Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com


Champagne and a Surprisingly Good Cold Dinner Through the Spectacular Columbia River Gorge – E.B. Evening 1

We return at 4:22 to the lounge exactly as boarding begins for our Sleeper Car on the Portland Section of the Empire Builder. We walk back out and onto the platform to the trainset we walked by earlier that was already sitting in the station. Luggage is getting loaded into the Coach/Baggage. The attendant isn’t by the door but we board anyway, finding our Room, #11 on the Lower Level directly next to the luggage rack. We then return to the platform and introduce ourselves to our extremely friendly Chicago-based attendant. We take a final walk outside the train as the just two coaches of passengers board. On the platform we notice a box of California Champagne being discarded. This only means one thing, another two single servings of Champagne on this train.We re-board in preparation for departure at 4:40.

At 4:44 we get the Double-Toot and we leave Portland on #27. The track out of the station is quite long.

  • 4:50 – Lakeland. The attendant makes his local announcement about the lack of dining car and that when one is attached in Spokane it will open at 6:30. He also goes through the fact that he does have complimentary boxed dinners instead for us. We leave Portland along tracks without a fence.
  • 4:52 – Enter a long freight bridge.
  • 4:56 – Cross the Willamette River.
  • 5:00 – Crossing the southern branch of the Columbia.
  • 5:01 – Cross the north branch of the Columbia

At 5:04 we arrive Vancouver early. They announce as a courtesy to our Vancouver passwords to stay upstairs. I do go to the door and snap an out the door shot as the attendant boards one more family before shutting the door early. He is still upstairs introducing himself.
We leave at 5:07, right on time! It’s strange riding so low since we’re on the Lower Level of a Superliner and I’ve never spent anytime on the lower-level of Superliners.

  • 5:10 – Construction at 8th street and begin following the river.
  • 5:13 – Start speeding up along the Columbia. There is still a road between us and it as we leave Vancouver and then houses.

Our attendant comes and introduces himself with handshakes. He then offers us the dinner options of the 3 salads: Chicken, Beef, or Shrimp. He finishes with should I bring Champagne? We say yes, of course!

  • 5:20 – Keep following the river the nice houses continue.

At 5:27 the plastic take out trays and more Champagne is delivered. We begin by slowly drinking our Champagne in the room.
Next we grab some water bottles that have been left out by the coffee pot and head to the Sightseer Lounge Car to enjoy boxed dinners since getting both of them to fit on the tiny tray table is tricky. We get to the lounge to nearly every seat taken except for the front most two behind the locomotive end. We sit down there. The meals are Outtakes Quick Cuisine plastic boxes, mine is a Shrimp Louie and has a maybe eight shrimp on a bed of salad greens and a portion of a hard-boiled egg with dressing in a separate container. Its exactly as described when I google the dish. It also has a dinner roll and lemon square plus some pieces of mellon. Robbie has a Marinated Tri-Tip with Broccoli Mushroom Salad. The pieces of Tri-Tip look really good but I don’t like Broccoli. It has the same roll and fruit salad but what resembles apple cake instead. I find the lemon square delicious in particular. The meals are an example of something Amtrak is doing right in the best of circumstances since cooking for an entire sleeper hot-microwave entrees would be very hard in a sightseer lounge. This is one think the Amfleet-II single-level trains are better for (the meals for the Boston Sleeper beyond Albany and on the Cardinal are heating in its microwaves).
At 6:21 we enter Bingen-White Salmon and I get some photos of a new ADA renovation I haven’t seen before. I walk back to my Sleeper to get a rear window shot as we leave the station. There is still a ballast-level platform in front of the depot. Beyond it though is a ramp up to a modern low-level platform in front of a wheelchair lift enclosure. It reminds me of the mini-highs we have back east except this one is low-level.

  • 6:30 – Through a series of tunnels
  • 6:33 – Pass a double-stack waiting for us!
  • 6:41 – Some piles of logs stacked along the railway
  • 6:50 – Pass a long freight at Avery that starts moving after our short train passes we then slow down towards Wishram a major BNSF junction and divison piont.
  • 6:59 – Arrive and leave Wishram barely stopping (not a smoke stop tonight like on my last trip). There isn’t any business here.
  • 7:11 – Cliffs and some sidings that just end
  • The Gorge continues, never ending beauty as I contemplate life at the rear window, and go between there and the crowded Sightseer Lounge.
  • 8:02 – The view gets much wider with lots of brush along the railroad line. We see an egret. We follow the wide river into the sunset, it’s as scenic as I imagined
  • 8:41 – Enter Kennewick into the sunset. It’s really scenic.
  • 8:48 – Pass a sewage treatment plant

We enter Pasco arriving at 8:53 and get some excellent evening photos (the station lights haven’t quite been turned on unforchunately yet). There is a long line of passengers waiting board and I realize the platform is completely fenced off except at its southern end where it would be very easy to enter directly over the ballast. There is lots of turnover at Pasco (plus the locomotive engine change) and I get some more interior photos. There is a neat display case with both Greyhound driver and Amtrak conductor hats. We leave at 9:03 into farmland and the last rays of daylight. The strech of line following the Columbia is over. The scenery is now just fertile green fields.
The train sways on slightly ruff track through hilly pastures of western Washington. The track is fast. I feel like I’m back on the chief and not the starlight.

  • 9:29 – There some hills, this section of the ride would be pretty in daylight.
  • 9:33 – With the lights of the setting sun see Connell and some lights off in the distance.

I head back to my Roomette and get ready for bed. Although I’m quite a bit bigger than my friend and my AGR points paid for the room I decide that tonight is the night for me to try the upper birth. The first thing I notice is that the bed is made and looks like it is facing backwards. I want to sleep feet forward, I flip the mattress and realize why are attendant has made our bed backwards. The reading light and steps are now at the other end of the bed. That’s fine with me so I climb up and in. I find the upper birth has definitely less room than my upper section on the Canadian the beds are narrower overall and is less comfortable than the lower birth (that has the additional padding of the seats).
10:01 – Already in bed for the good night announcement I think from the lounge. I manage to pass out for an hour or two
At 11:53 I awake to noises and movement. I realize were arriving Spokane. I think about trying to sleep through it but we lose HEP with the departure of our engine. I throw my pants on over my PJs and have a nice walk in the nice, chili evening. I realize that my battery is charging and reach over Robbie fast asleep to try and grab it I get the battery but manage to drop it under his bad. He is still asleep and I don’t want to wake him. I hear the music from a bar off in the distance and walk into the station.
At first my phone says #8 is due at 12:08  ut it keeps getting later and later. At 12:26 it arrives passing our train. The connection is required before it platforms since we’re first. I’m way up at front of the platforms and see an employee manually setting the switch for #8 to back onto the platform

  • 12:29 – Train 8 starts backing up and passes me.
  • 12:33 – The connection is made, then the bigger surprise, our original locomotive #98 backs up onto our train! I hope 7/27 has three! I hear the conductor telling to people who have come up to the platform early that they need to go back inside to complete the boarding process. I see a fat couple with a poodle that claims to be a service animal getting off #98.

Watching the Seattle Section enter inspired me to actually write down the consist for the first time in a long while.

Train #8:

  • P42 #98 – attached in Spokane pulled #28 up from Portland
  • P42 #121 – was the lead engine from Seattle to Spokane and then was wyed in Spokane and ran in reverse the rest of the trip.
  • P42 #160 – was the second locomotive Seattle to Spokane, removed in Spokane.
  • Heritage Baggage Car #1163
  • Superliner Transition Dorm #39038
  • Superliner Sleeper #32045
  • Superliner Sleeper #32005
  • Superliner Diner #38034
  • Superliner Coach #34016
  • Superliner Coach #31014

Train #28: Portland Section attached in Spokane pulled by P42 #98 attached to the front of the entire train in Spokane

  • Superliner Sightseer Lounge #33006
  • Superliner Coach #34107
  • Superliner Coach #31044
  • Superliner Sleeper #32057-Our very last car!

I re-board to lay in bed. We still don’t have power but all the lights have batteries in my car much to my surprise.
At 12:55 with a beep, we regain HEP. When I awake I learn about the fact we only have two engines but that our engine from Portland was swapped out with one from Seattle.