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Into the Canadian Rockies by rail.

Into the Canadian Rockies by rail Chugging into the Canadian Rockies on a train may be the best way to view the scenery in these rugged mountains. Until recently, only the government-run VIA Rail trains served the two beautiful and popular Rockies routes. Train buffs who know these runs were shocked last year when, due to funding cutbacks, service via Banff through the southern Rockies was dropped, and runs to Jasper by the northern route were cut to three a week.

Now through summer, VIA Rail has increased service on the Vancouver-to-Jasper line to six trains weekly (close to the previous frequency), and a new private train travels from Vancouver to Banff or Jasper. Along the way you'll pass four rugged mountain ranges, glaciers, and river canyons. Here are the options. Prices are approximate conversions from Canadian dollars; add 7 percent tax.

Great Canadian Railtour company. This private line runs its Rocky Mountaineer only during daylight hours, so you don't miss the scenery. The two-day trip stops overnight in the town of Kamloops.

From Vancouver, eastbound routes run to Jasper, or Banff and Calgary; westbound from Jasper, or Calgary and Banff to Vancouver, Round-trip routes are also available by combining an eastbound route from Vancouver to Jasper with a westbound route from Banff to Vancouver (bus connection between towns costs extra). Cars have reclining seats, large windows, and air conditioning (no smoking in some cars). Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are included.

The train runs May 26 through October 10 with 60 departure dates. One-way fare between Vancouver and Banff or Jasper (including lodging in Kamloops) begins at $335 ($225 for ages 2 through 11). A round trip that includes Jasper and Banff costs $695 (lodging extra). To reserve, call (800) 665-7245.

VIA Rail. On expanded summer service to Jasper (June 5 through October 2), The Canadian leaves Vancouver at 9:30 P.M. daily except Wednesdays. The return trip leaves Jasper at 2:55 P.M. daily except Mondays. While much of the trip is made in darkness, passengers still have several hours of daylight each way to enjoy the scenery. This year, one in three trains will use newly refurbished cars with elegant interiors. Run dates are unpublished, so you can't specifically reserve these cars.

A one-way coach seat for the 20-hour trip costs $87 ($78 for seniors and students under age 24). Sleeper accomodations cost extra: berth in upper section ($77), lower section ($110), or both ($147); single roomette ($126); two-person bedroom ($280); four-person drawing room ($385). Reserve at least three months ahead; call (800) 665-0200.

Possible new luxury train. The private Royal Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto via Banff may start rolling by July. For an update, call (800) 228-7712.
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Date:May 1, 1991
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