The Rupert Rocket, Jasper to Prince Rupert
The Skeena train (known locally as The Rupert Rocket) offers travellers the chance to ride for two days from Jasper National Park in Alberta deep into British Columbia. The train travels north-west passing snow-covered Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) and the Cariboo Mountains. There are plenty of opportunities on the way to spot white-tailed deer, black bears, moose and bald eagles as well as marvel at glassy lakes surrounded by native fir trees.
This amazing train acts as both a commuter train for the local residents (stopping in little hamlets like Kwinitsa, Vanderhoof and Penny) as well as a tourist train in the summer when a panoramic dome car is added and guests get to dine in style whilst travelling into the Canadian wilderness and enjoying one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. Though this is an overnight journey, there are no sleeper carriages on board. Instead, guests need to book overnight accommodation in Prince George before getting back on the train in the morning in time for breakfast.
The Rupert Rocket route
The 1,160-kilometre line was built a century ago by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Departing Jasper all year round three times a week, on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, the Rupert Rocket travels past Moose Lake, before climbing to Mount Robson Provincial Park. The section between Smithers and Terrace offers passengers the chance to see some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Canada. Passengers alight at Prince George in time for dinner with a chance to enjoy the charms of British Columbia’s biggest city.
Two great places to stay are the Woodhouse Cottages & Ranch and the Courtyard by Marriott. Back on the train at 8am in time for breakfast travellers will get to enjoy a picturesque journey besides the Skeena River and as the train slows down to inch along the steep-sided Bulkley Canyon, passengers suck in their breath as the Rupert Rocket teeters on the edge.
The Rupert Rocket train
This wonderfully retro steel-sided 1950s train offers two types of tickets – one for Economy Class, and twice a week in the summer, a Touring Class service. Those with the more expensive ticket get exclusive access to the Panoramic Dome and also the Park Car. It’s such a beautiful train that even riding in the Economy Class carriages is a joy. You’ll love their faded charm that brings back the romance of last century’s railroad adventures. The seat-lined Park Car is the most popular hangout where in the downstairs lounge and cockpit-like upstairs area, passengers get to watch the country slide past like a natural moving film.
Food and drink on The Rupert Rocket
If you book a ticket for the Touring Class service, you will get to eat three meals a day in the Panoramic Dome car with its amazing wrap-over windows. Whilst here, the staff provide commentary throughout the journey. Those travelling economy class can’t access the Dome Car. Instead, they can buy sandwiches, drinks, and snacks from the onboard staff to eat at their seats.
Canada is a pretty laid-back country so there is no need to dress up for this train journey. Depending on when you travel on the Rupert Rocket, make sure you study the predicted weather patterns before you pack. The scenery is amazing so it’s worth taking a pair of binoculars with you too.
The joy of this wonderful train is that it’s well loved and well used by the locals as well as tourists, so you’ll get to meet some of the fantastic residents who call this part of Canada home.
If you book a seat for the Touring Class service, you will get three complimentary meals a day as well as free tea and coffee. You will be charged extra for alcoholic drinks.
Pros and cons
This is such an iconic train adventure that it is difficult to find fault in it. However, it would be great if, in the future, you could actually sleep on the train.