Issaquah trip report, days 1 and 2

day −1
day 0

2023-02-03 07:00-7:00

I had the scrambled eggs and pork sausage for breakfast.  That was good.

08:58:  we had an emergency brake application due to low air pressure again.  It seems to be a problem with the air hose on the lead engine.  Moving again at 09:20.

10:04:  now 4:30 late departing Grand Forks.

10:11:  emergency application again.  The engineer was complaining about the Siemens engine in the lead (#304).  She said that she seems to have problems with that one every time.

This time the conductor reporting seeing deer remains under the engine.  He guessed that we had hit a deer and that knocked apart the air hoses between the first two units.  We’re now 4:44 late departing Devils Lake.

I had the Angus burger for lunch at noon.  That met expectations.

At Minot, the conductor announced that they we’re now having problems the “the third engine” (that would be the GE #44) which was “making a strange noise”.  It turns out that we’re going to have to set out the third unit.

16:32:  we finally departed Minot with just the two Siemens units, now 6:41 late.  I guess that BNSF’s rule about the Builder having at least three working engine units only applies at departure from the initial terminal…or something.

Sorry for all the geeky stuff so far.  I’ll try to include more about the travel experience later.  This newbie blogger is still getting the hang of it.

Marcus Ranum had mentioned that he’d like to see photos along the way, but I was too discombulated to pack a proper camera.  Imagine vast expanses of pure white snow.

There’s a reason they call North Dakota “big sky country.”  I remember a PA announcement by the café attendant on my first trip on the Builder:  “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out the train on the right side, you’ll see a house…”  That was the whole announcement. 😎

22:23:  we made the usual fuel stop just east of Havre, Montana, then pulled into the station at 22:44.  Havre is a crew change stop where we get new engineers and conductors who work, not particular trains, but particular sections of track; so there’s usually a long dwell time.  We departed Havre at 22:51, now 6:36 late.

2023-02-04 07:00-8:00

I had the “railroad french toast” with a side of pork sausage for breakfast.  That was quite good.  I guess my first experience with Amtrak’s “new” food service on the western long-distance trains was an outlier; but it’s still not up to the standards that I remember from only about a decade ago.

08:57:  We stayed just under 7 hours late all the way to Spokane, Washington.  This is the first time I’ve seen the Spokane station in daylight since the Builder usually does its work here around midnight westbound and in the wee hours of the morning eastbound.

Spokane is where the train splits into the Seattle and Portland sections.  They set out the Siemens 302 which will eventually pull train 27, the last four cars on the combined train, to Portland, Oregon.  Train 7 now has just the Siemens 304; but it has only five cars to pull, the baggage car, the crew sleeper, the regular sleeper, the diner, and the only coach.

They were able to shorten the usual dwell time in Spokane a bit, and we departed at 09:17, now 5:53 late.

12:00:  they served us lunch in the diner because of the train’s lateness.  I had the Angus burger again.

They still allow only sleeper passengers in the diner, but train 7 between Spokane and Seattle uses the half of the diner nearer the coach as what they call a “mini café” which has a variety of plastic-wrapped stuff that folks can eat.  That’s probably minimally acceptable for breakfast since they’ll have a variety of cereals and breakfast pastries.  I gather that they had only breakfast stuff available for lunch, which is not normally served on this train.

15:43:  we stayed just under six hours late to Everett, Washington, where we head south along Puget Sound.  Since my room is on the fireman’s side, I didn’t get to see much of the Sound; but I got to see all the homes up on the bluff just east of the tracks.  I always marvel at the designs:  lots of balconies, lots of windows, small bits jutting out here and there.  They must be “interesting” to live in.

In Seattle, we enter a long tunnel that eventually discharges the train into King Street Station where we made our final stop at 16:35, just 5:06 late thanks to about half an hour of padding in the schedule.

I’m using a walker this trip because my old back doesn’t want me to remain vertical for more than a few minutes without something to lean on.  It’s one that I bought for my mother years ago; and it has four wheels and a seat to sit on.  I was hoping that the seat would hold my two bags, one with most of the clothes that I’ll need, and a large laptop case with room for another change of clothes; but they didn’t quite fit, at least not in a way that wasn’t awkward, so I checked the larger bag in Chicago.

After claiming my checked bag, I walked half a block to the Embassy Suites where I’ll spend my first night.  Its advantage is proximity to the train station; its disadvantage is that it seems to have been designed by marketeers instead of by hospitality folks.  For example, my room has a very attractive desk where I can work on my laptop, but nowhere nearby to plug it in.  Fortunately, I have my power strip with a nice long extension cord which I used on the train.

After getting my day zero post more or less in order, I went for supper.  I didn’t want a big meal, so I had just the grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.  Taking their cue from the hotel, the restaurant gave me a sandwich that was more pretentious than tasty.  The soup was quite good.

After supper, I finished proofreading and posting the day zero post; and that was about all I was good for that day.  I went to bed around 20:00 or so and had a good night’s sleep.


  1. avalus says

    “Under 7 hours late”

    Yikes, and all the last post I read these timestamps as Minutes:Seconds of being late. Uh boy am I cozied by our countrys rail system.
    Still, should I ever visit the states I want to ride their trains.

    Also welcome Bill Seymore, I will surely linger here.

  2. Katydid says

    Yes, welcome Bill Seymore, and I hope to see you around for quite awhile.

    Is it possible to pack your own food for travel, or were you making a point to review the train food?

    @Avalus: at one point, I was making monthly trips from San Francisco on the west coast, to Baltimore on the east coast. 2500 miles (3600 kilometers). For years, the flight was about 6 hours nonstop. Then one day, I showed up at the airport to learn the ticket I held promising nonstop was no longer valid, and there was a mandatory stop in Dallas, Texas (roughly in the middle, nearer the southern border than the northern one). But there was bad weather in Dallas, so they routed us to Denver, Colorado…where the flight crew timed out so we were shuffled to a plane headed to Seattle on the west coast, sent back down to San Diego on the west coast, then back to Denver, to Dallas, to Atlanta on the east coast, up to Boston in the northeast, and finally to Baltimore. Took two days in all, and I missed my meeting.

  3. billseymour says

    Katydid, yes you can bring any food or drink onto the train, but you have to consume it in your room or at your coach seat.  You can’t bring your own food into the diner or café any more than you can into a restaurant on the ground.

  4. Katydid says

    Thanks for the answer! On the trip I took in the 1980s, I just ate in the dining car and it was fine. I was there for the scenery, and I don’t even remember what I ate.

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