As someone whose interest in railroad trains goes back to age five when Santa delivered my first Lionel set, I must say I was very much looking forward to this leg of the trip. But never in my wildest imagination did I believe it would it be so breathtaking.
The Empire Builder moved up and down the passes effortlessly and I found the best viewing location was looking out the rear window in the door of our sleeper car. Not only did this provide a better panorama of the view, but the window in the door is not protected by sun-blocking tint so the colors and dynamics of the scenery were all the better.
Through curve after curve we moved gliding beside river creeks and cascades, our tracks closely followed by the US Route 2. At times the highway would appear on the left and then on the right – it must be a terrific drive.
One of the neatest features of going through these winding mountain passes was being able to see the front of the train ahead as it bent around the sharp curves only to disappear around a bend or into a tunnel. This can be accomplished from my sleeping car – it helps being in the last of 12 cars. But the view from my rear deck was still the best and I ran my camera in video mode to catch (sorry - I closed the YT account due to spam. If you want to see the videos, drop me a line) as much as possible. When I get home I will consider trying to figure out a way to reverse the direction of the “film” so as to create the illusion of being in the front of the train and taking the vantage point of the “best seat on the train” the engineer. What a job!
The Empire Builder makes two more scheduled stops in the park – West Glacier and Whitefish (not technically in the park, but clearly in the mountains) – and Essex, an unscheduled stop. The Essex stop only happens when some one is going to or leaving a lodge, the Izaak Walton Hotel, located there. There is only a bench and an outhouse marking the stop; the passengers are met by a red van. A few seconds later we can see the Hotel and a bunch of their guests are out front waving at the train.
In all too short a time, we have descended though the pass and make our stop in Whitefish. This is a scheduled smoker’s stop and I go outside in search of the best sunset photo.