Posts Tagged ‘Empire Builder in Montana’

Montana Lawmakers Want Ticket Offices Kept

June 2, 2018

Montana’s Congressional delegation is protesting the closing of Amtrak ticket offices in Havre and Shelby.

Both cities are served by the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder and are among 15 offices being closed during May and June.

Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines along with Rep. Greg Gianforte criticized the actions and called on Amtrak to reverse that decision.

In Shelby and Havre, Amtrak plans to hire caretakers to open and close the station waiting room at train time. The caretakers will also be responsible for keeping the waiting rooms clean.

The Havre office was to close on June 1 while the Shelby office is set to be shuttered on June 3.

Empire Builder Subject to Delays in Montana

May 25, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder will be subject to delays as long as two hours through June 16 due to BNSF track work being undertaken in Montana.

The work will take place on the route of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train between Glasgow and Whitefish.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said westbound No. 7/27 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations west of Glasgow. Eastbound No. 8/28 may encounter delays of up to two hours at stations east of Whitefish.

Amtrak noted that trains can make up time and passengers are encouraged to  check the status of their train before heading to the station.

Amtrak Back on Track in the Northwest

February 11, 2017

Amtrak is expecting to restore service today in Washington State that was disrupted by landslides.

Amtrak logoBNSF, which hosts Amtrak trains serving Seattle and Portland, Oregon, had declared a 48-hour moratorium on rail traffic after the landslides occurred on Thursday.

Affected with the Cascades trains, the Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight.

The Cascades were canceled between Seattle and Portland, but operated north of Everett, Washington, and south of Portland.

Amtrak was providing alternative transportation between Seattle and Everett, but not between Seattle and Portland.

In a related development, BNSF has reopened its Hi Line used by the Empire Builder through Glacier National Park in Montana. That route was closed by avalanches twice this past week.

The line was initially closed on Sunday at Marias Pass, but reopened on Tuesday. Two days later the route was closed again due to avalanches blocking the tracks near Essex, Montana.

Avalanches Halt Empire Builder Again

February 10, 2017

Shortly after it was reopened, the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder was closed again.

BNSF said that avalanches in Glacier National park closed its Hi Line near Essex.

Amtrak Empire BuilderThe closure came less than 48 hours after the railroad had reopened the line following avalanches that blocks the tracks at Marias Pass.

Railroad officials said warmer temperatures were a factor in causing avalanches because they were creating layers of unstable snow.

Thursday’s westbound Empire Builder was held overnight at St. Paul Union Depot and passengers bound for points between St. Paul and Minot, North Dakota, were taken to their destination buy bus.

Passengers going beyond Minot were to remain on the train. Amtrak said those passengers will be given a refund and taken back to Chicago on Friday.

Two other sections of the Chicago-Seattle/Portland train were to spend the night Thursday in Montana. This includes an eastbound and a westbound section.

Landslides in Washington State resulted in the cancellation of Amtrak’s Cascades service between Seattle and Portland until Saturday.

Also canceled is the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Empire Builder to Resume Full Operation

February 8, 2017

Amtrak’s Empire Builder has resumed operating the length of its route between Chicago and Seattle/Portland after BNSF crews cleared an avalanche blocking Marias Pass in Montana.

Amtrak Empire BuilderThe pass was reopened on Tuesday night after being closed on Sunday.

Some sections of the Empire Builder had been turned back and the train was canceled west of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Nos. 7 and 8 had continued to operate between Chicago and St. Paul.

The avalanche that halted rail traffic came during a blizzard that dumped 51 inches of snow at East Glacier National Park. The area has been called “Avalanche Alley” by railroaders.

Winter Storm Disrupts Empire Builder in Montana

February 6, 2017

Severe winter weather in Montana has caused service disruptions for Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

On Monday, Amtrak suspended Nos. 7 and 8 west of St. Paul, Minnesota, after heavy snow and avalanches blocked the tracks in the mountains.

Amtrak Empire BuilderOn Sunday, winter storm Maya was dumping snow at the rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Blizzard warnings were posted in Glacier National Park and the BNSF route used by Amtrak was blocked at Marias Pass.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said it was not known when rail service would resume.

“BNSF crews were prepared for and are actively working to mitigate avalanche debris and blowing snow that has reached the rail grade,” she said. “We will resume operations through the corridor when conditions allow for the safe movement of trains.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said it may be days before the Empire Builder can operate west of St. Paul.

He said the passenger carrier is offering refunds to passengers who trips have disrupted or offering to book them on another date. The Empire Builder will continue to operate between Chicago and St. Paul.

Magliari said trains were being sent back to stations in Shelby and Whitefish, Montana, and no trains are departing from Seattle or Portland for Chicago.

Culbertson May Become Empire Builder Stop

December 8, 2016

Officials pushing to establish an Amtrak station in Culbertson, Montana, received a boost when a Transportation Appropriations Bill included a provision that Amtrak study having the Empire Builder stop there.

Amtrak Empire BuilderAmtrak has already determined that adding Culbertson would not adversely affect the schedule of trains 7 and 8.

Culbertson officials are currently developing a concept for a station building and platform.

Although Amtrak has agreed to the concept, it will need to approve any design or construction documents.

 

Empire Builder in Glacier National Park

October 26, 2016

 

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The eastbound Empire Builder crosses at the Two Medicine Bridge at East Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana. The photographer and his wife ventured to Montana on Amtrak to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Empire Builder OT Performance Improves After BNSF Congestion Hurt Train’s Route in October

October 26, 2016

Amtrak’s Empire Builder is running more smoothly of late after suffering some severe delays due to congestion on its BNSF route through North Dakota and Montana.

Amtrak Empire BuilderAn analysis by Trains magazine found that Nos. 7 and 8 experienced delays not seen since the summer of 2014.

On at least eight occasions, No. 8 was delayed for at least seven hours while twice No. 7 was more than six hours late arriving in Seattle and Portland.

On Oct. 15, No. 7 was terminated at Spokane, Washington, and its passengers sent by bus to their destinations because the train was running nine hours late.

The equipment coming into Seattle and Portland makes a same-day turn to head back east to Chicago.

The magazine said BNSF attributed the congestion to weather-related interruptions and an increase in grain traffic to the Pacific Northwest.

The bulk of the delays occurred between Minot, North Dakota, and Whitefish, Montana.

On some days the Empire Builder arrived so late in Chicago that passengers missed their connections.

The string of delays was finally broken  on Oct. 20 when No. 8 reached Chicago ahead of schedule for the first time since Oct. 6.

Trains reported that a good on-time record had helped the Empire Builder post a 4.8-percent ridership gain in September and 3.7 percent for the 2016 fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

A BNSF spokeswoman said the railroad is mitigating the freight congestion by rerouting some trains and recalling 60 furloughed employees to help relieve crew shortages.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder in Big Sky Country

October 20, 2016
Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Snow covered mountains loom behind Amtrak’s eastbound Empire Builder as it heads for Chicago near Browning, Montana.

Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder passes through Montana during daylight hours in both directions, so Akron Railroad Club member Roger Durfee went chasing after the Builder during his trip to the Treasure State this past September.

He tracked down No. 8 in various locations including against a backdrop of mountains, open range and grain elevators, making images of the train near Browning, Cut Bank, Shelby, Malta and Havre.

This is the territory of the former Great Northern Railway, which was built by “empire builder” James Hill. For decades the Empire Builder was the premier passenger train on the GN and is now Amtrak’s only train linking Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Today these tracks are owned by BNSF and Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the only passenger train to use these rails.

Photographs by Roger Durfee

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

Two views of No. 8 near Browning Montana. Glacier National Park is beyond those mountains.

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Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing an empty crude oil train west of Malta.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Passing a waterway near Shelby.

Making a station stop in Malta.

Making a station stop in Malta.

In the barren countryside between Cut Bank and Shelby.

I like how I could do a broadside of the whole train out there.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Dropping down into the Valley of Cut Bank Creek.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Gliding over Cut Bank Creek on a high trestle.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Passing an old elevator at Ethridge.

Getting fuel in Havre.

Getting fuel in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre.

The heritage of this line is Great Northern as someone wants you to know in Havre. The stained glass shows “Rocky,” the GN mascot.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.

Posing with a relic of the Great Northern in Havre.