Saturday, June 18, 2011

Photos from a Train

I'm on the Empire Builder -- the Amtrak route named by St. Paul robber baron James J. Hill to memorialize his ambitions.

Silver Amtrak train with red, white and blue stripes at a train station
I'm in coach, which is similar to first class airplane seating in terms of space. Not bad, right?

Vividly colored sunrise
Well, no.

When you're trying to sleep overnight, the seats are hard, and if you're not next to the window there's no way to rest your head, even if you brought a pillow. On the upside, not sleeping all night means you're awake to see the amazing sunrise between Fargo and Grand Forks.

Flooded narrow river with dirt and white plastic levees built along it
You may have heard that the Amtrak trains were disrupted for the past few weeks because of flooding in North Dakota. The train I'm on is only the second one to make the trip since the restart. Here's a bit of the flooding between Devil's Lake and Rugby. There were other spots where the water came up to the edge of the raised track, and then there was nothing but waves all the way to the horizon. It almost looked like Lake Michigan.

Gondola train cars with colorful graffiti
What else do you see along the way? Some cool graffiti...

Stenciled warning on yellow train car reads CAR MAY FALL OVER with drawing of stick figure about to be crushed by the car warnings...

Bright orange BNSF engine with yellow stripes
...and freight trains a few feet away. The BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) owns the tracks, so if the Amtrak trains get off schedule by more than an hour, they have to make way for any freight trains they encounter. This adds to the possible delays, and we were definitely delayed because the train slowed down a lot to pass over the flooded areas.

Amtrak train at the station curb, with bundles of trash bags beside it
You also see the trash that's been hauled off the train...

Classic train station with hand-painted sign reading SHELBY
... an occasional quaint station that's still in use (unlike the ugly behemoth we have in St. Paul)...

Junk yard with structure built that looks like a Dutch windmill without any blades
...and sometimes a glimpse of the mysterious, unexplained structures people build. This is from Montana. I'm not sure if it's a grain silo, a steampunk nuclear cooling tower, a misplaced Dutch windmill, or some type of apparatus used to service dump trucks.

Now we're in central Washington, heading toward Seattle. About to cross the Cascades. More road trip photos to come.


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I love these photos. Always thought I'd take the Empire Builder some day... maybe I'll just admire your photos.

Linda Myers said...

One of my goals, also, a long train trip.

Welcome to Washington!