Train Trip

Day 1

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 |

King Street Station

WE BOARDED THE EMPIRE BUILDER at the King Street Street Station in downtown Seattle. It’s a beautiful building dating back to 1906. As they say, “They don’t build them like that anymore. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of looking inside the station, here are some of the photos Larry took.

Built in 1904 and 1906 by the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway, the station replaced the outdated, old station on Railroad Avenue, today’s Alaskan Way. The depot’s 242-foot tower was modeled after the collapsed Campanile di San Marco in VeniceItaly, making it the tallest building in Seattle at the time of its construction. This tower contained four huge mechanical clock faces built by E. Howard & Co. of BostonMassachusetts, offering the time to each of the four cardinal directions. 

After World War II, as passenger rail travel began to decline across the United States, steps were taken to gradually modernize King Street Station. Over the next two decades, as train ridership and the station’s number of employees dwindled, the station was further remodeled to reduce maintenance and heating costs. 

Today, the station has been fully restored. King Street Station is located a block away from the International District. The station serves many King County Metro and Sound Transit Express bus routes serve the area, and the First Hill line of the Seattle Streetcar network stops nearby. (Source: Wikipedia.)

The King Street Station, Seattle, Washington

Aboard the Empire Builder

THE EMPIRE BUILDER

ATTENDANTS GREETED US as we approached the car we were assigned to. After checking our boarding passes, we stepped up onto the train. Watch out for those steps; they are steep even with the traditional step stool.

Once on board, we were shown a wall of racks to store our larger suitcases. Having been on a train overnight before, we learned the value of packing a small bag with the essentials we’ll need on the train to carry to our room. And of our course, another carry-on bag with all the toiletries we’ll need throughout our vacation. (No comments from the peanut gallery about how many necessities I absolutely needed for our vacation.) Additionally, I brought a bag full of knitting projects and my Living From the Heart assignments.

Our Room with a View

OUR BEDROOM is quite spacious and luxurious for a train. We upgraded from a sleeperette. Where we’ve stayed in before. This room has two side-by-side sofa seating with an additional chair across from the fold-out table. We have a big picture wind going across the width of the room.

The real luxury is the private bathroom in our room, complete with a toilet, shower, sink, and mirror. Just as advertised, except it’s smaller than expected. Our entire room reminds us of a tiny house. Efficient if not spacious. The toilet shares space with the shower–needless to say, we won’t be trying the shower out. Plus, the train sways to and fro so violently, I can’t imagine standing up for a shower.

At bedtime, our steward made up our beds—a lower and upper berth. Guess who got upper–Larry. Alas, once the bed is made up, it’s pretty tight in the room. Plus, I slept like the princess and the pea–on top of some support beam. But I fixed that for the following nights.

Tonight, I’m going to ask the steward not to extend my bed but give me pillows and blankets for sleeping on the sofa.
For Larry sleeping in the upper bunk, a ladder was placed to quickly get into the bunk. Webbing on the border kept him from rolling out during the night.

Because of COVID, only first-class passengers can eat in the dining car, half of the tables blocked off for social distancing. The food lived up to the standards my mother talked about from her childhood–delicious. More on that later.


The Scenery

WE WATCHED THE TRAIN head north out of Seattle. We could see big rain/thunderstorm clouds over Camano and Whidbey Island. Then we headed into the mountains to Leavenworth. The mountains were spectacular but too dark to take photos so you’ll have to take my word for it.
Larry read that the Cascade Tunnel is 7.8 miles long, making it the longest tunnel in the U.S. The tunnel runs through Steven’s Pass to Wenatchee.

As the night progressed, we traveled through Wenatchee, to Spokane where more sleeper and passenger cars were added. Then on past Sandpoint, Idaho, and into Whitefish, Montana at sunrise. After breakfast, I took a nap while Larry watched the scenery. He said we went through Glacier Park in Montana. And by the time I awoke, we were in the flat plains of Montana.

Now we’re watching endless prairie with some agriculture, probably hay for the sheep and cattle. This will be our view as we speed across Montana to North Forks and Fargo, North Dakota. Then we head into Minnesota to Minneapolis. That’s probably will be my first opportunity to post this blog.

Here’s the thing about trains

THE THING ABOUT TRAINS is there’s no wifi. We only get cellular coverage when we pass through a town–but the stations are small and we go through them fast there’s no time to post.

Instead, this will be a time for truly unplugging from the world. Larry is reading on his Kindle. I am knitting while listening to Audible. I hope I get a lot of knitting done. Perhaps I overpacked here or overly optimistic.

And who knows, this might be the perfect time to take a silence and solitude retreat, a requirement of my contemplative living class through Selah Center. (But no promises Mary. I’m enjoying rest and the view.)

From Glasgow, Montana,

Debora Buerk
The Write Stuff
Looking at life from a different point of view.

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