Amtrak Empire Builder
Older but more detailed Route Guide of travel on the Amtrak Empire Builder.
You may want to print this out and take it with you on your trip. Amtrak no
longer provides a Route Guide that is this detailed. As far as I know, the
only place to get this older version of this Route Guide is on the Internet
World Wide Web at "http://trainweb.com". Most of the scenery described here
is still accurate, but the other information about the Empire Builder and
the onboard services could be out of date.
* Seattle/Portland * Spokane
* St.Paul-Minneapolis * Chicago
You're traveling on board Amtrak's® Superliner® train -- the
Empire Builder. On this route, you'll be traveling between Seattle or
Portland and Chicago, by way of Spokane, St. Paul -- Minneapolis and the
great northern plains.
While on board, you'll be experiencing the utmost in train travel, along
with some of the country's most exciting and colorful sights: the Cascade
Mountains or the Columbia River Gorge; ancient Indian burial grounds;
Glacier National Park; the Mississippi River; ranches, towns and forts
right out of history.
Amtrak and your crew are proud to host you on board. We'll do everything
we can to ensure you enjoy your trip. If you have any questions, please
don't hesitate to ask your Attendant or On-Board Service Chief.
The Fun Starts Here!
The Empire Builder features on-board activities the whole family will enjoy.
Listen for announcements for the specific time and location of activities,
and most of all -- have fun!
Movies in the Sightseer Lounge Car and other videos, including
features for children during summer months, will be shown.
Join fellow passengers in the Lounge Car for drinks and complimentary
snacks, and don't forget to ask about regional specialties.
are usually conducted during the trip. Small prizes will be awarded.
Listen for announcements for time and location.
Stretch Your Legs.
The Empire Builder stops in Havre, Minot and St. Paul-Minneapolis so
the train can be serviced, refueled and washed. This is your opportunity to
explore the station. Please do not leave the station platform area, and
return to the train as soon as the departure announcement is made.
Meet the Crew That Makes the Magic Happen!
The Conductor is in charge of all crew members aboard, and is
responsible for the collection of tickets and the safe operation of the
train. The Chief of On-Board Service supervises the on-board service
crew, and oversees the quality of service.
Enjoy On-Board Accommodations
That Pamper and Please!
Roomy Coach Seats.
Your Coach Attendant will see to your needs. Since your seat is
assigned for the length of your journey, please do not change without
first consulting a crew member.
Private Sleeping Compartments.
Your Sleeping Car Attendant will prepare your room for daytime or
nighttime use, provide wake-up calls and bring the morning paper and
beverages. Individual speakers bring you recorded music on Channels 2 or 3,
and train announcements on Channels 1 and 2. Simply turn the channel
selector near the reading light. First Class passengers also receive
complimentary meals in the Dining Car*.
Economy, Family, Special and Deluxe bedrooms are available. Special bedrooms
have a private bathroom and Deluxe have private baths with shower. Sleeping
accommodations may be purchased on board from the Conductor if space is
Dining Car Service.*
The Dining Car features complete meals in a comfortable setting. Major
credit cards are accepted. Consult your sample menu for selections and
prices. Sorry, there is no smoking in the Dining Car. A crew member will
contact you if dinner reservations are necessary.
Spectacular Sightseer Lounge Car**
Enjoy the magnificent scenery from our large picture windows, and don't
forget the sandwiches, snacks and beverages available for purchase at the
Cafe Bar. You can also purchase souvenir playing cards, post cards and
blankets. Lounge Car hours are generally from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight.
Smoking is permitted in the Lounge between Spokane and Chicago.
**The Sightseer Lounge Car does not operate between Seattle and Spokane.
Snacks and beverages are available for carryout (to your seat) in the
*The Dining Car does not operate between Portland and Spokane -- a boxed
meal is served in your first class sleeping accommodation, or light meal
service is available through the Lounge Car.
Scenic Photo Tips
SCENIC SPOTS: Your train passes many beautiful and interesting
sights. The "camera" symbol on your Route Guide Map marks the best spots,
so have your camera ready!
OUTSIDE SHOTS: Medium-speed films (ASA 200 or higher) are recommended
for shooting scenery through the train windows. If your shutter speed is
adjustable and light conditions permit, set it at a higher speed (1/125 or
1/250 sec.) for the clearest results. Hold your lens close to the window to
eliminate glare and reflections.
INSIDE SHOTS: Flash is recommended. To avoid glare and reflections,
do not point the flash directly at the windows.
Just a few generations ago, the route of the Empire Builder was wilderness,
roamed by Indians and buffalo. Later, it was visited by fur traders and gold
miners. And still later, it was developed by merchants, timberman, farmers
and -- most dramatically -- by railroads.
In this norhtern plains country, the greatest railroader of all was
James J. Hill, a freewheeling, big-dealing tycoon who linked St. Paul and
Seattle with his Great Northern Railway. He acquired the land, built the
tracks and even encouraged home-steading along the route. In the process,
"Empire Builder" Hill came to govern the fate and fortunes of a good part
of this powerfully beautiful area.
Today, Amtrak's Empire Builder follows the Soo Line between Chicago and
St. Paul. Then it travels the Burlington Northern route to Spokane, where
the train splits, with one section going westward to Seattle and the other
section going south-westward along the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle
Railroad to Portland for direct connections to California.
This guide is written from west to east, noting how many
minutes past the previous Amtrak station you can expect to see a
particular sight and whether you should look right or left. The first
time reference tells you how far that point is from the station to the
west, and the second time, how far it is to the Amtrak stop to the east.
If you are traveling westward, just begin at Chicago or your point of
origin and read the entries in reverse order. Remember to look left when
we've indicated to look right, and right when we've indicated to look left.
Note that all AMTRAK STATIONS are indicated in capital letters to set
them apart from towns and regions through which the Empire Builder
travels but makes no stop. Use this guide along with an Amtrak timetable to
determine station times. All times in this guide are approximate.
* Seattle *
A mile-long tunnel under hilly downtown leads us from King Street Station.
The Space Needle, symbol of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, is on the right.
At Pier 69, on the left, ships depart daily cruising to Victoria, B.C.
Pier 70, the largest restored wooden building in the country, now houses
40 shops and restaurants, and is connected to downtown by a trolly which
runs adjacent to the Empire Builder tracks.
At this point, the route crosses the Salmon Bay Inlet. Shilshole Bay,
Lake Union, Portage Bay and Union Bay form a waterwway to reach Seattle's
magnificent Lake Washington. The Chittenden Locks on the right allow access
to eastern lake ports. The statue on the left is Leif Ericson, the Norse
explorer thought to have "discovered" America before Columbus.
You'll find Edmonds' Old Milltown Shopping Arcade in the turn-of-the-century
Ford garage. The train stops next to the dock for ferries to Kingston on
the Olympic Peninsula.
The train skirts Puget Sound for the next 15 miles. You can see the islands
that dot the sound, including Whidbey Island and Bainbridge Island, which
are connected to the mainland by ferries.
EVERETT Everett has been a popular port since its beginning and is
known for its fishing fleet and lumber. Before the railroads linked these
forests with the eastern states, Washington sawmills were already shipping
boatloads of lumber to China, Austrailia and South America. The city's
other claim to fame is more recent, the Boeing 747/767 assembly plant is
located here. You might even see test planes overhead.
Skykomish (1:15 Min./1:45 Min) As the train follows the Skykomish
River, you can see Washington's famous pine and fir forests. In this area
are the prospector's Money Creek, Indian Falls, chute-shaped Sunset Falls,
Table Rock and Index Mountain.
Cacade Mountains For the 65 miles east of Everett, the tracks have
been climbing more than 2,800 feet. The best way to get through this
spectacular mountain range is to go under it -- which you can, thanks to
the 7.79 mile Cascade Tunnel, bored under Stevens Pass 500 feet overhead
and 4,061 feet above sea level. The tunnel, the longest in the Western
Hemisphere, was completed in 1929.
Icicle Canyon (1:45 Min./1:10 Min.) Look closely and you might see
goats on the hillsides; and elk, beaver and deer in the marshes. The train
is now descending more than 100 feet for every mile of forward progress.
Leavenworth (2:30 Min./20 Min.) The terrain changes from dramatic
to gentle as the Empire Builder concludes its steep descent from ski country.
The train starts to follow the Wenatchee River into rich farmlands.
WENATCHEE The "Apple Capital of the World" grows more than 15% of
the nation's apple crop.
Columbia Basin About 10 million years ago, lava oozed out of the
earth's crust here and covered the surrounding ancient mountains. The lava,
in some places more than a mile thick, eventually cooled and became the
largest lava basin in the country -- and today, rich and fertile farmlands
due to modern irrigation. During the night, the train stops at
EPHRATA and SPOKANE.
* Portland *
PORTLAND The Chinook Indians were the first to use the site of
Portland as a port. It is said that homesick New England settlers flipped
a coin to choose between Portland (as in Maine) and Boston (as in
Massachusettes) for the name of their new city. Today, Portland, Oregon,
calls itself the "City of Roses; the cleanest, greenest, most beautiful
city in America." In the heart of the Columbia River basin, Portland was
the largest city in the Pacific Northwest when it incorporated in 1851.
With the completion of the railroad 30 years later, it became a supply
center for the Klondike.
Columbia River Draw Bridge Leaving Portland, the train crosses the
Willamette River, then a 1,516 ft. bridge over the Oregon Slough (a second
channel of the Columbia River) to reach Hayden Island. From the island, the
train crosses over this 2,806 ft. structure to enter Washington.
VANCOUVER was named for Captain George Vancouver, shipmate of
Captain Cook and commander of the British expedition to chart the
Northwest. Prune orchards and prune dryers are on both sides of the tracks.
To the north is Mt. St. Helens, nearly 10,000 ft. high, a volcano that was
inactive until 1980.
Cape Horn The railroad passes through the western-most rampart
of the Cascade Range through a 2,369 ft. long tunnel.
Beacon Rock (43 Min./39 Min.) On the left, named by explorers
Lewis and Clark, the 840 ft. 1,700 acre basaltic formation is said to
be second in size to Gibralter. The rock has been used as a guide by
river voyagers for decades and by Indians for centuries. On the Oregon
side of the river, several waterfalls are visible. The highest waterfall,
Multnomah Falls, cascades 620 feet to the Columbia River.
Bonneville Dam (48 Min./34 Min.) More than a half mile from end to
end, this dam is one of the government's greatest power and navigation
projects. In order to give salmon access to their breeding grounds,
engineers had to build "fish ladders" (terraced pools) between the river
level and the top of the dam. Salmon leap up the "ladder" to return to
the upper Columbia River to where they were born. As the train passes the
dam, you can look across to the beauty of Oregon. The mountains here are
from 2,000 to 5,000 feet in altitude.
Sheridan's Point/Ft. Rains (49 Min./33 Min.) An old block house
stands on a point of land that juts out near the upper Cascades (Point
Sheridan). In 1855, settlers and soldiers defended this trading area
from Indian attacks under the command of Lt. Phillip Sheridan who later
became the famous Civil War general.
Bridge of the Gods (51 Min./31 Min.) This bridge replaced a natural
rock bridge, which the Indians say was destroyed by their deity in anger
when his two sons argued over a young maiden. The two sons became Mt. Hood
and Mt. Adams. The maiden became Mt. St. Helens.
Stevenson (55 Min./27 Min.) Much of this area is national forests on
both sides of the river. Across the river is Cascade Locks. Watch the
railroad on the Oregon shore, you may spot Amtrak's® Pioneer
traveling the other direction via the Union Pacific tracks.
Cooks (1:10 Min./12 Min.) In minutes, you've traveled between rain
forest and desert. And here, as the railroad skirts the base of 2,500 ft.
high, cone-shaped WInd Mountain, you can see on the cliffs to the north,
one of the last lumber flumes (or chutes) in operation in North America.
This flume carried rough-cut lumber from above the rim of the Columbia
Gorge to a finishing mill located along the river bank.
Columbia Gorge The magnificent area you're traveling through is
the 55 mile long Columbia Gorge, formed by the incredible strength of the
Columbia River as it cuts through ancient lava rocks. Lewis and Clark
were the first white travelers to explore its southern tip. Settlers from
the east traveling the Oregon Trail tried to brave the rugged river, some
staying along its banks.
BINGEN-WHITE SALMON The two adjacent towns were named by immigrants
after Bingen, a beautiful town along the Rhine in Germany and the White
Salmon River. This is the center of extensive fruit orchards. Across the
water is the city of Hood River, Oregon, served by Amtrak's Pioneer.
Lyle (11 Min./24 Min.) A short distance west of Lyle are four
tunnels. Opposite the first tunnel is Memaloose Island, an ancient
Indian burial ground. At Lyle, the railway crosses the Kickitat River.
Mt. Hood The highest mountain in Oregon at 11,235 feet is one of
many peaks with perpetual glaciers and snow fields which mask the
Cascade Range across Oregon and Washigton.
Dalles Dam (28 Min./7 Min.) Dalles is the French word for "tough,"
and this area was so named because of the narrow and dangerous channel.
The 8,700 ft dam, which the Empire Builder follows for the next few minutes.
created Horsethief Lake used for fishing and recreation. The dam provides
the area with irrigation water, hydroelectric power and a reservoir for
Avery (33 Min./2 Min.) The Empire Builder travels on the water level
route through the Columbia River Gorge, one of several points on the route
where you can see Mt. Hood to the south.
WISHRAM Early explorers Lewis and Clark visited this area, named for
an ancient village where Indians gathered to trade for salmon. Today,
Wishram has one of the few remaining railroad beaneries in the country.
These foodstops, built and operated by the railroad, acquired a mystique
all their own.
Maryhill (10 Min./1:40 Min.) Near Maryhill is a 3-story, rectangular,
medieval-like structure called Maryhill Castle, filled with treasures from
Europe. On the hill north of the station is a memorial to the dead of
World War I, a replica of England's Stonehenge.
John Day Dam Constructed between 1959 and 1968 at a cost of $487
million, the dam is 5,900 feet in length, has 16 turbine generator units
with room for four more to be added later and will supply enough electric
power for three cities the size of Portland.
North McNary (1:10 Min./30 Min.) This town was named after Charles
L. McNary, a U.S. Senator from Oregon for more than 25 years.
PASCO Here in Pasco, Englishman David Thompson claimed the western
lands for Great Britain with a simple message tied to a pole. England's
claim didn't hold, and the United States finally took over the disputed
territory in 1846. The town's name is said to be an abbreviated version
of "Pacific Steamship Company." It is the farthest point up the Columbia
River that can be reached by seagoing ships. J.J. Hill's involvement with
the Canadian Pacific Railroad let to the development of the road along the
southern border, close to the U.S. border. The road allowed the railroad
to compete effectively with the Northern Pacific Railroad. Encouraging
colonization and settlement along the CPR route, he helped populate
the Canadian West.
* Spokane *
SPOKANE Spokane calls itself "Monarch of the Inland Empire" and
lies in the midst of country rich in productive farmlands, lumber and
mining. Railroading was responsible for much of the city's early growth.
Here the Empire Builder route (the Great Northern route from Seattle) is
joined by the Portland route at Spokane. During the night, the train
stops at SANDPOINT and LIBBY.
Note: Adjust your watches as you cross Pacific and Mountain Time
Zones. If you're traveling east, set your watch forward an hour. If you're
traveling west, set your watch back an hour.
Flathead Tunnel The 7-mile long Flathead Tunnel, 42 miles west of
Whitefish, is the second longest in the Western Hemisphere.
WHITEFISH The Alpine-style station serves as a reminder that nearby
is the popular Big Mountain ski resort. Located in the valley of Flathead
National Forest, with its great recreational activities, the town is
bordered by Whitefish Lakes.
BELTON -- WEST GLACIER is the western entrance to Glacier Park.
Snowfall here averages 100 - 200 inches per year.
ESSEX This small village features the quaint Izaak Walton Inn named
for the great English angler and author. We cross the Flathead River atop
a high trestle.
Marias Pass (30 Min/18 Min) The train route through Glacier Park
follows the "Mystery Pass" through the Rockies sought by Lewis and Clark,
and finally established by John Stevens in -40 degree weather. Stevens
found the route on a mission for the Great Northern Railway in 1889, and
is remembered in a statue on the left. As you cross the Continental Divide
here, you are traveling 5,216 feet above sea level, the lowest pass between
New Mexico and Canada. On the right at the summit is a monument to
President Theodore Roosevelt.
GLACIER PARK STATION Glacier Park Station, built in 1913, is near 50
"living" glaciers and 9,000 - 10,466 foot mountains. The impressive
timbered Glacier Park Lodge on the left, partially constructed from trees
estimated to be 600 years old, was built by the Great Northern Railway to
promote rail travel and to attract tourists to this beautiful area. We
cross the Two Medicine River atop a high trestle.
BROWNING Browning is the headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian
Reservation. On the right is the Blackfeet Indian Writing Co. where they
make ball point pens. Also here is the Museum of the Plains Indians.
CUT BANK 25 minutes west of Cut Bank, a monument to early
explorer Meriwether Lewis memorializes his search for a pass through the
Rockies. This area is most often noted for the coldest mid-winter
temperatures in the country. Just west of Cut Bank, you'll get your first
or last view of the Rockies. Sweetgrass Hills and the Canadian border,
25 miles to the north, can be seen from the train on the left.
SHELBY Thousands of spectators hired trains to get to Shelby's gala
World Heavyweight Championship fight between Jack Dempsey and Tom Gibbons
on July 4, 1923. Just days before the fight, Dempsey's manager, Doc Kearns,
cancelled the match. The spectators cancelled their plans. But at the last
minute, Kearns okayed the fight. Dempsey won -- in front of just 7,000
fans and 17,000 gate-crashers -- and Kearns slipped out of town with
$300,000 cash. As a result, no prize money was awarded, and four Montana
HAVRE An impressive, well-preserved Great Northern S-2 steam
locomotive is on display at the station. This is a service stop, so you
may have time to walk around a bit. Indians once drove buffalo off the
town's steep cliffs. Today, the cliffs provide a peaceful overlook. We
follow the Milk River from Havre to Glasgow.
Bear Paw Mountains (50 Min./18 Min.) In 1877, after a 1,700 mile
retreat, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians, recognizing the
hopelessness of his position, surrendered to the U.S. Army in the Bear Paw
Mountains (rear and to your right). Said Chief Joseph, "From where the sun
now stands, I will fight no more forever." Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation
and Little Rocky Mountains are to your right.
Wagner (1:10 Min./10 Min.) In 1901, Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid jumped the Great Northern's Oriental Limited. They blew up
the express car and got away with $68,000.
MALTA Malta was once the inspiration for famous western artist
Charles Russell. Today, ranching remains a thriving business here. Watch
for the Empire Builder headed in the opposite direction.
Saco Hot Springs (25 Min./35 Min.) Just outside of town, Nelso
Reservoir comes into view on the left and Bowdoin National Wildlife
Refuge appears on the right. The white boxes in the fields are for
non-stinging leaf cutter bees, bred to double alfalfa seed production.
GLASGOW The large "G" on the hillside on the left stands for "Glasgow",
the center of an area rich in dinosaur bones. The Ft. Peck Museum displays
various fossils found in the region.
Ft. Peck Dam (15 Min./36 Min.) Marked by high-tension lines across
the valley, this earth-filled dam is 250-ft. high and stretches four miles
across the Missouri River. Built in 1940, the dam creates a 383 square mile
lake within the Great Planes. Enter Ft. Peck Indian Reservation.
WOLF POINT The wolf sculpture on the right memorializes this town's
major frontier-era role in wolf trapping and trading. Today, Wolf Point is
the site for the grand-daddy of Montana rodeos -- the Wild Horse Stampede.
The railroad crosses the Poplar River twenty minutes later.
Culbertson (35 Min./50 Min.) Five minutes west of Culbertson across
Big Muddy Creek, is the eastern border of the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation.
Chief Sitting Bull lived here after surrendering.
Ft. Union (60 Min./15 Min.) The train crosses Montana for 675 miles.
There are four times as many cattle here as people and twice as many sheep.
Follow the Missouri Breaks along the Missouri River.
Note: Adjust your watches as you cross Mountain and Central Time
Zones. If you're traveling east, set your watch forward an hour. If you're
traveling west, set your watch back an hour.
Ft. Buford (1:05 Min./10 Min.) Here Chief Stitting Bull surrendered
after the Battle of Little Big Horn. You can still see the fort's stone
powder magazine, cemetery and officers' quarters.
WILLISTON At the hub of the Wiliston Oil Basin, Williston, on
Lake Sakakawea's west end, is in North Dakota's rich oil country. Oil was
discovered in this area in the 1950s, and there are many wells along the
Empire Builder's route.
STANLEY This small town is known for its grain and livestock
production and its Mountrail County Courthouse.
MINOT West of Minot, the train crosses the Gassman Coulee on a
high-level steel trestle. A servicing stop for the Empire Builder, Minot
is still known as "Magic City," because it grew overnight - like magic -
the moment the Great Northern announced its route.
RUGBY The geographical center of North America, Rugby has a
monument to mark the precise spot and a museum nearby.
DEVILS LAKE THe Indians called this remnant of a glacial sea the
"Evil Spirit Lake" because they believed its shattered walls and loose
rock were the result of a mommoth struggle between thunderbirds and
GRAND FORKS The University of North Dakota campus is at Grand
Forks, where the Red Lake River and Red River of the North meet.
FARGO Named for Wells Fargo Express Company founder (and a former
resident) William Fargo, North Dakota's largest town is in the heart of
the fertile and famous Red River Valey. Bonanzaville, USA, a pioneer
village reconstructed from original buildings, is at West Fargo. The area
east of Fargo is a major livestock center where the Empire Builder crosses
the Red River.
During the night, the train stops at DETROIT LAKES and STAPLES.
James J. Hill ran model experimental farms in Minnesota to develop
superior livestock and crop yields for settlers locating near his railroad.
His energy and foresight in railroad development played a large part in
turning unsettled territory into lands of prosperity and progress. He also
invested heavily in Minnesota's Iron Range and played an important role in
the development of the mining industries in Iowa, Montana and Washington
ST.CLOUD In 1868, the area's colored granite deposits were quarried
for the first time to build the wall that surrounds the St. Cloud
Reformatory (on your left). Completed in 1889, it was the first
institution of its kind in the state. The wall surrounding the facility
was built by inmates and is the longest granite wall in the world.
* St. Paul - Minneapolis *
ST. PAUL - MINNEAPOLIS Midway Station, serving the Twin Cities, is a
servicing point for fuel and water for the Empire Builder, a good place to
stretch legs, make a phone call, or buy a paper. This spot is not only midway
between the two cities but also midway between the Equator and the North
Originally St. Paul was known by the nickname of its first settler, trader
Pierre Parrant, or "Pig's Eye." St. Paul, Minnesota's state capital, was
also the boyhood home of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and the home of the
Empire Builder's builder -- James J. Hill. The J.J. Hill Library, located
in St. Paul, contains a meticulous record of Mr. Hill's many dealings with
business, political, and religious leaders including over four hundred
seventy linear feet of correspondence and documents -- roughly the size of
a filing drawer one hundred fifty yards long. Taken together -- letterpress
books, correspondence, financial records -- the J.J. Hill papers are among
the most complete business and private papers of any major American economic
leader of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The fairytale castle on
the right is the Schmidt Brewery. St. Paul Cathedral on the left is modeled
after St. Peter's in Rome. On the right, picturesque riverboats take tourists
from Harriet Island to Ft. Snelling.
Minneapolis is the larger and younger of the Twin Cities, and was named
using an Indian word "minne" meaning "water" because of the 22 natural
lakes within the city limits. A city of trade and industry, it is also
known as the "Flour City" due to the great number of flour mills which
line the Mississippi River here.
Mississippi River For 140 miles, you'll see fertile farmland,
riverbank towns, barges and rstored paddlewheel boats -- scenes that
have inspired visitors for decades. You'll also see the river's
impressive system of federally-funded dams and locks that tame the
waterway for modern-day needs. Farther down the river on the right
are the Hastings Lock & Dam and the Koch Oil Refinery.
Hastings (39 Min./21 Min.) The train crosses the Mississippi River
entering Hastings; five minutes later it crosses the Vermillion River.
Cannon River (56 Min./6 Min.) On the left is the Prarie Island
nuclear power plant.
RED WING At the Saint James Hotel on the right, each room is named
for a riverboat. The Minnesota State Training School, on the right, was
modeled after a German castle. The town of Red Wing was named after a
Dakota Chief who had adopted the custom of wearing a swan's wing dyed
scarlet. Red Wing Shoes are manufactured here and sold throughout the
Frontenac (16 Min./54 Min.) This pretty town traces its roots back
to an original French fort built here in 1723. Today it has its own ski
area, on the right.
Lake Pepin (38 Min./32 Min.) As the Chippewa River meets the
Mississippi on the Wisconsin side, the resulting backwaters -- like an
invisible dam -- form beautiful Lake Pepin. In the winter, the lake is
a home for eagles. Lake Pepin is said to be the birthplace of water
Wabasha (40 Min./30 Min.) Wabasha's Anderson House Hotel,
Minnesota's oldest operating hotel (since 1856), provides complimentary
shoe shines, hot bricks to warm your feet and house cats to keep you
company. We cross the Zumbro River.
WINONA Sugar Loaf Mountain on the right was a ceremonial meeting
place of the Sioux, who named this town "firstborn daughter."
LACROSSE At this point, the river is wide, quiet and immensely
scenic. Soft tree-covered mountains, to the east, will sharpen to rugged
limestone bluffs a few miles south. The Empire Builder enters Wisconsin
as it crosses the great river for the last time. French trappers used to
watch Indians playing a game on the fields here, and dubbed the game
"la crosse." The town is located at the confluence of the Black, LaCrosse
and Mississippi Rivers. We follow the LaCrosse River for 25 miles.
Tunnel City (35 Min./4 Min.) The sudden steep hills here are
punctuated by a single-track trip through 1,350 foot long tunnel. Tomah
Lake is on the right.
TOMAH Gasoline Alley create Frank King grew up here. Two of
the comic strip characters hold up the Chamber of Commerce sign. The
Chamber of Commerce itself, on the right, is headquartered in a railroad
Camp Douglas (15 Min./26 Min.) On both sides of the train, you'll
see Camp Douglas's beautiful sandstone rock formations carved by the flow
of the Wisconsin River. Mill Bluff State Park is on the right.
Mauston (30 Min./16 Min.) St. Patrick's Church is on the left. Lake
Decorah, formed by a dam across the Lemonweir River, is on the left.
WISCONSIN DELLS The red sandstone canyon is as glorious to play in
as it is to look at. Boating and rafting attract tourists from all over.
Wisconsin River (5 Min./10 Min.) The river has left miles of striated
rock formations along this part of the route.
PORTAGE Portage was once a regular stopover for traders and settlers
who had to "portage" (carry) their gear between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers
on their trips.
Wyocena (5 Min./20 Min.) is the home of the Grande Cheese Factory --
Wisconsin produces more than 20 percent of the nation's cheese. The dam on
Duck Creek forms Wyocena Lake. Smelts and lake herring are caught commercially
as the fish spawn in the spring, but sport fishing for such game fish as bass,
pickeral, pike, sturgeon and trout is popular in Wisconsin's many lakes.
COLUMBUS Mounted in the steeple of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran
Church, on the right, is a bell cast from pieces of French cannon acquired
in the Franco-Prussian War. The bell was a gift from the Emperor of Germany.
We cross the Crawfish River.
Watertown (15 Min./50 Min.) The steeple of St. Bernard's Church and
Marantha College are both on the left. We cross the Rock River three times.
Pewaukee (38 Min./27 Min.) Suburban communities give way to lakes
and sprawling farmlands. Pine Lake and Okauchee Lake are on the left.
Pewaukee and Oconomowoc ("home of the beaver") Lakes are on the right.
MILWAUKEE It was beer that made Milwaukee famous and German
immigrants who brought the beer. In addition, they also transplanted
German beer gardens, theater and opera. On the right, you can see the home
of the Brewers at Milwaukee County Stadium. On the left is the home of
another favorite, the Miller Brewery. The glass domes on the Mitchell Park
Horticultural Conservatory duplicate climate and plant life found
throughout the world. We cross Menomonee River after stopping at the
station. The Allen Bradley Clock on the right is a Milwaukee landmark.
Polish Immigrants built Milwaukee's St. Josaphat's Basilica, the first
Polish basilica in North America, with its distinctive dome modeled after
St. Peter's in Rome.
Franksville (22 Min./43 Min.) Old World traditions live on at the
Frank Pure Food Company, on the right, the company that gave the town its
Gurnee (43 Min./20 Min.) Gurnee is the home of Marriott's Great
America Amusement Park, where-whenever you feel like it -- you can enjoy
the sensation of falling more than ten stories on "The Edge."
GLENVIEW Modern, suburban Glenview is punctuated by older farms,
industrial complexes and the Glenview Naval Air Station, on the right.
Niles (3 Min./19 Min.) Here in the heartlands, Niles' replica of
the Leaning Tower of Pisa is on the right.
* Chicago *
CHICAGO The railroad route between Chicago and St. Paul -- known
in the past as the Milwaukee Road -- began as a plank road for horses and
wagons. Now, this energetic city on the shores of Lake Michigan is the
business and industrial center of the Midwest. It is also a major air and
rail transportation center, an important in land port, and due to its
location in the heart of the Corn Belt, Chicago is a leading market for
grain, livestock and other farm products. Two sources of Americana are
right here -- the Rock-Ola Jukebox factory on the right and the large
depot of Yellow Cabs on the left. The tapering Hancock Building comes into
view, and the tallest building in the world -- the Sears Tower -- dominates
the skyline to the south. You can see Marina City's north cylindrical
towers and the Merchandise Mart rise above the river on the left.
For more information on Amtrak trips call 1-800-USA-RAIL.
JAMES J. HILL
The Empire Builder
(1838 - 1916)
The James J. Hill Papers
The James J. Hill Papers are located in the James Jerome Hill Reference
Library, which he and his heirs established in St. Paul. The collection
is voluminous, including over four hundred seventy linear feet of
correspondence and documents -- roughly the size of a filing drawer one
hundred fifty yards long. From the time 1856 when he "took a notion to go
and see St. Paul" until his death in 1916, Hill kept a meticulous record
of his many dealings with business, political, and religious leaders.
Fortunately, his extensive records have been preserved and now can be
examined by scholars interested in his career as well as those of the
scores of persons with whom he came into contact during his long stay in
The collection is remarkably well preserved and comprehensive. Hill wrote
constantly, inquiring about railraoding, markets, politics, colonization
and settlement, and a host of other matters. His letters and those he
received are all included in his papers. The "Empire Builder's" financial
records also are an important part of the collection, as are the records
of his art collection, his experimental farms, and his other activities,
including the records of firms in which he had a controlling interest. The
heart of the collection for most researchers is Hill's letter-press books,
which span the years 1866-1916. The most efficient means of making copies in
the days before carbons and photo-copying, the letterpress books are an
invaluable collection of Hill's outgoing correspondence from the close of
the Civil War to the eve of America's entry into the First World War.
Taken together -- letterpress books, correspondence, financial records --
the James J. Hill papers are among the most complete business and private
papers of any major American economic leader of the late 19th- and early
James J. Hill in Minnesota
and the Northwest
James Jerome Hill played an important role in the development of Minnesota
and the entire Northwest. With the completion of the Great Northern Railway
in 1893, his influence rapidly spread from the Upper Midwest to the Pacific
Coast. By 1901 he had organized the Northern Securities Company to
consolidate his former rivals, the Northern Pacific and the Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy, with his own Great Northern. Although it enjoyed only
a brief existence, the Northern Securities Company was the predecessor of
the present-day Burlington Northern.
Following his arrival at St. Paul in 1856, the young Canadian soon became an
integral figure in the transformation of Minnesota from a raw frontier to an
economically diverse and mature region. Active in the steamboating trade on
the Mississippi and Red rivers, along with warehousing and the fuel business,
he soon turned his attention to the emerging railroad industry. Under his
direction, the St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba (later Great Northern)
opened new avenues for settlement and provided quick access to distant
markets. Meanwhile, Hill invested heavily in Minnesota's Iron Range and
played an important role in the development of the mining industries of Iowa,
Montana, and Washington states.
A man of many interests, Hill also ran model experimental farms in Minnesota
to develop superior livestock and crop yields for the settlers locating near
his railroads. His philanthropic interests were wide-ranging and included
substantial support for various causes from St. Paul to the Pacific Coast.
He maintained close ties with Archbishop John Ireland and was a major
contributor to the St. Paul Theological Seminary, Macalester College,
Hamline University, the College of St. Thomas, Carleton College, and other
educational, religious, and charitable organizations in Minnesota and the
James J. Hill's
James Jerome Hill's role on the international stage was also important,
although perhaps less well known today. His involvement with the Canadian
Pacific Railroad in the early 1880s was particularly significant. Allying
himself with George Stephen, Donald Smith and others of the CPR Syndicate,
Hill's voice was an important one in the decision to construct the road
along its southern route, close to the United States border where it could
compete effectively with the recently completed Northern Pacific. By
encouraging colonization and settlement along the CPR route, he helped
populate the Canadian West.
Outside North America, Hill involved himself in several ventures. After
1900 his boyhood dreams of steamboating on the Ganges River translated into
one of the "Empire Builder's" few unsuccessful efforts, the attempt to tap
the fabled Asian markets through the development of his own steamship line
on the Pacific. Less well known is his brief involvement in South America.
Drawing on his experience in the development of Minnesota's Iron Range, Hill
was, during 1911-1912, in close contact with Gaspard Farrer of Baring
Brothers & Company of London regarding the formation of the Brazillian
Iron Ore Company to tap the nation's rich mineral deposits.
Near the end of his life, Hill played what his most recent biographer,
Albro Martin, called his "last and geatest role." After the first punishing
year of World War I, the Allied Powers desperately needed financial support
to continue the war effort. To that end, Hill was a major figure in the
effort launched by J.P. Morgan to float the Anglo-French bond drive of 1915,
which allowed the Allies to purchase much needed foodstuffs and other
James J. Hill died in his St. Paul home on May 29, 1916. Countless memorial
tributes from newspapers and business and political leaders testified to the
powerful influence wielded by the indefatigable Hill during his half-century
James Jerome Hill
- 1838 - September 16, born near Guelph, Ontario.
- 1845-54 - Attends nearby Rockwood Academy until father's death.
- 1856 - Arrives in St. Paul, Minnesota Territory.
- 1856-1866 - Works for steamboat companies on St. Paul levee.
- 1866 - Forms James J. Hill & Co., a transportation and warehouse
- 1867 - Marries Mary Theresa Mehegan, born July 1, 1846, in
New York City.
- 1869-75 - Forms Hill, Griggs & Co. with Chauncy W. Griggs. Then
forms Hill & Acker with George S. Acker and others.
- 1877 - Elected president of new incorporated North Western Fuel Co.
- 1877-79 - Acquires the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Co. with Norman
W. Kittson, Donald A. Smith, George Stephen, and John S. Kennedy.
- 1879 - StP&P reorganized into the St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba
Railway Co. Serves as general manager until 1881; then as vice president
- 1880 - Becomes U.S. citizen.
- 1880-83 - Plays important role in construction and operation of
Canadian Pacific Railway.
- 1882 - Elected president of StPM&M.
- 1887 - StPM&M completes extension to Montana Territory.
- 1890 - Elected president of incorporated Great Northern Railway Co.
- 1893 - Great Northern completes rail line to Seattle.
- 1893-96 - Assumes central role in reorganization of the Northern
Pacific Railway Co.
- 1901 - Elected president - Norhern Pacific Railway Co.
- 1904 - U.S. Supreme Court orders Northern Securities Co. dissolved.
- 1907 - Resigns presidency of Great Northern and becomes chairman
of the board. Son Louis W. Hill elected GN president.
- 1912 - Resigns as Great Northern chairman of the board. Succeeded
by Louis W. Hill.
- 1916 - May 29, dies in his home at 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul.
- 1921 - November 21, his widow Mary T. Hill dies.
Information on James Jerome Hill courtesy of James Jerome Hill Papers,
James Jerome Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Service subject to change without notice. 020766 August 1994
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