Empire Builder

I *heart* train travel.

Before, most of my railway experiences were either in places where train travel was the norm* (Asia and Europe) or only for short distances here in the U.S. (Seattle to Portland, Northeastern Corridor, etc.). I had heard mixed reviews of Amtrak's cross-country service so was a little anxious about the trip*. After the fact, thought, I am glad to say that Amtrak's cross-country service on the Empire Builder couldn't have impressed me more.

Without going too much into detail, let me just highlight what has turned me into such trainophile, at least regarding this trip. For one, I was blown away by how much leg room each seat has. We are talking quite a bit more than first class on an airplane. You can keep your luggage at your feet, if you so desire, and still have space to comfortably sprawl. The seats themselves are on the upside of comfortable. There are foot rests and leg rests that fold out from under the seat*. One could wish for the ability to recline slightly more* but was still more comfortable than a plane*. The convenience of the boarding (/layover) process is also worthy of note. You don't have to take off your shoes, check your luggage 3 times, or empty your bags of all liquid and gel substances. You show up and then you get on the train. And at the station stops, you could hop off, have a quick stroll to stretch your legs, snap a few pictures, then hop back on without anyone hassling you for a ticket or anything. Speaking of stretching your legs, while in transit, there is plenty of space to get up and walk around. Plus, there are destinations to walk to: the diner car*, the lounge car, and the observation car (which was really the hip place to be). Lastly, the views couldn't be beat. (More about that later*.)

Can you tell I enjoyed myself? While there were certain unpleasantnesses associated with passing 48 hours in a relatively enclosed space, I couldn't help constantly comparing the experience to that of the alternative. The train came out on top 9 out of 10 times. If I was to do it again, the only possible changes I would make would be 1) try to convince someone to ride with me (it's so much friendlier with two) or 2) look closer at the possibility of getting a sleeper car (in my initial investigations, I didn't pick up on the fact that meals are included in the price of your roomette.)

While I concede that the train isn't approriate for all situations*, I encourage people to not discount it when they are considering their next trip.
Friday March 21 2008File under: travel, USA

Toggle Comments (1)comment?
on Sat 22nd Mar, 2008 06:41 am PDT Nesbitt said:
Glad to hear you had a good experience. I would use trains all the time in the Northeast if only the prices were a little lower. It ain't cheap. I don't like flying though, doesn't seem natural to be stuck in a big metal box thousands of feat in the air.
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