Travellers undertaking a journey on the Rocky Mountaineer train may find themselves viewing the landscapes of western Canada from one of the luxury rail service’s new bi-level dome cars that have been made in Berlin, Germany.
“We’ve invested in 10 bi-level dome cars that are going to be integrated into our existing fleet,” explains Scott Dearin, the Rocky Mountaineer’s Director of Asset Development, as we stand outside of Nola’s am Weinberg restaurant, near Rosenthaler Platz, in the German capital.
Expanding the GoldLeaf Service
“This represents for us the biggest investment the company has ever made. The reason we’re doing it is that we are a growing company. We want to support that growth by increasing the seat capacity on our GoldLeaf Service,” says Scott.
“We have 16 existing cars today. With these new 10 cars, by 2020 we are going to have 26. That really supports the sales growth that we are seeing in our company and allows us to sell more seats on GoldLeaf,” he adds.
What will that mean to customers travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer over the coming seasons? I ask.
“The customer experience on our GoldLeaf Service is amazing. The experience on the new cars is going to be very similar to our existing product offering. The seats are going to be the same seats. The story telling and the interaction with the hosts and other guests will be the same. There will be amazing food coming out of the galley.
Overall the interior design and the service design is going to be the same whether a guest gets one of our existing cars or one of our bi-level dome cars. That was important as we want make sure that all of our guests have a life-changing experience on our train,” he explains.
Rocky Mountaineer’s SilverLeaf Service
An expansion in the number of single-level SilverLeaf Service cars is also planned for the 2018 season.
“The SilverLeaf Service is a great experience. You enjoy panoramic views from your seat. We have a great food selection at your seat. It’s accompanied by three onboard staff of high quality and experience. Right now, we have 12 cars in our fleet with two more joining, meaning 14 in total for 2018,” says Scott.
Constructing the new GoldLeaf cars
The order for the 10 new GoldLeaf cars was placed in 2015. They have been designed and built by Stadler, a Swiss company, which employs around 1,000 people at its plant in the Pankow district of Berlin.
The requirements for the new rolling stock were complex. Seattle features on the Rocky Mountaineer’s Coastal Passage route, so their build must comply with Canadian and American rail regulations.
The bogeys, on which the cars roll, are made in Switzerland then shipped to Berlin. Their pneumatic suspension system is designed to ensure a smooth ride for the 72 passengers that can travel in each car. The Rocky Mountaineer tends to roll through the countryside at an unhurried pace but the cars are designed for travel up to a maximum speed of 177 km/h. That’s a prodigious 110 mph.
The production process of each of the cars takes around three months. Their steel bodies are sandblasted smooth and sprayed at a facility at Reinickendorf, in the north-west of Berlin.
Features of the new cars
Each of the new cars will feature panoramic windows with electronically controlled tinting that can be lightened or darkened to suit the lighting conditions. The cars are air-conditioned and are designed to operate with the outside temperature anywhere between a chilly -25˚C and sweltering 50˚C.
Leather seats on the upper floor of the cars have electronic controls for comfort adjustments.
The bi-level rolling stock has two toilets, one of which is barrier free. These, like the dishwasher in the kitchen, are designed to use less water than those in the existing cars, which will help make the service more eco-friendly.
A lift and a staircase provide access between decks. At their rear, each of the cars has an open vestibule. That proves a popular place to take photographs of the landscapes and wildlife that can be viewed while travelling along the Rocky Mountaineer’s four routes.
Behind the scenes enhancements include ovens that offer expanded cooking capabilities in the galley. The cars will also have a diesel generator and easily accessible underfloor components, which is ideal for maintenance work.
The journey to Canada
Transporting each of the new cars from Berlin to Kamloops will take around 62 days.
Before they leave the workshop in Reinickendorf, trees along the road will be trimmed to ensure that the cars to not get hit by overhanging branches on the way to the river port. From there they will be transported to Bremerhaven, then shipped to North America via the Panama Canal.
They will be unloaded in Tacoma, in Washington, then transported by rail to Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer workshop in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The first of the cars will enter service in the 2018 season, which opens in April and continues until October.
Photos illustrating this post were supplied courtesy of the Rocky Mountaineer.
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The new cars – dimensions at a glance
Want to know more about the dimensions of the new cars? Here you go:
Gauge: 1,435mm (that’s Standard Gauge, or 4ft 81⁄2in)
Width: 3,050mm (c. 10ft)
Height: 5,520mm (18ft 1 1/3in)
Length: 27,347mm (89ft 9in)
Weight: 25 tonnes (without mountings)