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Luxury train travel in North America

North America owes much to the early railroad companies who straddled the country back in the 19th century encountering seemingly insurmountable problems with weather and the native populations.  Today we can sit in huge comfort sipping a glass of something cool and delicious as the spectacular countryside slides by our window.  Whether you take the commuter trains between Montreal and Toronto or New York and Washington or one of the iconic journeys such as the Rocky Mountaineer between the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver or the Californian Zephyr which joins Chicago and San Francisco, you will experience some great scenery and outstanding service. Think of cruising on rails. Let’s look at a few of the best. The Rocky Mountaineer. rocky-mountaineeer One of the best trains in the world, the Rocky Mountaineer travels from Seattle via Vancouver along the Fraser Valley and through the amazing Rocky Mountains to either Banff or Jasper.  This is a daylight only train which means that you don’t miss a thing as you will sleep in hotels overnight.  Expect to see not only extraordinary scenery but wildlife such as elk and bear and along the way your host will point out items of interest and entertain you with fascinating stories of Canadian life and history. There are two classes Goldleaf and Silverleaf.  As you might expect, Goldleaf is the best!  You will be seated in a two-level glass domed coach with full length windows.  Most of your day will be in the top tier but you will go downstairs for a gourmet breakfast and lunch which are served in your exclusive dining car. Should you get hungry during the day, you will be served complimentary drinks and snacks at your seat. Silverleaf is very comfortable but you will be sitting in a single level glass domed coach with delicious meals served at your seat.  You will still get all the complimentary drinks  which include wine, beer, spirits and gourmet snacks served throughout the journey. The California Zephyr The Zephyr certainly competes with the Rocky Mountaineer for the competition of the most beautiful train rides in North America.  It certainly has all the ingredients and variety as you traverse the American Rockies, the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas and the plains of Nebraska. You will go through the 6-mile Moffat Tunnel which goes under the Continental Divide in Colorado and along the Glenwood Canyon.  The American trains have long been associated with the National Parks Service and the Zephyr is no exception.  Between Denver and Colorado Springs, you will be able to experience the “Trails and Rails” service where a National Parks guide comes on board the train to explain the geology and wildlife of the parks. The Californian Zephyr This is a 52-hour journey so you will get two sleeps!  Lots of choice of accommodation ranging from a simple roomette which has bunk beds and shared washroom facilities to a supremely comfortable suite which sleeps 4 adults and has two lavatories and showers. There is also an accessible cabin for those who need some extra help. The Coast Starlight Leave the mountains behind and enjoy some amazing coastal scenery on this train which travels between Seattle and  Los Angeles.   For Coach class passengers this legendary train features the Sightseer Lounge Car with big windows and comfortable chairs from which to enjoy the views.  Business class get their own Pacific Parlour car where they can enjoy a wine and cheese party.  Both classes get freshly prepared meals delivered to their seats. The train goes daily and you will get two full days and a night on board as well as two visits from the National Park guides. One between Seattle and Portland talking about the Klondike Gold Rush and another around Santa Barbara to share the history of Juan Bautista de Anza Trail The Coast Starlight VIA Rail Toronto to Vancouver This is the big one!  Travel all the way across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver.  2,792 miles, 65 stops, 5 provinces and about 82 hours on board which equates to 3 days and four nights.  Sleek silver cars dating to the 1950s have all been loving restored and offer a comfort not often seen today.  A choice of sleeping accommodation is on board; the best is the new Prestige class which has a comfortable queen size murphy bed, a private toilet and shower and flat screen monitor on with on board videos.  During the day, you have your own sofa in the cabin or can of course go and explore the train.  You get unrestricted access to the Prestige car, reserved seating in the Panorama car, all meals and drinks as well as priority reservations in the dining car.  The sleeper plus cars have an upper and lower bunk which convert to comfortable arm chairs during the day. the-canadian-via-rail Capitol Limited This is a really convenient train if you would like to explore some of the major cities of the US.  It travels overnight leaving Chicago or Washington at 4pm  in time for cocktails and an excellent dinner and arriving after breakfast in time for a full day of activities. Avoid the hassle of the major city airports as you travel through the Potomac Valley past the historic Harpers Ferry and the Allegheny Mountains, through Pittsburg and Cleveland. Washington has excellent rail links to New York and Boston and so you can build a multi-centre holiday without the need for a car or a flight.
The Royal Canadian Pacific The ultimate in luxury.  Charter your own luxury train for a few hours to have dinner surrounded by the glories of Banff National Park or a few days to explore more of the Canadian Rockies. The possibilities are endless: get together some friends or family to use the train as an exclusive club house whilst you play some of the world’s most renowned championship courses, fish for salmon or trout in some pristine rivers and lakes or simply enjoy the sumptuous hospitality with your friends as the heritage train slides by the lakes and mountains. royal-canadian-pacific-dining-car Sandra Potter is Founder of Frontier Travel. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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  1. This article has certainly set me thinking about travelling across the States by Rail. What do you think is the best of the routes for those with mobility problems?

  2. I really love the sound of the Rocky Mountaineer trip. And it makes a lot of sense to do it in daylight.
    Such a magnificent country. I can’t wait to visit after reading this lovely post.

  3. Which of these are still running by 2017 as American passengers on board The Blue Train in South Africa told me some of these were cancelled, mothballed?

  4. Interested in the Rocky Mountianeer Train trips for this July. Any advice would be appreciated.

    thank you!

    1. We would love to help you get on the Rocky Mountaineer. If you head to our Frontier Canada website and contact us from there we would arrange this for you.

  5. Traveling by rail is so under rated. You get to see so much scenery is unbelievable. The freedom to walk around in the rail car, great food and no traffic issues. Love your article. It truly is the best way to travel.

  6. If you ever get a chance to do a private rail car travel jump on the opportunity. I my opinion it’s one of the best ways to travel. No Line ups, traffic jams, or flight delays. Room to walk around, your own bedroom and private gourmet chef is hard to beat.

  7. I’m getting an urge to do a Great Rail Journey. Maybe it is because I’ve watched some fascinating TV programmes on Great Rail Journeys recently. Now that I’m retired and with less pressure on my time I fancy the idea of sitting back, enjoying some slow travel and watching the countryside change before my eyes. The only problem is – which one of these epic trips should I do?

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