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Day 40 - Riding the Empire Builder

I woke up with the first light of the day and to North Dakota’s beautiful landscapes, wide flat farm lands and some lakes in between. During the night the train had made further stops in St. Cloud, MN and Detroit Lakes, MN before crossing the border from Minnesota to North Dakota stopping next in Fargo, ND and Grand Forks, ND. The first stop of the day was in Devils Lake, ND. Unfortunately the train had even picked up more delay and was by then 70 minutes behind schedule. After having some breakfast at my seat I ran up my computer and continued with my writing. The next stop was in Rugby, ND, the geographical center point of North America. In Minot, ND the Empire Builder had a larger service stop and I used the chance to step outside the train for a moment. I was curious how many cars the train had and was pretty impressed that the entire train measured 12 cars altogether. The train left Minot about 1 hour and 10 minutes late. At least during the service stop the train was able to reduce the delay by 20 minutes. Further stops in North Dakota followed in Stanley, ND and Williston, ND. Then it was once again time to change the clock shifting it back for another hour from Central Time to Mountain Time. After leaving Williston, ND and before crossing the border to Montana the Missouri River became visible for a moment. Once we entered Montana the first mountains came in sight. At 12:00 Mountain Time the dining car finally opened. On the Empire Builder it is not possible to make reservations for lunch instead passengers are served on a first come first serve base. I was lucky as I sat in the car right behind the diner and was at the door right when they opened. I was seated with three very nice ladies also traveling the entire distance from Chicago to Seattle. We had a nice conversation while waiting for the meals. The service was a bit slow that day and it took quite a while until the food was served. In the end they also tried to charge us for deserts we didn’t had. Luckily the situation resolved and after more than an hour we left the dining car again passing by a long cue that had formed in the car right behind. During lunch we also passed the sight where a major derailment of a cargo train had occurred some time ago that had blocked the line for quite a while. Still we could see a few cargo cars lying beside the tracks that hadn’t been recovered yet. Due to the damage of the rails also our train had to slow down significantly adding even more to our delay. By the time we reached Wolf Point, MT we were almost 2 hours behind schedule. Further stops in Montana followed during the afternoon in Glasgow, MT, Malta, MT and Havre, MT. The delay increased further due to heavy freight traffic and the Empire Builder had to do several stops in order to let freight trains pass. In the late afternoon the train reached Selby, MT with close to three hours delay. Further stops followed in Cut Bank, MT and Browning, MT. I finally wanted to leave my seat, I had been sitting there almost all the time since Chicago with exception of the one hour I had spent in the diner car having lunch. I went to visit the launch car where I got some dinner while listening to a very interesting lecture given by a volunteer from the Trails & Rails Program. He told us about how native Americans had dominated the area we were passing through for hundreds of years and how white settlers had taken over the land in order to develop it. I left the lecture in the middle because finally the Rocky Mountains became visible on the horizon. The sun was just setting behind the mountains providing a beautiful color contrast. I wanted to get my camera in order to capture a few shots from that scenery. The Empire Builder was getting closer and closer to the Rocky Mountains but at the same time also the day light started to fade. Before the train started climbing up the mountain it did one more stop in East Glacier Park, MT. It was really a pity that due to the delay most of the mountain crossing took place in the dark. However, before the last day light was gone still some spectacular views opened up. Following stops were then in Essex, MT and West Glacier, MT before the train pulled into Whitefish, MT where the train took a longer break. Meanwhile I prepared for my second night on the Empire Builder and went to sleep soon after the train had left Whitefish.

Empire Builder calling at Minot, ND

Rocky Mountains

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