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Passenger Trains > Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1


Date: 01/08/17 20:44
Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: gsnyder

On Jan. 4 I boarded the Empire Builder in Chicago for the third leg of my trip home from Philadelphia to Seattle.  The first 2 legs - Philly/WAS and WAS/Chicago (#29) were uneventful, on time, and staffed by very good crews.  We left Chicago on time on a chilly, windy day and the trip up to Minneapolis/St. Paul was uneventful.  I dozed off after MSP and woke up as we were approaching Minot.  By the time I finished breakfast, we had stopped in Minot - pretty close to on time - and I poked my head out the door to a very cold (-9), clear day.  Departure time came and went, then the dreaded announcement from the conductor - derailment ahead and we were going to sit at Minot for a bit.  A little later, he announced it was going to be at least 5 or 6 hours, heavy equipment to deal with the derailment had to come from Williston (100 miles away) so I knew this would take a while.  At least we were stopped in town and the doors were opened to allow the passengers to wander about in the sub-zero weather and explore the area.  I chose a nearby Starbucks but retreated back to the train in short order account of the chilly weather.

Fortunately, I had stocked up on some books and movies so had plenty of indoor activities to keep me busy.  In the back of my mind, I knew what was probably going to happen in the end and had a sense of deja vu from being in a similar predicament 2 years ago when the Builder was 14+ hours late.  At least we would have some daylight running through areas normally traversed during the night time.  In the end, we were given the go ahead a little over 10 hours late and pretty much had a clear run for the remainder of the trip.

Pictures, from Jan 5 (Part 2 will have the Jan. 6 pictures):

#1 - The weather was fit for neither human or beast.  This little critter was hunkered down for pretty much the whole day outside my bedroom window.
#2 - A sitting Empire Builder
#3 - Inside the Minot depot.  Tastefully kept up.  The people in the picture are BNSF crews making arrangements for travel to the West.








Date: 01/08/17 20:47
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: gsnyder

#4 - The Minot Depot, looking the other way
#5 - A BNSF freight holed up behind the Builder
#6 - A CP train making it's way through the crossovers and thru Minot (thru the dirty window of the sleeper)








Date: 01/08/17 20:48
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: gsnyder

#7 - Head end of the Builder (lot's of snow in Minot)




Date: 01/08/17 20:57
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: dan

depot looks great for being under water a few years ago



Date: 01/08/17 21:53
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: teebone

critter seems pleased as punch!



Date: 01/09/17 00:30
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: railwaybaron

I just don't get it. Why are we paying for a train to Minot, ND, for eight people--most of whom are being paid to run it? I mean it's not like anyone is forcing them to live in the sub-Arctic. Wouldn't that money be more useful running an LAX-NOL-Orlando train, or an LAX-Vegas-Salt Lake-Portland/Seattle train? Or maybe daily seasonal service SEA-Glacier? And/or daily service CHI-St.Paul--Duluth? Or, heaven forbid a CHI-Florida train? I mean if you were born in a log cabin under a snow drift, either move where people live or go it alone, instead of asking for a Federal subsidized train so you can ranch on Federal owned land and raise Federal subsidized grain. Nice pictures though--but the Minot Depot is a lot nicer than some in the West that service thousands, not tens, of passengers.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/17 17:33 by railwaybaron.



Date: 01/09/17 06:13
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: gsnyder

Gee RailwayBaron, chill out.  If you look at the stats, you'll see that the Empire Builder is one of the heavier traveled LD trains in the Amtrak system.  There are no other options (other than flying) for many of the folks in the northern tier of states.  BTW, I'm not sure what you are referring to re: "eight people".  The folks in the Minot station are BNSF train crews checking their alternatives for getting to one of their home points on account they were stuck behind the derailment also.  I believe they had the option of a van ride (yech) or booking a seat on the Builder (the longer journey).  Some opted to go via the Builder.



Date: 01/09/17 07:16
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: GettingShort

railwaybaron Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I just don't get it. Why are we paying for a train
> to Minot, ND, for eight people--most of whom are
> being paid to run it? I mean it's not like anyone
> is forcing them to live in the sub-Arctic.
> Wouldn't that money be more useful running an
> LAX-NOL-Orlando train, or an LAX-Vegas-Salt
> Lake-Portland/Seattle train? Or maybe daily
> seasonal service SEA-Glacier? And/or daily service
> CHI-St.Paul--Duluth? Or, heaven forbid a
> CHI-Florida train? I mean if you were born in a
> log cabin under a snow drift, either move where
> people live or go it alone, instead of asking for
> a Federal subsidized train so you can ranch on
> Federal owned land. Nice pictures though--but the
> Minot Depot is a lot nicer than some in the West
> that service thousands, not tens, of passengers.

First of all great pictures, both sets. Really makes me want to walk out the door and ride a few trains this winter. Some handsome stations for sure and a good looking Builder. Thanks for sharing!

I see you edited that twice maybe a third time that results in  a delete? 

Where do you get the idea that only 8 people were using the train from Minot? Because while the train was there for 10 hours a picture was taken at one moment in all that time and only a few people were around? possibaly 30 or 40 decided to go home and come back closer to departure? That's just as likely. 
Just chill out man. Sure, Florida needs service from the midwest, a connection to the Sunset would be good, but why should the taxpayers of Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington loose their service to make that happen? The worls doesn't have to be a zero sum game. 
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/17 07:18 by GettingShort.



Date: 01/09/17 08:36
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: czephyr17

More than 40 people, on average, get on and off each Empire Builder that passes through Minot.  Down the road at Williston, its more than 50 people per train.  In fact the EB and the Coast Starlight are the most used long distance trains in the country.

These are not people "born in a log cabin under a snow drift" who are too dumb to move to a life of liesure in warm Florida.  Who do you think grows that grain in those multiple grain trains that head out to the west coast for export every day?  Or drills all that oil and natural gas that has resulted in our energy prices decreasing so much?  No, maybe they don't have to live in places like North Dakota, but the fact that we as a nation have invested in infrastructure and transportation options that make it easier for people to live and work and earn a great living in that environment certainly benefits us all.  

 



Date: 01/09/17 09:16
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: viatrainrider

Indeed, I have been through Minot many times on the Builder and while I do not have a count, observed many people getting on and off the train at Monot.  And Williston.  And Havre.  And Whitefish!  I believe this train to be heavily used all across its route.



Date: 01/09/17 12:02
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: badgerexpat

viatrainrider Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Indeed, I have been through Minot many times on
> the Builder and while I do not have a count,
> observed many people getting on and off the train
> at Monot.  And Williston.  And Havre.  And
> Whitefish!  I believe this train to be heavily
> used all across its route.

Good points, also the earlier post about people making pretty important livings in the northern plains.

Whitefish is a bit of an outlier, though. It's one of Amtrak's most popular destinations anywhere (outside of huge cities) because it's a major vacation/resort/recreation destination. (It also recently had a rather startling outbreak of anti-Jewish mischief. Really? Seriously?? In the 21st Century? Maybe Whitefish is a time/space singularity as well as a resort destination . . . ? Be warned.)

As for ridership, when Amtrak was being planned, within the rather stupid guidelines imposed by the DOT, there was existing Chicago-to-Northwest service over both the ex-Northern Pacific and the ex-Great Northern lines. The former served the biggest urban areas in the northern plains (Bismarck, Billings, Helen, Butte, Missoula. . . .). The latter bounced along the Canadian border, though small towns and a few medium-sized ones like Minot and Williston . . . . which you will recognize as the route of the Empire Builder.

Initially, Amtrak tried to operate over both routes (alternatively, I think I remember), but when that proved impractical, they kept the Great Northern route and ditched the NP route. Why? One very good reason: it had significantly stronger ridership. Norman Mineta's sneer that only 4% of the population of Montana live in the towns called at by the Empire Builder, so far from being a prima facie reproach to Amtrak and its policies, was a stunning revelation of how little our Secretary of Transportation actually knew about, well, transportation. I wish I knew why USDOT decided to make the Empire Builder specifically the Exhibit A in their attack on passenger rail. Two possibilities suggest themselves. (1) someone who knew that it was in fact a strongly patronized service set up Mineta to come a cropper by basing his campaign on complete ignorance of the facts; (2) looking at a map or something, Mineta or his staff mistakenly assumed, without further study (beyond things like that screamingly irrelevant "four percent" claim), that any such service just had to be the obvious poster-boy for "empty trains tooling across vast expanses of sparsely-populated countryside", as the anti-Amtrak mantra has it. 

And of course there's the city-pair fallacy. A flight from Chicago to Seattle or Portland serves one city-pair. One. (Yay!) The Empire Builder connects 774 city-pairs. True, not many people (probably none, given the boarding statistics at Bingen) want to travel from Glasgow to Bingen and back, but if they do, and don't want to drive a car through a thousand miles of difficult terrain in bad weather, the Empire Builder has everything a reasonable person could possibly want. 



Date: 01/09/17 17:07
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: ProAmtrak

Good points, I know I have to ride that train someday!

Posted from Android



Date: 01/09/17 17:35
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: Lark

Great photos GS-!

I am with you "RailwayBaron" Most of the larger communities have subsidized "essential air-service" and or "Greyhound..." Make the route / Train Seasonal,
create regional service between Twin Cities and Chicago ==> Establish seasonal service between Chicago and Florida... The photos depict millions of dollars in
Amtrak Assets that must be redeployed to the "Snowbird" routes... Airlines do it... Amtrak should do it. Create / hire the crews to flex with the seasons...



Date: 01/09/17 17:46
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: railwaybaron

> work and earn a great living in that environment
>
>
>  

I just hope the president-elect will look carefully at those North Dakotans who "earn a great living" on the backs of Amtrak and other Federal Tax programs...(even though he himself may not have paid such taxes in at least 18 years.) I am not anti-Amtrak, I am just saying that Amtrak's very modest budget should be used where the population is. More bang for the buck! More bi-partisan support from Blue Chicago to Red Florida. If someone still wants to ride a train say from Fargo, ND, they can than drive about 3.5 hours north and board VIA's Canadian at Winnipeg. The ride will be better, the food better, the crews nicer and the views at least as good as anything on Amtrak. Besides, then the Canadians will be subsidizing your "great living" and not the Rustbelta's who can barely fill their tanks going to Florida to warm up. Boy would they like a ride to Florida in the Winter even in an Amcoach with an Amdinette for food!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/09/17 18:05 by railwaybaron.



Date: 01/09/17 20:07
Re: Empire Builder - #7(4) - Adventure - Part 1
Author: gsnyder

Let's stay on topic folks. This post was never meant to be a viability discussion. Go elsewhere or start your own thread



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