The Empire Builder as entertainment

People who turned out at Union Depot in St. Paul last night for the first passenger train to stop at the renovated station had to wait. The Empire Builder was late.

Judging from this Pioneer Press video today, railroad buffs, a few reporters, and a couple of officials far outnumbered people getting on or off.

While the train is envisioned as an integral part of a transportation infrastructure, for many people it’s entertainment.

MPR News’ Matt Sepic reported that among the passengers getting off the train last night, was a woman who flew to Chicago, just to ride the train back to St. Paul.

“It was fun to be on the train and so relaxing to just glide along and look at the countryside and not have to worry about driving, not the headache of flying,” Nancy Anderson told Sepic. “Just get on the train and go.”

By the way, the Empire Builder going east is expected to be really late today into St. Paul.

  • MrE85

    Why the big hang-up on time, man? Didn’t you see the scene in “Easy Rider” where Fonda and Hooper throw away their watches? That’s what an Amtrak rider does. 😉

    • If I were running drugs, I would TOTALLY do it by Amtrak.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        I’d be careful if I were you. 8^)
        The route I take to NY is regularly visited by ICE and the local constabulary looking people planning to jump the border at Buffalo. When I was taking the trip more frequently a few years ago it happened 3 trips in a row. Twice they got on in Rochester NY and got off in Buffalo with people and sometimes luggage in tow.

      • Jim G

        The trains would all be running on time if the Germans had won WWII. However, the cattle cars would be filled to capacity on the trips to camps with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” emblazoned over the entrance. We can count our blessings that we’re living in this timeline.

  • Jeff C.

    Twice I went to Chicago for a conference and took Amtrak. The train was on-time and arrived in Chicago in the late afternoon – perfect for checking in to my hotel, getting dinner, and then getting a good night’s sleep. The conference ended at noon and the train left a couple of hours later — again, perfect timing. Again, the train was on-time. If the train was reliable and as affordable as it is in Europe, I’d be going to Chicago much more often. Instead, when I go there with my wife and kids, we drive so we can leave at a convenient time and we spend way less on gas than the train tickets run.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    From my perspective this is a shame. I have met people who are on the train because flying is no longer an option. In some cases it is a fear of flying/anxiety issue, in others it is related to being stuck in a seat for an extended period of time. The train allows them to get up and move around if needed. For those people the train is not entertainment. It is a way to get from where they are to where they need to go.