Celebrating a track to scenic splendours

Fraser Canyon, BC.
Photo of Angie Tomlinson

From a childhood dream to a career, Wade Bush tells us why Canada's Rocky Mountaineer still takes his breath away.

After 22 years aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, train manager Wade Bush still takes his camera to work every day. His passion for the train and its routes through the majestic Canadian Rockies hasn’t diminished.

“As a little fellow I would hear the train about 15km away as it whistled crossing a road. I always thought wouldn’t it be cool to take a train ride and not too long after that, I was on that train,” Wade says. 

Wade grew up in Lac la Hache, British Columbia, now on one of the Rocky Mountaineer’s newer routes, the Rainforest to Gold Rush that extends from Vancouver, through Whistler to Jasper. 

Wade started on the Rocky Mountaineer after hospitality school. “Some people went into tourism and others went into travel but I didn’t want to send people away from Western Canada — I wanted to guide them while they were here,” Wade says.

The Rocky Mountaineer offers a luxurious journey, through the wild beauty of western Canada and the Pacific north-west with four rail routes and 65 packages to choose from. On-board service includes SilverLeaf in a single-level glass-dome carriage and GoldLeaf where a bi-level glass-dome coach has panoramic views. GoldLeaf also includes a la carte meals served in a private dining room, the attendance of three to four hosts, outdoor viewing from an open-air vestibule and premium room hotel accommodation.

Whatever the class though, the views are consistent. “Western Canada is beautiful. Every time you go around a corner on the train tracks the scenery is just amazing,” Wade says.

Wade’s top scenery pick is Pavilion, where the train looks 800m down to the Fraser River. “People know it is coming but when it appears they drop everything and the train kind of leans to one side as everyone wants to see,” he says.

Pyramid Falls offers a closer experience. The train tracks pass right alongside the waterfall as Rocky Mountaineer slows down to walking pace. Those lucky enough to be on the observation platform can feel the mist.

Heading from Vancouver and into the US to Seattle, the Rocky Mountaineer passes through small tunnels before the landscape widens and guests find themselves passing through Chuckanut Bay.

Other highlights for Wade are passing over the Cottonwood River and Stoney Creek Bridges, along with the spiral tunnels which start low in the valley and switch back through a mountain like a corkscrew before emerging near the jewel of the Rockies, Lake Louise. 

Rocky Mountaineer passengers are most likely to begin their journey in, or pass through, Vancouver. Wade says it’s worth heading to the Nine O’Clock Gun at Stanley Park for a view of the city. For more ambitious hikers, taking the 2.9km Grouse Grind trail up Grouse Mountain gives a beautiful view of Vancouver. 

While the scenery is undoubtedly spectacular, for Wade it’s the people, and the connection they form in the rail car, that makes the journey special.

“I live in Vancouver but I feel like I live in other places because people share information about London or Australia and so on, and I get a relevant perspective from these places — it’s like watching the news,” he says. “What is really impressive is when the people start connecting with each other in the rail car. 

“It is so common that when people get talking they know someone in common or they live down the street from one another yet they had no idea. From there they make friendships that last.”

This is certainly the year to visit Canada and experience the Rocky Mountaineer for the country is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Local, community and national festivities will take place across the country culminating in Canada Day on July 1.

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