Luxury on Wheels

A five-star rail trip loaded with old-world charm

By: Allan Maki

The guest list has included a U.S. senator who would later become president, a British prime minister and the future Queen of England. Are we talking about a luxurious hotel, a far-off resort or some exotic hideaway? The answer is all three, with a twist.

The Royal Canadian Pacific is a luxury hotel on wheels, a sampling of elegance that can spoil with its classic charm and breathtaking routes through the Canadian Rockies. It’s a train, but unlike any other in the world.

The Calgary-based operation is the only passenger train operated by Canadian Pacific Railway, which built the nation’s first cross-country rail link in the 19th century.

Three years ago, CP Rail decided to take 10 vintage cars and hook them together in their original state, with certain restorations and modern-day conveniences, such as air conditioning. Passengers were offered a variety of rail tours in Canada and the United States, and also private charters. All bookings are commissionable by agents.

To date, filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola have chartered the Royal Canadian Pacific, as has tech czar Bill Gates. They and others have been able to enjoy the same Mount Stephen car, built in Montreal in 1926, as John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (now Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip).

“A lot of our guests are people who are interested in train travel and want a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” said David Walker, Royal Canadian Pacific’s managing director. “We take care of them and their needs, everything from dietary restrictions to what magazines they’d like to read.”

Taking a stroll through the Royal Canadian Pacific is like taking a step back in time. The cars are largely as they were in their prime, complete with inlaid mahogany paneling and even reproduction period furniture. There are 13 double estate rooms and six single estate rooms, all with their own washrooms and showers.

There are 23 all-inclusive tours offered on the Royal Canadian Pacific, including those that feature fly-fishing trips, hiking adventures and more. The average cost per trip is approximately $800 to $1,000 per day.

And every trip comes with lots of built-in history, too. Who knows? You may be lucky enough to sleep in the same estate room Churchill once used. Or maybe you’ll get the Royal Wentworth car, where Queen Elizabeth and King George VI stayed during their 1939 cross-Canada visit.

Either way, it’s not your typical five-star hotel.

Canadian Pacific Railway, 877-665-3044;