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Are we crazy to ride the Empire Builder SEA to CHI in January?

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We have an excursion trip (not a necessary one) planned for this month. LCH to LAX, LAX to SEA, SEA to CHI, CHI to LAX, LAX to LCH. The only time we will leave the train/stations is SEA and CHI, just to sleep and wait for our next train. We just want to make a western long distance ride sometime before March. Now I'm getting concerned about the weather. Should we change the EB to the CZ? We would like about 10-11 days with as few hotel overnights as possible. We live in Louisiana, so we're not too familiar with winter weather. Thank you for any advice.

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Did I post my question on the right forum? Thank you.

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Being a lover of US Geography, and having ridden both the EB and CZ, my opinion is that its a toss-up. That's because no matter what, you have to cross two mountain ranges on each route that are notorious for snowfall. The EB takes you through the Cascades and Montana Rockies (Glacier Nat'l. Park), and the CZ goes through the Sierras via the infamous Donner Pass (where snowfalls are measured in feet) and then the Colorado Rockies. Then, both routes traverse vast open plains where the wind can drift snow to great heights (EB in Montana and North Dakota; CZ in Colorado and Nebraska). Thus, depending on where a particular weather system may be on your days of travel, either route could be OK or a total mess.

 

I realize this doesn't help you much in deciding, but that's just the way it is. You can always watch the weather forecast a few days prior to traveling, and make a last-minute adjustment to your itinerary if your reservation allows it (and of course if there are rooms available onboard).

Edited by choochoodood

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Considering you are not in a hurry to go anywhere...almost 24 hour L/O in Chi, why not take the EB...? I would...

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EB in January is a beautiful ride! And any possible delays would let you see the mountains of western Montana in the sunlight.

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Thank you all. You've made us feel much better about the trip. Any train trip is a good trip, well most of the time .LOL

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Not crazy at all. A great trip with an overnight in Chicago. Even with a 12 hour delay your still Ok for your connection.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

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I've taken the EB back and forth to Chicago in snow season, many times. The worst I've had happen was a bustitution -- and that was not due to snow. At that time, most EBs were running extremely late due to especially heavy oil train traffic, so they turned them in Spokane and bused us from Portland. The snow has never been an issue for me, just a delight to sit in a warm rail car and look at all the snowy, cold surroundings. It even makes the endless prairie more beautiful and interesting!

 

Don't know what dates you are planning, but I will be on the Portland section east bound #28, leaving January 24. If your dates coincide with that, please message me and we can set up a get-together for a meal or in the SSL. Coming from Seattle, your sleeper would be on the opposite end of the train.

 

BTW, I don't count being extremely late as a "bad" experience. If I need to be at the other end of my journey at a certain time, I plan an extra day into the itinerary. Knowing that, and that Amtrak will take care of me if I miss connections, I regard extra train time as a bonus! Just make sure you have plenty of warm clothes, and maybe an extra fleece throw to make sure you stay warm (good idea in the North Country, even in summer, LOL).

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Thank you all for your advice. We're looking forward to our "snow" trip again. We depart SEA Jan. 21. I'll write a trip report when we get back.

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I took the Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle last January. It was very cold and I've never had a LD trip be more on time. The latest we were late was 7 minutes out of Everette, WA because we had to stop for a Cascades train. It was truly amazing.

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I would do it in a heartbeat. Although I'd personally prefer doing it late Spring or early Fall, a train ride anytime is great. Maybe you can post some pictures for us in the trip forum afterward.

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I've done both EB and CZ in the winter. Don't worry about the weather - any number of things could cause a trip delay. Just enjoy the train and scenery....plus the trains are usually less crowded. I like winter travel.

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My first long distance trip on Amtrak was on the Empire Builder in December. It was wonderful. Was a long time ago (almost 20 years now) and service standards on Amtrak have fallen quite a bit (no more morning newspaper, for example) but it's an incredible landscape to see in Winter. Blog from 1999 is here http://benthere.com/Travel/America/Rail/Rail.html

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Any time you travel in the Winter you risk weather problems and delays and it does not matter what mode of transportation you take; we found out a few days ago even cruise tubs are not immune from Winter weather. But if I'm going to be stuck on transportation, it best be a warm, comfortable train.

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Why not schedule a one day layover in CHI ? If by the time you leave MKE you will make the CHI connection call Amtrak and change your CHI departure to that day. Otherwise enjoy the rail fanning in CHI.

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We made our trip in January. We had no problems. The snow was beautiful.

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We made our trip in January. We had no problems. The snow was beautiful.

Thanks for the update!

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Glad you enjoyed the trip. For future reference, the EB is pretty reliable in January -- the CZ less so!

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post-3203-0-00877600-1518364792_thumb.jpgpost-3203-0-07517700-1518365092_thumb.jpgpost-3203-0-11710400-1518365202_thumb.jpg

I hope I did this right. Photos from our beautiful EB ride in January. The Izaak Walton Inn. Southern edge of East Glacier Park and a pretty river.

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