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Scenic trains: See it by rail

Courtesy Alaska Railroad

Can a scenic railroad excursion be a unanimous hit with all of your bank travelers? We think so.

From the comfort of a vintage diesel train to the panoramic views from a dome car and culinary indulgences in a dining car, train travel offers a distinctive way to see the country’s most treasured vistas. The history, culture and wildlife you see along the way are added bonuses.

Whether your choice is an afternoon trip that includes sightseeing and a gourmet meal, or a two-week tour that allows group members to unpack once and relax in pampered luxury, travel aboard a train is a pastime that has been enjoyed for over a century.

Alaska Railroad
From day trips to two-week rail vacations, traveling Alaska by train makes an unforgettable way to see the “last frontier.”

Spanning more than 500 miles from Seward to Denali National Park and on to Fairbanks, the Alaska Railroad offers a variety of excursions such as the Coastal Classic. Traveling through wilderness between Anchorage and Seward, this four-hour trip features whale-watching and glacier-viewing.

The Glacier Discovery travels from Anchorage south along Cook Inlet to Whittier and winds through the Spencer Glacier and Grandview regions; the day trip offers the chance to take guided walks and even a day cruise.

The Hurricane Flagstop runs 55 miles between Talkeetna and Hurricane with stops in an area that’s accessible only by rail.

“This is North America’s last flag-stop train — allowing passengers to get on and off the train anywhere along the route,” said Heather Duick, passenger sales manager for Alaska Railroad.

Featuring views of Mount McKinley, the Denali Star four-hour excursion links Anchorage and Fairbanks. Stops include Denali National Park and a journey over one of the world’s largest single-span bridges.

“For those wanting to spend the night in Fairbanks to enjoy the northern lights from the comfort of a luxury ski resort and then come back the next day, take our Aurora Winter Train,” said Duick. “This 12-hour journey passes through Denali and by Mount McKinley and showcases wildlife, river valleys and gorges.”

With rail service connecting 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak has numerous routes that make favorite scenic excursions for groups.

“Our California Zephyr is described as one of the most beautiful train trips in all of North America,” said Christina Leeds, Amtrak’s media relations manager. “Between Chicago and Emeryville, California, passengers are privy to the sights of skyscrapers to the Golden Gate Bridge, with the Rockies and the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas in between.”

Highlights include Moffate Tunnel, Colorado’s Gore, and Donner Lake. And because there are nearly three dozen train stations served on this route, groups can choose to disembark to spend a day or two, making this journey any length they please.

“For sights in the South, our Silver Service takes you from New York City to Miami,” said Leeds. “Once again, there are dozens of stops in between, and groups can choose to explore iconic Southern destinations and, at the end of the line, enjoy beautiful beaches and the cultures of southern Florida.”

Bank directors might also want to consider an Amtrak Vacations Escorted Rail Journey. In 2013, the organization will offer five group travel itineraries featuring 20 different destinations in the United States and Canada.