Sunset Limited + Coast Starlight + Empire Builder in April

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Cal

OBS Chief
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Jan 23, 2021
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Our son lives two blocks from PDX station and walks the dog every morning and evening. The area is safe although there are lots of homeless tents. There is a terrific store and deli just 8 blocks away. World Foods Portland However, if you plan on connecting to EB from Coast Starlight, you only have about an hour and fifteen minutes so it will be a nail biter if you're running late. I would take CS, then spend the night in PDX since there are a lot of hotels in the vicinity of Union Station. Don't miss that trip through the Cascades (and my profile pic is Mt. Shasta taken from CS).
Thanks for the info! That's a beautiful picture
 

Chris I

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Jan 8, 2019
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Portland, OR
Our son lives two blocks from PDX station and walks the dog every morning and evening. The area is safe although there are lots of homeless tents. There is a terrific store and deli just 8 blocks away. World Foods Portland However, if you plan on connecting to EB from Coast Starlight, you only have about an hour and fifteen minutes so it will be a nail biter if you're running late. I would take CS, then spend the night in PDX since there are a lot of hotels in the vicinity of Union Station. Don't miss that trip through the Cascades (and my profile pic is Mt. Shasta taken from CS).
Agreed on all accounts. About an hour for a transfer is really tight, since delays can really build up on the CS. You can see a lot more of Portland if you spend the night. The area around the station is well-served by public transit. April is a great time of year to walk the waterfront, or take MAX to the Zoo station for a hike in Forest Park. I would expect the Oregon Rail Heritage museum to be back open by next month, as well. Easily accessed from MAX.
 

Cal

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We may need to call in an SP expert here. I believe the general area is known as Willamette Pass but the point where the railroad actually crosses the Cascades is named Pengra Pass after an early settler. Many people do describe the railroad crossing point as Willamette Pass so there seems to be some confusion.
Hm, okay...
 

Willbridge

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A little off-topic..... Not being that familiar with where the rioting took place in both Portland and Seattle, are the areas around the stations safe?
The Portland rioting was on the other end of downtown. Homeless people have been hanging around the Portland Union Station since before WWII. The Seattle rioting was on Capitol Hill, a couple of miles NNE from King Street Station.
 

Willbridge

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Hm, okay...
The somewhat parallel highway between Eugene and Chemult is known as the Willamette Pass Highway. Into the 1970's Greyhound ran almost as many trips via Klamath Falls as it did via Medford (US99/I-5). Amtrak is now the only through service in that area.

If stopping over in Portland in the springtime, be prepared for rain and roses.

P1050362.JPG
 

Alice

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California
Agreed on all accounts. About an hour for a transfer is really tight, since delays can really build up on the CS. You can see a lot more of Portland if you spend the night. The area around the station is well-served by public transit. April is a great time of year to walk the waterfront, or take MAX to the Zoo station for a hike in Forest Park. I would expect the Oregon Rail Heritage museum to be back open by next month, as well. Easily accessed from MAX.
The museum (ORHF,org) is open weekends, steam trips start again April 4.
 

Willbridge

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Do the US navy and others still tie up on the Willamette in MAY ?
June, for the Rose Festival. Locally it's known as "the Navy coming upstream to spawn."

It causes a monumental traffic jam arriving and departing but we love them. In 1968 I watched their sailing from the railroad deck of the Steel Bridge. The cruiser St. Paul barely fit.

19k UP maintainer watches St Paul from the rail deck.jpg
 

tomfuller

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Crescent Oregon (17 miles from Chemult)
We may need to call in an SP expert here. I believe the general area is known as Willamette Pass but the point where the railroad actually crosses the Cascades is named Pengra Pass after an early settler. Many people do describe the railroad crossing point as Willamette Pass so there seems to be some confusion.
Until recently I had never heard of Pengra Pass. The railroad sign at the high point says "Cascade Summit". Going up to the summit, the railroad is on the south side of Odell Lake. Highway 58 is on the north side of the lake and the high point on 58 is at the Willamette Pass ski slopes. The west side of the Cascades has one tunnel on Rt. 58 but the railroad has more than 10 and several hairpin turns. After the last one the rail line crosses to the north side of Rt. 58 before it reaches the town of Oakridge. For those who wonder, the city of Eugene is named for Eugene Skinner. It sounds a little better than Skinnersville.
 

vinceg723

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Jun 12, 2009
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Another question for my trip: If time is an issue and I have skip the Coast Starlight and fly to catch the Empire Builder, would you recommend starting from Portland or Seattle? I've done both (Portland eastbound and Seattle westbound) but it's been 20 years. I would be inclined to start in Portland to see the Columbia River Gorge, but would I be missing anything comparable or better on the Seattle-Spokane portion?
 

Maglev

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Orcas Island, Washington
Another question for my trip: If time is an issue and I have skip the Coast Starlight and fly to catch the Empire Builder, would you recommend starting from Portland or Seattle? I've done both (Portland eastbound and Seattle westbound) but it's been 20 years. I would be inclined to start in Portland to see the Columbia River Gorge, but would I be missing anything comparable or better on the Seattle-Spokane portion?
I think the Portland section scenery is more unique and extensive. The Seattle section gives you a short stretch of coastal running, then some beautiful mountain scenery. But the trip up the Columbia River Gorge has hours of incredible scenery.
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
I think the Portland section scenery is more unique and extensive. The Seattle section gives you a short stretch of coastal running, then some beautiful mountain scenery. But the trip up the Columbia River Gorge has hours of incredible scenery.
Riding #28 East out of Portland doesnt give you lots of Daylight along the Columbia, it gets dark fairly quickly till Summer arrives.( the Sightseer Lounge is on the #28 out of Portland)

Also the Diner is on the Seattle Section, ( #8) you'll get a Box Dinner out of Portland that might just be better than the current offerings on LD Trains!

Once the Trains join in Spokane @ O-Dark-30, the Portland Sleeper(#28) is on the end of the Train with a Long walk to the Diner and SSL. The Seattle Sleeper(#8) is next to the Diner @ the front of the consist.
 

Sidney

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28 out of Portland is a beautiful ride. Best taken in summer when there is maximum daylight...and the box dinner is better than anything on the flex menu.
 

Maglev

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Sunset at the beginning of April in Portland is 7:38 PM, and at the end of April is 8:15 PM. EIther route, you miss some pretty spectacular scenery in the darkness.
 

west point

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Full moon you bet. Eastbound on VIA had a full moon that often shone just above the signals. Definitely saw lunar over green more than once and one time lunar over yellow. No the engineer did not run at restrict speeds.
 

Willbridge

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Sunset at the beginning of April in Portland is 7:38 PM, and at the end of April is 8:15 PM. EIther route, you miss some pretty spectacular scenery in the darkness.
I remember going into the Cascade Tunnel in daylight and coming out at night. You're right about both routes. Even at dusk and in B+W the Columbia as seen from the North Bank Route can be enjoyable. In the dark it is REALLY dark.

columbia33.jpg
 

Willbridge

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Another question for my trip: If time is an issue and I have skip the Coast Starlight and fly to catch the Empire Builder, would you recommend starting from Portland or Seattle? I've done both (Portland eastbound and Seattle westbound) but it's been 20 years. I would be inclined to start in Portland to see the Columbia River Gorge, but would I be missing anything comparable or better on the Seattle-Spokane portion?
You might also take into account the more compact airport and shorter rail transit ride into the city in Portland vs. Seattle. And check fares for one city vs. the other.

The bare bones Rodeway Inn and the free-breakfast Quality Inn are 2½ miles from Portland International and offer free airport van transfers. They are about a 1,000 foot walk from the Parkrose MAX (Light Rail) station. There are more possibilities near the Rose Quarter station and of course in downtown.
 

vinceg723

Train Attendant
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Jun 12, 2009
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Well I am booked and leaving soon: New Orleans to Oceanside on the Sunset Limited + Surfliner; San Jose to Portland on the Coast Starlight (thank you to those who recommended it!); and the Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago, with a stop in Havre and a likely stop in Milwaukee.

One quick question: I'll be riding coach the whole, way, but an upgrade to a roomette from Tucson to LA looks appealing, for less than $200 or 6k points. There is no easy way to "upgrade," correct? If I want to do it, I need to cancel and rebook my New Orleans-LA ticket as two separate tickets, coach to Tucson and roomette to LA, and step off in Tucson and reboard with other incoming passengers? At 7ish pm, will I still get a dinner? Does this seem like more trouble than it's worth?
 

Sidney

Lead Service Attendant
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Jul 12, 2020
Messages
280
Call Amtrak and tell them you want to upgrade to a sleeper in Tucson. They will charge the upgrade.Check El Paso,several hours before Tucson. It may not be a whole lot more and you'll eat dinner earlier and have more time in your compartment.
 
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