The Rocky Mountaineer Resumes

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.

July 6

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 at rest in Banff
The Rocky Mountaineer at rest in Banff

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:

  • 8019
  • 8014
  • 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.

The Rocky Mountaineer at sunset in Banff
The Rocky Mountaineer at sunset in Banff

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.

RMRX 302 in Winnipeg
RMRX 302 in Winnipeg
RMRX 302 in Banff
RMRX 302 in Banff

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.

The Rocky Mountaineer amongst the Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountaineer amongst the Rocky Mountains

After walking back to our hotel, I set my alarm for 6 AM and went to bed.

July 7

Sunrise over the Rocky Mountaineer
Sunrise over the Rocky Mountaineer

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.

A Brewster Sightseeing bus
A Brewster Sightseeing bus

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.

The Rocky Mountaineer on the move
The Rocky Mountaineer on the move

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.

Rocky Under Castle Mountain
Rocky Under Castle Mountain

I love it when a plan comes together.

via GIPHY

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.

Further Reading

You may be interested in some other Rocky Mountaineer posts:

Just One More Thing

If you’re interested in more about the Rocky Mountaineer, you might like:

8 thoughts on “The Rocky Mountaineer Resumes”

  1. Nice timing on your trip, Steve. Had you been taking pictures in Banff today, the skies likely would have been forest fire smoke grey instead of blue. Hannibal couldn’t have said it better!

    Reply
  2. I pity the fool who was taking pictures in Banff yesterday.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. Great shots as always! And glad to hear Canada is opening up.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff, or should I say “B.A.”?

      I’m glad too. It was weird walking around Banff without a mask. I put one on when I went into stores – even though it wasn’t generally required. It’ll take some time to get used to “normal” again.

      Reply
  3. Neat photo series, the train used to drop all the passengers off at Banff, continue to Canmore and drop the train crew and on board staff off. A crew from Calgary came out and took the train to Calgary and turned it on the wye, and stayed on the train while water and supplies were delivered. The crew would take the train west to Canmore and then the Kamloops train crew and on board staff would take over. Now everything is done in Banff and the engines are just run around the train.

    Reply
    • Hi A.J., it sounds like it is a lot less complicated to do it all in Banff, and maybe use less crews too. They must have come to an agreement with CP to dedicate a yard track for the Rocky Mountaineer in Banff. I noted there are a couple of tracks with derails on them.

      Reply

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