Empire Builder questions

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pennyk

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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…
Many members here switch accommodations during a trip (although I have only done it once and an Amtrak employee found a workable switching station for me). I am sure it is time consuming playing around with city pairs. Possibly a phone call to Amtrak may be easier.
 
Joined
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South West Florida
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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As noted, the Empire Builder consist merges and splits in Spokane Washington. Going east they are the 28 from PDX and 8 from Seattle. Checking various departure stations along the route gives a better indication of sleeper accommodations. As an aside, the Dining Car belongs to the Seattle consist, So PDX passengers miss dinner and breakfast, but box lunches are provided. Popular destinations from Seattle and Portland are around Glacier National Park. It is not uncommon for sleepers to open eastbound after the Glacier Area stops. It is possible to switch accommodations enroute, but as you noted, Spokane is in the middle of the night (early morning) both ways. Going east, the East Glacier stop (GPK) is in the morning and would be better for a switch, in my opinion. If it appears that accommodations are available for a switch, I would enlist an agent to help with booking. I have also found there can be a price differential between the same type of accommodation on the 28 and 8, sometimes significant. Good luck.
 
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I ended up getting a roomette on 8 all the way SEA-CHI on August 12th - guess obsessively searching the Amtrak site paid off. And this one allowed me to book, unlike the one I found out of PDX (and I’m glad I’m on 8 instead of 28 as I’m returning from a trip to Vancouver on the Canadian). Should I be concerned about my sleeper being removed from the train as I’ve heard is an issue for some LD trains?
 

zephyr17

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If you are in 30 or 32 you should be fine. However, yesterday someone posted on FB that they were bumped out of 830 on the 8/9 departure.

It is the Builder and SW Chief that have been hit with sleeper removals from reports thus far.
 
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I’m in 830. Guess I’ll wait and see - if they bump me I’ll ask if they can rebook me in something (including perhaps the 8-28 shuffle discussed earlier). If nothing’s available but coach I’ll fly - wondering if a pre-emptive refundable airfare would be a good idea…
 

zephyr17

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I just rechecked the posts on FB and the guy updated what was happening. That person called in and it turns out they sent him the wrong email. It should have been for just the schedule change. The agent reconfirmed his sleeper reservation is intact and resent etickets.

Amtrak IT strikes again. My God, that shop is a disaster.

I think you are fine in 830. I still maintain that the "base" sleepers are safe, Amtrak IT creating artificial problems notwithstanding,
 
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I guess the last thing I need to resolve is whether I gamble and book 354 on a separate reservation (and plan to book a last-minute hotel/change to the next day if running late), or plan on spending the night and riding the new Venture cars on 350. It looks like the first couple trains on the new schedule made 354, though with the derailment yesterday a few will definitely miss it. Definitely don’t want to do Amtrak’s suggested connection of 48 and a 3-6:30am layover in Toledo…
 

zephyr17

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Well, since you know what you're doing, know the risks and have a Plan B, I can't see the harm. At worst you'll be a hotel and a possible fare difference when you modify the reservation on 354 to the next day's 350 once you know 8 will be a miss. Youll be out the hotel anyway if you plan a layover.
 

PaunchyPirate

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I’m in 830. Guess I’ll wait and see - if they bump me I’ll ask if they can rebook me in something (including perhaps the 8-28 shuffle discussed earlier). If nothing’s available but coach I’ll fly - wondering if a pre-emptive refundable airfare would be a good idea…

I was in Roomette 11 in the 830 car last week with no issues.
 
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I took the westbound EB in late June and 3/4 of the passengers disembarked in Whitefish. The train was 90% full as we left St Paul (where I boarded).

The SSC was pretty full through Glacier but no one told people to make space for others.

I sat in the SSC along the Columbia River the next morning and one family looked camped out there. The dad said he regularly took the train from Spokane to PDX and rarely even used his coach seats. The train was empty enough at that point that it didn't matter.
 
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As noted, the Empire Builder consist merges and splits in Spokane Washington. Going east they are the 28 from PDX and 8 from Seattle. Checking various departure stations along the route gives a better indication of sleeper accommodations. As an aside, the Dining Car belongs to the Seattle consist, So PDX passengers miss dinner and breakfast, but box lunches are provided. Popular destinations from Seattle and Portland are around Glacier National Park. It is not uncommon for sleepers to open eastbound after the Glacier Area stops. It is possible to switch accommodations enroute, but as you noted, Spokane is in the middle of the night (early morning) both ways. Going east, the East Glacier stop (GPK) is in the morning and would be better for a switch, in my opinion. If it appears that accommodations are available for a switch, I would enlist an agent to help with booking. I have also found there can be a price differential between the same type of accommodation on the 28 and 8, sometimes significant. Good luck.
I wonder how that works to pick up a room at a stop like GPK where someone has exited - there wouldn't be much time for the SCA to get the room ready. I suppose you could hang out in the diner or the SSL while they got it ready
 

PaunchyPirate

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I wonder how that works to pick up a room at a stop like GPK where someone has exited - there wouldn't be much time for the SCA to get the room ready. I suppose you could hang out in the diner or the SSL while they got it ready
On one of the legs of my last trip, I think it was on the Empire Builder, a roomette was freed up at a stop where another couple was boarding into that same room. The attendant just said "I haven't had a chance to change your room yet, would you mind waiting here for a moment". They were just boarding, so they were in the downstairs entrance of the car. The attendant went off and did the room up in about 3 minutes and then came back to the couple letting them know they could now have the room. I'm sure all the attendant did was to change the bedding. They do that amazingly fast. He probably got them water and emptied their trash at some point after they got settled.
 
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I wonder how that works to pick up a room at a stop like GPK where someone has exited - there wouldn't be much time for the SCA to get the room ready. I suppose you could hang out in the diner or the SSL while they got it ready
In the couple of instances I've seen it done, the switching passenger made arrangements with the SCA in advance. In a similar situation when boarding, we were told to wait in an empty bedroom while our roomette was prepared. It didn't take long.
 
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Does the Empire Builder go through Newport, Washington en route from Sandpoint to Spokane? If not, did it ever?
No. The route out of Sandpoint goes south over a long bridge across Lake Pend Orelle and runs along US 95 before turning west to get into Spokane.
There is a bridge across the river to Newport but the spurs all end.
 

zephyr17

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Does the Empire Builder go through Newport, Washington en route from Sandpoint to Spokane? If not, did it ever?
It did under GN, since that was GN's line. The line over Lake Pend Orielle was NP. From the start Amtrak used the former NP, not even on going through Wenatchee on the former GN on either the Builder or the North Coast Hi, but staying on the NP through Yakima. After BN completed the Latah Creek Viaduct in Spokane in 1972, the former NP between Spokane and Sandpoint became their primary line. The Builder continued to go via Yakima, but the Hi through Wenatchee and over Stevens.

The Builder initially stayed on the former NP initially after the Hi was discontinued in 1979. It resumed its traditional routing over the former GN between Spokane and Seattle through Wenatchee and over Stevens with Amtrak's October 1981 timetable, along with the introduction of the Portland section.

Ultimately I do not think the former GN through Newport is even a through line any more.
 
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one family looked camped out there. The dad said he regularly took the train from Spokane to PDX and rarely even used his coach seats

I have observed this during a few of my Amtrak trips and it does irritate me. It is so thoughtless about others when a family does so. During one trip, the family was very large (I think 2 or 3 families traveling together) and they occupied a good many seats in the car.

Particularly on the Zephyr, I have heard the Conductor ask that people vacate their seats after 30 minutes so that others may be able to be seated. People ignored the request.

I'd patronize the Cafe more if I could be certain that a seat would be available when I return from the lower deck.
 

WWW

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Amtrak could MAYBE learn a thing or two from the airlines about charging more for premium (viewing lounge) seating.
You pay more you get more it is that simple
But then there is the problem with access to the cafe on the lower level
This has been discussed before but no real resolution - albeit Conductor requesting musical seating
Sleepers get the diner car but it is not really a viewing lounge with comfortable seating

Coach passengers do not have access to all of the train like the Sleepers.

On another side note - Amtrak does not have cars like the Rocky Mountaineer totally designed for viewing.
Different apples oranges mangos pineapples - - -
 

joelkfla

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Amtrak could MAYBE learn a thing or two from the airlines about charging more for premium (viewing lounge) seating.
You pay more you get more it is that simple
But then there is the problem with access to the cafe on the lower level
This has been discussed before but no real resolution - albeit Conductor requesting musical seating
Sleepers get the diner car but it is not really a viewing lounge with comfortable seating

Coach passengers do not have access to all of the train like the Sleepers.

On another side note - Amtrak does not have cars like the Rocky Mountaineer totally designed for viewing.
Different apples oranges mangos pineapples - - -
Restricting access to SSL's would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.
 

railiner

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Via Rail I believe, does have an arrangement for their "Park" observation cars, where there are restrictions during certain times, at certain times of the year as to which class of sleeper accommodation allows access...but then they also have their unrestricted "Skyline" cars on the same train...
 
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Via Rail I believe, does have an arrangement for their "Park" observation cars, where there are restrictions during certain times, at certain times of the year as to which class of sleeper accommodation allows access...but then they also have their unrestricted "Skyline" cars on the same train...
I believe that coach passengers only have access to the forward skyline dome car. Sleeper Plus (i.e. regular sleeping car) passengers have access to other skylines, including the forward one. During the high season, Sleeper Plus passengers have access to the Park dome only from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (except on the evening departure from Vancouver when only Prestige passengers have access to the Park dome). I believe that some seats in the Park dome are reserved for Prestige passengers year-round. Corrections would be welcome.

From what I understand some regular sleeping car passengers on the VIA Canadian seem to tolerate these restrictions quite well but others voice considerable resentment. I don't think the restrictions would go over well on Amtrak especially since coach passengers need access to the cafe.

Perhaps in another iteration, Amtrak will have separate observation cars of some type for coach passengers and for sleeper passengers with the cafe in the coach observation car or in a separate car altogether. This seems to have been done on some trains years ago with a separate coach lounge/cafe car for coach passengers and a separate Pullman lounge for Pullman sleeping car passengers.

Since Long distance service does not seem to be an Amtrak priority, I don't expect to see this iteration any time soon.
 
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we have put items we will need in a small bag which we keep with us and checked the rest of our bags to our destination and thus are free to wander the city and avoided the $10 per bag charge.
I’m curious how early we can check in and do that…?
 
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