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Riding the rails in style starts May 1

Whistler Mountaineer expected to draw younger travellers

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For tourists anxious about the drive from the Lower Mainland to Whistler there will be a kinder, gentler way to travel when Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, the 16-year-old independent Vancouver-based train company, launches its Whistler Mountaineer May 1.

The three-hour train trip starts near the old BC Rail station in North Vancouver and includes a choice of traveling in refurbished 1950s classic coach or dome cars, or for the more adventurous, a vintage Henry Pickering open air car.

Spokesperson Ian Robertson, at the company’s open house held at Legends in Creekside Tuesday, stumbled over words in his excitement to list the trip’s amenities.

“We just purchased five brand new Mercedes Benz motor coaches,” he said, “that have skylights — a great opportunity to take advantage of the scenery.”

The train, or “consist” Robertson says, includes two locomotives, single generator, storage and supply cars, two coaches, two dome cars and one open-air car. It leaves North Vancouver daily at 8:30 a.m. headed for Creekside. Travellers are bused from Creekside to Whistler Village and have the option of taking the train back to North Vancouver at 2:30 p.m. or busing it back in the Mercedes coaches.

Costs vary from $179 to $289 return, dependent on travel in coach or dome cars, and include continental or full breakfast. Return trip includes a light lunch or “quite authentic” English tea.

For B.C residents who book space in the coast classic coach before June 30, a special rate of $99 applies for travel anytime until mid-October. Free pick-up and drop-off is available in Vancouver to and from 15 major downtown hotels.

Robertson said unlike on the company’s more than 70 vacation packages, Rocky Mountaineer is expecting a younger traveller on the Whistler Mountaineer route.

“We expect a demographic 10 to 15 years younger, and more families,” he said. The train has a capacity of 220 and some days are already sold out, Robertson said.

And if all goes well, the run may end up operating 12 months of the year.

“We’d love an opportunity to run year round. But the first thing we have to do is create market demand,” Robertson said.

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