Empire Builder Portland-St. Paul
Early May 2003
In early May I made a truck delivery out in Portland, Oregon, and opted to take the Empire Builder east to Minneapolis then a Jefferson Lines bus south to Kansas City.
Good trip - I left Portland's Union Station exactly on sked, 4:45 pm on Wednesday May 7th. We joined up in Spokane with the other section which originates in Seattle also at 4 45 pm and the combined consist crossed Idaho, Montana and North Dakota reaching St. Paul at 8 am the 2nd day. Two full nights on the train - in coach but the first night I had two seats to myself so I could stretch out somewhat.
Train was full at times, other times there were a few empty seats but basically good ridership for my trip. Service stop at Havre gave me enough time to go to a Casino and get a take out sandwich - also time at the Minot stop to do the same thing but I didn't find any food places close enough to the station.
Neat, clean and quite functional transportation center in Spokane WA which services Amtrak, Greyhound and local transit. Even a cafeteria which was open at 1 am for the east and west bound Empire Builders - both trains come in about the same time and make long service stops to combine or break up the Portland and Seattle sections.
I had my scanner with me - and got a tip off while crossing through Glacier park of a bear on the left side of the train - the engine crew alerted the conductors and I looked up in time to see the critter on the hillside and pretty close to the train - neat sighting. Tried to let some others in the coach know of it but think most missed him. Also saw some antelope. Plenty of snow in the Montana mountains - both on the peaks and along the right of way.
Good trip - glad to see the train running near capacity and no major glitches or equipment problems. We were one hour late into St. Paul and that was due to a broken rail ahead of us as were entering the city - took a while to reroute us around the bad track.
Greyhound meets both the east and westbound Empire Builder there at the St. Paul depot and provides transportation to the St. Paul bus station - that saved me a taxi ride and probably six or seven bucks.
I do a Live Journal of my driveaway travels and the current entry tells some more of the Amtrak trip -in fact it's not quite complete yet - haven't finished the part about the Russian girl who was husband hunting on board the Empire Builder. No she wasn't after me - another, younger guy, in the same coach got the strong come on.
We ate down in (Kansas City) Union Station today, Sunday May 18th. Nice crowd for brunch at the Union Cafe - we opted for cheaper eats at the Oriental fast food place in the food court. The restaurants there in the food court get to chose their hours apparently. Pizza, Goodcents, Oriental places were open today but the Mexican outlet was closed. It would add to the predictability of trying to eat in the food court if they had to maintain some core hours including weekends. Several times I've been there - wanting to eat only to find some or all of the outlets closed. Today at least we had three places to choose from.