Empire Builder

Origin City: Seattle, WA | Destination City: Chicago, IL | Track Length: 2,206 mi (3,600 km) | Duration of Trip: 46 hours
Dates Traveled: 1.03.12 – 1.05.12

Empire Builder Amtrak Poster. Image credit: wlt.typography.net

Chicago is the rail hub of America. So, in order to get down south to Texas, I traveled back to the Windy City for a few days aboard the famed Empire Builder.

The Empire Builder, one of Amtrak’s most popular long distance trains, starts off in the lush, green pines in Seattle and traverses the snow-capped mountains in Glacier National Park; the Northern Plains of North Dakota and eastern Montana; and finally pulls in through the rural landscape of the midwest to Chicago. Traveling over a 2,206 mile distance over 46 hours, the Empire Builder covers major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail.

Empire Builder Route. image credit: holidaysbyrail.com

Though the Empire Builder is lauded as one of the most spectacular routes Amtrak has to offer, my trip back east has fallen short of the beauty experienced on the California Zephyr and the Coast Starlight. Since I’m traveling in January, the days are shorter and there’s less scenery to see—unfortunately some of the best scenes out west are shrouded in darkness during this part of the year, such as White Fish, MT.

But I’ll concede that the Empire Builder is fancier than the California Zephyr—my favorite Amtrak ride thus far—with slightly better sleeper car rooms, better steaks, complimentary bottles of champagne or sparkling cider, toiletry bags and even a wine and cheese tasting for sleeper car passengers, the Empire Builder ranks highly amongst rail fans. And the snow-capped and -covered scenery, though not as varied as the Zephyr, is beautiful.

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