Empire Bldr & Cap Ltd MSP-PGH, 3/7-3/8 and 3/11-3/12

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Empire Bldr & Cap Ltd MSP-PGH, 3/7-3/8 and 3/11-3/12

Postby mtuandrew » Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:10 pm

I have to say, unlike other experiences on Amtrak that involved running to catch trains or sitting fuming while a parade of freights passes, this trip was entirely worry-free and pleasant.

When I boarded at MSP Midway station at about 7:30 am on the 7th, I found that a few of my friends were traveling to the ARM/TRAIN convention in St. Louis. We had fun chattering about the MILW, trolley cars and other rail-related subjects all the way to Chicago. Amtrak was unaccountably delayed getting out of St. Paul, with CP Rail not letting it onto its tracks until rather later than forecast and putting us about 45 minutes down by Red Wing. However, that dispatcher made up for it by giving us a mostly-clear railroad all the way along the River Sub and through Wisconsin. The engineer and conductor enforced short station stops, which let us sneak in front of a MD-N train and make it to CHI ahead of schedule. I was very impressed with the crew's penchant for keeping everyone informed about being sidelined, about station stops, and everything we encountered.

I wasn't as impressed with the communication from the Cap's crew, though a part of that was probably due to the late hour in which they didn't communicate across the train. Nor was I impressed with their swiftness at station stops. In fact, they often dallied for several minutes to load a few passengers, where the Empire Builder's crew accomplished the same within 30 seconds. Perhaps it was dictated by NS that we wait, but the crew didn't say. However, I was impressed that the Cap made its schedule window with some ease, dropping me off in Pittsburgh perhaps 10 minutes later than the scheduled arrival time and continuing through the trackwork window.

Likewise on the return trip, though I slept well into Indiana so I can't say much. The Cap did arrive and depart at PGH on time, and we arrived before scheduled arrival at Chicago, despite the ever-present congestion southeast of Chicago.

Finally, the Empire Builder on the way home was just as good as the downbound trip, though I didn't have my traveling companions on this leg.


A few general notes:
-Amtrak needs to either offer better food in the cafe (ideally with a healthier option too), or lower its prices a bit. Then again, I should have expected the $6 cheeseburger. I'm glad they do accept credit cards, though the attendant on the Builder grumbled a bit about having to use the device.
-Every Superliner I ventured into had 120 VAC at the seat - kudos! I enjoyed the scenery as much as anyone, but it was very handy to be able to charge my (non-smart) phone and my computer.
-For Amtrak's next cars, I hope they design a less clunky, just-as-comfortable seat. Likewise, I missed having an air vent above my seat as on aircraft, though I understand the difference.
-The Capitol Limited's crew assigned everyone a seat in both directions, but neither Empire Builder crew did more than direct me to a specific car. I wasn't sure why the difference, though there was definitely less seating capacity aboard the Cap.

All in all, it was a satisfying trip with no major problems and few minor ones.
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Re: Empire Bldr & Cap Ltd MSP-PGH, 3/7-3/8 and 3/11-3/12

Postby David Benton » Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:13 am

Thanks for the report , Andrew ( i presume ) .
I was actually tracking the route of the empire builder on google earth , between milawuakee anbd the twin cities . i was trying to see if it is very curvy , in regard to a dfaytime talgo service saving time .
Any comments on this ?
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The only train trips I regret are the ones I didn't take.
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Re: Empire Bldr & Cap Ltd MSP-PGH, 3/7-3/8 and 3/11-3/12

Postby mtuandrew » Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:04 am

David Benton wrote:Thanks for the report , Andrew ( i presume ) .
I was actually tracking the route of the empire builder on google earth , between milawuakee anbd the twin cities . i was trying to see if it is very curvy , in regard to a dfaytime talgo service saving time .
Any comments on this ?

Indeed, this is Andrew. :-)

From Chicago to Milwaukee, the line has very few curves at all. There are a few curves in the outskirts of Milwaukee, but otherwise the line is mostly tangent track and gentle curves to La Crosse, WI. After crossing the Mississippi River into Minnesota, the line has a large number of curves. We were outpacing traffic on US 61, but I don't know precisely how fast we were going.

I have to admit that a Talgo wouldn't do much in Wisconsin, aside from lowering the weight per passenger. It might help along the River Subdivision though, especially if speeds were bumped above 79 mph.
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