Railroads & Locomotives Tourist Railroad Profiles Memorable train rides: Amtrak’s ‘Empire Builder’

Memorable train rides: Amtrak’s ‘Empire Builder’

By Trains Staff | April 10, 2024

| Last updated on May 17, 2024

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Trains.com David Popp’s pick: Amtrak No. 7 Empire Builder

Name of train: Amtrak No. 7 Empire Builder
The route: Chicago to St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn.
Duration: About 8 hours

The adventure: We booked a roomette for our recent trip to visit friends in Minnesota, which afforded great privacy. Our roomette was situated on the right side of the train, giving us a pleasant view of the Mississippi River between La Crosse, Wis., and St. Paul, Minn. Our dining car experience on the Empire Builder was by far the best we’ve had on Amtrak. We were told the Empire Builder had some of the best staff, and that proved to be the case the day we were on the train. Unfortunately, our train was more than 3 hours late getting to Minneapolis, and our friends had to pick us up well after 2 a.m. Still, it was a very nice trip, and we would gladly do it again. It takes about the same amount of time to drive the distance, but the train was much more relaxing.

closeup of man and woman on train
Trains.com David Popp with wife Ingrid traveling on the Empire Builder.

Insider tips: 

  • Amtrak’s “Track a Train” feature is helpful for coordinating your arrival time with friends or family at your destination. It provides frequently updated travel time information, and we’ve used it to good effect on most of our trips — particularly if the train is running late.
  • Even if you’re not traveling overnight, roomettes offer a great upgraded private travel experience for 1 or 2 passengers. The ticket usually includes dining car service fees, so between those two things, we found it to be worth the cost one way.
  • Space is tight in a roomette. For overnight trips, pack a small bag with the things you will need for sleeping and the next day to avoid having to haul your bigger baggage back and forth between the luggage rack — it is on the first floor of the car and the foot of the stairs, so it isn’t easily accessible. 
  • Climbing into the upper berth on a SuperLiner roomette can be tricky for someone who doesn’t get around easily. Be aware that the beds are really just one-person wide (same width as the seat), so if traveling with two people and neither of you can make the climb to the upper berth, you should consider the larger bedroom instead. Although it is more expensive, the bedroom provides a ladder to the upper bed, which is much easier to use and navigate. As a bonus, you have your own in-room bathroom as well.  

Have an Amtrak Empire Builder experience you want to share? Put in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Memorable train rides: Amtrak’s ‘Empire Builder’

  1. I love the convenience of the roomette and the included meals, but for sightseeing, I find it so limiting to only be able to see one side of the scenery. I prefer coach to be able to see all around me.

  2. While you have covered a number of amtrak trips, you never talk about the food options available. You should write an article specifically about the food. We took trips in Canada and Europe by train and the food made a big difference from flying.

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