We elected to ride first-class, and it was worth it! We had the last car and shared with only four other lucky couples. We met some wonderful people including Cheryl and Chantel, a mother and daughter enjoying the day together on the train (cute, aren’t they?). The best part about first-class was exclusive access to stand outside on the back platform—kind of a whistle-stop campaign feeling. The luxury car ticket came with free gifts (logo mugs, tote bags, and pins identifying the #480 steam-powered locomotive) and free drinks and pastries. Our attendant was a former field geologist from Alaska; so not only did we get information about the train and the history of the railway from her, but also a wealth of information about the rock formations along the way.
Occasionally, we would hang our heads out the window and get hit with a puff of black smoke and a few cinders hitting our face. The steam engine requires a fireman shoveling about 5 tons of coal into the firebox and the stops to take on water—lots and lots of water to make mucho steam. Downright cool, right?