US Railway Travelogue – Episode 6: USRAIL006

Episode 6 is part 1 of the Portland to Chicago leg of Tim Davies’ journey across the USA on the iconic Amtrak trains – for this part of the journey using the Empire Builder train.

Map to show the Amtrak western long distance routes – Red lines indicate daytime travel, Blue lines night time. Credit: Amtrak website.
Logo of Empire Builder train. Credit: Amtrak website.
Route of the Empire Builder train. Credit: Amtrak website.

This episode of the USA Railway Travelogue begins with Tim arriving at Portland station by taxi.

Name and address plate on the side of Portland’s Union Station. Credit: Tim Davies.
Union Station Portland. Credit: Cachophony. (via CC BY-SA-2.5).
Union Station Portland. Credit: Tim Davies.
Union Station Tower. Credit: Tim Davies.
Portland Station in 1913: not much has changed, apart from the cars. Credit: unknown (Public Domain).
Main concourse, Portland Union Station. Credit: Tim Davies.
Main Concourse, Portland Union Station. Credit: Tim Davies.
Ceiling detail, from the concourse at Portland Union Station. Credit: Tim Davies.

Tim waits for the portion of Empire Builder train to be ready, before boarding to find his luxury ‘roomette’.

Empire Builder – waiting for passengers at Portland. Credit: Tim Davies.
Empire Builder locomotive at Portland. Credit: Tim Davies.
Empire Builder – waiting for passengers at Portland. Credit: Tim Davies.
The seat in Tim’s Superliner Roomette. This, with the seat opposite, converts into the lower bed. The grey coloured shelf (lower left) is just big enough to stand a cabin bag on. Credit: Tim Davies.

The first stage of the this leg is between Portland and Vancouver (Washington), and a fairly industrial area.

Between Portland and Vancouver (Washington). Credit: Tim Davies.
Crossing the Willamette River. Credit: Tim Davies.
Across the Willamette. Credit: Tim Davies.
Oil tanker trucks in the siding between Portland and Vancouver, Washington. Credit: Tim Davies.
Crossing BNSF Bridge 9.6 – opened in 1908. Credit: Tim Davies.
Looking forwards from the front carriage of the train, over the locomotive. The seal wasn’t perfect, and there was a smell of diesel. Credit: Tim Davies.
The historic Arndt Prune Dryer (built around 1898) near Ridgefield in Washington State. Listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. Credit: Ian Poellet. (Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0)

The first stop of this leg of the journey is Vancouver, in Washington State.

Vancouver (Washington) railway station. The unique two sided station feature a ‘wye’ – see map section. Credit: jill, jellidonut… whatever (Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 2.0)
Map of Vancouver (Washington) Station, by OpenStreetMap, under Open Database License (ODbL) under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0.

The train passes along the Columbia River for much of this stage of the trip, and through the Columbia Gorge.

Columbia River in the rain – clouds hiding the mountain. Raindrops on the train window, and sadly, the reflection from the upper windows. Credit: Tim Davies.
Columbia River in the rain – clouds hiding the mountains. Credit: Tim Davies.
Columbia River. Rain stopped, clouds breaking. Credit: Tim Davies.
Columbia Gorge east towards the Dalles. Credit: Spenmac. Public Domain.
Columbia Gorge from the Cape Horn trail facing East towards Beacon Rock. Credit: etliebe. Public Domain.

As with other stages of the trip, Tim talks to fellow passengers to find out why they are taking the train, rather than other forms of transport.

En route, the train passes a number of water falls, and the Bonneville Dam.

Multnomah Falls, showing both the upper and lower falls. This is Oregon’s tallest waterfall. Credit: John Fowler (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0)
Bonneville Dam spillway. Credit: Walter Siegmund. (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)
Fish ladder at Bonneville Dam. Credit: Eric Guinther (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0).

The mountains en route are stunning.

Mount Hood. Credit: JoJoes123 at English Wikipedia (Creative Commons CC BY 3.0).
Mount Adams. Credit: Walter Siegmund (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

The next stop on the line is a non-staffed station – Bingen White Salmon Station – 60 miles East of Portland.

Bingen White Salmon Amtrak Station. Credit: Hikki Nagasaki (Public Domain).

Continuing on, the train passes a cargo vessel on the Columbia River with a difference – one with a stern paddle wheel.

Stern paddle wheel boat on the Columbia River. Credit: Tim Davies.
Memaloose Island from Highway 84. Credit: NS.Nature.Pictures (Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Dalles Dam with Lake Celilo. Credit: Unknown. Public Domain.

The train stops at Wishram Station.

Passenger leaving the Empire Builder at Wishram – this conductor was on Tim’s train! Credit: Williamborg (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).
Mary Hill Museum. Credit: Cacophony. (Creative Commons CC BY 3.0)
John Day Dam – the ‘lift’ from the lock is the largest in the US at 110 feet. Credit: USACE, via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Next stop is Pasco Railway Station, opened in 1998.

Pasco Railway Station. Credit: Allen4names, Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.

The rain has gone, as the sun sets – from the Empire Builder over the Columbia River – at the end of part one of the Portland to Chicago leg of Tim’s journey.

Sunset over the Columbia River. Credit: Tim Davies.

Music credits:

Theme: “Steam Railway”, AK012, Composer: Kimber-McTiffen; Track Number 1, Royalty Free from “The Special Interest Video Selection“; (AKM Music);

“The Chrysanthemum”, composed by Scott Joplin, performed by Gerluz, from MusOpen, (available via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 )

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