Empire Builder questions

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Joined
Sep 27, 2010
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14
I have searched but haven't been able to come up with answers to the following questions. Any help greatly appreciated. Thank you.

1. Is there an Amtrak baggage check at King Street Station in Seattle where one could leave bags for five or six hours prior to departure of the Empire Builder?


2. Realizing this could change based on schedule, is there any way to determine what stops between Seattle and Chicago one can get off the train to stretch legs?


3. Are any scheduled stops between Seattle and Chicago long enough in duration to be able to shop at a local grocery or food store that is within walking distance of the train?

Any help from this great group of folks enormously appreciated!
 

Maglev

Conductor
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
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Location
Orcas Island, Washington
1. There is a baggage check service at King Street Station, subject to a $10 per bag fee.

2. These are the "stretch / smoke" stops:

Wenatchee, WA

Spokane, WA

Whitefish, MT

Shelby, MT

Havre, MT

Williston, ND

Minot, ND*

St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN

Winona, MN

Milwaukee, WI (no smoking)

3. None of these stops, except Spokane, are long enough to go shopping; and in Spokane, no nearby supermarkets are open of which I am aware.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,288
Location
Washington State
1. Yes. Daycheck at $10/bag
2 & 3. Smoking/fresh air stops are:
Wenatchee (short, engineer change)
Spokane
Whitefish (long, service stop)
Shelby (maybe. short if they let you. Crew change)
Havre
Williston (maybe, but most often is. short if they let you)
Minot (long, service, inspection and crew change). Most likely if you want to leave station area, if it is early into Minot (Minot is a point where there is padding). Be back on the platform at least 5 minutes before scheduled departure. If the train is late into Minot do not do it, they will leave as soon as work is done.
St. Paul
Winona (short. Do not even go into the depot. Crew change.)

On my last Builder trip in November 2021, they did not allow passengers off in Milwaukee.

Only place I ever went into a grocery was at Albuquerque. We were early and had most of 2 hours there, crew actually gave directions to a small grocery a couple blocks west of the station.
 
Last edited:
Joined
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Colfax, WA (CFX)
There is a 7-11 about 2 blocks from the station in Spokane, but that area of town is a bit sketchy, especially in the middle of the night when the Builder makes its stop there. For me I don't think I'd take the risk, but I also don't think I'd tell someone what or what not to do.
 

Acela150

Super Buff
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Somewhere between here and there
1. There is a baggage check service at King Street Station, subject to a $10 per bag fee.

2. These are the "stretch / smoke" stops:

Wenatchee, WA

Spokane, WA

Whitefish, MT

Shelby, MT

Havre, MT

Williston, ND

Minot, ND*

St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN

Winona, MN

Milwaukee, WI (no smoking)

3. None of these stops, except Spokane, are long enough to go shopping; and in Spokane, no nearby supermarkets are open of which I am aware.
Williston and Milwaukee are NOT fresh air breaks. Williston going west is at the discretion of the T&E crew.

And yes, nothing is near by SPK.
 
Joined
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Messages
1,343
Back when they had a schedule that you could look at (These were things that told the time of departure of the train at stations en route and sometimes told the time of arrival followed by the time of departure) Havre was listed as a twenty minute stop and I have heard of people going to stores there. Minot was listed as about a thirty minute stop but I don't recall seeing many stores near the station.

Those who have tried to do shopping en route can hopefully provide some further advice. Don't get left behind.
 

mlanoue

Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 30, 2003
Messages
121
Location
Joliet, Illinois
Both times I rode the Builder we were pretty close to on time. The stops at Minot and Havre were long enough to roam around the station and get something at the vending machines or whatever. Seems like somebody was selling ice cream outside at the Havre stop, but it's been five years so I might be misremembering. It's entirely possible that somebody somewhere over the years managed to find a store and make a purchase, but it just seems too risky.
 

trimetbusfan

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2021
Messages
119
Location
Portland
Minot stop can be long enough (especially WB) if you get there early. Unfortunately, not too much there, but there is a gas station down the road and a few other places.
 

Steve Manfred

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 6, 2008
Messages
84
You can see some recent trips on the Empire Builder from one end to the other on the YouTube channel "Grounded Life Travel."
 

Northwestern

Service Attendant
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Jan 3, 2022
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Location
Santa Rosa
Both times I rode the Builder we were pretty close to on time. The stops at Minot and Havre were long enough to roam around the station and get something at the vending machines or whatever. Seems like somebody was selling ice cream outside at the Havre stop, but it's been five years so I might be misremembering. It's entirely possible that somebody somewhere over the years managed to find a store and make a purchase, but it just seems too risky.
The Havre Amtrak station is about a 20 min. stop. There is a grocery store 3-4 blocks away from the station. Also, a restaurant across from the Amtrak station. People sometimes will call the restaurant, before the train gets into Havre, and order food to go. I don't know the name or phone number of the restaurant. I also don't know the name of the grocery store. Maybe you could email the Havre Chamber of Commerce and ask them.

Is the Havre station staffed? I thought the station agents were going to be eliminated.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
3,419
Is the Havre restaurant PJs?

That seems to be the closest. Looks like a burger and fries type place? You have to walk there to pick up your order. It says takeout but no delivery.

It’s a three-minute walk but I, personally, wouldn’t risk even that short a walk when there’s only one train a day. And certainly not the grocery store or a restaurant farther away. (However, I live in the most densely populated state in the nation, so the thought of the train leaving me in wide open empty spaces absolutely terrifies me.😊)

Google does show a bunch of chain hotels on what must be a main road out there, so you would be able to stay somewhere overnight if you missed the train.

There used to be a hot chocolate/coffee truck at the station that was a big hit—is she still there? Or was that Minot? I get them mixed up.

If you’re starting from Seattle, which I hear has good food, and ending in Chicago, which I know for a fact has wonderful food about every couple of feet, you might want to just eat the Amtrak stuff on the day in the middle.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
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6,288
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Washington State
Back when they had a schedule that you could look at (These were things that told the time of departure of the train at stations en route and sometimes told the time of arrival followed by the time of departure) Havre was listed as a twenty minute stop and I have heard of people going to stores there. Minot was listed as about a thirty minute stop but I don't recall seeing many stores near the station.

Those who have tried to do shopping en route can hopefully provide some further advice. Don't get left behind.
Actually, the new Schedules tab, much as I dislike it, is better for station dwell times. It gives the scheduled arrival and departure for EVERY station, not just a chosen few.
 

Acela150

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Somewhere between here and there
Minot stop can be long enough (especially WB) if you get there early. Unfortunately, not too much there, but there is a gas station down the road and a few other places.
Their is a great place to get coffee there across the CP main line. She makes a killing off of the EB going west. :)
The Havre Amtrak station is about a 20 min. stop.

Is the Havre station staffed? I thought the station agents were going to be eliminated.

Going west that 20 minutes isn't really 20 minutes. The train pulls in and gets fueled and then after the fueling is complete pulls down to the station platform. The fuel stop is 10 minutes alone and if the train is late the stop is as short as 5 minutes.
Is the Havre restaurant PJs?

Yes it is.
 

Rambling Robert

Service Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
196
Location
Boston
In a couple weeks I’ll be on the EB CHI to PDX but getting off in Spokane for a three day trip exploring Banff CA. I’ll be submitting my ArriveCan app soon - basically digitizing my covid vaccine card, my passport and a questionnaire. The YouTube help about ArriveCan is good. Any other problems?

I’ve seen photos of the SPK station and it looks okay but at night it seems nearby clubs might be leaving. Is the station at all secure? I’ve got a 7:30AM Enterprise pickup scheduled. A LaQuinta hotel is nearby but wants full rate.

Any ideas about the layover

I’ll bring stuff to eat but would be willing to get a delivery - generally happy with the caffe car and I’ll be on the CS to LAX. in a rroomette AND DINING CAR PRIVILEGES! I’ll wear a nice sports jacket - haha.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
N. Texas
In a couple weeks I’ll be on the EB CHI to PDX but getting off in Spokane for a three day trip exploring Banff CA. I’ll be submitting my ArriveCan app soon - basically digitizing my covid vaccine card, my passport and a questionnaire. The YouTube help about ArriveCan is good. Any other problems?

I’ve seen photos of the SPK station and it looks okay but at night it seems nearby clubs might be leaving. Is the station at all secure? I’ve got a 7:30AM Enterprise pickup scheduled. A LaQuinta hotel is nearby but wants full rate.

Any ideas about the layover

I’ll bring stuff to eat but would be willing to get a delivery - generally happy with the caffe car and I’ll be on the CS to LAX. in a rroomette AND DINING CAR PRIVILEGES! I’ll wear a nice sports jacket - haha.
Looks like there's snow and winds in the forecast:

West Glacier Region-

1151 AM MDT Tue Jun 14 2022

...WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM MDT

WEDNESDAY ABOVE 5000 FEET...

* WHAT...Heavy snow above 5000 feet. Additional snow accumulations

of 4 to 9 inches above 5000 feet and 9 to 16 inches above 6000

feet. Winds gusting as high as 45 mph.

 

Rambling Robert

Service Attendant
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
196
Location
Boston
The station in Spokane employs security guards, for what it's worth, and, especially in the last few years, keep unwanted folks out. I've never felt unsafe there, and I've been there dozens of times. You should encounter no problems with the club crowd.
Thank you for thre info - I stayed in the station and felt very safe then about five hours later rented a car. I’m very near Banff and tracks have been next to me all the way. Somewhere there was a large display of old passenger cars, curious but kept driving.

A security person was there the whole time at Spokane and Amtrak left around 6PM. Either the upper or lower restrooms were open alll night! BTW the EB train 7 attendant kept everything ship shape.

Rover: the alerts for Banff were worst than what I drove. The forecast was bad - extreme rain and cloudy - at times it was bad driving - then a lot of gorgeous mountains with fluffy clouds some backlit by the sun. But going north the skies were dark gray I somehow took a wrong turn and headed south losing s lot of time to Banff to the north - and missing the weather- haha.

So at first I thought my road trip/railroad trip was a bust but the trip overall has been very nice.

If I had taken the Mountaineer east to Banff I wouldn’t have gotten lost but by car northward from Spokane there are spectacular views - prolly the best in North America. My cost for two nights at a nice place near Banff and three day car rental. and gas ($8.50USD/gallon) is about $800.

On board the EB and LSL i skipped four meals. I thought LD cafe menu was upgraded to a National menu - NOPE.

By the time I got to Cranbook AB CAN I was starving and settled in at Denny’s and felt homezz

.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Michigan
Hello everyone,
I've been following along on the forums for the past couple months. My family and I (2 adults and 2 7-year-olds) are taking the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland in a few weeks. We do not have a sleeper so I have a few questions about luggage and food.
  1. Are carry on bags stowed in overhead bins as they are on a jet?
  2. Can coach passengers eat in the dining car or is that just reserved for travelers with sleepers?
  3. Is there an observation car of some sort or are we basically relegated to our seats for the whole journey?
Thanks everyone!
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
6,288
Location
Washington State
1. Larger pieces of carry on luggage are usually stowed on the common rack downstairs on Superliner trains. Smaller pieces can go on an overhead  rack (not a bin with a door).
2. Currently, the dining car on the Empire Builder is restricted to sleeping car passengers only. There is a cafe on the lower level of the Sightseer Lounge car. It's food selection is like a rolling 7-11.
3. You are not restricted to your seat at all. You may wander the train at will outside of the sleepers. There is a Sightseer Lounge car.
 

Maglev

Conductor
Joined
Sep 4, 2016
Messages
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Location
Orcas Island, Washington
"Are carry on bags stowed in overhead bins as they are on a jet?"

There are overhead open racks (not closed bins) with limited storage as well as a luggage storage shelf area downstairs.

"Can coach passengers eat in the dining car or is that just reserved for travelers with sleepers?"

Only sleeping car passengers may eat in the dining car at this time. There is a cafe downstairs from the observation area in the Sightseer Lounge car, which has first-come, first-served seating to enjoy the views (in answer to your third question).

Here is a link to the Cafe menu, although a few items may have changed since October: https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/...ts/menus/national/National-Cafe-Menu-1021.pdf
 

oregon pioneer

Engineer
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Feb 15, 2011
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Location
near Seneca, Oregon
The above answers are correct. I'd only add that the upper level of the Sightseer Lounge is open to anyone on the train, at any time. The lower level is reserved for people who are consuming purchased food or beverages.

Here are some photos of the SSL. Half of the upstairs is configured as tables (games & family snacks, bring-your-own food OK) and half is configured as couches and chairs, facing the windows for sightseeing. Note these are from two different trips, one was before Covid, one last winter when masks were required. In summer, most every seat will be full and you may have to check back later to find space for the family to sit together.

newengld22_wb19.jpg 1_trip9.jpg

I know you will ahve a wonderful family trip, and I hope you report back afterwards and let us know the high points (and the low ones).
 
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