Christmas Train: Seattle to Chicago Pt 1

First I want to say thanks for all the lovely comments on my post about my Grandma.  The funeral was beautiful and I had a wonderful (although short) time with my parents, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I feel a bit strange saying it was a great trip, but it was. We celebrated my Gram and reconnected with each other. There was joy because she is finally reunited with the love of her life and we were all happy that her suffering is over.

It seems like ages ago that we took our little train adventure at Christmas.  This is the first of four posts documenting our little adventure.  Warning, lots of photos ahead.

December 21st


Our adventure begins.  We took a towncar from our home in the suburbs down to the King St Station located just across from Qwest Century Link Field.


The Station is currently being restored… and by currently I mean over the past few years.  The entry way (on the right) has been completed and looks fabulous.


There is something I love about the tall benches in train stations.  As you can see the waiting area hasn’t been restored yet.  In the upper right photo you can see that previous “renovations” to the station included installing a drop ceiling with fluorescent lighting- *shutter*.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that they renovate this area soon. It has so much potential.


On the left is some of the restored mosaic work in the entry way. When we arrived we still weren’t yet in the Christmas spirit.  This natural Pacific Northwest Christmas tree helped us start to feel a little more in the mood.


All Aboard!   The Empire Builder is a double decker train and our Sleeping car was towards the front of the train.  On the right Patrick, our Kick A$$ Sleeping Car Attendant, checks our boarding passes and directs us to our room.  We really lucked out with Patrick.  He was such an awesome guy he really made our Eastbound trip awesome.


We made our way up the teeny tiny stairway to our roomette.  This photo doesn’t show scale well but the stairs are only about 1.25 people wide. Its impossible for someone to go downstairs while someone is going upstairs.


The hall ways are similarly sized.  On the train there is a lot turn taking when it comes to traveling the hallways and stairs.  Our room was located near the stairs.  At the top of the stairs was a coffee station and containers of orange juice and cranberry cocktail. Across the hall from our room was Patrick’s base of operations.  That room happened to be right next to the bathroom so it was a good place to store extra sheets, pillows, blankets, cases of bottled water, ice, chocolates and the like.  Patrick instructed us to help ourselves to whatever we wanted.


Ok, I warned you guys that our roomette was cozy and it was- but it worked out really well for us.  Before we got moving we snapped these photos of each other. Matt’s seat had the electrical socket (only 1- but we knew that and packed a travel power-strip) and the heat controls.  My seat had the light controls for the room.


On the left is a view from the hallway into our roomette. For most of the trip we kept our sliding door and curtains (into the hallway) open.  We were friendly with folks as they walked by and it kept the room from feeling too small. We walked past lots of rooms that were all closed up… doesn’t make sense to me.  By the time we departed the train station in Seattle it was 5pmn which in the pacific NW means its getting dark.  By the time we left the station at Everett and headed east towards the Cascade Mountains it was completely dark.


After departing Seattle Patrick came around and offered us 2 splits of Champaign.  Don’t mind if we do.  He also let us know there were extra’s in the cooler across the hallway from us.  We *might* have enjoyed a couple more splits later in the evening.


The dining car takes dinner reservations.  Sleeper car guests are given first choice of times.  We enjoyed dinner with two other travelers.  Its similar to meals on a cruise ship, you eat with different people every meal. The lady on the left was a coach passenger who was just making the 3 hr trip over the mountains to Wenatchee, WA to spend the holiday with her daughter. The gentleman on the right started off in Vancouver BC and was headed to Ontario.


After dinner we retired to the room to hang out a little before Patrick made up our beds.  The two seats come together in the middle to form the lower bunk and the top bunk pulls down from the bulked.  In the photo on the right you can see the top bunk, even though it isn’t pulled down.  The bottom bunk is definitely more comfortable than the top one.  You feel the sway of the top bunk much more and it also gets a wee bit warm up there.  After our first night on the train we figured out how to close the heating vent at night and we slept a lot better.

December 22nd – morning

We work up bright and early the next day.  We were set to pull into Glacier National Park around 8 AM and we wanted to shower and have breakfast before that.  The shower/changing room is located just downstairs from our room.


The changing area, as seen in the photos above, has a mirror, fresh towels, linen hamper, and a seat.  What it doesn’t have is an electrical outlet so I opted to do my hair in the upstairs bathroom where I could plug in my hairdryer and flattening iron.


The shower stall is actually pretty roomy. It too has a seat in it and the shower is a pump shower.   After finally figuring out how to get hot water I took a quick shower, being careful to conserve water.  The shower itself was a great core workout.  The side to side swaying of the train made balancing while shampooing my hair a little tricky- perhaps that is why people sit on the seat.


We were in need of some coffee, after not sleeping very well the night before.  Breakfast It was dark when we sat down to breakfast in the dining car, but was starting to get light when we left and made our way to the sightseeing/lounge car.


The Sightseeing car has large glass windows that extend up onto the ceiling.  It has a variety of seating, mostly oriented towards looking out the beautiful windows.  By the time we arrived it was already starting to fill up as we made our way into Glacier National Park.

IMGP6279A little fun tidbit- the sightseeing car is the only place on the train where Coach passengers can drink alcohol.  So, as we found out at 7am some of the people you sit next to might be drunk.  One gentleman we sat next to opened his suitcase next to me to pour himself more from a large bottle of rum and there were 2 additional bottles in the suitcase. Oh my.  Sleeping car passengers can drink in their rooms.


Despite our encounters with the early morning drunks Glacier was spectacular.  It was just starting to get light so photos were difficult to capture but we spent a good hour or more captivated by the scenery.

Up next the second half of our Eastbound trip.



Filed under We Travel

3 responses to “Christmas Train: Seattle to Chicago Pt 1

  1. How fun! I’ve always loved trains (much prefer them over air travel) and have dreamed of taking an overnight train trip. This post makes me want to go even more, and your experience looks like it was a lot more fun than SATC made it out to be!

  2. Pingback: Christmas Train: Seattle to Chicago Pt 2 | Parker Haus Roles

  3. Pingback: Christmas Train: Chicago to Seattle | Parker Haus Roles

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