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Empire Builder -- back on track!

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  • Member since
    October 2001
  • From: US
  • 591 posts
Empire Builder -- back on track!
Posted by petitnj on Sunday, March 22, 2015 1:12 PM

Took Empire Builder from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA Friday March 13 and returned on Wednesday March 18th. A couple of notes: 

1) Slowed by freight train/truck collision on the 13th near Little Falls, MN. Ran about 1 hour late for the rest of the trip. 

2) Crew and services top notch. Dinning car was very accomodating to our requests and service was prompt and with a smile. 

3) Freight train shifted load hit a RR bridge near Wenachee, WA so we were bussed from Wenachee to Seattle (at 7 AM) so we arrived on-time at Seattle's King Street Station.

4) King Street Station restoration is beautiful. Interior is bright and clean. Staff is busy with Sounders and Amtrak coming and going but very attentive. Little "Mike" gave the announcement of the loading of the Empire Builder without the help of a PA system. Part of the local color of Seattle. 

5) Return trip staff again, very good. The Conductor even announced when we were slowed to meet the west bound Empire Builder. 

6) Were on-time until Minot, ND. The track from Minot, ND to Grand Forks and then south to Fargo, ND is in tough shape. Mostly slow orders from 40 to 60 mph and very rough. BNSF doesn't use this route as the KO line (directly from Minot, ND to Fargo, ND) is shorter. 

7) Lost about an hour through eastern ND and arrived in St. Paul, MN about an hour and 1/2 late. Crew unloaded and loaded the passengers as quickly as possible and departed about 9:20 AM on a scheduled departure of 8:03 AM. Not bad. 

8) St. Paul Union Depot (SPUD) is very nice but has two real problems for quick turnaround. a) The stairs and elevators are at one end of the train and mean that it is a long walk to the train from the boarding area. b) There is only one escalator and one elevator. To load quickly,  they have to reverse the escalator before all of the detraining passengers have made it up the stairs. Then once at the top of the escalator/elevator there are the on coming passengers blocking the narrow doorway to the depot. Not a very well designed corridor!

9) Great trip. Sleeper not full. Coach full from St. Paul, MN to Chicago, IL (spring break time). Good time to ride.

 

  • Member since
    July 2009
  • From: San Francisco East Bay
  • 1,292 posts
Posted by MikeF90 on Tuesday, March 31, 2015 3:02 PM

Good to read that performance is improving on this route. I've never been to Idaho and Montana but hope to someday as the scenery looks pretty spectacular.

petitnj
6) Were on-time until Minot, ND. The track from Minot, ND to Grand Forks and then south to Fargo, ND is in tough shape. Mostly slow orders from 40 to 60 mph and very rough. BNSF doesn't use this route as the KO line (directly from Minot, ND to Fargo, ND) is shorter.

BNSF is putting plenty of $$$ into the Devils Lake and Hillsboro subs as they must be anticipating continued high levels of traffic. They've upgraded seven sidings to CTC and built two new ones;  press releases claim that complete CTC conversion will be complete by y/e 2015.  A good bonus for local shippers and Amtrak customers alike.

It's taken a while but I've managed to recover data that Google lost during the recent Map Engine update. Here is the map link: http://goo.gl/maps/zUryP   If you have anything to add, please advise!

Links to my Google Maps ---> Sunset Route overview, SoCal metro, Yuma sub, Gila sub, SR east of Tucson, BNSF Northern Transcon and Southern Transcon 

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