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Chicago, IL To Portland, OR On Amtrak's Empire Builder
Fall Amtrak Vacation Trip 2006
Chicago IL To Portland, OR
On Amtrak's Empire Builder
Monday-Wednesday, September 25th-27th, 2006
 

Amtrak Train #7/27 - The Empire Builder
Seen In Minot, North Dakota - September 26th, 2006
 
Monday, September 25th, 2006:
 
   At around 1pm, I walked back to the station from Roosevelt Avenue, picked up my luggage from the locker and headed to Gate B to wait for boarding of Train #7/27 – The Empire Builder which would be my first ride on this particular train. At around 1:45pm, we started boarding. The Conductor took our tickets before boarding the train and a Coach Attendant gave us each a seat check. I would be seated in the Portland Section of the train as I was riding officially Train #27 to Portland. I explained to the conductor why I had 2 tickets for this train, as it had everything to do with my Guest Rewards free trip. I boarded Superliner I Coach #34075 which is located right behind the Sightseer Lounge. The consist for today's train is located at the bottom of this page.
   After boarding the train, we left on time at 2:15pm and exited out of Union Station going North up the Metra Line to the former Soo Line (Now Canadian Pacific) line towards Milwaukee. The scenery out of Chicago is interesting as it fades to farmland as we head for Wisconsin. After leaving Chicago, an announcement was made from the Dining Car which told us the menu and would be coming around to take reservations. The Sleeper passengers would get seated first with us coach passengers to follow. I watched the passing scenery as we stopped in Glenview, IL at the Metra Station, then headed into Wisconsin and stopped in Milwaukee where a smoking break was permitted. During certain times of the year, this train has a Chicago-Milwaukee Only coach that is removed from the train here and given the designation "Train #807" but this was not running today. We left Milwaukee and continued on. I had a late dinner reservation so I enjoyed a Heater Meal followed by a big cookie and Diet Pepsi from the Sightseer Lounge car. I asked the Attendant if he could make me a "Tom Collins" drink, one of my favorites, but he didn't have any of the mix, oh well, no biggie! I eventually began looking for a scarce AC outlet to plug in my cell phone for a bit and I would start writing this travelogue again. My “free trip” started as we departed Columbus, WI. We then made our next stop in Portage, WI. We had to stop only once for a CP train to pass us as we continued on towards Wisconsin Dells, WI. My dinner reservation was set for 7:15pm in the Dining Car. After charging my cell phone for almost 2 hours, I packed up my computer and headed for the Dining car, at this point, things would start to get really interesting.
   There was a passenger who was we’ll say “buzzed” when he boarded the train in Chicago. He was from somewhere in Oregon and would be riding all the way to Portland. It turns out that both of us were eating dinner at 7:15pm. I have never seen this person before in my life but he acted like I was his best buddy (an obvious side effect of consuming exorbitant amounts of alcohol, not that I’m a bad person or anything but he was acting rather strange.) I was seated next to Mr. Personality for dinner. He was very belligerent and acted really stupid around other passengers. He even threw his arm around me in the Dining Car which is when I abruptly asked him to please remove his arm! I would come to find out that he was causing trouble for other passengers and that he continued to consume alcohol (mostly wine & champaign). He was yelling at other passengers, accusing them of stealing his backpack among other things. He for whatever reason also had 3 cell phones on him which nobody could figure out why. After dinner, everyone had had enough of his rude, belligerent behavior that a decision was made to put this loser off the train at Red Wing, Minnesota! At the Red Wing stop, law enforcement was waiting to arrest him and he didn’t have his backpack with him since we later would find out that he had left it on the platform in Winona, MN which is where he had gotten off the train to have a cigarette. The fact that he was drunk probably caused him to forget to take it with him back on the train. He had a suitcase that would be removed from the train in Minnneapolis-St. Paul as well. This is now the 3rd time in 36 Amtrak trips that I have witnessed a drunk passenger or passengers be escorted off the train. I later commended the Conductor on the fine work he and the Coach Attendants did in removing this guy from the train and ensuring passenger safety by doing so.

   For dinner tonight, I had the New York Strip Steak made Medium-Well with a side of Mashed Potatoes and Rice Pilaf with a Dinner Salad and Roll and a Diet Pepsi. I had the Mississippi Mud Pie for dessert. All of the food, despite the behavior of Mr. Personality next to me was very good. All food was served on china plates and was very tasty and the steak was done just the way I like it, medium-well and was well seasoned. Dinner cost a total of $27.75.
   After all that excitement ended, I took my “shower with no shower – wash your hair with a Dixie Cup” Shower, a system I perfected on my last cross country trip, had a Diet Pepsi with a few other passengers then eventually settled into my coach seat and waited for the stop in Minneapolis. At Minneapolis-St.Paul station, we had a chance to get off the train and smoke if you wanted or get some air. I ran in the station and bought 2 bottles of Diet Pepsi and some Reese’ Peanut Butter Cups. There are several private cars also parked at the station. After reboarding and drinking one of the Diet Pepsi’s, I went to sleep at around 11:00pm. I only woke up maybe twice overnight and woke up for good around 7:15am and headed for the Dining Car for breakfast!   
 
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006:
 
   I was seated with 2 passengers from Duluth, Minnesota who were on their way to Montana. Breakfast today would be Pancakes with a side of Bacon and Hash Browns with Orange Juice to drink. All of the food was delicious and the service in the Dining Car was excellent. Breakfast cost $9.75. After breakfast, I headed into the Sightseer Lounge to get some pictures of the passing North Dakota scenery. The views here are great, lots of farms and even some oil fields as well. I also had an in-depth discussion with a couple passengers from Ohio as well as a photographer from Delaware who was taking medium format prints. We had a smoking break at our next stop in Minot, ND. Minot is also a service stop for the train. I took a bunch of slides of the train, and one other passenger besides myself also took pictures while we waited on the platform. We had lost some time overnight but had made up nearly all of it having left Minot 2 minutes late at 8:53am. I enjoyed the scenery and at Williston, ND we had a smoking break at the station stop there. A steam locomotive is on display at that station as well, a former Great Northern 2-8-2 #3059. We would eventually go into the Mountain Time Zone and I would continue writing this travelogue.
   I took some photos of the passing scenery which for the moment is mostly flat farmland with few trees along with some cattle ranches. I had a quick conversation with a passenger from Australia who was traveling across the U.S. At Lohman, MT, we had to pull into a siding to allow Train #8/28, our Eastbound counterpart pass us. We then had to back out of the siding onto the mainline and continue West. A freight train was actually behind us while it appeared for the moment that we had priority of this mainline, thanks BNSF!!! Our next stop was Havre, MT (pronounced “Hav-er”, not Hav-ree” as I got yelled at for mispronouncing it!). This is a fueling stop as well as a smoking break for the train. The fueling stop was separate from the station stop. We were running a bit late so the regular 25 minutes we were otherwise supposed to be at the station was truncated to 9 minutes. We left Havre at 3:23pm, 32 minutes late. I headed for the lounge car to charge up the cell phone and write a bit more on this travelogue. After departing Havre, an announcement was made that available to all passengers for $12.00 was a “Big Sky Picnic Dinner” which consisted of a 2 piece chicken dinner with a side, a roll and Montana Blackberry Cobbler, this was available from the Sightseer Lounge to anyone who wanted it. I felt like having another dinner in the diner so I opted to wait for my dinner reservation which was set for 6:45pm tonight.
   Our next stop was set for Shelby, MT which would be exciting for me because I have the computer game Microsoft Train Simulator which allows you to operate a BNSF freight (or Amtrak Passenger Train if you want) over Marias Pass and the route starts in Shelby and ends in Whitefish with a branch to Kalispell. This would be my chance to see this route in real life! At Shelby, we had another smoking break which gave me yet another photo opportunity for this train. There were also a couple BNSF units parked behind the station. I took a few slides then headed back to my coach and we were out of Shelby at 5:25pm, now only 3 minutes late. Two tour guides from the National Park Service boarded the train at Shelby and started a narrated tour of Marias Pass with our next top in Cut Bank, MT. Cut Bank was named after the huge rock cuts along the river the town is located on and the view from the 1200 ft bridge we went over as soon as we left the Cut Bank Station was incredible! An announcement was made by the Dining Car crew that there would be wine tasting for the sleeper passengers today, since I was in coach (and I’m not much of a wine fan, Chardonnay for example tastes like hairspray to me!) I didn’t partake this event.
    We passed the Browning, MT station which is currently closed with this train not stopping there. Browning is the home to the Blackfeet Nation of Indians. Our tour guides provided some good narrative along the route with our next stop coming up at East Glacier Park, MT. By now, it was too dark to take anymore photos and my dinner reservation for 6:45pm was now here. I was seated with a passenger from Saratoga, CA along with 2 passengers from I think Montana but I can’t remember. I ordered the Steak again made Medium-Well and decided to be bold and order it “blackened” for Cajun Style flavor, I had the steak with mashed potatoes and rice pilaf with a Diet Pepsi to drink. I had the vanilla ice cream for dessert with chocolate sauce on top, total cost for dinner was $24.75. The steak once again was delicious, this is something I really miss on the other long-distance trains since the new “Simplified Dining Service” has done away with this menu item! I also like the china plates and glassware used in the diner, and the staff was professional and very friendly as they seemed to have taken great pride in their work. As the sun went down and I saw the views of Glacier National Park, I came to the idea that I really need to come out this way again on a future trip and spend a few days at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT (a flag stop for this train) right in the middle of the park to really embrace this natural wonder! After dinner, we stopped in West Glacier, MT where the station says “Belton” on it, but the timetable says West Glacier. After dinner, when we arrived in Whitefish, Montana, I had just enough time to get off the train (it was yet ANOTHER smoking break for the train!) and get a night photo of the train along with a Great Northern switcher engine on display at the station. I just barely made it back to the train! I would spend the rest of the evening relaxing, I eventually charged up my cell phone and went to sleep. And so ends today...
 
Wednesday, September 27th, 2006:
 
   I woke up briefly as the HEP went out in the train as we had arrived in Spokane, WA sometime overnight. Spokane is the station stop where the Portland and Seattle Sections of the train are separated. I wanted originally to get up and get some air and watch this as it was an extended stop at the station but I was so incredibly tired, a little voice in my head said, just stay here and go back to sleep! I listened to myself, and fell back asleep and missed the splitting of the train but oh well! I slept through the stop in Pasco, Washington and I woke up again only once or twice and finally woke up for good somewhere between Pasco and Wishram, Washington. The sun coming up over the Columbia River Gorge was incredible. As the morning sky brightened, and the view of the gorge became brighter, it was clear to me, this was one of the nicest parts of this entire ride! I took several pictures along the way with our next stop in Wishram, WA. At 7:37am, we arrived in Wishram which was another smoking break for passengers and yet another photo opportunity for yours truly. We left Wishram at 7:42pm only 12 minutes late. I noticed lots of trackwork going on West of Wishram with a welded rail train nearby. Maybe there is some double-tracking of this line in that area happening? We stopped at Bingen-White Salmon, WA next but the stop was brief. Another announcement was made that the conductor wanted to have a cigarette in Vancouver, WA our next stop and all passengers were invited to “Smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em!”), so yet again, I get another pic of the train at this station which was our final stop before Portland, OR. We had now made up all lost time and were set to arrive in Portland EARLY!!!!! Our excellent Coach Attendant came by to collect pillows and garbage from the train and at 10:01am, running an amazing 24 minutes early, we arrived at our final destination for this train at Portland, Oregon. I got my luggage together and took some slides of the train and another light unit parked there. I went inside the station and had 3 of my bags stored there for $6.00. The baggage handler was nice enough to provide me with a map and directions to get to a nearby Subway Restaurant to go have lunch. I walked outside and took some photos of the station and called my Dad in New York to let him know how the trip was going. I then walked to Subway. After a lunch of a Meatball Sub with Pepperjack Cheese along with 2 cookies and a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup with a Diet Coke. My only gripe here was that Subway out here in Oregon doesn't have Frank's Hot Sauce! If you're from Buffalo, you'll know what I'm talking about! And son, you're probably wondering now, "Where are the pictures Geno????", well there's so many of them, I had to put them on two separate pages, so check out the link below for all the photos!!!
 
Amtrak's Empire Builder - Train #7 - Monday, September 25th, 2006 - 52 Axles
Number:
Car/Engine Type:
Name:
Description:
19
P42DC
   
Power (To Seattle)
58
P42DC
  
Power (To Portland)
1248
Heritage Baggage
   
Baggage Car (To Seattle)
39037
Superliner II Transition Sleeper
 
Crew Sleeper (To Seattle)
32007
Superliner I Sleeper
 
Sleeping Car (To Seattle)
32005
Superliner I Sleeper
 
Sleeping Car (To Seattle)
38007
Superliner I Dining Car
 
Dining Car (To Seattle)
34058
Superliner I Coach
  
Coach (To Seattle)
31030
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
  
Coach (To Seattle)
33038
Superliner II Sightseer Lounge
   
Cafe/Lounge Car (To Portland)
34075
Superliner I Coach
  
Coach (To Portland) (My Car)
31031
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
     
Coach (To Portland)
32039
Superliner I Sleeper
     
Sleeping Car (To Portland)

Amtrak's Empire Builder - Train #27 - Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 - 20 Axles
Number:
Car/Engine Type:
Name:
Description:
58
P42DC
  
Power
33038
Superliner II Sightseer Lounge
  
Cafe/Lounge Car
34075
Superliner I Coach
 
Coach (My Car)
31031
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
   
Coach
32039
Superliner I Sleeper
   
Sleeping Car
 
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