Amtrak Chicago to Seattle

Empire Builder is a passenger train operated by Amtrak in the Midwestern and Northwestern United States. It is the busiest Amtrak long-distance route, carrying more than 500,000 passengers per year in 2007-2010. Before Amtrak the Builder of the Empire was the leading train of the Great Northern Railway. The current route runs from Chicago, Illinois, to the Pacific Northwest. The line is divided into Spokane, Washington, ending in Seattle, King Street Washington Station (from Chicago) in the north and Portland, Oregon Union Station (from Chicago) in the south.

Railroad passes through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Layovers (rail stops) are made in Saint Paul, Minot, Le Havre and Spokane. Other major stops are Milwaukee; Fargo; Sig, Montana; and Vancouver, WA. The railways used are the northern route of the BNSF Railway from Seattle to Minneapolis, Minnesota, Commercial from Minneapolis to St. Paul, and the Canadian Pacific from St. Paul to Glenview and Metra from Glenview to Chicago.

One train a day passes each way. The schedule is designed so the train will pass through the Rocky Mountains (and Glacier National Park) during daylight, but this is more likely in the summer and going east. The schedule is 45 to 46 hours between Seattle and Chicago, with an average of inclusive stops, although the distance to the train allows.

Description of the route

Empire Builder Amtrak departs Chicago’s Union Station early in the afternoon and travels north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then through the rural landscape of southern Wisconsin, crossing the Upper Mississippi River to La Crosse, Wisconsin. The train travels through southeastern Minnesota, crossing the Mississippi again at Hastings and stopping at St. Paul’s Union Base at St. Paul. From St. Paul to the west, the land changes from forest to prairie, becoming less densely populated and relatively barren. Westbound passengers see only the occasional light of a mercury vapor farm in the distance at night. In North Dakota and eastern Montana, the Northern Plains can be seen. Ultimately, the train leaves prairies with three short stops near Glacier National Park (East Glacier Park [summer only] or Browning [winter only], Essex [stop on demand], and West Glacier Park) followed by a longer stop at Shiga, Montana (near Glacier National Park&# 187). All year round (depending on the weather), mountain vistas can be seen from the train, as it borders the southern edge of the park, crossing the Continental Divide in the Marias Pass. As darkness descends, the train continues through the mountains in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. In Spokane, the train is divided into two segments. The only locomotive tows the last four cars (Tourist Hall, two Portland coaches (one Coach Luggage unit), and Portland sleeper) down the north side of Columbia Gorge to Portland, Oregon, while locomotives leading part of the train in front of the soft-seat car take that part of the train through the Cascade Range and through the Stevens Pass through the Cascade Tunnel into Seattle.

During the summer months, on the parts of the route, “Footprints and Rails”, volunteers in the Car with the soft seats of the Tourist provide a comment about the history and sights. This comment can only be heard in the car with the soft seats of the Tourist.

On August 21, 2005, the train was “re-released” by Amtrak with upgraded services. This included features not seen on other Amtrak long-distance trains: on the second day at noon there is a wine and cheese tasting in a dining car for sleeping passengers. This includes not only information about the wines served, but also some questions; fix the passenger bottles the winning answers wine to take with them.

The builder of the Empire was started by the Great, Northern June 11, 1929, and relocated Oriental Limited as the main train of the railway. The name of the train was honored by James J. Hill, known as the “Empire Builder”, who reorganized several dip railways into the Great Northern Railway and expanded the line to the Pacific Northwest at the end of the 19th century. The fare was standard, and the original schedule for Chicago 2,264-mile to Seattle was the same 63 hours west and 61-1 / 4 hours east as on other “no extra charge” trains between Chicago and the west the coast.

The service was changed to carry more passengers during World War II. After the war, new optimized diesel-powered trains were put into service on February 23, 1947. The train was re-equipped again on June 31, 1951 with the equipment of 1947 used to create the Western Star; in the summer of 1954, the schedule for 2,211 miles from Chicago to Seattle was 45 hours. (By 1954, it missed Grand Forks, so less run.)

The schedule allowed riders’ views on the Cascade Mountains and the Rocky Mountain landscapes of Glacier National Park, a park established through lobbying efforts for Northern Great. After it was re-equipped with domes in 1,955 passengers, considered the route through its three dome buses and one Large Full-Length Dome Car for first-class passengers.

In the Great Northern Era, two major rail accidents involved the Empire Builder:

Amtrak Chicago to Seattle

  • In 1931, an eastbound train near Moorhead, Minnesota, traveling to almost, was struck by a tornado, which derailed the train and threw one of the 83-ton trainers through the air, resulting in one death and 57 wounds.
  • In 1945 the Builder ran in two sections (two trains immediately after each other) due to the military movement. The second section invested in a stalled technical wagon of the first in Michigan, North Dakota, killing 34. See the Michigan railroad accident for more information.

The service always ran Chicago to Spokane, and split into Seattle and Portland sections except during the Amtrak era between 1971 and 1981, when there was no Portland section. Until 1971, Chicago to St. Paul’s foot was on Chicago, Burlington and the Quincy Railway through its mainline along the Mississippi River through Wisconsin. The service also used to fly west from the Twin Cities before turning north in Willmar, Minnesota to reach Fargo. The Spokane-Portland train group was operated by Spokane, Portland and the Seattle Railroad.

In 1971, Amtrak took over the operation of the train and moved Chicago to St. Paul’s foot to the Milwaukee Road route through Milwaukee along the Hiawatha St. Paul train route.

In the January 2011 issue of the Train Magazine, this route was listed as one of the five routes that Amtrak will look at in 2012 FY and explore like previous routes (Sunset, Orel, Zephyr, Capitol and Cardinal) was investigated in 2010 FY.

Passengers carried and income

In fiscal year 2007, the Empire Builder suffered half a million passengers, maintaining its status as the Amtrak long-distance train with the highest number of passengers carried. In fiscal 2008, passenger traffic increased by 9.8% to 554,266, although that anniversary was marked by high fuel prices, and passengers decreased by 7% to 515,444 in 2009. That produced more than $ 54 million in revenue that year. dragging only Acela Express, Regional Northeast, and Auto Train. In 2007 and 2008 it ranked third. Approximately 65% ​​of the cost of work by train is covered by the income of the fare, the level among Amtrak long-distance trains, second only to the specialized East Coast Auto Train.

During the fiscal year 2011, the Empire Builder carried almost 470,000 passengers, a decrease of 12.1% from FY2010. Empire Builder remains the most popular long-distance train in the Amtrak system. The train had a total revenue of $ 53,773,711 in FY2011, a decrease of 8.1% from FY2010.

Route problems


The line came at risk from a flood from Missouri, Sourise, Red, and the Mississippi River, and was sometimes required to temporarily suspend or change maintenance. Much of the service is restored in days or weeks, but the Devils Lake in North Dakota, which has no natural way out, is a long-standing threat. The lowest elevation of the top of the rail when crossing the lake. In spring 2011, the lake reached, causing service interruptions on windy days when high waves threatened the tracks.

The BNSF, which owns the trail, suspended cargo operations across Devils Lake in 2009 and threatened to allow rising waters to cover the line if Amtrak could not secure $ 100 million to raise the trail. In this case, the Empire Builder would be re-routed south, ending the service to Rugby, Devils Lake, and Grand Forks. In June 2011, an agreement was reached that Amtrak and the BNSF each would cover 1/3 of the cost with the rest, to come from federal and state governments. In December 2011, North Dakota was awarded a $ 10 million TIGER grant from the US Department of Transportation to help with the state part of the cost. Work began in June 2012, and the track rises in two stages: 5 feet in 2012 and another 5 feet in 2013. Two bridges and their borders also rise. When the track lifting is completed, the elevation of the top of the rail will be. This is 10 feet above the level at which the lake will naturally overflow, and thus will be a permanent solution to the flooding of the Devils Lake.

In the spring and summer of 2011, flooding the Souriza River near Minot, North Dakota blocked the route in the latter part of June and during most of July. During part of that time, the Empire Builder (with the typical one consisting of only four cars) escaped from Chicago and fired in Minneapolis / St. Paul; to the west The Imperial Builder did not flee east of Le Havre, Montana. (Other locations along the route, also flooded, under Devils Lake, North Dakota and areas further west along the Missouri River.)

Amtrak Chicago to Seattle

Freight train interference

The oil boom in the formation of Bakken, combined with the robust harvest of autumn 2013, led to a spike in the number of crude oil and grain trains, using traces of the BNSF in Montana and North Dakota. The resulting congestion led to the terrible delays of the Empire Builder, with the train receiving 44.5% on time, making an entry in November 2013, the worst rating on the Amtrak network. In some cases, delays led to instability of the team and equipment, forcing Amtrak to cancel the runs of the Empire Builder. In May 2014, only 26% of the trains of the Empire Builder arrived within 30 minutes after their scheduled time and delays averaged between 3 and 5 hours.

Due to the usual delays that became serious, Amtrak officially changed, the scheduled times for the station stopped west of Minneapolis, the changes that took effect April 15, 2014. The postponed times were designed to keep the same departure / arrival time in Chicago and through the corridor to and including Minneapolis. However, planned stops moving west from Minneapolis were set up for more recent times, while going east, the train departed Seattle / Portland approximately three hours earlier than previously. Operating hours for affected stations were also officially adjusted accordingly. The Amtrak ad also said that BNSF Railway is working on the footprint adding capacity, and it was expected that sometime in 2015 the Empire Builder could be returned to its former schedule. In January 2015, it was announced that the train would resume its normal schedule.

Former stops

In 1970, Lake Kukanus flooding required the redevelopment of 60 miles of track and the construction of the Flathead Bolt Tunnel, forcing the Empire Builder to skip maintenance to Eureka, Montana. The Empire Builder also served Troy, Montana until February 15, 1973. On October 1, 1979, Amtrak moved the Empire Builder to drive along the North Coast to the old Hyoeta route between Minneapolis and Fargo, North Dakota. With this alignment change, Empire Builder missed Willmar, Minnesota, Morris, Minnesota, and Breckenridge, Minnesota, adding St. Cloud, Minnesota, Staples, Minnesota, and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Other alignment changes occurred on October 25, 1981, when the Seattle area moved from the old North Pacific (which also became part of the BILLION Railway in 1970) to the Burlington North Railway line through the Cascade Tunnel through the Stevens Pass. This change has eliminated service to Yakima, Washington, Ellensburg, Washington, and Auburn, Washington. This change also marked the inauguration of the Portland Builder section, which returned service to the former Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railways (it also became part of the BILLION system in 1970), a line along the Washington-Columbia side to Portland. The route kept Pasco, but added Viskhram, White as Bingen Salmon and Vancouver (all in Washington) to the route. From Vancouver, the Builder followed the same route as Starlight of the Coast and Cascades trains to Portland Union Station.

It is proposed that the Empire Builder and Hiawatha Utility trains move one stop north to North Glenview in Glenview, Illinois. This movement would eliminate the stops that block traffic on Glenvive Road. Glenview North Station would have to be modified to handle additional traffic, and the movement depends on commitments from the Glenview, Illinois General Assembly and Metra. In Minnesota, the Builder returned to the St. Paul Base of the Union on May 7, 2014, 43 years after he last served the station the day before the start of Amtrak. The reconstruction of the Dandy Arts Terminal 1917 was undertaken in 2011, continuing to 2013, leading to a multi-mode terminal now in use by the Jefferson Bus Lines, Greyhound Bus Lines, suburban bus and soon suburban rail and light rail from Minneapolis. The station replaced Midway Station, which opened in 1978 after an initial abandonment of the St. Paul Base of the Union in 1971 and the demolition of the Minneapolis Great Northern Warehouse in 1978.

A new stop is in the planning city of Culbertson, Montana, which is about halfway between the stops of Williston, North Dakota and Wolf Point, Montana. This stop will mainly have to serve the rapidly growing oil areas of northwestern North Dakota and northeastern Montana. The former Great North Warehouse and Platform still exist in Calbertson, however, the station will need some basic refurbishment, and the platform will have to be lengthened and modernized.

Equipment used

Current equipment used

Modern Empire Builder uses Superliner Amtrak’s double-deck equipment. The Builder of the Empire was the first train to be fully equipped with the First Superliners, taking place on October 28, 1979. In the summer of 2005, the train was “restarted” with newly updated equipment. A typical 2005 train would consist of (destination noted after the Spokane separation):

  • Two GE P42 “Genesis” Locomotives

Amtrak Chicago to Seattle

In Spokane, the train is divided into two parts. Locomotives along with the first six cars continue on to Seattle. The only P42 is stored in Spokane, which picks up the last four cars to transport them to Portland. The opposite of this happens going eastward. During peak travel periods there is an additional trainer who is tied to the very back of the train between Chicago and St. Paul. It is left at St. Paul’s Depot for the next day’s return trip to pick-up. This car acts as a train number “807/808”. This adds capacity during a particularly busy time of the year.

Historical equipment used

The car ownership on this train was by and large divided between Northern Great and Chicago, Burlington and the Quincy Railway (CB&Q), although several cars in the original consist, belonged to Spokane, Portland and the Seattle Railway (SP&S). In this consist, one of the 48-seat “stool” cars and one of the sleeping ones with 4 sections were used to communicate with Portland, while the rest of it was Seattle-related.

Great Northern coaches eventually found their way to a state-funded suburban service for the New Jersey Central Railway after the Burlington Northern Merger and remained until 1987, when NJ Transit retired its last E8A locomotive. Some of these cars remain in New Jersey. Some buses were purchased from Union Pacific; they also traveled to new jersey. One of 28 seat coach dining corner cars also remains in New Jersey and is stored near the interstate 78 of the wearing tattered Amtrak colors.

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