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North America by Train

From its inception, the railroad ushered in a golden era of transportation that can still be experienced today. There’s no better way to see the diversity of Canada’s natural beauty than a transcontinental trip aboard VIA Rail Canada. Farther west, top-notch Alaska Railroad slices through the tundra as it parallels shimmering rivers and jagged mountain ranges.

In the lower 48, Colorado’s Durango-Silverton Railroad crosses the Animas River five times and passes old mining claims that lie below snow-capped peaks. On the East Coast, the Mount Washington Cog Railway celebrates its 147th year and still runs on the same rails that took 300 men three years to build. And Amtrak’s California Zephyr makes its way to the Pacific Ocean as it crosses the spectacular Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.


Via Rail Canada


For a memorable transcontinental journey, groups can travel from Toronto to Vancouver or vice versa on Via Rail Canada. Journeying from east to west, passengers leave Toronto and travel through northern Ontario’s lake country, passing by countless lakes, remote railway towns and thick forests. On day two, the train crosses the prairie dotted with grazing cattle and buffalo herds. During the winter months passengers can sometimes see the northern lights. Day three crisscrosses the Rocky Mountains, showcasing emerald lakes, roaring rivers and waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and abundant wildlife.

“Many groups opt to extend their trip by an overnight stay along the way,” said Ryan Robutka, senior manager of sales and marketing, Americas for Via Rail Canada Inc. “Jasper is the most popular stop, and I personally recommend staying four to six nights in the Rockies. We work very closely with our regional destination partners to help plan itineraries.”

In 2015, Via Rail officially launched the Prestige Sleeper cars, which offer private showers and flat-screen televisions. More commonly booked, the Sleeper Plus cars offer a nostalgic overnight journey retaining the Art Deco coaches and equipment from the 1950s. Meals are freshly prepared by onboard chefs and include menu items from the different regions.


Alaska Railroad


A trip on the Alaska Railroad is a quintessential Alaskan experience that deserves a place on every group itinerary. The sights and scenes are compelling: Black bear cubs graze on frozen plains, nesting eagles bask in summer’s warmth and distant mountain ranges beg to be photographed.

In celebration of the 2016 National Park Service Centennial, Alaska Railroad has put together a new package: Alaska National Parks by Rail. It provides access to Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Denali National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Kenai Fjords National Park.

“The trip includes rail travel along the full length of the railroad’s main line, as well as accommodations and excursions,” said director of guest services and passenger marketing Bruce LaLonde. “Highlights include flightseeing above the Arctic Circle, cruising amid tidewater glaciers and marine life in Alaska’s coastal waters, and a full-day wildlife tour in Denali.”

All-inclusive dining and beverages for GoldStar passengers feature Alaskan seafood, reindeer sausage and brews from the Alaskan Brewing Company and Denali Brewing Company. GoldStar cars sport dome window ceilings and an upper-level, outdoor viewing decks that will thrill avid photographers.

“We offer an Anchorage agent who is dedicated to planning group trips and knows the product extremely well,” said LaLonde. “She can arrange itineraries for a group of 15 or into the hundreds.”

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.