Friday, July 31, 2015

A Brief History of the Amtrak Empire Builder

Great Northern connected the Midwest with the Pacific Northwest.  Great Northern was known as the "Route of the Empire Builder."
Great Northern's flagship passenger train was the Empire Builder.  The Empire Builder took its name from Great Northern founder, James J. Hill, who, with private funds, built the Great Northern and played a key role in the development of the Upper Midwest and the Northwest.
The Great Northern was known for its contribution to Glacier National Park.  Hill saw the park as a key destination for Great Northern passengers.
Amtrak's contemporary Chicago to Seattle route is known as the Empire Builder.  Amtrak's train operates over today's BNSF Railroad.  BNSF is the successor to Burlington Northern, which was created by the merger of Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Chicago Burlington and Quincy and Spokane Portland and Seattle Railroads.

Chicago Great Western-"The Corn Belt Route"

A mile-long Chicago Great Western freight makes its way across the Iowa prairie.  Today's train is under the command of five F-units.
Chicago Great Western became known for its mile long trains and its ability to work with what it had in a Midwest full of competitors.  Chicago Great Western, "The Corn Belt Route," eventually became part of the Chicago and North Western.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

From a Train at Christmas

From the window of a train
Christmas lights shining
Their warm glow
Across the village square
The station decked in holly
Passengers with presents
Greeted by open arms
A train at Christmas
Brings cheer across the land
Brings distant relatives near
A Train at Christmas
Brings one another together
From a train at Christmas
I cannot wait to be home

A Brief History of Amtrak Hiawtha Service

Truly one of the most elegant trains in America, Milwaukee Road's Twin Cities Hiawatha races towards Chicago.  Milwaukee Road was known as the "Route of the Hiawatha" for its famous Hiawatha passenger trains.
Hiawatha Service on today's Amtrak between Chicago and Milwaukee takes its name from these famous Milwaukee Road passenger trains.  Amtrak operates Hiawatha Service over the trackage of today's Canadian Pacific, which acquired Soo Line, the successor of the Milwaukee Road.

Amtrak America

While Riding the Southwest Chief after Amtrak Train Days, the beauty of the journey led me to write the following poem, "Amtrak America."

Amtrak roll, roll into the night
Roll into the morning, roll into the night
Forever I roll, across America
The steel rail glistens, along the way
Roll into the night, roll into the day
Amtrak roll across a land so big
Across the mountains, and across the plains
Across the rivers, wide and mighty
Past picked fences, past city lights
Sunrise in valleys, see all of the sights
See all of America, rolling down the track
From your Amtrak window, as you sail clickity-clack
The engineer waves, the crossing gate dings
Across our land, Amtrak sings
Breakfast hits griddle, passengers arise
As Amtrak whistles onward
Here I am, here we are
Amtrak America

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Riding the California Zephyr

Some of my first train rides were aboard the California Zephyr at William Land Park in Sacramento.  Here I am with my brother, sister and dad on a Saturday morning in 1979.
Below, I am in the lounge car of the Amtrak California Zephyr as I head to Amtrak Train Days.  Thirty-five years later, I am the same person, always eager to hear the whistle blow and to see the scenery pass by as I ride a train.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Spokane, Portland and Seattle- "The Northwest's Own Railway"

Spokane, Portland and Seattle was a fan favorite in the Northwest.  It was known as "The Northwest's Own Railway" and was an Alco stronghold.  The SP and S connected Spokane and Portland via the town of Pasco, Washington.
Spokane, Portland and Seattle's trackage was a key part of successor Burlington Northern's system and is an important component of today's BNSF.  Amtrak's Portland to Spokane leg of the Empire Builder operates over BNSF's former Spokane, Portland and Seattle mainline from Portland to Spokane.