Understanding the Empire Builder
I am realizing the more I talk to people about trains (particularly people my own age) the more I realize that many people are so unfamiliar with them that just describing a service isn't enough. So here I present the first in my Route by Route walk through series for "The Empire Builder. "
Where does it run? Along the top of the country. More specifically from Chicago to Seattle or Portland (the train splits in Spokane). Very few people ride the route end to end though, the majority get on and off somewhere in the middle, making it an incredibly important transportation tool for the northwest.
Views? This train might just be one of the most beautiful routes in the entire country if not the world. It goes from winding directly along the banks of the Mississippi to climbing through Glacier National Park. When taking it to Seattle it is so important to get up early so you can see as much as possible of apple country (I'm from upstate NY so giving it that name hurts my heart) before the train hits the Cascade Tunnel. The nice part about this train is you don't have to be constantly glued to the windows to catch these amazing views. Depending on the time of year you go National Park Service guides are on board for different segments to answer questions and point out particularly interesting features! If you're super committed (like yours truly was) you can also fill out coloring books and become a junior ranger! I highly recommend this. I can't tell you the depth it's added to my resume.
Recommended Soundtrack? That's really hard for this one. I felt like old school country was appropriate for most of North Dakota, but because of the varying terrain you really need a little of everything.
- Boston - More than a Feelin (for the leg next to the Mississippi)
- George Strait - Amarillo by Mornin (it just works with North Dakota, trust me)
- Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings (entering Glacier National park you need something with drama)
- Kanye West- Good Morning (absolutely required for the early wakeup coming into Seattle)
Fun Fact? It's named for James J. Hill, the empire builder. He built the Great Northern Railroad along with several others in the late 1800's, amassed an obscene amount of personal wealth and built a really large house in Minneapolis! Take it from someone who isn't really into much touristy stuff, the house is definitely worth a visit.
What about Stevie? I didn't have to box her on this one which means Train Side Check in Service should be coming to you sometime this fall (again a post explaining what that is is coming soon)! As someone who is embarrassingly bad at adjusting her own brakes ect. I can't tell you what a blessing this will be and has been for much of this trip.
Most Memorable Moment? Being in the middle of North Dakota in a very large viewing car and somehow running into the transportation planner for my tiny hometown in Upstate NY. Weirdly small world.
What did I use it for/ favorite part about the train? To get to the Twin Cities, Whitefish, and Seattle! I was in a roomette for all of these segments but my favorite part of the Empire Builder is without a doubt the observation car. With its enormous windows extending up into the roof it provides amazing views and many opportunities for me to leap across to the other side of the car to try to get a photo. It's a testament to how even tempered people are on trains that they put up with me and my social media efforts.
Conclusions? Love it. Loved the city it came from, where it took me and the entire experience in between. Much love to the passengers and crew members who made it difficult to get off a multi-day train.