As the lights of Vancouver, British Columbia's eastern suburbs slid away across the wide, placid Fraser River, the woman seated in front of me in the domed viewing car put her arm around her husband and gently leaned on his shoulder. I took a sip of my sparkling wine, nibbled on a filo-wrapped savory, and thought, this must be what is meant by "the romance of the rails."
I was traveling east to Edmonton, Alberta, on VIA Rail Canada's Canadian line, whose refurbished 1950s coaches evoke the heyday of railway travel. After crossing the Fraser, we would head north and east, deep into British Columbia, before picking up the river again at its Moose Lake headwaters and then entering Jasper National Park in Alberta. The 24-hour one-way journey is beautiful any time of year but especially now, when the Rockies are mantled with snow.
The Canadian line is not the only inviting winter train excursion in the West. Other trips ― both multiday and less expensive one-day excursions ― lead into the Cascade Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, and the Rockies. Seeing the West's great mountain ranges in their white coats, from the comfort of a dining or observation car, is an experience you owe to yourself at least once.