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Empire Builder

Kent UK
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88 posts
96 reviews
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Empire Builder

Travelling on the Empire Builder on 4th July. As a Brit wondered if anything would be done to celebrate independence day. Also I have looked at the online menu and my fussy daughter isn't keen on any of it. What stations do we stop at long enough to get off to find something quick to eat (even if it is take-out to take back on the train). Also are the toilets and showers kept clean as we only have a roomette

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Empire Builder

There is no place for your fussy daughter to get off and get a bite to eat. There are two service stops. One in the middle of the night and one in a Havre Montana where the closest business is a cowboy bar. She has 6 entrees to choose from at both lunch and dinner. The pancakes or french toast for breakfast are great or she can have fruit and cereal. She either eats what is offered or starves. That's up to her. What in the world is she going to do on the cruise where food is geared to fat Americans?

There are no 4th of a July festivities on board. It's just another Amtrak trip.

The toilets in the sleepers are as clean as the sleeping car attendants and the passengers keep them. I've never seen a problem but then, I'm not a germicidal maniac. The shower/ changing room is very nice. They are what they are.

Pack a light nylon-ish robe and flip-flops(zories) to walk to the restrooms at night.

Edited: 19 January 2014, 00:46
Kent UK
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88 posts
96 reviews
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2. Re: Empire Builder

I posted on this forum as you had already "told me off" for posting on the Chicago site. Your tone is very unfortunate perhaps you do not mean to come over so abrupt. We have travelled USA many times and cruised to Hawaii last year, My daughter doesn't eat red meat, pasta or fish. She does eat chicken however there is one chicken meal in the evening that I can see. All I wondered is if at a station there was a stop she could grab a sandwich from !! I am not a germicidal maniac either however people's impression of clean varies greatly.

Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: Empire Builder

I didn't tell you off. I told you to post on the Train Travel forum instead of the Chicago forum and gave you this link.

I just go off a 5000 mile trip to the west coast and back and there are actually two chicken offerings on the train this month. She can enjoy a lovely luncheon salad. This months offering was a large salad with grilled acorn squash and candied pecans, the Coast Starlight, however, offered a huge spinach salad with sliced egg and croutons as it's luncheon special salad.

As I told you in my first sentence, there is no station stop where she can run to get something to eat. The train stops 1-2 minutes with the exception of 10 minutes at train service stops (every 8 hours). Train stations are, for the most part, on the old side of town and stops for services are out in the train yards. Amtrak food service is excellent considering that it is a traveling diner serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It tries to accommodate as many passengers taste as possible but if your daughter doesn't eats red meat, pasta or fish, she's going to have to wing it.

FYI: YOU called your daughter "fussy". I just reiterated your word. And if she doesn't eat red meat, fish or pasta I agree with you, she is fussy. I said that I (me, myself and I) wasn't a germicidal maniac which has nothing to do with you. I was qualifying MY opinion that the restrooms were acceptable. If they aren't as clean as you want them to be; see your car attendant. You are correct that "people's impression of clean varies greatly." so if someone tells you that the restrooms are clean or dirty that is only their opinion and may not match with yours. I've seen people carry their own spray can of Lysol.

I apologize for trying to help you.

Edited: 19 January 2014, 15:15
Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: Empire Builder

I was just reviewing your Empire Builder post on the Chicago forum in which you write:

"my very fussy daughter doesn't like anything on the menu".

5. Re: Empire Builder

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6. Re: Empire Builder

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Jordan, Minnesota
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7. Re: Empire Builder

There is no time to get off the train where there is any food choices along your route. Bring a collapsible/fabric cooler to use on the train. The attendant will have ice available. Bring some food or snacks along with you. Either eat in your room or go to the observation car and enjoy your trip. It's a beautiful and relaxing ride. There will be plenty of food choices at Pike's place in Seattle. Your daughter can just wear sweatpants and a t-shirt to bed and then throw on a zippie and slip on shoes to go to the restroom.

Bowling Green...
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8. Re: Empire Builder

MnMotherMary is right. BRING some food or snacks. AND I think they serve sandwiches too in the Cafe/game room if they stiil have one. And she was right about the clothes to wear. Sweatpants are fine and some kind of slip on shoes.

It has been 20 years since we have traveled the Empire Builder but we loved it. Right now we are planning on a HEART OF THE WEST train trip by Vacations by Rail. Not set in stone as yet though.

Washington State
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9. Re: Empire Builder

As a frequent Amtrak traveler on the Empire Builder, I second Shallow Shoals information that there will be NO opportunity to get food off the train. Also, if you wander away from the platform , the train will leave without you. Even at the long "service" stops such as Havre, if the train is late, it will leave as soon as a necessary work is done.

It is a good thing you already looked at the menus online so you have an idea what to expect. The food is pretty good. If you must have something else, you should bring it with you and don't wander off in search of something you are unlikely to find in rural Montana and miss the train.

Minneapolis, MN
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10. Re: Empire Builder

I was on the Empire Builder recently with my grandchildren, and am travelling overnight to the West again in two days. Amtrak is having terrific difficulty with schedules because the freight carrier that owns the tracks is repairing damage from an uncommon winter right now, and that combines with an horrendous increase in freight traffic due to North Dakota oil fields boom. Recent days have seen the Empire Builder arriving mostly from 3 to 12 hours late! That said, if you view it as an "adventure" and not as a way to get from one place to another "on time" it's lots of fun. Until or unless they run out of food (which is possible if the train is running late enough as the places it stops between Minnesota and Washington are very small) -- the dining car food was more than adequate and sometimes surprisingly good. In addition, there's a carryout snack counter in the Club Car (with booths to sit down and eat) that had a limited selection of items like yogurt, juice, candy, cold sandwiches, crackers & cheese, etc. Surely you could piece together something that would keep your daughter from starving between there and the children's or adult's menu of the dining car. We're going to carry on apples, bananas, juice cartons, extra bottled water "just in case, " and chocolate, crackers and beef sticks. And lots of things to read and do! That way we have "insurance" against disaster. I will repeat what you've heard already..... After you leave Chicago (and I don't know really about even there) you won't find food at train stations. Even the newly restored depot in Minneapolis/St. Paul doesn't have food facilities (don't ask me why, except that the trains are scheduled to arrive & leave at 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 pm , which are not big eating hours. But you'd think they could have vending machines! ) I'm ashamed to say it -- but the U.S. isn't anything like Europe for train service. If you're expecting even a fraction of the convenience or quality of European trains, you'll be bitterly disappointed. But if you can consider it on a par with "camping out" it's still a great, way to see the U.S.A. Just be prepared to be self-sufficient. We rail fans thank you for contributing to our ridership as we try to get the U.S. to wake up and reinvest in this great way to travel! Hope you have a good trip.