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The Long Trip Home via Chicago and Portland Part 1

by Chris Guenzler

City of New Orleans 12/31/2007

The City of New Orleans pulled into Memphis at 10:30 PM {10:00 PM} with Engines 151 and 62, Transition 32013, Sleeper 32056, Diner 37004 and Coaches 31031, 34098 and 31308 with Private Car Sheriff Railcar Cripple Creek PPCX 800138. I boarded 32056 taking Room 2 with Sleeping Car Attendant Danny working the car to Chicago of my trip on New Year's Eve and the remaining minutes of my 50th Birthday. The train left Memphis at 10:56 PM {10:40 PM} for points north in the night. I made up my bed and slept the night way.

1/1/2008 Happy New Year 2008! I woke up at 7:30 AM, dressed and headed straight to the Dining Car 37004 that had just made its last call. I ordered French Toast and Pork Sausage Patties as the train sped north across the snowy Illinois landscape south of Kanakee. I took another well needed shower since I would not get another one until I am on the Coast Starlight on Thursday.

Right before the Homewood Station stop, I spotted the Homewood Railfan Viewing Platform. I must say on a day like this I would prefer the nice, warm and enclosed "Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point" at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Missouri. I read the New-Gazette, a morning paper from Champaign with a definite trend towards the Illini on their game with the USC Trojans back home in the Rose Bowl.

You get great views of Chicago from the St Charles Airline.

The bridge on the St Charles Airline as we backed into Chicago Union Station arriving there at 9:16 AM {9:00 AM} ending my first leg of my trip home.

The Private Car Cripple Creek on the rear end of the City of New Orleans.

Chicago 1/1/2008

I was off to the Metropolitan Lounge and stored my bags then took a walk around the station finding most things closed. Back in the warmth of the lounge, I recharged the camera batteries as I relaxed on the first day of 2008 which is Day 4731 of my Sobriety. My first musical choice of 2008 was Ted Nugent "Full Bluntal Nugity". Next was the Poxy Boggards "Larger than Life" followed by Frank Zappa "Apostrophe". I got a Cinnamon Roll and mailed a post card before I waited for the boarding of the Empire Builder. The conductor came and took our tickets before as we waited to board after they boarded the California Zephyr and Texas Eagle.

Empire Builder 7/27 1/1/2008

At 1:52 PM they release us from the lounge to go out and board the train. I stored my bags in the 2814 Coach {the 34111} and went back outside walking the train.

The Empire Builder had engines 302, 90 and 169, Baggage 1248, Transition 39011, Sleepers 32068 and 32073 California, Diner 38024, Coaches 34027, 31019 and 34038, Lounge 33048, Coaches 34111 and 31013, Sleeper 32042 and Coach 34101 {dropped at MSP}. The lounge back on is the Portland Section of the Empire Builder.

A Metra Train at Chicago Union Station.

The Empire Builder departed Chicago on time and headed out into the afternoon light.

Leaving Downtown Chicago I put on my CD of Peter Cetera "Live in Salt Lake City" for this trip home. At Glenview it was lightly snowing as we headed to Milwaukee. I got a 7 PM Dinner Reservation and then put on Aerosmith "Permanent Vacation".

We left Milwaukee on time and headed west across Wisconsin. The train ran by Miller Park where the Milwaukee Brewers play baseball. The Partridge Family "Greatest Hits" took me into the night. Next was Jethro Tull "Best of Acoustic".

The Main Drag in Wisconsin Dells.

In Tomah, Tomah Lumber was lit up. Two River Junction took me to my dinner time which was after La Crosse after crossing the Mississippi River into Minnesota. At 7:30 PM they called us into the Dining Car for dinner. I ordered the Flat Iron Steak and had Chocolate Ice Cream for dessert. The Empire Builder arrived into Midway Station at 10:23 PM, eight minutes early tonight. I stepped off in my shorts into the near zero and joked about being on a football field before returning to the warmth of the train. I tried to sleep but a black lady decided she would play her DVD without headphones. When it was pointed out to her that headphones are required, she started swearing and said "I will do whatever I feel like". Her cussing continued but her son finally quieted her down but she kept watching. At Staples I told the conductor who did not do anything about her so I went to the lounge car and slept on the floor. It was very cold in the lounge but I did get some sleep.

1/2/2008 I woke up at Devil's Lake and once the lounge opened I got a Cinnamon Roll and an Orange Juice.

At a five degree Minot I got off for a picture of the train.

I got to see the ground crew thawing out the train. Queensryche "Empire" started out what I thought would be a long day of white heading west when we departed Minot at 9:10 AM {9:00 AM}.

Between Minot and Stanley with Keith Emerson "Hammer it Out" was my next musical choice as the snow began to disappear as it must have been warming up outside. The Empire Builder made a stop west of Stanley at Ross was due to sticky brakes on the Dining Car but the crew must have fixed the problem as we started rolling west again.

The train ran across Western North Dakota on the way to Williston.

Great Northern Steam Engine 2-4-2 3059 on display at Williston.

Fresh air break in Williston.

Two more views of the Great Northern 3059 as we left Williston at 11:30 AM {11:07 AM}. Keith Emerson "Hammer it Out "Part 2 took me into the big Sky State of Montana.

A big bend in the Missouri River on the way to Wolf Point.

Our train was crossing eastern Montana.

We ran along another bend in the Missouri River.

Our train stopped at Wolf Point, Montana which we stayed longer at due to mechanical issues with the Dining Car. West of Wolf Point at Oswesgo we came to a stop.

The tree will be known as "Bad News Tree" where they announced that due to flat wheels they would have to set out the Dining Car which meant no steak dinner tonight for Chris. I went out and got lunch in the lounge car. No hot dogs, bratwurst, etc. They only stocked two orange juices on this train which I had one for breakfast. I had Chicken Wings, Rolled Gold Pretzel, Mug Root Beer and a good chocolate Chip Cookie.

The views out both sides of our train. Cutting off a Dining Car is a first in my over one million miles of train riding. Prince "The Hits" would get me through most of this delay.

View of the greater Oswego area.

From the Dining Car forward was cut off of our train to spot the diner on the siding.

The Grain Elevator at Oswego, Montana.

They took the car to the east end of Oswego to cut it off the train before they came back by us then put our train back together. We then backed to the east switch at Oswego and went back into the siding to spot the Dining Car on a grain elevator spur so that the BNSF could continue to use the Oswego Siding to pass trains. Our train pushed the Dining Car into the spur before it backed onto the siding. Once the switch was thrown, we left Oswego passing the Dining Car.

My last view of our former Dining Car. We departed Oswego at 3:43 PM and headed west with me listening to Frank Zappa "Live at the Roxy".

A wall mural in Glasgow during our stop there. We departed Glasgow at 4:21 PM {12:26 PM}.

A wonderful Montana Big Sky Sunset!

A post sundown picture after the train left Malta as it closed in on Havre. I listened to the Young Dubliners "With All Due Respect" on the way to Havre.

The sign that tells the story of Havre.

Station scene at Havre.

The Great Northern Steam Engine in Havre decorated for the Holiday Season. I went into the station and got an ice cream bar before the Empire Builder left Havre at 7:03 PM {3:04 PM} with a new train crew. They put on Ham Sandwiches with cheese so I could not eat one so I just enjoyed a Coke and would wait to eat well again on the Coast Starlight. John Cougar "Freedoms Road"" took me to a fresh air stop at Shelby.

Shelby Montana fresh air stop. ABBA "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This!" was the next CD for this evening. I stretched out across the two seats then slept to Whitefish where my seat mate returned. I then headed to the floor of the lounge car and stretched out on the floor along the window and went to sleep.

1/3/2008 Nearing Spokane the conductor made sure that everyone in the lounge was going to Portland on that section of the Empire Builder. Those who were not returned to the Seattle section of the Empire Builder. After they split the train into its two sections, the Seattle section of the Empire Builder left Spokane. The Portland section of the Empire Builder left Spokane at 5:25 AM {2:48 AM} with Engine 302, Lounge 33048, Coaches 34111 and 31013 and Sleeper 32042. I slept for another hour before getting up and going downstairs for a Cinnamon Roll and a cup of Earl Grey Tea. My first musical choice of the morning was Blackmore's Night "Fire at Midnight" on this new day.

Eastern Washington as we climbed down Richmond Hill. The train will descend all the way down to the Columbia River which we will follow to Portland.

BNSF power at the Hump Yard at Pasco.

Empire Builder at Pasco. My conductor is Gene who used to be based in San Diego. It was really good to see him again. We left Pasco at 8:13 AM {5:33 AM}.

Our train crossed the Columbia River.

A few minutes later, we started our running along the Columbia River.

The canyon got narrower as we proceeded south in direction before the Columbia River turned west. Yes "Talk " was the next CD I put on this morning as we sped west towards the Columbia River Gorge.

A peaceful bay along the Columbia River.

A barge heading up the Columbia River.

Two views of Union Pacific freight trains on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Beautiful scene as another steam joins the Columbia River.

Looking west down river.

The Deschutes River joined the Columbia River before our next station and last fresh air stop of the trip at Wishram.

A look back east up the river.

The train crew at Wishram before we left at 10:08 AM {7:30 AM}.

The BNSF bridge at Wishram for their trains down the Inside Gateway to California.

A look down the river.

West of North Dalles.

Another view heading west into the storm. At East Bingen we went into the siding due to track work before we stopped at Bingen-White Salmon 10:45 AM {8:04 AM}

Across the gorge into Oregon.

Cooks, Washington.

Lake Stevenson

Spokane, Portland & Seattle F-unit and Caboose at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Museum.

Bridge of the Gods.

Last dam in the Columbia River Gorge.

Over the engine you can take a picture of Beacon Rock.

Columbia Gorge Wall in Oregon.

The train stopped by this colorful pool to copy dispatcher's orders.

Multnomah Falls in Oregon across the Columbia River.

We ran by a large rock in the Columbia River at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge before the final tunnel. Yes "Talk" was put back on as they announced an ETA of 12:30 PM for Portland. Connecting passengers for the Talgo were told to detrain at Vancouver. We rolled west through Camas in the pouring rain to our Vancouver Station stop at 12:16 PM {9:08 AM}.

The bridge across the Columbia River took us into Oregon and a few minutes later we arrived into Portland Union Station 12:38 PM {10:10 AM} ending a most interesting and very unique trip aboard the Empire Builder.

The Empire Builder was at rest at Portland Union Station.

Portland 1/3/2008

I stored my luggage in the Metropolitan Lounge than borrowed an umbrella before walking four blocks in the rain to Katrina's Market to get some supplies for the trip home. Back at the lounge I recharged both my camera batteries and phone as I relaxed for the train that would get me even closer to home!

Click here for the rest of the trip home on the Coast Starlight and Surfliner.