but it sure got dark fast. The next morning, the train passed alongside the Columbia River in Eastern Washington and the scenery of the Cascade Mountains region was lovely.

Some dishes Amtrak does on the long-distance trains I actually have found quite good (much better than in their snack cars on their shorter runs), but don't expect uber-gourmet. I always have slept well on Amtrak's long-distance trains, but not everyone does.

Here's my trip report from about a year ago if you want more details:
Daniel_Williams is offline  
Sep 1st, 2009, 05:12 AM
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I'm confused. Do you literally mean "The Rocky Mountaineer" Train (which only runs in Canada from Vancouver to Banff, etc) or, as Daniel noted, do you mean Amtrak's "Empire Builder" running from Chicago to Seattle through the Rocky Mountains? Those are 2 very different animals.
dfr4848 is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 11:44 AM
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Thanks! I think you two are right--Chicago to Seattle must be Amtrak's Empire Builder and the magazine writer had it wrong (or maybe I did). The description did say we'd go through the Plains of North Dakota, Glacier Park. With these differing opinions, we're not sure we'll want to do this train trip. We appreciate the responses.
travel4now is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Maybe what you read is not Amtrak, but a special tourist train, I don't remember what it called, sometimes they show it on the Travel Channel - unlike Amtrak, it makes stops for passengers to get off, to have a bus tour, then come back to spend another night on the train.

It's either Orient express or Luxury subdivison of Amtrak, not sure. Or maybe "Amtrak vacation?"
Dayenu is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 04:44 AM
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FYI - GrandLuxe Rail Journeys f/k/a American Orient Express filed bankruptcy in 8/08 and is not currently operating any services. [Too bad, it was a VERY nice experience].

Amtrak doesn't have a luxury division.

The Travel Channel has shown several slots about trips on the various private trains running in Canada, like the Rocky Mountaineer, which do allow you to get off, maybe take a tour, etc.

Or yes it could have been a private charter.

If you want to know what train trips are available anywhere, is a very informative site.
dfr4848 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Like Daniel, my experiences on AMTRAK cross-country trains has been better than what some others describe. If you are a type-A personality, it might not be for you because AMTRAK is often late, many times for reasons beyond their control. However, if you can sit back and go with the flow, you might find the experience very satisfying.

If you want views of the Rockies, you have one better choice in the US and two very good choices in Canada. On AMTRAK, the California Zephyer runs between Chicago and San Francisco (Emeryville). On a normal schedule, you get the Rockies during daylight and the Sierra Nevada's also during daylight. Now and until Sept 24th, the stretch between Denver and Salt Lake City is being done by motor coach because of track work.

In Canada, there are two trains that give you the Rockies in superb fashion. First, is the Rocky Mountaineer you originally asked about. It is operated by a private company and is a little pricer. There are two routes it follows. Both start or terminate in Vancouver and both are joined on the route from/to Vancouver to Prince George. If you're east bound, the train splits in Prince George and one section goes to Calgary while the other goes to Jasper. In either direction, you overnight in Prince George so all of your travel is in daylight.

The second is ViaRail's Skeena. ViaRail is the Canadian national passenger railway, similar to AMTRAK in the US but with more interesting trains, usually more reliable service, and somewhat better meals. The Skeena runs between Jasper and Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast. It also overnights in Prince George so your entire travel is in daylight. Another plus, at least for train buffs, is it operates on restored stainless-steel rail cars including the tear-drop lounge car at the end of the train and usually two vista-dome observation cars.

I have been on all three of these trains multiple times and highly recommend them.
dwooddon is offline  
Sep 5th, 2009, 04:12 PM
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Now this is what I need, thank you! (Fortunately, neither of us is Type A.) We've been through the Canadian Rockies more than once--not by train,loved the views and lodging. Among these generous replies we're considering one of your recommendations--Amtrak's California Zephyer. It's the US Rockies we want to see by train, and we want to do that next summer. We'll fly to Chicago from Houston and spend two days there. SF is a favorite, so maybe 2 days there also. We're grateful to all of you for responding.
travel4now is offline  

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