Like most things in the world, the Rocky Mountaineer ceased operating during the pandemic. I believe most of their clientele comes “from away” and with the travel restrictions in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, the passengers just weren’t coming.
With British Columbia and Alberta coming out of lockdown, it was time to start running the Rocky again. The first train since October 2019 departed Vancouver on July 5th, arriving in Banff late on July 6.
That was good for me, since we were on a family vacation in Banff at the time!
This was our first out-of-province vacation since late 2019. We booked our hotel (the Elk+Avenue) early in 2021 with the hope that we could actually go to Alberta. Even in June we weren’t sure we could go. However, all of us were double-vaccinated, and Alberta completely opened up on July 1. That cinched it for us and we were flying out of Winnipeg on July 4.
I hadn’t realized that the Rocky had started operating until we walked into our hotel on the evening of July 6 and I saw that the Rocky Mountaineer staff had set up a booth in our hotel lobby. Passengers of the Rocky don’t sleep on the train; they stay in hotels along the way. I asked one of the staff at the booth about the train and they said it was at the Banff station right now, and would depart “around 8 AM” the next morning.
Off I went!
The Rocky Mountaineer train set was in a back track, the farthest one away from the station. The crew appeared to be finishing up tying it down. They locked the locomotive door and went to the station area to await their taxi while the onboard crew finished their cleanup inside the cars.
I walked down the station platform, taking photos of each car. The consist was:
- 302 (generator car)
- 5704 (coach)
- 2004 (observation car)
- 5713 (coach)
- 9521 (bilevel dome car)
- 9523 (bilevel dome car, “J. Beverley R. Armstrong”)
- 9529 (bilevel dome car, “Jackie Lee Houston”)
- 9531 (bilevel dome car, “James (Jim) Houston”)
- 3224 (coach)
- 301 (generator car)
I understand that the seats can be turned now, so the train might not be wyed (turned) at Banff any more. Note that the locomotives are “back to back” so they can just run around the train and pull it the other way.
I was interested to see that RMRX 302 was in the consist. This was one of several cars acquired by the Rocky Mountaineer that used to run in Charlevoix, Quebec. I spotted 302 in Winnipeg back in early 2019.
It looks very much the same, except for some new paint to match the rest of the fleet!
I took a few more photos in the dying light.
After walking back to our hotel, I set my alarm for 6 AM and went to bed.
When I returned at 6:30 AM the next morning, the Rocky hadn’t moved at all. There were a few people in orange vests moving around, but no buses had arrived yet with passengers and there was no activity at all at the station.
I assumed that they would fire the train up, pull forward, then back up to the station to load passengers. I was in position to record this movement.
As time wore on, it became clear to me that they were going to load passengers right where they were – a departure from previous practice. Maybe it was a social distancing thing, keeping the passengers from clumping up in the station or on the platform.
At 7:40 the Brewster buses started arriving with passengers. That was my cue to leave and head to Castle Junction to set up. My intention was to capture the train with Castle Mountain in the background.
It was a fair drive to the selected location, but most of it was on the Trans-Canada Highway and I thought I left early enough to beat the Rocky there. I was right but I didn’t have a lot of time to set up.
The road crossing is just east of the mile 100 sign post on the CP Laggan subdivision. There are no visible signals to the west, but to the east there is an approach signal for the Massive siding. That’s helpful because it only lights up when a train is nearby.
Since this was a westbound train, coming out of the sunrise, the light wasn’t great. I made the best of it and did some heavy black and white editing on this photo.
I was really here for the “going away” shot with Castle Mountain in the background.
I love it when a plan comes together.
From my first photo to my last, the Rocky was in view for 23 seconds. That’s not much time to get your shots in!
Here’s the video I took – a whopping 33 seconds long.
I was quite satisfied with that sequence.
It wasn’t time to go back to the hotel, though… I had negotiated a few more hours trackside, and fortunately CP was nice enough to send a few more trains my way.
You may be interested in some other Rocky Mountaineer posts:
- The Rocky Mountaineer (Banff, 2010)
- Return to Banff (Banff, 2013)
- A Rocky Mountaineer Evening (Kamloops, 2015)
- Rocky Wraps It Up (Banff, 2017)
Just One More Thing
If you’re interested in more about the Rocky Mountaineer, you might like:
- Photos of the Rocky Mountaineer for sale
- Books about the Rocky Mountaineer:
- Trip of a Lifetime: The Making of the Rocky Mountaineer, Paul Grescoe
- Train Beyond the Mountains: Journeys on the Rocky Mountaineer, Rick Antonson