Empire Builder After Spokane

Discussion in 'Guest Forum for Amtrak Questions' started by LaurenAndMike, Oct 14, 2019.

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  1. Oct 14, 2019 #1
    Can someone please explain what happens on the Empire Builder westbound once it arrives in Spokane? The Information states that service is split and one continues to Portland while the other goes to Seattle. The train arrives at 1:30 in the morning. Do we need to get up and change trains?
     
  2. Oct 14, 2019 #2

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

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    The Seattle section of the Empire Builder is train 7 (westbound; eastbound train 8) while the Portland section is train 27 (28 eastbound). East of Spokane the two sections run combined as one train; you can move around between them freely. At Spokane the sections are split westbound and combined eastbound.

    You do not have to change trains at all; if you are booked into a station on the Seattle line you will automatically be reserved into Train 7 and for the Portland line, Train 27. Just make sure that you're in your assigned coach seat or room before the train arrives in Spokane and you'll be fine. The only problem arises when some people have a little too much fun and end up in the wrong car. There's a persistent (and probably apocryphal) story about a young bride west of Spokane asking what happened to her sleeper car. Upon being told that it was headed to Portland while she was headed to Seattle, she responded, "OMG, my husband is on that train...!"
     
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  3. Oct 14, 2019 #3
    So, to confirm, the train itself is split with some cars going to one city and some to the other? We have a sleeper room, and didn’t want to get up and move to another train in the middle of the night. Thank you.
     
  4. Oct 14, 2019 #4

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

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    That is correct. As long as you're in the right room before Spokane, you'll be fine.

    Please note that the electrical power will be off for a few minutes while the split is being made. If you use a CPAP machine or similar, it might wake you up.
     
  5. Oct 14, 2019 #5
    Thanks so much!
     
  6. Oct 14, 2019 #6

    oregon pioneer

    oregon pioneer

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    All the above is correct -- but you should check your ticket and absolutely make sure you are booked on the same train all the way through. I have been offered the chance to book the trip as (east bound 8/28) train #28 to Spokane, and train #8 east of Spokane. Almost nobody would consciously choose to book the trip that way, as it is invariably more expensive, but if it ended up booked that way due to room availability, that would mean a room change in the middle of the night.

    I almost never even wake up at Spokane. The whole process is pretty quiet, and they hardly even bump when they combine or separate the trains. For your entertainment, here's a photo from my last trip, where the EB was so late that I got to watch the separation process at Spokane in full daylight. That's the Seattle section leaving the Sightseer Lounge car and Portland section behind. Then they backed another engine in to couple up and take us down the Gorge.

    westbound18x.jpg
     
  7. Oct 14, 2019 #7

    ehbowen

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    If Oregon Pioneer's scenario applies you will have received two separate tickets...one from Minneapolis (as an example) to Spokane and a separate ticket from Spokane to, say, Portland. If that's the case, then be very very familiar with the fine print. But if you have one single ticket from Minneapolis to Portland, you're good.
     
  8. Oct 15, 2019 #8

    Judy Tee

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    So I learned a little something about trains 7 and 27 tonight while booking my trip. I am traveling from CHI to GPK and getting off there for several days. Turns out there are two different prices for this trip (for roomette) depending on whether you choose #7 or #27, even if you aren't going as far as either Portland or Seattle. I'm not a fan of the Amtrak website because it's a bit confusing in this regard. So if you enter a one-way trip from CHI to GPK, you'll get these two options which are about $200 difference in price. I was told that it's because #7 has more rooms so less expensive. Now even more confusing unless there are separate cars of roomettes/bedrooms, etc. depending on if you're going beyond GPK. If I had booked this just on their website I would have ended up paying more to get to the same destination.
     
  9. Oct 15, 2019 #9

    Bob Dylan

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    Yep, the same thing is true most Days on 21/421 and 22/422 between CHI and SAS.

    And since you're getting off @ Glacier, the Diner and Lounge are close to the #7/#8 Seattle Section, while the #27/#28 has a Looooong walk from the back of the Train to the Lounge and Diner.

    Always take the Best Price on these 2 Routes!!
     
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  10. Oct 15, 2019 #10

    ehbowen

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    Again, correct. If your trip is entirely east of Spokane (as in Chicago to Glacier Park) then you could be placed either in a car headed for Portland west of Spokane (#27) or a car ultimately headed for Seattle (#7). It really doesn't matter to you, so Amtrak adjusts the prices to "steer" prospective passengers towards the section with the most capacity. But there are always exceptions. Suppose, on your trip, you were traveling with a close friend or relative who was headed all the way to Portland. You might opt to pay the extra $200 so that you could travel in the same car with him/them, even though you're getting off before the split.

    Yes, it can be confusing, but overall the system works acceptably. It might be better, though, if Amtrak spelled this out for the (many) new prospective customers.
     
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  11. Oct 16, 2019 #11
    Ok, I think I’m back to being confused. We’re going Chicago to Portland in a sleeper, and the only reference shown is train #27, and one sleeper number. Looks like one straight trip. So we’re good? (Sorry to beat a dead horse, but when we called Amtrak to ask, the agent seemed to not even know that the EB split in Spokane. He was more confused than we were, lol!)
     
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  12. Oct 16, 2019 #12

    F900ElCapitan

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    Yes, you are good to go. 27 is the through cars to Portland and you will not have to change cars. If you did you would have a ticket/boarding pass showing 7 to Spokane and another showing 27 to Portland. But with just one showing 27 all the way, you're golden.

    Enjoy your trip!!!
     
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  13. Oct 16, 2019 #13

    ehbowen

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    Unfortunately, Amtrak has recently outsourced much of its call center work. Many of the new telephone agents still have much to learn.
     
  14. Oct 16, 2019 #14

    dlagrua

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    You should be arriving in Spokane at around 2:15 AM. If you are in a sleeper you will probably be sleeping. If you are booked to Seattle or Portland just continue your nights sleep and the train will arrive at your destination.
     
  15. Oct 16, 2019 #15

    Judy Tee

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    Which would be ok if they didn't speak so authoritatively about things that are incorrect and just say 'let me check on that'. The other day an agent insisted the cancellation policy was one hour when I stated the website's FAQs said it was 24 hours. Finally, she put me on hold and went and checked with a supervisor. So my suggestion is to verify on the Amtrak website if at all possible. No problem with newbies, just don't be afraid to say "I don't know; let me check on that for you".
     
  16. Nov 6, 2019 #16

    dogbert617

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    Was that photo taken when you were riding the Builder eastbound, or westbound? I'm amazed that one time you took it that it was so late, that you got to see the split(or combining?) of the train in Spokane in daylight! Considering both trains in each direction of the EB combine/split(depending on direction) after midnight.

    Years ago when I rode Lake Shore Limited westbound from NYC to Chicago(but flew east to Connecticut to see a friend, then took Metro East west from New Haven to NYC), it was interesting to see both halves of the LSL train combined into one longer train at Albany-Rensselaer.
     
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  17. Nov 6, 2019 #17

    oregon pioneer

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    It was a westbound Builder, and we had disaster upon disaster to put us a little over 13 hours late, by the time I got to Wishram. I got to see many things I had never passed in daylight before! Here's the trip report, if you want to read the whole story.
     
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  18. Nov 6, 2019 #18

    dogbert617

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    That's really surprising, it was 13 hours late! But I guess in super rare cases, freight train delays or weather issues can cause that to happen? Granted I probably have been lucky in all my Amtrak experiences, since the worst delay I experienced was a 3 hour one! And for sure, why I'd be wary and reluctant to try tight same day connections between long distance trains in certain places(i.e. Chicago(too many numerous CHI Amtrak connection examples I could list here...), Los Angeles between say the southbound Starlight and eastbound Sunset Limited on the 3 days Sunset runs, etc.).

    And thanks oregon pioneer, I will read your report about taking the Empire Builder on this trip.
     
  19. Nov 7, 2019 #19

    Pat Harper

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    I suppose we were lucky several years ago when we rode on the EB to Seattle. It was only 30 minutes late (slow orders). Fortunately, they were able to hold the Cascades train that long and we were able to board. Unbenownst to me, we were supposed to go from the EB into the terminal to get our seat assignments, but instead since we were already 30 min. late, we found the train and boarded one of the coach cars that was open. No conductor in sight so we sat down and waited. Wasn't long before someone showed up and moved us to another car. The one we were in was empty. I guess they have to fill up one car before putting people in an empty one. We got off in Portland and waited to board the EB back to CHI.
     
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  20. Nov 7, 2019 #20

    Seaboard92

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    If I remember right the process of the split is this.

    Moves
    1. Lead Engine from No. 7 is removed from the train and put into a nearby spur.
    2. Train 7 is cut and they split the train between the Seattle and Portland section. And Seattle pulls out.
    3. The engine set off backs onto the remaining 27 cars and leaves for the Rose City.

    Going the other way
    1. The engine of 28 cuts off and goes into a nearby spur.
    2. 8 backs onto 28’s cut.
    3. The engine from 28 returns and is cut in front of the power from Seattle. Train departs east.
     
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  21. Nov 7, 2019 #21

    Devil's Advocate

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    Amtrak call center staff were making up rules and deflecting customer requests long before they outsourced anyone. I mean, who do we think is training the newbies to act like this? It's not like you can do anything about it if they simply stick to their guns and refuse to help you. You can call back and hope for a better result, but that's about it.
     
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