The Royal Canadian Pacific

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by Seaboard92, Oct 3, 2019.

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  1. Oct 3, 2019 #1

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    Well in early August I revived an invite to come ride the Royal Canadian Pacific’ familiarization Special for the Travel Industry. Of course before I got the invite I had already bought a ticket from Vancouver to Toronto on the Canadian over the same date range.

    I waited for awhile for the official arrangements to be released before booking my flights from Winnipeg to Calgary, and from Calgary to Toronto. Once I had a verbal verification that the train was still running I purchased my flights.

    About a week prior to the trip running I received the official email with all of the instructions. We were a bit lost for who would be the people from our agency going because Tom the boss has had a family medical issue, Malcolm couldn’t find a cheap enough flight, and Brian wasn’t sure. Either way Brian our Special Projects Coordinator joined us for this special.

    The Trip: Words Can Not Describe This

    I awoke in my king sized bed at the Fairmont Palliser in downtown Calgary at six AM to be sure I was in the lobby for our seven AM bus departure. I was the second person downstairs and I met a lovely travel agent who chartered the whole train recently for two people.

    As time went on people slowly came down to join the crowd. It was a nice classy social gathering of some of the travel industries brightest stars. And Brian and I weren’t the only set of millennials on board. Which honestly surprised me.

    At seven AM we got on board a party bus Canadian Pacific has rented to take us to the Ogden Shops east of Calgary. It was a quick fifteen minute bus ride and we were dropped off at the storage shop where the equipment is stored when not in use. We signed our boarding pass and a sharply dressed attendant handed us a mimosa.

    With drink, and boarding pass in hand we then went over to tour the second newest car in the fleet. The rolling Gym that the CEO wanted so he could workout on the rails. The car has a complete sauna inside it, as well as bikes, weights, and a treadmill. And subject to the CEO’s approval this car can be chartered out with the Royal Canadian Pacific for extra money. After a nice tour of that car we went into one of the sleepers which normally goes out with the Royal Canadian Pacific.

    But by being a day trip we didn’t require it in our consist. And the rooms on it put VIA Prestige Rooms to shame. I really wanted to test the beds out but I figured that might be frowned upon. After that we switched cuts to look at the Banffshire office car which is more a traditional office car. Followed by another car I didn’t get the name of. All of the cars were very plush. It was 7:45 AM and they wanted us al on board by then so I didn’t get a chance to sit in the cab of the Empress (4-6-4 Hudson).

    Another first for me boarding a train inside a building. I gave my camera bag to a porter who stowed for me somewhere. I took a seat in the lounge of the Royal Wentworth till they opened the Selkirk Dome. The Selkirk being the newest car in the fleet an EX Southern Pacific 3/4’s dome. And by far it is the nicest railcar I’ve ever been on board. It was beautiful in every stretch of the word.

    First you walk in via an Art Deco sliding door original to the car from its Espee days. Round the corner around the Bathroom and Bar and are now in a large airy room. There are three windows and a few chairs in this area under the dome which is a full floor above you. Making the space nice and airy. Turn around and you’ll see a well stocked bar which has a folding TV from its roof as well. Climb the stairs into the dome and you’ll find a few U shaped tables, followed by a few prior car style chairs, before more tables. And what makes it better every seat has two electric outlets.

    After realizing at this point we were free to do whatever we wanted I walked to the rear on the Mount Stephen to ride thru downtown Calgary on the platform. Amtrak May have banned it but vestibule and open platform riding is safe, but it’s also like my favorite thing. So I stood back there as we backed onto the mainline.

    I talked with our trainmaster Justin for a bit then a few other CP employees as we slowly ran around the railyards. I was on the rear platform by myself for downtown Calgary and I was really hoping someone would photograph me on the rear platform. Alas that hasn’t happened. Most people appeared utterly indifferent to our beautiful train easing by. Shortly the head of hospitality for CP informed me breakfast was being served one car up in the Craigellachie.

    I found a seat three seats away from where our presentation would be taking place because when it comes to an experience like this I’m a front row kinda pupil. As soon as I set down a waiter came and brought me a fresh squeezed home made Orange Juice. Before our presentation all of the Canadian Pacific employees gave an introduction followed last by our chef in his crisp white uniform with one foot tall white chef’s hat. He told us what we would be eating in our three course breakfast this morning.

    Shortly before the first course a waiter came and put the napkin in my lap for me, a luxury I have not known before. To be honest I felt a bit out of my league. I was so embarrassed I had to ask our lovely host Tobi which fork do I use. My excuse “I normally eat in the kitchen with the train crew so this is all new to me.” It wasn’t a lie and it was all new to me. During breakfast Tobi gave us a presentation on why we were all gathered there, and what their future plans are.

    Not knowing what I can publicly say on this forum I’m going to omit most of the details from the presentation. But what I believe I can say is if you are jealous of this opportunity I had there will come a time in a few months where you to can be spoiled rotten like I was. And you can experience the awe of a rare milage route in the Canadian Rockies on an open platform while sipping a glass of local Canadian Wine, while eating food prepared fresh on board from local ingredients. A far cry from what one normally experiences on Amtrak. If you want more information in private or have questions please feel free to message me.
     
  2. Oct 3, 2019 #2

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    After our presentation we were free to explore the train so I went back to the Mount Stephen rear platform. Now that open platform riding, and open vestibule riding is forbidden on PVs in the states I have to enjoy it where and while I can. And it was just a small group of us under 35 on the rear which made it a fun party atmosphere. We actually went by one of our passengers houses in Canmore as we continued till or first stop of Banff. I took probably a hundred photos as we were entering Banff National Park.

    All to soon we pulled to a smooth stop alongside the Banff station where we would detrain and take a bus tour of Banff. But before getting on the bus I ran up to the head end and grabbed a photo of our locomotives under the Rockies. There were several tourists milling about the platform who were surprised to see us arrive. I then got on board the luxurious Brewster Motor Coach for our tour.

    We drove across downtown Banff to our first stop at Surprise Corner which has a lovely view of the Fairmont Banff Springs a former Canadian Pacific Hotel. And the reason Brewster Coaches is in business as they used to transport people by horse and carriage from the station to the hotel. We had five minutes at the corner before we moved to our next stop the Fairmont Banff Springs.

    We had fifteen minutes at the hotel to take in it in all of its grandeur. Lucky for Brian and I we linked up with the Fairmont representative on our train a woman originally from South Africa who gave us an excellent but brief tour of the hotel’s public areas. We returned to the bus where we were whisked away to Bow Falls for another ten minute stop. I had a nice conversation with the manager of the RCP trainset here. And I made friends with my fellow millennial colleagues from the Louisville based Society of International Railway Travelers. I hope to do a few collaborations with them in future days.

    After we got back on the bus we were returned to the train at Banff Station which already had a clear signal. We were given our choice of drinks upon embarkation and I walked back to the Mount Stephen again. I enjoyed about ten miles on the platform till the call came for lunch. I was sat next to the manager for heritage operations for Canadian Pacific who kindly told me when we were a few minutes from Marant’s Curve so I could be on the platform. So I excused myself from lunch between courses to enjoy the most famous curve between Montreal and Vancouver.

    I was the one of two people out of twenty eight passengers on the rear platform for that. I’m really hoping someone took my photo because I did a Richard Nixon pose on the rear platform for it. After the curve I walked back up for dessert which was amazing. We were still eating dessert when we arrived in Lake Louise. Before I detrained they had already removed our engines for the run around, but I had some time to take photos of the rear end of the train.

    As I was getting ready to get on board the bus I heard our power coming by so I took off into the bush to get a photo of it passing our equipment. I’m really proud of the photo I took with the F units passing a heavyweight office car. It very well could have been the first diesels in the 1950s passing the westbound Dominion.

    After that I boarded the bus and off we were to the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. We stopped at Spiral Tunnels where we joked about not having a train. Even though we were surrounded by officials of that very railroad. After a fifteen minute stop there we moved on to Emerald Lake for a thirty minute stop. There was a corgi playing fetch in the glacier filled lake and it looked so happy.

    After more networking with our passengers on the ground at Emerald Lake we moved to Natural Bridge Waterfalls. Where I made more good connections. Natural Bridge would be our last short stop for our next stop was at Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise. Canadian Pacific rented out a pavilion along the lake for us to network and socialize. We had a beautiful view of the Victoria Glacier.

    We had a very enterprising Magpie that was trying to steal all of our food one flight at a time. While we were outside it started to snow which was incredible. Most of us were clustered around the marshmallows Fire. I managed to catch my marshmallow on fire. However one of the Canadian Pacific officers was making perfect marshmallows they were like works of art. Most of our group went to an inside room to get out of the cold and I eventually joined them.
     
  3. Oct 3, 2019 #3

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    Then we eventually went back out and got back on our Brewster bus to take us back to the train station. Due to he imminent arrival of Rocky Mountaineer we boarded in a spur next to the mainline. All of us on board were busy airdropping photos from our phones to each other in the Selkirk. After Rocky Mountaineer got out of the way we backed onto the main and rode their markers.

    I excused myself from civilized company to visit an open vestibule on the Major Rodgers bar car. This car is literally a full lounge with a large well stocked bar in the center of the car. One of the attendants allowed me to tour the crew dorm the H B Bowen and oh my. That was by far the nicest crew dorm I’ve ever seen. Had I not seen the other cars on this train I would say it was better than every other car I’ve ever been on. But the Selkirk stole that title.

    It is a former E series Canadian National Sleeper with a similar layout to VIA’s Chateaus in its as built configuration. However CP removed the duplex roomettes our and made that into a really swanky looking lounge with the duplex windows. And to cap it off it has stone work in the crew lounge. The crew have single bedrooms where the former doubles used to be, and the sections area is now an office. By far better than every other PV I’ve been on before this day.

    I rode in an open vestibule till it was starting to get dark. The waiters are so good he kept bringing me more of my favorite mixed drink in the vestibule. You couldn’t ask for better or more personal service. As it started to get dark I walked forward to the Craigellachie to receive my dinner. Tonight we were served Tri Tip Sliders and it was out of this world. In fact it was so good I walked back and got a second plate of them. And the buns were baked fresh on board the train too.

    At Banff we stopped to let two of our passengers off seeing the lived in Banff before overtaking Rocky Mountaineer. I was worried about making my 11:50 PM flight (see other report) to Toronto to continue on to Montreal. So I called my mother who called Air Canada and moved me to a flight departing at 12:15 AM. Canadian Pacific gave us the run of the railroad the entire way into Calgary with multiple stack trains and other freights waiting in sidings for us to pass.

    We pulled into Calgary at 10:20 PM alongside the Palliser our hotel. Our group milled in the former Canadian Pacific office car station talking for at least fifteen minutes. It felt so much like the passengers you ride the Canadian with across Canada at the baggage carousel. No one really wants to say goodbye so we al awkwardly say a million farewells to each other.

    Brian and I left fairly rapidly though because we had a flight to catch. Canadian Pacific will be shipping each of us a Painting of the train in the Rockies as a thank you gift because we couldn’t take it as Carry On with us. I’m looking forward to this arriving.

    We quickly packed our bags and checked out of the Palliser and got into a waiting cab. The cab driver compared me to a prime minister which I guess means I look as good as Trudeau. So between two of our passengers confusing me for a movie star, and being confused for a prime minister I guess maybe I’m more attractive than I give myself credit for.

    We made it to the airport by 11:15 and my initial flight was already nearing last call. So I’m glad I was changed to the Air Canada Rouge Flight a bit later. I walked all the way from security to my seat onboard a Boeing 767-300ER for Toronto. And I was asleep before the plane even finished it’s taxi. Trip report continued (insert link here)

    Final Thoughts:

    Honestly the first word that comes to mind is wow. The second thought is how lucky am I to have an awesome opportunity like this. I thought it was a fantastic trip from start to finish. The hotel they put us up in (Fairmont Palliser) was amazing and felt like Hotel Bristol in Berlin. The train was beautiful as I’m sure you can tell from the photos.

    The food on board was out of this world, and unlike any other food on rails. I learned a lot about charters, and I learned maybe how to act in high society. And the best part of this is hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do this again in the future. They have some amazing three and four night routings in the works for next year. And I really hope I can sell a lot of tickets because I really want to be invited back.

    In all honesty this was probably the best day of my life. And it will probably remain that to the chagrin of my future wife whomever she might be. Who knows if I am rich then I could charter the train for the reception and maybe that day would be made better by it.

    Thank you for joining me.
     
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  4. Oct 3, 2019 #4

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    The meeting and conference center at Ogden Shops with the Empress looking on.

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    The sauna on board the car with a gym.

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    The gym.

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    A stateroom for passengers.

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    The Royal Canadian Pacific. Boarding inside the Ogden facility.

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    The dining room table we had our presentation and meals at.

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    A stack train trying to get into the yard before us.

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    The Selkirk dome car. Ex SP

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    Rounding a curve while leaving the shops.

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    Entering downtown Calgary.
     
  5. Oct 3, 2019 #5

    Seaboard92

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    Downtown Calgary by rail.

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    In 24 hours I was thought to be a movie star by two people, and a prime minister by a cabbie. What’s your take?

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    The Bow River

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    Second course of breakfast.

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    Our breakfast menu.

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    Third course of breakfast.

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    Entering the Rockies.

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    Looking ahead at our beautiful train.

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    Looking back at where we had come from.

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    Aren’t the Rockies just breathtaking.
     
  6. Oct 3, 2019 #6

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    Rounding a bend by private train.

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    The classiest train in Banff in a long time.

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    The Selkirk at Banff.

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    Downtown Banff

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    The Fairmont Banff Springs

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    Isn’t Banff just wonderful.

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    The waterfalls they took us to in Banff.

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    Our lunch place sitting.

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    Looking east towards Banff.

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    We had perfect weather. Fall colors and snow.
     
  7. Oct 3, 2019 #7

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    Lunch has been served.

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    Morant’s Curve.

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    Looking back at Morant’s Curve.

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    Dessert on board.

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    A freight passing on the westbound mainline.

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    Our power running around.

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    What a beautiful day, and what beautiful equipment.

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    Banff National Park.

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    Somewhere near Yoho National Park.

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    Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
     
  8. Oct 3, 2019 #8

    Seaboard92

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    Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

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    Natural Bridge Falls in Yoho National Park

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    Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier.

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    Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier.

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    The Selkirk’s dome.

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    Major Rodgers bar car.

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    The crew lounge. Far better than most PVs.

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    A crew bedroom.

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    Open vestibule

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    Morant’s Curve going eastbound.
     
  9. Oct 3, 2019 #9

    Seaboard92

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    Eastbound in Banff National Park.

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    I thought this was an interesting angle.

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    Overtaking the Rocky Mountaineer.

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    Downtown Calgary from the Selkirk at night.

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    The Selkirk’s lounge.

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    A money shot if you ask me.
     
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  10. Oct 3, 2019 #10

    Seaboard92

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    1401 FP7A
    1407 FP7A
    95 Power Car
    110 H. B. Bowen Crew Dorm ex CN Enfield
    103 Major Rogers Bar Car Ex UP 5503
    3605 Selkirk 3/4 Dome
    78 Royal Wentworth Office car
    85 Craigellachie Diner
    74 Mount Stephen Office Car
     
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  11. Oct 3, 2019 #11

    MikefromCrete

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    That was quite an opportunity, Seaboard. I knew the CP Royal train was luxurious, but it looks like it tops just about everything on the rails. A gymnasium car? That really is unique. And a couple chartered the entire train! I can't imagine how much that cost!
    Keep up the reports, you do a great job.
     
  12. Oct 3, 2019 #12

    Seaboard92

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    It was such a great opportunity and I loved every minute of it. The Royal part of the name really is fitting because they treat you like royalty.

    I could tell you and approx cost of that charter because I was told what the rate is. The gymnasium car can only be rented with the approval of the CEO. Everything else doesn’t have to be approved by him.
     
  13. Oct 3, 2019 #13

    Seaboard92

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    And thank you for the kind comments as well.
     
  14. Oct 3, 2019 #14

    railiner

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    Another outstanding job!

    So...is CP actually back in the (chartered) passenger train business? Not quite sure about what the Royal Pacific is...
    Will CP market public trips, sort of in competition to some extant with the Rocky Mountaineer?

    Just an aside...I saw a 'gymnasium car' on UP's special train for Henry Kissinger and the State Dept., from Denver to Mexico in the mid-70's....
     
  15. Oct 3, 2019 #15

    Seaboard92

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    CP has always been in the chartered passenger train business. However the public trips they did up until 2013. And now they are relaunching those after seven years. They don’t see the Rocky Mountaineer as a competitor. Even though they may share a lot of the same trackage. Rocky isn’t a luxury product unlike the Royal Canadian Pacific.

    And thank you for the kind words. I always strive to know them out of the park.
     
  16. Oct 3, 2019 #16

    Dakota 400

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    A very interesting report with excellent photos! Thanks for making the effort of posting this report.
     
  17. Oct 4, 2019 #17

    jiml

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    Wow. As I mentioned to you previously, this is the "holy grail" of Canadian railfanning. Riding on it just takes it to the next level. I made a special trip to see it the last time it visited further east. Small consist like yours, but a couple of sleepers instead of the Selkirk.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
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  18. Oct 4, 2019 #18

    jiml

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    You wouldn't know the Rocky Mountaineer isn't a luxury product by their pricing! RM is doing just fine and have recently added new cars, but you're right - CP doesn't care as long as their payments keep flowing in. The RCP will cater to an even higher clientele.
     
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  19. Oct 4, 2019 #19

    Seaboard92

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    The Selkirk is by far the best car I’ve ever been on board. They did let us tour their sleepers in the Ogden Shop. It might be the holy grail of passenger trains in general I think. I absolutely loved the train.

    The way I look at things in the Rockies your three train operators.

    VIA Rail Canada: (VCVR-JASP) The economy option with $156 CAD for a coach seat if one can sleep in a coach seat to $1,521 for a bedroom or roomette per person. But the cons of it being it often runs late. And it’s an overnight run at some point during the scenery. Beautiful equipment and meals though.

    Rocky Mountaineer: Vancouver-Banff is $1,287 USD per person for bare bones transportation. That includes two full daylight only running days. And a nights hotel so it is priced equivalent to VIA’s bedrooms per person. The other reason I don’t consider it to be a luxury product is because when I was on the RCP they detrained 900 people in Banff, and several hundred in Lake Louise. However the average package is $3,500 USD. However to go in Gold Leaf you can double all of the prices.

    Royal Canadian Pacific: Has a limit of 30 passengers vs the 1,000 plus of the other trains. It’s a far more exclusive experience. And for the shorter of the two routes it should only be 1,000 and some change more than Rocky Mountaineer’s Gold Leaf. With less passengers on the whole train than one of their cars. Of course RCP doesn’t have prices yet for 2020 but based on where they were in 13 is my estimates.
     
  20. Oct 4, 2019 #20

    railiner

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    I haven't been on the Selkirk, as it is now, but have in its original iteration as an SP dome lounge, it is probably my least favorite of all dome cars, for a couple of reasons...
    Primarily, visibility thru its "rifle slot" front and rear dome windows is the worst of any dome car. Secondly, unlike the Budd and Pullman-Standard full length domes, there is no thru passage beneath the dome level...you must go up, thru the dome, and then back down to get thru the car. In its favor, the short length of "cathedral ceiling" is a neat feature...
     
  21. Oct 4, 2019 #21

    Seaboard92

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    The reason I really like the Selkirk comes from the rebuild the interior is really really plush. And it has outlets at every seat in the dome that’s unheard of. The cathedral ceiling is the icing on the cake. The only other Espee dome running is in Panama. Which is on my to do list.
     
  22. Oct 4, 2019 #22

    NS VIA Fan

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    Wow!!....that's all I can say!
    Thanks
     
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  23. Oct 4, 2019 #23

    Devil's Advocate

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    Some minor digging gave me Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf return trips priced around $5,000 USD per person. Back when the Royal Canadian Pacific was still running a schedule it looks like costs per person were around $6,500 USD (under the current exchange rate). Both options look extremely enticing, but my prior experiences with the CBSA are still giving me pause.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2019
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  24. Oct 4, 2019 #24

    Seaboard92

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    We shall see what the new ticket prices will be. Whenever CP gets me that info I’m happy to post it. I wouldn’t expect it to be that might higher. It’s worth every penny.
     

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