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Thread: Empire Builder riders...suggestions?

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    Default Empire Builder riders...suggestions?

    Hi everyone!

    My wife and I are taking our annual trip out to Western Montana to see my father in law...and this time we've decided to take the Empire Builder! We'll board at Portage, WI (POG) and get off at Whitefish MT (WFH).

    Those of you who have traveled the route and train, what are your suggestions for a happy trip? What scenic wonders and photo ops will I want to not miss?

    Thanks!

    Mike, P-LineSoo.

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    Coach or room?

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    We're going coach. I didn't see a great advantage in the room vs. the expense, as neither one of us would do well on a top bunk, and the real issue is that my wife is a light sleeper....crossing bells and train horns will be an issue either way. It's less than a 1.5 day trip for us, so a shower isn't critical, either. We board at 5:30 PM and get off at 9:30 PM the following day. I could sleep through the D-Day Landing. I've slept through concerts, construction work, even fell asleep standing up once. Mrs. P-Line agreed, she said we may as well save about 700 bucks, she won't sleep well either way.

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    For a better coach trip, consider taking:

    • Refillable water bottle(s), or travel mug(s) if you prefer coffee
    • Light blanket(s) that you don't mind getting dirty
    • Snacks
    • Powdered drink mixes if you prefer something more than water but don't want to buy soda onboard
    • Headphones/ear plugs (perhaps you could sleep through D-Day, but the Allied invasion is no match for a screaming toddler at 2 a.m.)
    • Travel pack of baby wipes (coach passengers do not have access to showers)
    • Extra sweatshirt/jacket (wear if it's extra cold onboard, or use as a makeshift pillow)


    Likely you will be seated upstairs and large suitcases, if not checked, will be left in the coach's lower level. Suggest you pack and lock a big bag with all the things you'll need for the rest of your journey and only take a couple backpacks or small roller bag upstairs with one night's necessities. You will have access to the large suitcase if not checked, but it's simpler to bring everything you need upstairs once. Be sure that any cameras, computers, tablets, etc. go in a small non-descript bag that can stay under your feet or the seat ahead of you. That will also make it easier to take them to the dining car or lounge if you choose to not leave them at your seats.

    After La Crosse the River will be to the north of the train, so try to get a seat on the right side when you board if that's something you want to see and the crew does not assign you seats. For photos, be sure to get out and stretch your legs every time a smoke break is announced. That will give you enough time to mill about the platform and take some photos, even up by the front of the train for longer stops.

    There's a steam locomotive and caboose by the station in Williston, N.D., and a diesel displayed at Whitefish. I'm sure there are others, but it's been more than a decade since I've ridden the Builder west of the Twin Cities.

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    Great tips!!! Ear plugs....great idea, as are the Baby Wipes! We already plan on getting some 'airplane pillows', those things that kind of go around your neck, and the blankets are a good idea as well.

    What side of the train is best for Glacier Park?

    I checked out the loco at Williston, that looks worth seeing for certain. I wanted to see the Soo Pacific at Minot, but it looks like it's a bit far to get to on foot for the time allotted.

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    On the WB EB you’ll probably pass through Glacier at night, so side won’t matter. The EB trip sees it during the day. WB you’ll get a great view of North Dakota.
    Karl

    CEO of the Skally Line, an Eastern MN Shortline

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpwisc View Post
    On the WB EB you’ll probably pass through Glacier at night, so side won’t matter. The EB trip sees it during the day. WB you’ll get a great view of North Dakota.
    Yeah, if you have a choice take it east-bound. Best views (spectacular even) are between Whitefish and Cutbank. Eastbound gets you daylight, westbound gets you to Whitefish at 9 pm if it is on schedule (I suspect its late more often than early). https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/p...ule-042918.pdf

    I took it in October from Libby to Chicago in October and it exceeded my expectations. Best place to watch the scenery is from an observation car; get there early. Dining room food was good, worth having at least dinner there. Track west of Williston was smooth as silk, east of Williston much rougher due to the Bakken traffic. Scenery in WI was good too, but the Dells flash by pretty quickly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpwisc View Post
    WB you’ll get a great view of North Dakota.
    That should help you sleep better, @P-LineSoo

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    This is coming up quickly! We leave in 9 days...

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    Saw the thread title and thought, "Cut off their legs." Nevermind.

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    Sounds like a fun time!

    With this being the longest days of the year, there will still be good Glacier scenery westbound if you are on time (the sun is setting a bit after 9:30 local right now.)

    For side of train in Glacier, it's a mix -- right is better for distant views before East Glacier, and better from Essex to West Glacier, but it's about half and half between East Glacier and Essex, and between West Glacier and Columbia Falls. Lounge car always an option - no need to hustle back to your seats until after you pass through Columbia Falls.

    Also a steam engine beside the station in Havre, and a 20+ minute stop to get out and look around. If it's a hot day, there is/was an ice cream vending machine inside the Havre station that's very popular with passengers - though it was out of order a year ago and I've not spoken to a recent passenger who can confirm it back in service.


    How long will you be around? I am out of town the weekend of the 22nd but may be around the following week.

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    Getting suitcases together and going thru clothes right now.

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    Have a good trip!! We expect plenty of photos posted here when you return...
    Cheers,

    Russ

    CEO of Devil's Gate Mining Co.



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    Tomorrow is the day! We board at 5:30 pm at Portage, WI.

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    Good Luck, Safe travels...pics when you get back.

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    Forecast calling for fresh snow on Marias Pass tonight and tomorrow - but probably winding down by Saturday. With luck the sun may even peek through a time or two on Saturday.

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    I see from the Amtrak Status Maps that PLine's train is >2 hours down and it's going to be dark before he crosses Marias Pass....

    So let's pretend it was 40 years ago today and he had chosen to take the North Coast Hiawatha instead of the Builder. Two hours late into Butte would have put him here at 7:00 tonight, right while I was taking an evening stroll near the top of Homestake Pass. Here is the 'view out the dome', going east at 3 miles an hour:


    0622191913c.jpg
    0622191937a.jpg
    0622191943.jpg

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    Train was late both ways. I have a list of my recommendations for riding the Empire Builder that I'll post in full later, but the short version is this: Get a sleeper. Bring a lumbar cushion. The train is ALWAYS late.

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    The sleeper is the answer...food is free with sleeper...plus you don't care if your late as much.....

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