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Question not asked/answered - Any TIME limits on sitting in the SSL ? If so how long ? Who monitors it ?
I have never been on an Amtrak train where there were any time limits imposed. As the previous response indicates I have heard of conductors imposing some time limits, especially on the CZ but I have never experienced it even in my travels on the CZ.
 
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Thank you, I'll be sure to report back with a rundown of the journey!

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.

View attachment 28745 View attachment 28744

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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Thank you, I'll be sure to report back with a rundown of the journey!
Hope you have a great trip. Take advantage of the smoke stops to step outside for a bit. Take plenty of snacks and some water. A sleep mask is recommended. North Dakota and eastern Montana are good places to take a nap so you will be awake and alert by the time you reach Glacier Park late in the afternoon. Look forward to your report.

The scenic highlights are the Mississippi, Glacier Park and the run along the Columbia River in the morning before arriving in Portland.
 

PaunchyPirate

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I just left the California Zephyr yesterday after riding from Chicago to Emeryville. The observation car was very fill for extended periods during the most scenic parts of the journey. After about 2 hours climbing the Rockys out of Denver, the Conductor asked anyone who had been sitting there from Denver to please leave so others could enjoy the views for a while. I was in my roomette ate the time, so I do not know how well the request worked. Ever time I tried to find a seat during Colorado, the place was full.
 

Bob Dylan

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I just left the California Zephyr yesterday after riding from Chicago to Emeryville. The observation car was very fill for extended periods during the most scenic parts of the journey. After about 2 hours climbing the Rockys out of Denver, the Conductor asked anyone who had been sitting there from Denver to please leave so others could enjoy the views for a while. I was in my roomette ate the time, so I do not know how well the request worked. Ever time I tried to find a seat during Colorado, the place was full.
The Words " Lounge Lizards" and "Seat Hogs" come to mind.

Everytime I've been on the Zephyr there have been people who seemed to Live in the Lounge, and most of the Conductors do make the announcements about sharing the Seats in the Lounge.

When the PPCs were on the Starlight, the same thing happened with the nice Swivel Chairs in that Car.
 

jpakala

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I remember reading years ago (perhaps in Trains) that first-class lounge space was a requisite (stated in a "simply assumed" sort of way). The exceptions would have been either day trains with a parlor car (and of course a dining car) or strictly overnight trains where the only need to leave one's sleeping car was possibly for breakfast in the diner (unless the train was short, such as with a few coaches & one sleeper, and arrival by say 7:00 or 7:30 am). For lounge space a lounge car with 6 bedrooms in one half of it might be typical at least if the train was not a longer or perhaps "all-Pullman" one and also did not have too long a route. In June 1944 my mother (with me at 3 months old) had a seat along the wall of a full-length club car from Pittsburgh to Chicago and fortunately before long a man offered to switch his parlor car seat for hers (as he was playing cards at an adjacent table anyway) and she was much relieved to be in not only a much nicer chair and quieter car, but even have floor space for the basket. A stewardness offered to warm a bottle but mother declined (as she nursed). My brother & sister (13 & 10 years older) were with with an accompanying adult friend in coach, but could come back and visit.
 
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The Words " Lounge Lizards" and "Seat Hogs" come to mind.

Everytime I've been on the Zephyr there have been people who seemed to Live in the Lounge, and most of the Conductors do make the announcements about sharing the Seats in the Lounge.

When the PPCs were on the Starlight, the same thing happened with the nice Swivel Chairs in that Car.
Lounge lizards and parlor seat hogs as you mentioned are my only form of frustration while traveling on LD trains. It’s just the look of entitlement when they park their ass in a seat for the day.
 

WWW

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Maybe if Amtrak didn't make the seating so comfortable it would discourage the practice and putting drink holders
and other perks with the seating arrangement is not helpful.
Prime time for the SSL would be in passing notable sites - that would be a tough time to enforce sharing.
Perhaps a surcharge (fee) for use of the SSL might be a way - with a limit to how many tickets are sold - - -
But then again that lower level snack bar area poses an access problem when the upper would have restrictions.
Amtrak has designed a NO-WIN solution to their popular SSL concept.
In a sense the SSL is a non-revenue car excepting the snack bar !
 
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The signtseer lounge car is one of the few amenities offered on Amtrak and it separates Amtrak from other transportation services. For coach passengers it is the only amenity Amtrak offers except for rest rooms and checked baggage. I have never found occupancy of the lounge car to be a problem except that some people are reluctant to sit at a booth or seat with or near other passengers. I think most people who are patient can manage to find a seat if not at first, then a half hour later.

We spend a fair amount of our time in the lounge car and if we are at a table we always invite others to sit in the opposite booth at our table
 
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Maybe if Amtrak didn't make the seating so comfortable it would discourage the practice and putting drink holders
and other perks with the seating arrangement is not helpful.
Prime time for the SSL would be in passing notable sites - that would be a tough time to enforce sharing.
Perhaps a surcharge (fee) for use of the SSL might be a way - with a limit to how many tickets are sold - - -
But then again that lower level snack bar area poses an access problem when the upper would have restrictions.
Amtrak has designed a NO-WIN solution to their popular SSL concept.
In a sense the SSL is a non-revenue car excepting the snack bar !
I’m thinking a parking meter. But whatever it takes.
 

Saddleshoes

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Empire Builder Sight Seeing Lounge (SSL) ---
On our west bound trip last Thursday, our train was sold out. As a result, at the Tomah Wisconsin stop the conductor asked people to clear out of the SSL because they needed the seats for people getting on at Tomah.
 

Nance

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I'm going to be in car 2730 on the Empire Builder, as I am walking out of Chicago station to the tracks will this car be the first car or the last car? Wondering if I will need the Red Cap service.
 

Saddleshoes

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I'm going to be in car 2730 on the Empire Builder, as I am walking out of Chicago station to the tracks will this car be the first car or the last car? Wondering if I will need the Red Cap service.
I was on Car #2730 last week. It was the last car. However, they used a track that goes through the station. As a result we were first to board and boarded just adjacent to to the concourse. (easy-peasy!)
 

zephyr17

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2730 is the last car. They almost always board the Builder from the north side concourse on track 19 (the north side version of the through track). If they do, 2730 will be the first car you reach on the platform.

Very occasionally they will board from the south side's version of the through track, track 30. It does happen, it happened to me once. In that case, it will be the very last car.

Chances of it boarding from Track 19 are probably over 90%, though.

Note that the through track (19 north, 30 south) is the furthest track east and the farthest from the Metropolitan Lounge.
 
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WWW

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I don't know if the EB is boarded by destination city ?
It would seem that if only going to one of the cities between Chicago and Spokane -
the Conductor or assistant will designate which car is the car that will be stopping at the platform of your city.
At MSP the full platform accommodates all cars
When stopping at any of the small cities the station platform is only 1-2 cars wide i.e. La Crosse
If carrying a large group spread out over more than 2 cars - this would require a double stop

EB at Chicago boards usually at Track 19 the thru track between the North and South tracks.
The Portland cars would be then be as noted an easy-peasy short walk to boarding - - -
The Seattle would be a long walk to the front of the train - - -

Normal consist - 2 locomotives - baggage - 4 cars (1 is a diner) - SSL - 3 cars - all total 11 units
The 4 cars behind the baggage car is the Seattle section
The SSL and the last 3 is the Portland section.

Private cars are always on the tail end unless going to Seattle then behind the 2nd locomotive
The EB splits into two sections at Spokane - 7 goes to Seattle - 27 goes to Spokane - - -
The reverse going eastbound Portland 28 joins the Seattle 8 at Spokane with same 11 unit consist
During heavy winter activity BNSF may require Amtrak to have 3 locomotives
Additional cars and locomotives added may be to ferry equipment to from Seattle/Portland for
servicing maintenance with i.e. Coast Starlight equipment.

A small nutshell of trivia info/data



 

WWW

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2730 is the last car. They almost always board the Builder from the north side concourse on track 19 (the north side version of the through track). If they do, 2730 will be the first car you reach on the platform.

Very occasionally they will board from the south side's version of the through track, track 30. It does happen, it happened to me once. In that case, it will be the very last car.

Chances of it boarding from Track 19 are probably over 90%, though.

Note that the through track (19 north, 30 south) is the furthest track east and the farthest from the Metropolitan Lounge.
Or look at it as these tracks are closest to the Chicago River - - -
When EB #8 arrives usually on that Track 30 - end of the train short walk - front long walk

All the other tracks at Chicago Station are dead-ended.
 

zephyr17

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Or look at it as these tracks are closest to the Chicago River - - -
When EB #8 arrives usually on that Track 30 - end of the train short walk - front long walk

All the other tracks at Chicago Station are dead-ended.
Usually both arrives and departs on Track 19, the designation the through track has on the north side. They seldom pull through to the south side, where the through track becomes Track 30, to unload.

I've ridden the Builder pretty regularly for years. In all that time I've boarded on the south side's Track 30 only once, and never deboarded on Track 30 on the south side.
 

thully

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I’ve been wanting to ride the Empire Builder, since it’s the only Western LD I haven’t been on. I was looking at a number of dates, both close and further out. Ideally I’d like to pair it with a last-minute room I snagged on the Canadian, but I may end up pushing it back…

First of all, I had found an available roomette on the Portland sleeper in August, but after entering my credit card information got a message that the accommodation was no longer available. However, after refreshing the page this single roomette still shows up. From past posts I gather that it is likely the same room isn’t available the whole trip?

With that said, I was also looking at the possibility of switching rooms mid-trip. When I look at both PDX and SEA-CHI, I do see options to switch between 28 and 8, but all do so at Spokane in the middle of the night and cost more for a roomette than the single through roomette high bucket. Is it possible to do a room switch at another point (preferably during the day), and is there any way to get the through fare?

Finally, I was considering the alternative of doing this as my return from the Gathering in San Diego in October, as there is more availability then. However, doing that would involve connecting from the Coast Starlight. Is this connection reliable? Do they still bus Klamath Falls-Pasco for delayed trains, and is there a likelihood for finding sleeper space the next day in October if I misconnect? Just trying to figure out if I should add in an overnight stay (or fly to PDX/SEA the night before) if I were to do that…
 
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Hope you have a great trip. Take advantage of the smoke stops to step outside for a bit. Take plenty of snacks and some water. A sleep mask is recommended. North Dakota and eastern Montana are good places to take a nap so you will be awake and alert by the time you reach Glacier Park late in the afternoon. Look forward to your report.

The scenic highlights are the Mississippi, Glacier Park and the run along the Columbia River in the morning before arriving in Portland.
You may also want to be sure you have some foam ear plugs or noise cancelling ear buds with you just in case small humans lose their cool.
Also, make sure you have a blankie with you as the cars can get chilly especially at night.
 

WWW

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You may also want to be sure you have some foam ear plugs or noise cancelling ear buds with you just in case small humans lose their cool.
Also, make sure you have a blankie with you as the cars can get chilly especially at night.
Might add avoid the front - rear of the car with the doors opening/closing and being a drafty noisy location - also restroom !
 
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