During my layover in Chicago, I spent some time watching the pleasure boats, as well as barges, plying the Chicago River right outside Union Station. I then had a rare chance to wander around the platform where the Builder was already sitting (I believe the Builder uses the same equipment as the City of New Orleans. When the City arrives at CUS in the morning, instead of being pulled into the yards for servicing, I believe the train is "pulled through" the station, cleaned, and then used on the outbound Empire Builder). It is rare indeed to have a chance to walk onto the track platforms at CUS, since the station staff try to keep visitors off the platforms until the trains are ready to board -- I guess they are afraid of "stowaways" or something.......???? The south concourse is much more heavily guarded than the north concourse, however, since most commuter (Metra) and AMTRAK trains use the south concourse. Most of the trains which arrive and depart at the north concourse at CUS are Milwaukee District Metra commuter trains, and at any given time of the day, there are likely 2 or 3 Metra trains boarding. Passengers can board Metra trains any time they want, and have unlimited access to the platforms. The only AMTRAK trains which use the north concourse are the Builder and the Hiawatha Service trains to Milwaukee. The Builder was on the easternmost track on this day (the one closest to the Chicago River). The first thing I checked for, of course, was the Sightseer Lounge. Yes, today's train did indeed have a Sightseer Lounge! - finally. In addition, a private C&O business car was attached to the back of the train -- a car named Chapel Hill. I found out later that it was being chartered by some VIP's who were going as far as Whitefish, Montana -- yet most of their baggage was stored in my sleeper car for some reason! I don't know how many people were riding in Chapel Hill, but there were enough suitcases for 10 or 15 people!
The sleeper passengers were boarded from the Metropolitan Lounge, as usual. I was given a "7" sticker for my suitcases (for Train #7, the CHI-SEA section, even though I was actually in the Portland section, which is Train #27 beyond Spokane, Washington). I am riding in Room 11, on the lower level of the Superliner II sleeping car Nevada -- I believe all the Superliner II sleepers are named after states (what if there are more than 50 such cars?) The sleeping car attendant's name was Bill (didn't catch his last name), and our On-Board Chief was Pete Thomas. We left approximately 13 minutes late, as we had to wait for connecting passengers from the Wolverine. I did not really have a "contingency plan" for this train (see Part 1 of my travelogue, in which I describe my contingency plans). According to http://www.amtrak. reservations.com, the Builder had arrived into Portland within 2 hours of schedule just about every day I had checked for the last 5 or 6 weeks, and I had a 4 hr 15 minute connection at PDX. AMTRAK typically "guarantees" most connections of more than 1 hour -- if the train arrives late, the guaranteed connection may be a connecting bus, or passengers may be asked to disembark at a station which the connecting train will be going through in the opposite direction. On rare occasions, AMTRAK has been known to fly passengers to make a guaranteed connection. (this happened to me in 1996, but that is another travelogue!)
Of course I was eager to get into the Sightseer Lounge immediately after my ticket had been collected, so I wandered up a few cars to the lounge, but found the coach car attendant standing in front of the door telling passengers the lounge would not open until the Glenview stop, so back I went to my room, even after telling the attendant that I was not interested in purchasing any food or drinks at this time, but merely wanted to sit there -- no way! The lounge would open at the Glenview stop -- period. (a note on the consist of this train: there is one Portland sleeper and 2 Portland coaches at the back of the train, then the Sightseer Lounge is ahead of the coaches. Ahead of the lounge is the diner, and ahead of it, the Seattle section. I didn't wander into the Seattle section, so I didn't note what cars it included). In Spokane, the train is split, and the rear portion, including the Sightseer lounge, goes to Portland, while the forward section, with the diner, goes to Seattle. Box breakfasts are typically served in the lounge car in the Portland section.
As soon as we stopped in Glenview, I went to the Sightseer Lounge, which was now open and filling fast. The lounge car attendant was named "Mona Lisa" (I don't know if that is her real name or not!....). I got my map books out and began the continuation of my video. For the Builder route, I have 4 "logs" which cover the route (Log #15d - St. Paul/Minneapolis to Chicago; Log #15c - Glacier Park to St. Paul/ Minneapolis; Log #15a - Seattle to Glacier Park; and Log #15b - Portland to Spokane). See Part 1 of this travelogue for an explanation of my logs and map books (which always draw the attention of a few fellow passengers who immediately think I "work for AMTRAK" when they see my maps -- the second thing they want to know is "where did you get those?" Of course, the answer to that question is I made them myself). Passing through West Lake Forest, I was able to video the local Metra station there, which I have traveled to on many occasions.
My mother and sister live about 5 miles from the Lake Forest Metra station. I was originally going to take this trip a month earlier, in June, but my father, who had been in ill health for several years, had passed away a few days before my trip was to begin, so I had to make a quick change of plans, cancel my original AMTRAK reservation, make a new reservation (for an August trip), then I "cheated" and flew to Chicago from Orlando (in the interest of time) for a week. Once I had gotten to Chicago and assessed the situation about my father -- when the memorial service would be, what needed to be done, etc., I visited the Glenview AMTRAK station and rescheduled the August reservation for July -- this trip! At first, I was unable to get sleeper space on this train, but upon rechecking at Glenview the following day, the space had become available, albeit on the lower level of the Superliner II sleeper, but that was okay. Then there was a problem with my credit card, since apparently, with my low credit limit (which I keep low for personal reasons), I did not have enough available credit to reserve this trip, since I had already put the August trip on the card. I was able to keep the July reservation, though, and when I got back to Orlando, I was able to "transfer" my payment for the August reservation to the July reservation, plus pay a small upgrade fee (AMTRAK fares are different in August than they are in July!). I had paid for the original trip with a check, but since the Glenview agent did not have that much cash on hand to refund me, he took my tickets and processed my refund, then sent it to AMTRAK for me. I received the refund check at home approximately 6 weeks later.
We left Milwaukee approximately 16 minutes late. While in the station, I looked at a very colorfully decorated Hiawatha train which had just pulled in. The Hiawatha cars are Heritage-style coaches, and are decorated with colorful "Wisconsin scenes." A few miles west of Milwaukee, I finally finished recording the first of my five 2-hour video tapes. By now I had accepted the fact that I will definitely have more than 8 hours of video this trip! (hopefully not 10 hours, but as a minimum, 8 1/2 or 9 hours) We then left Columbus, Wisconsin, 20 minutes late. Between Columbus and Portage is the small town of Wyocena, which is the home of a very strange-looking relic of Christmases past, known as "Santa's Flying Rocket." This vehicle (I guess it was a vehicle!) has been sitting in a salvage yard in Wyocena for as long as I have been riding AMTRAK trains, about 20 years now! In years past it was a novelty which was quite visible from the Builder, and always got lots of laughs. This contraption is still there, but if you don't know where to look, most passengers will not see it any more, since the lettering on it has long since faded, and more recent accumulations of other junk have kept it out of the main view from the train -- but it is still there, and I took a video of it.
After the Wisconsin Dells station, I went back to my room to escape the crowds in the Sightseer Lounge for a while. We left Tomah, Wisconsin, 25 minutes late, and I took my video camera to the end of my sleeper and filmed the view as we passed through "the only tunnel on the line east of the Mississippi River" at Tunnel City. My video view also included a shot of the private Chapel Hill car being towed by our train. As we were passing through Tunnel City, the On-Board Chief, Pete Thomas, made an announcement to wish a happy birthday to a young lady named "Danielle," who was riding on the train.
By the time we had arrived at the Mississippi River, west of LaCrosse, it was dinner time, so I made my way to the diner, and got a table on the "river" side of the train, so I could video the beautiful Mississippi River sunset while I was waiting for dinner. Joining me in the diner was a "good old couple" who were traveling to Devils Lake to pick up a car which they were having fixed. Apparently they had originally planned their vacation trip by automobile all the way, but had car trouble in Devils Lake, so left the car with a friend to be fixed while they continued their trip by AMTRAK. During dinner, the husband recalled his version of a story from history about George Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Mississippi River, but I corrected him and told him that I believe it was actually George Washington who threw the silver dollar across the river, and that the river was either the Potomac or the Rappahannock River, in Virginia, and not the Mississippi River in Minnesota! After dinner, I returned to the Sightseer Lounge for a while longer, and the first featured film of the trip was being shown, "Air Force One." The on-board entertainment system on this train had two volume settings -- off and LOUD! The movie could be heard all the way through at least the first Portland coach behind the lounge, especially when the door from the lounge to the coach was open. I am glad I wasn't a passenger in that coach who had to put up with that for 2 hours! When the crew was asked if the volume of the television could be turned down, the standard answer was no. I believe the master control for the VCR system is located in the lower level of the lounge car in the service area, and operable by the lounge attendant, but I was not about to ask Mona Lisa to turn the noise down! Instead, I returned to my quiet sleeper room!
In St. Paul's Midway AMTRAK station, I got off the train to stretch for a few minutes, then went to bed shortly after we had left the Twin Cities 15 minutes late.
For some reason we lost some time overnight, and I never investigated the reason. With a 4 1/2 hour layover in Portland, I still had no need to worry. We were only 1 hour 4 minutes late departing Grand Forks. I had awaken just north of Fargo, and was again perched in the Sightseer Lounge by the time we had arrived at Grand Forks. The Grand Forks, N.D. station is interesting -- it is nowhere near Grand Forks, but located approximately 5 miles west of town in "West Grand Forks," which is little more than a couple buildings on Demers Avenue (Demers runs parallel to U.S. 2, and is one mile south of U.S. 2 in this area). When I first began riding AMTRAK, in the late 1970's, the Builder stopped in downtown Grand Forks, but AMTRAK eliminated that station because of the constant freight traffic in the industrial areas near the old downtown station, and to eliminate a back-up move which was necessary back then to get the train into downtown Grand Forks, then back onto the main BNSF line headed west.
At first it was rather chilly in the Sightseer Lounge, but as more people joined me in the lounge, and as the day got later, it warmed up. At the Devils Lake station, I saw my dinner partners from last night on the platform. We left Devils Lake 1 hour 2 minutes late, but gradually made up a little more time at each subsequent station throughout the day, due to the presence of "padding" in the schedule of the Empire Builder. The trip across North Dakota and eastern Montana was rather uneventful. I continued my video and followed my route maps, occasionally conversing with another railfan who had both a video camera and a still camera, whom I kept informed of all the upcoming scenic spots for photos, based on my maps and previous experience on this route.
At Rugby, the Chief announced that this town is the Geographic Center of North America, and there is a sign on the Rugby station stating the same thing. In Minot, which is a crew change and servicing stop, I again got off the train and walked around. It was actually hot outside! One rarely thinks of Minot, North Dakota, as being hot, but it sure was hot today! We had made up some time, and, according to my watch, we had left 24 minutes late, although after departure, the Chief made an announcement that we were 40 minutes behind schedule, but would make it up. Shortly after our departure from Minot, the second movie feature of the trip began in the lounge, "Anastasia." And again, the volume was set on LOUD. My video commentary during this movie was seriously drowned out. Luckily, it was soon lunch time, as we passed into eastern Montana and set our watches back one hour, to Mountain Time. I had lunch with my fellow railfan with the cameras and a young, very recently-married (about 2 days before this day!) couple who was going to Korea eventually. We then left Williston, N.D., only 27 minutes late.
After the movie and lunch, it was back to the lounge. The route of the Builder follows U.S. Highway 2 most of the way across North Dakota and Montana. A young hippie-looking couple were sitting near me in the Sightseer Lounge and kept pointing off into the distance saying "There they are!" or "Is that them?" I didn't really know what they were looking at initially, but figured it was some kind of elusive, hard-to-see animal or bird. I finally figured out that what they were looking at was a group of motorcycles who were driving down U.S. 2, at just about the same speed as the train, followed by a couple cars and a van. We saw the motorcycles at several locations across Montana, but I never asked whether the couple in the lounge car knew the people on the motorcycles, or whether they just liked motorcycles.
After our departure from Glasgow, the available dinner seating times were announced and reservations were made. The choices tonight would be 5 PM, 5:30, 6 PM, 7 PM, or 8:30. As usual, I chose the latest sitting, since I wanted to take maximum advantage of the daylight hours, especially through Glacier Park, where we would be by 8 or 8:30 PM. Also today, the Dining Car Steward offered an "alternate" dinner choice -- I believe he called it an Empire Builder "picnic box dinner." This choice would cost $17, and the box dinners would be picked up in Havre, so if you wanted one, you had to make a reservation for it now. The dinners would then be distributed from the lounge car. Very strange!.......... I have been on a few hopelessly late trains on which such creative choices are offered in an effort to feed passengers when such trains arrived at their destinations well after the traditional "meal times" and after all the food allotted for the train is gone, but have never seen such creative dinner alternatives offered as a standard choice on any nearly on-time train! AMTRAK trains normally carry just enough food to last for all the meals which would normally be served during the regular schedule of the train. I opted to take advantage of my complimentary meal in the diner (which is included with my first-class sleeper fare), rather than the picnic box dinner.
We were soon informed that the train would arrive on time in Havre, even though we were a few minutes behind schedule now, and that the first stop in Havre would be a fuel stop, after which the train would pull up a few feet to the station, and people could detrain. Again, this is possible due to more "padding" in the schedule. We made our fuel stop, and I again detrained for a few minutes at the Havre station, and it was still hot! I took some video of Great Northern locomotive no. 2584, a "Northern" type locomotive, which is on display at the station. I had left my map books on my seat in the nearly-empty Sightseer Lounge, where I figured they would be safe, which they were. And, as promised, we left Havre on time! We also left Shelby on time, and shortly after the Shelby station, the third feature movie of the trip was shown in the lounge, "Liar Liar." And, again, the volume was turned to the LOUD setting.
After two on-time departures, as we approached Cut Bank, we had freight delays; however, these delays only put us about 10 minutes behind schedule. Between Cut Bank and Glacier Park, I suddenly had another problem -- for some reason, I was not able to focus my camcorder any more, no matter what I did. I thought maybe the internal lithium battery was running down, but I should have known that the lithium battery has nothing to with the focusing mechanics of the camera! Sometimes, when I move the camera from a darker location to a brighter location (or vice-versa), the scene becomes temporarily out of focus, but the automatic focus mechanism generally adjusts to the new conditions within seconds. The automatic focus did not seem to be adjusting this time, however, and consequently I missed some scenes which I was looking forward to capturing, such as the view of the small Blackfoot Indian community of Browning, the first close-up view of the mountains of Glacier Park, and the crossing of the Two Medicine Creek bridge immediately before the Glacier Park station. I finally decided to change the lithium battery, and I knew that, while I change the lithium battery, an external battery pack must be connected to the camcorder or I will lose the time and date settings. I connected one of my "good" battery packs to the camera, then replaced the lithium battery, but that didn't work, so I put the old lithium battery back into the camera. For some reason, the external battery pack I was using was not making contact with the camera, or it was actually not a "good" battery, and, in spite of all my care and caution, I still lost the date and time settings on the camcorder! I thought I would have to take the camera to Circuit City and have the settings re-initiated at the factory, but I found out later that I could have reset the date and time myself, but I have never quite figured out how to do that. After fumbling unsuccessfully for several minutes, I finally realized that the focusing problem had nothing to do with the battery, but my polarizing filter was smudged, and the "automatic focus" feature of the camcorder was focusing on the filter, and not on the distant scenery!
Due to the noise from the movie in the Sightseer Lounge, I had returned to my room to watch the scenery through Glacier Park. We left East Glacier 11 minutes late, and I thought my room, on the north side of the sleeper, would offer the best view of the scenery, based on recollections from my last trip on the Builder, which was several years ago, and on my maps, but my recollections apparently were incorrect. In the summer at this time of day, the sun is still quite high in the sky, and shone very brightly into my window, therefore I could not get good video on the north side of the train. Besides that, the scenery through the first half of the trip through Glacier Park is actually much better on the south side of the train, as the route passes high above the Bear Creek valley. Since I could not see the south side of the scenery from my room (the occupant of the room across from me had the curtains closed!), I spent much of that part of the trip taking video from the window in the stairwell, which was on the south side of the train. The scenery is beautiful through Glacier Park, and I was more interested in getting good video rather than keeping track of the progress of the train mile by mile, so I didn't even follow my map books through Glacier Park. As I was standing in the stairwell taking videos, an announcement was made by lounge attendant Mona Lisa, saying that both the upstairs and downstairs portions of the Sightseer Lounge were now closed for cleaning! Whaaat? The most scenic part of the trip, and the Sightseer Lounge is not open? What's wrong with this picture? Mona had indicated, however, that the lounge would not be closed very long -- just long enough to clean up and rewind the "Liar Liar" movie. Forgive me for being naive, but I would have figured that, while traveling through the most scenic part of this route, most people would be more interested in watching the beautiful evening mountain scenery than a movie! So I stayed in the sleeper and continued my video through the stairwell windows. It was still quite light outside, surprisingly. I had forgotten that, during the summer months, the further north one goes, the longer is the twilight period and the later the sun sets. I was therefore able to get some very good video. Eventually, the tracks cross the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, and the best scenery is then on the north side of the train. At about that point in the route, the train also makes a bend to the northwest, so the sun is then on the opposite side of the train, and better photos can be obtained from the north side of the train. Upon the approach to the Essex station, a few buildings which appear to be hunting or fishing cabins appear on the right. When I saw them, I was not sure where we were exactly, since I had not been following my maps, but it soon became apparent that they are a part of the small Great Northern Railroad-built community of Essex. And, as could be expected, just then, the 8:30 dinner call came, so I hustled into the diner, hoping to continue my video through the Park.
I was seated on the south side of the dining car; however, I was able to use the zoom feature in my camcorder to get good video through the window on the other side of the train, of the beautiful Izaak Walton Inn, which is located just west of the Essex station. There are two problems in using the zoom feature on my camcorder -- 1) it is very difficult to hold the camera still without a tripod when I am "zoomed" on a feature, therefore the video comes out "shaky," and 2) using the zoom runs down the battery pack faster than when the zoom is not in use, thus necessitating more frequent replacements of the battery pack. The Essex stop exists as a flag stop for the Empire Builder, almost exclusively to pick up and deliver Glacier Park tourists to and from the Izaak Walton Inn. I enjoyed dinner with one of a group of five couples, who were apparently all related, who had just gotten on at Essex -- they were apparently hungry, as they immediately headed for the diner upon boarding! By the time the train had passed the Izaak Walton Inn, all 5 couples were already seated in the diner!
The next stop was the West Glacier station, formerly known as Belton. Below the "West Glacier" sign at the station is a smaller and older plain wooden sign which still says "Belton." There is also an old orange "hippie bus" parked at the West Glacier station, which has been parked there on every trip I have ever made on the Builder! I assume it is still used to shuttle people between the station and various points of interest in the Park. As we were eating dinner, the couple at my table had remarked that they had just been to West Glacier a few hours ago, in a car. I guess they didn't realize that the route of the Builder goes through West Glacier, and may not have realized that they could have caught the train at that location, if it would have been more convenient than boarding at Essex.
At the Whitefish station, there is a scheduled stop of at least half an hour, for crew change and train servicing, so again there was time to get off the train and stretch. It was about quarter of 10 Sunday evening now, and was still light outside!!! Again, the further north one goes, the later it stays light. The late sunset probably also has something to do with the location of Whitefish within the time zone; I believe Whitefish is located in the extreme western part of the Mountain Time Zone. During our stop at Whitefish, the Chapel Hill car was taken off the end of our train, along with the massive amounts of baggage stored in my Nevada sleeper for the occupants of the private car. Additionally, a group of 20 high school Bible students from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, had gotten off to embark on a mission trip to rebuild some older churches in the Whitefish area and then spend some time in Glacier Park. I did not record the arrival and departure times of the train at Whitefish; however, I do not believe we were more than 15 or 20 minutes behind schedule. After the Whitefish stop, I went to my room, hoping to turn in for the night.
I awoke at the Spokane station, and it seemed that the train had been sitting at the station for much longer than the scheduled 1-hour stop, so I got off the train to investigate. The trains had already been split into the Seattle and Portland sections, and the Seattle section was ahead of the Portland section sitting on the same track. Some mechanics were obviously working on something on the Seattle section. Apparently there was an air leak in one of the hoses, and consequently there were no brakes at any point behind the air leak. The mechanics were having a difficult time locating the leak. After looking for 45 minutes or so, it was decided to pull the Seattle section ahead a few hundred feet, then move it back down to an adjacent track, so that the Portland section could depart, and the Seattle section could be evaluated further and worked on. I watched this move, then, convinced we would soon be leaving, retired back to my room for the night, and the Portland section soon departed. I believe we lost approximately one hour in Spokane; however, I did not check our departure time against the timetable. I am glad I was not on the Seattle section, since, when the section was pulled forward to allow the Portland section to depart, I would have thought we too were departing, and would not have realized that we would be at the station a while longer looking for an air leak. I wonder what the AMTRAK crew told the passengers on that section about the delay......
The Empire Builder has historically run on two different routes between Spokane and Pasco, one route being a former Spokane, Portland, & Seattle route, and one route being a former Northern Pacific route (both of which are now BNSF, of course). There are no stops between Spokane and Pasco, and this route is traveled overnight going both directions. I had mapped both routes, but was not sure which route the Builder currently uses. I awoke on Monday morning somewhere north of Pasco, and enjoyed another Superliner-style shower. This shower was much better than the one I had taken on the Cardinal. The water was warmer, and you could actually turn the water on, remove your hand from the knob, and the water continued to run -- this shower did not need to be "pumped," as the one on the Cardinal did. As soon as I got to the Sightseer Lounge (the Sightseer goes with the Portland section; the diner goes with the Seattle section), I began looking for landmarks, which are very scarce in this dry, featureless part of Washington! I finally saw the name of "Connell" in a town we passed through, which I found on my map of the westernmost of the 2 routes, the route which passes through Ritzville. I do not know if the eastbound Portland section takes the same route; I believe it takes the eastern BNSF route. If anyone reading this knows, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The consist of the train was now somewhat smaller than it was before the split in Spokane. The Sightseer Lounge car is directly behind the Genesis engine now, and behind the lounge are the 2 Portland coaches and the Portland sleeper. Apparently there are no baggage cars on the Portland section.
We left Pasco 1 hour 46 minutes late. The Pasco station has an interesting modernistic painting of an AMTRAK train on the station wall, which I caught on video. Between Pasco and Portland, the route of the Empire Builder follows the Columbia River Gorge. I found a seat on the south side of the Sightseer Lounge, and began watching the Columbia River Gorge pass by for several hundred miles. The Chief of On-Board services gave a commentary on many of the features which are passed on the Columbia River Gorge route. I don't believe the Chief was still Pete Thomas -- I believe Pete had gone on the Seattle section, and I never caught the name of the Portland chief or saw him.
At "Mile 103" on my logs (see Part 1 of this travelogue for an explanation of my milepost system) is the first view of Mt. Hood, the beautiful snow-capped volcano that is the highest point in the state of Oregon, across the river. The Builder of course traverses the Washington side of the river. Some of the features pointed out by the Chief were the four major hydroelectric dams the route passes (McNairy, John Day, The Dalles, and Bonneville, going downstream toward Portland), the "Hat Rock" visible across the river on the Oregon side, the Stonehenge Memorial near Wishram, Beacon Rock, the Bridge of the Gods, and Multnomah Falls, on the Oregon side, which I could not see. As we approached Wishram, I wanted to take a video of the Stonehenge Memorial, but wouldn't you know it, just then my camcorder battery pack again ran out and had to be replaced. By the time I replaced the battery pack, I had missed the scene!
At Mile 76 on my maps, we passed what I am sure was the American-Orient Express, on one of its many annual luxury "land cruises." With both trains running at 79 mph, the passing speed of the other train is more like 158 mph, so details of the train cannot be seen. Based on the passing flash of the characteristic yellow and blue colors, however, I am sure it was in fact the A-O-E we had passed! One of these years I'll have to take a vacation on that train, which I understand is quite expensive, but the service, accommodations, and food is well worth it! We had departed the Wishram station 1 hour 49 minutes late, and departed Bingen-White Salmon 1 hour 46 minutes late. At mile 121 on my maps, (121 miles east of Portland), Mona Lisa made another announcement that the Sightseer Lounge would now be closing -- for good. I understand that the lounge attendants have to close down a little before reaching the final destination, but why 2 hours early? We were still able to sit in the lounge, but we could no longer buy anything from Mona. I stayed in the Sightseer lounge until Vancouver, and finished recording yet another 2-hour video tape by then! Time to put tape 3 into the camcorder (gee, are five 2-hour tape cassettes going to be enough after all?) As I arrived back in my room to prepare for arrival in Portland, I suddenly realized that I only had 3 camcorder battery packs, yet I knew I was supposed to have 4. I had no idea what happened to the 4th battery -- maybe someone stole it, or maybe I somehow absent-mindedly put one of the battery packs in my suitcase or something. I know I did not leave it in the lounge, because I knew I only had one battery pack in the camcorder and one spare in my pocket while sitting in the lounge, and I still had both of those. I was determined that I had lost it somewhere, and would have to get through the rest of the trip on only 3 battery packs, including the one which was rather borderline (the new one). Pulling into the Portland station, in a last ditch attempt, I looked one more place -- under the seat in the room. Sure enough, there was my missing battery pack! It had apparently fallen off the window ledge, where I had set it after I changed battery packs at the Stonehenge Memorial, so that I would know which battery needs to be charged next. So I still had all 4 batteries! Whew!!
We arrived in Portland 1 1/2 hours late, and it was 99 F! The hottest day in Portland for many years! I found the Metropolitan Lounge, but not without some investigation. As I walked into the station, I saw a door which said "Metropolitan Lounge", but it appeared to be in an area which was roped off, where passengers are not allowed. I thought there may be another door to it inside the station, so went in but did not find any other door. I finally asked someone, and was directed back outside to the door I had first seen, so tried to open it, but it was locked. I finally noticed a doorbell on the left side of the door, so rang it, and the door was then opened by the attendant, who welcomed me into the first class lounge. It is a nice lounge, and has large picture windows facing directly onto the tracks, so one can watch trains while waiting in the lounge. There were a few other people in the lounge, but it certainly was not crowded, and there were plenty of free beverages and candy mints available for the passengers. While I was sitting in the lounge, there was a couple there who were waiting to board the eastbound Empire Builder, which uses the same equipment as the train I had just ridden -- the train is cleaned and turned in Portland for the return trip. One of the conductors had walked into the lounge and told the couple that the sleeping car had been bad ordered and would now not be available for their trip. This of course was the same sleeper I had ridden in. The couple was offered apologies from AMTRAK and offered coach accommodations and a partial refund. Bummer!........
I had lunch at Wilf's Restaurant in Portland, which is located in the same building as Union Station; yet one cannot enter it from the station. You have to go outside and into a separate entrance to the restaurant.