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falstaff
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Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sun May 01, 2016 9:16 pm

For several years now I had been wanting to ride Amtrak’s Empire Builder its entire route so I decided to do that over my employer’s spring break. I did not have enough time to enjoy the destination and return home on the train so I flew AS SEA - DTW My dad, who is also a rail fan and works in the railroad equipment business, came along for the ride. My dad flew WN STL - DTW on March 28th and we left on Amtrak’s Wolverine from Dearborn, Michigan at 6:50am on march 29th. There has been a new Amtrak Station in Dearborn for a couple of years now and it is light years ahead of the old station. They even have this cool two-foot gauge steamer on display in the station.

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The train left Dearborn right on time. Dad and I had business class seats, which were rather comfortable.

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As the train heads in to western Michigan the track speed is 110mph and we hit that speed for a good amount of time. This section of track in Michigan is the only portion of trackage that Amtrak owns outside of the Northeast Corridor. Penn Central sold it to Amtrak at the same time as they sold the Northeast Corridor. Recently Norfolk Southern sold the line into Dearborn to Amtrak and eventually the infrastructure will be upgraded to handle faster trains.

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We arrived at Chicago Union Station right on time.

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Dad and I walked around Chicago and had lunch at Lou Mitchell's.

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We headed back to Union Station where we boarded the Empire Builder, which would take us to Portland. We boarded our sleeper, which was the final car on the train. It was a remodeled Superliner I, which were built by Pullman-Standard between 1979 and 1981.

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We had a bedroom, which has two beds, one pulls down from the wall and the other folds out from the couch. The room also had a toilet, shower and a sink.

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We left Union Station right on time and headed out along our route which was to take us to Portland, Oregon. At some station stops they allow people off the train to stretch your legs, smoke, and get some fresh air. The stops weren’t long, so you couldn’t wonder far.

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I spent some time watching Wisconsin roll by in the lounge car.

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That evening we had a wonderful meal in the dining car. Both dad I enjoyed our crab cakes.



The last stop I got off at was Winona, Minnesota and then dad and I headed off to bed. It had been a long day. I had been up since 4am.

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By the time I woke up we were in North Dakota and Just as breakfast was about to be served we stopped in Minot. I hopped off the train to get a newspaper to read with breakfast. One of the neat things about dining on the train is that unless you have a party of four you will be eating with somebody else. I think this is cool because it allows you to meet new people.

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The train moved on across North Dakota and there was a lot of land to see.

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By lunch time we were in Montana and there was a lot to see there too.

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There was lots of neat junk next to the railroad tracks

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The stop in Shelby, Montana was a long one; 40 minutes. I spotted this dump of a bar across the street from the station and headed in for some beers. The locals in the place were shocked somebody from the train stopped in the place. The train stops every day, but they said nobody ever comes in. They insisted I take their photo so I could remember them.

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There was some good train watching in Shelby too.

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We continued across Montana and dinner was served just before we headed into Glacier National Park and headed up Marias pass.

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The views were stunning.

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The next stop to get off was in Whitefish, Montana and I was sure to check out the 1942 EMD NW-3 and the 1951 Kenworth “Bruck” that are displayed at the station.

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Not long after that Whitefish stop dad and I headed off to bed. During the night we stopped in Sandpoint, Idaho. We also stopped in Spokane, Washington, where the train spit, with one half going to Portland and the other half going to Seattle. Back in the pre Amtrak days the train split here, with one section staying on the Great Northern the heading on to the Spokane, Portland & Seattle. Dad and I woke up to beautiful views of the Columbia River for the trip into Portland.

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The diner left our section in Spokane, but we received a cold (but I heated it up) breakfast sandwich and some fruit. Dad and I both enjoyed it. We ate and drank coffee in the lounge car and watched the Columbia River roll by.

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We arrived into Portland 20 minutes late, which by Amtrak standards would be considered on time. Dad and I had a final destination of Seattle, but we wanted to ride on the Cascades Train from Portland so we got to Seattle in a roundabout fashion. Dad was going to be making a sales call in Seattle for some equipment on the Talgo equipment used on the Cascades so he wanted to see the equipment in action.

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We had lunch at Wilf’s, which is at the station

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We walked around town for a bit .

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Dad chilled out in the Business/sleeper class lounge and did some work.

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I went and had some beer at Pint’s Brewery which is a couple blocks from the station.

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We boarded the Cascades for our strip to Seattle.

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The Business class coach was nice, but it is no match for a Superliner or even a Horizon Fleet car. The Talgo train is very light and rides poorly, plus the “bistro” car had a flat spot in the wheel and you could hear and feel it the entire trip to Seattle.

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The scenery was fantastic.

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We arrived in Seattle about 30 minutes late. The train had to stop because some people were out wondering the track and we had to wait for the police to clear them away.

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Once we arrived in Seattle we took a cab to our hotel, the Best Western at Pioneer Square. Dad and I went and grabbed dinner and had some beers. I think we slept like a couple of rocks. It was nice to sleep in a large bed after two nights on the train.

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We had a great breakfast at the hotel the next morning and were met by our friend, from St. Louis, who now lives in Tacoma. We drove around and checked out a couple of closed Rainier breweries; One the original Century Brewery which operated from 1933 to 1999 and the original Rainier Brewery (Seattle Brewing & Malting) 1883-1937.

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We headed off to the Museum of Flight which is a must visit for any airplane buff.

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The plane watching was pretty good.

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We then headed down to Tumwater to see the two closed Olympia Breweries. The “new” brewery closed in 2003. I drank a lot of beer that came out of here back in the 90s.

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Of course no trip to the area is complete without seeing somebody protesting something.

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We did a little rail fanning in Tacoma.

My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
 
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falstaff
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sun May 01, 2016 9:33 pm

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We had a nice dinner, on the water, in Tacoma.

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The next day dad and I took a boat ride around the city, which was very cool.

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The plane watching was pretty good too.

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We went and picked up a rental car and drove around town for a while.

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falstaff
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sun May 01, 2016 9:40 pm

We checked out of our hotel near Pioneer square and went to the Hampton Inn near SEA. Dad was staying in the area for two more days so he could make some sales calls and I had to be at SEA for my flight back to DTW early in the morning. Dad’s business contacts were near SEA so that hotel was good for him. That evening we met our buddy for dinner at Salty’s at Redondo Beach.

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The next morning I took the hotel’s bus to SEA. I arrived at the airport at 6am and it was a mad house. The line for the TSA checkpoint was as long as I ever saw one. I would have liked to have taken a later flight, but AS only has one flight per day to DTW and it was way cheaper than DL, so I sucked it up and went early.

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I have to hand it to the TSA because they got us through that long line in no time. I wondered around the airport looking at planes.

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I found my gate and it looked like it was going to be a full flight back to DTW.

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We boarded right on schedule and pushed back right on time.

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The seats weren't too bad...



I was in the very last row and there was only one unoccupied seat on the plane and it was next to me. YES!

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I sat back, relaxed and read the latest issue of Airways cover to cover. The flight went by rather quickly and in no time I was back at DTW and ready to head back to work the next morning. I enjoyed the train trip very much and am thinking about riding the California Zephyr next year and flying back. It should be a great time.

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jeffrey1970
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 2:52 am

Was the food on Amtrak as good as they looked. I thought the pancakes looked wonderful. What was you favorite? Where are the pictures of your flight to DTW?
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
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mh330fc
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 6:24 am

I really enjoyed your report. I took a journey to a city I've not seen in person as I read your report.
Amtrak seems to be a very good product. It must be awesome looking out those large windows, facing directly outwards and drinking tea whilst reading your newspaper.   What a way to spend your time!

I think the slimline Recaro seats on Alaska is better than the European ones as they have adjustable headrests.

Thank you again for a very enjoyable report.
 
seat38a
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 6:48 am

Great report. We took the PDX portion of the Empire Builder last year going East. Seems West Bound is better for getting a better view of Glacier without having to wake up early.
 
jeffrey1970
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 12:20 pm

How was the food on Alaska Airlines?
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
SaschaYHZ
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 12:48 pm

I also really enjoy rail, however in Canada, and especially Atlantic Canada, rail is going the way of the Dodo. Very nice TR!
 
seat38a
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 1:58 pm

How was the door opening and closing noise on the Talgo? Looks like you were on the newer Oregon Talgos. I was on the older ones from SEA to PDX and the automatic door opening and closing noise was WAY WAY TOO loud.
 
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falstaff
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 02, 2016 6:47 pm

Quoting seat38a (Reply 8):
How was the door opening and closing noise on the Talgo?

I didn't notice... Everything would have been quite compared to the wheel with a flat spot in it.

Quoting jeffrey1970 (Reply 6):
How was the food on Alaska Airlines?

you're looking at the food I got; cookies. They tasted good.

Quoting seat38a (Reply 5):
Seems West Bound is better for getting a better view of Glacier without having to wake up early.

That is the reason I chose the westbound trip.

Quoting mh330fc (Reply 4):
facing directly outwards and drinking tea whilst reading your newspaper.

That is very nice. The lounge car is a great place to watch the country go by.

Quoting mh330fc (Reply 4):
I think the slimline Recaro seats on Alaska is better than the European ones as they have adjustable headrests.


I like those too. The headrests are great.

Quoting jeffrey1970 (Reply 3):
Where are the pictures of your flight to DTW?

They are toward the bottom?

Quoting jeffrey1970 (Reply 3):
I thought the pancakes looked wonderful. What was you favorite?

The food was rather good. I liked everything. The crab cakes and the steak were both very good. I ordered my steak rare and it was cooked that way. Too often I order a rare steak and it's too done for my tastes.

Quoting jeffrey1970 (Reply 3):
I thought the pancakes looked wonderful

They were good.
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threeifbyair
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Tue May 03, 2016 2:59 am

Glad you enjoyed your trip to my hometown!

I was back visiting at the same time - nice when the weather cooperates a little. I always recommend a boat tour or ferry ride for visitors who are visiting when the weather is decent. Fun way to see the sights from a different perspective.

Quoting falstaff (Thread starter):
I found my gate and it looked like it was going to be a full flight back to DTW.

That gate (D4) in particular gets rather crowded - the hold room was not designed for ~160 people. SEA in general is overcrowded now - security lines, bathrooms, gate areas.
 
lychemsa
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Tue May 03, 2016 4:30 pm

Wow looks fantastic.

I want to visit Glacier Park.
 
flymia
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Wed May 04, 2016 9:39 pm

Great report. A 2-3 day Amtrak trip is certainly on my to do list. I have done the auto train before a few times when I was a kid, really enjoyed the overnight trip. Would love to do it up north some time.
"It was just four of us on the flight deck, trying to do our job" (Captain Al Haynes)
 
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KLASM83
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Wed May 04, 2016 11:07 pm

Love the report! My two favorite modes of travel, Amtrak and plane. Lived in NoDak for 8 years, so it was surreal to see pictures of the Minot Daily News and such.

The Michigan service trains seem to be getting better, it seems, in terms of speed. Can't wait for the new passenger cars to arrive.
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tb727
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Wed May 04, 2016 11:52 pm

Quoting falstaff (Thread starter):
There has been a new Amtrak Station in Dearborn for a couple of years now and it is light years ahead of the old station.

Wow you can say that again, Ann Arbor's station is terrible! I've passed DER a few times just catching a ride to Detroit or Birmingham on the train and didn't know it was that nice!
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UltimateDelta
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Thu May 05, 2016 3:52 am

Great report! I rode a section of the California Zephyr last spring and the whole experience was similarly awesome- it's definitely worth your time!
Midwest Airlines- 1984-2010
 
DeltaRules
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Thu May 05, 2016 1:57 pm

Nice TR! How does the train split at Spokane work? Do they assign cabins/seats in cars based on destination and literally split the cars based upon that?

Also, what's shown on what appears to be a flip-down video screen on the Portland-Seattle train? A rail version of Airshow?
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petera380
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Fri May 06, 2016 5:26 pm

Hello, great trip report! One question, what's the name of the App that showed speed, GPS etc? Would love to know! Thanks.
 
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falstaff
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sat May 07, 2016 6:40 pm

Quoting DeltaRules (Reply 16):
How does the train split at Spokane work? Do they assign cabins/seats in cars based on destination and literally split the cars based upon that?

It happened in the early morning hours and I was sleeping so I didn't witness it. Basically the train splits in two. The Portland sleeper is on one end of the train while the Seattle sleeper is on the other end. Coach riders are assigned a coach based on destination. The Seattle section keeps the diner, while the Portland section keeps the lounge. The train split here even in the days before Amtrak.

Quoting DeltaRules (Reply 16):
Also, what's shown on what appears to be a flip-down video screen on the Portland-Seattle train? A rail version of Airshow?

I think it shows location, speed and next stop, but It wasn't working properly so I don't really know.

Quoting petera380 (Reply 17):
Hello, great trip report! One question, what's the name of the App that showed speed, GPS etc? Would love to know! Thanks.

It is a speedometer app called Ulysse Speedometer. It works great.

Quoting tb727 (Reply 14):
Ann Arbor's station is terrible!

The Ann Arbor station is disgraceful for such a nice city. The original Michigan Central Station is very neat.
My mug slaketh over on Falstaff N503
 
reifel
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sun May 08, 2016 6:28 pm

Great report. It's more train related than plane, but I find it actually cool. What a great way of travelling! All kind of travels are great, but train especially so.
 
KPWMSpotter
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Sun May 08, 2016 10:13 pm

Wow, that looks familiar! Based on the date on the newspaper, I made the exact same trip on the Builder ten days before you did. Always great to see an Amtrak TR here.

I rode CHI-PDX-LAX, connecting to the Coast Starlight. If you haven't done the Starlight before, I highly recommend it, the scenery is spectacular (although I would try to do it Northbound, since most of the Cascades range was in darkness southbound).
I reject your reality and substitute my own...
 
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allrite
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Mon May 09, 2016 3:25 am

Always enjoy seeing some railway action here and your report was no exception.

Quoting falstaff (Thread starter):
The stop in Shelby, Montana was a long one; 40 minutes. I spotted this dump of a bar across the street from the station and headed in for some beers. The locals in the place were shocked somebody from the train stopped in the place. The train stops every day, but they said nobody ever comes in. They insisted I take their photo so I could remember them.

Part of an ideal train adventure should be stopping off in tiny places. Sadly, with so little passenger traffic it's not something most small towns can rely upon.
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rockyracoon
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RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Fri May 13, 2016 12:03 am

Interesting report. Thank you for posting, it was an enjoyable read.

Quoting falstaff (Thread starter):
As the train heads in to western Michigan the track speed is 110mph and we hit that speed for a good amount of time. This section of track in Michigan is the only portion of trackage that Amtrak owns outside of the Northeast Corridor. Penn Central sold it to Amtrak at the same time as they sold the Northeast Corridor. Recently Norfolk Southern sold the line into Dearborn to Amtrak and eventually the infrastructure will be upgraded to handle faster trains.

Really surprised to learn this! Very cool, I would have never expected speeds exceeded 80ish mph.
Airports I've flown from: CVG PIT DAY JAX MWO PHL PHX ORD DCA IAD MIA TPA MCO FLL ATL DTW DFW SJC LAX DEN SLC LAS HNL LIH OGG YVR GYE MUC ICN NRT PVG SHA SZX MNL PPS CRK BKK DMK KBV EOH MDE CLO CTG SMR BOG ACD MEX CUN MID MGA AUA SAL RTB
 
KDTWflyer
Posts: 825
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2004 12:51 pm

RE: Amtrak/Alaska, DER-CHI-PDX-SEA-DTW, 3-29/4-3

Fri May 13, 2016 5:28 am

Nice TR. I like the 737Max pic you snagged and nice to see a trip report that involves DTW. I too would like to take the Empire Builder someday; that looks like a really great way to go out west. I remember taking the Wolverine a few years ago and was impressed by the 110MPH segment!

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