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Empire Builder

December 10, 2007
by findingDulcinea Staff
In its mid-century heyday, the luxe amenities and gorgeous views of the Empire Builder made it the gem of the now-defunct Great Northern Railroad Company. The current railroad route runs from Chicago, Illinois to either Spokane, Washington or Portland, Oregon. The entire trip takes about two days; with one train passing in each direction every day.

Empire Builder Railroad Route

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Chugging along the northern territory of the United States, the Empire Builder offers a great glimpse of Middle America. Amtrak provides a route map.
TrainWeb hosts a detailed travel guide to the Empire Builder experience. Learn which car offers the best view and then read descriptions of historic and natural landmarks that passengers can see from the train.
The Empire Builder sponsors three onboard National Park Service “Trails & Rails” programs hosted by park rangers to educate train passengers about the territory they are traveling through. The first one operates from Williston, North Dakota to Shelby, Montana. The second one operates from Minot, North Dakota to Malta, Montana. The third program operates from Seattle, Washington to Havre, Montana.

Full Steam Ahead

Railroad tycoon James J. Hill reorganized several failing railroads into the Great Northern Railway and extended the line to the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century. Head to Rail Serve to learn more about Hill and his influence on the Empire Builder.
After World War II, the Empire shifted from steam- to diesel-powered trains. Now the historic railroad line uses Amtrak’s double-decker Superliner equipment.
Read this exceptionally detailed guide to everything you need to know about a trip aboard the Empire Builder.
Mason Jennings’s CD Use Your Voice features a song entitled “Empire Builder." The lyrics describe the experience of a railroad worker.
The Empire Builder recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. Peruse the Great Northern Railway Historical Society site for a timeline of the line’s history. The site also links you to related articles and images.

Along the Way

The Empire Builder schedule is timed so that the train will pass through the scenic Rocky Mountains and the Glacier National Park during daylight hours.
Great American Stations provides photos, schedules, and historical information on one of the Empire Builder’s most famous stops: Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
A train traveler documents his eastbound journey on the Empire Builder with breathtaking photos and anecdotal commentary.
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