My mother recalls our train trip to Glacier Park:
We recently rode the train—the Empire Builder—from Minneapolis to Glacier Park in Montana for a week with our daughter and grandson—in coach, no less! Now, many people our age would take a sleeper or roomette, but I guess we just wanted to prove we could still “rough it” and save money! We weren’t the only ones of our age group, many passengers in coach were also “older”.
We got on the train about l0:30 pm, were given seats and pillows, instructions about bathrooms (downstairs!), dining car (2 cars ahead), lounge and snack bar (l car back), dining hours, and anything else pertinent to our next 24 hours aboard. All these instructions were given by a charming car attendant—a woman in her late 40’s probably, very professional and efficient, all the while being very friendly and helpful.
The train rolled quietly out of Minneapolis at 11:30 pm, almost on schedule, full of sleepy people.
The seats were roomy—much more so than on an airplane–, but it still was a challenge to find the right angle for head, body and feet. We took a small travel blanket and pillow, and I had an extra sweater with my winter jacket, Bill his warm jacket, so we managed to keep warm in the air-conditioning. One woman sitting near us a stuffed shoulder-pillow and an old fashioned tied-comforter, yet!—she looked totally cozy. The man across the aisle was over 6 feet tall and seemed to exactly fit into his seat with comfort for he softly snored the whole night through. During the night we made several trips down the stairs to the bathrooms hoping to alleviate blood clots and keep our muscles mobile, more or less. With the pleasant rumbling of the wheels on the tracks and the often blowing of the whistle, we soon dropped off for a fair night’s sleep.
The sights began with an early dawn over North Dakota—the never-ending sky of a million hues of pink, and the flat, treeless land with wheat, barley, mustard and flax fields intermixed with range country and rolling hills as we entered Montana. The dining car announced that it was open for breakfast, so we made our way there, enjoying both a good hot breakfast and the passing countryside.
The whole train was smoke-free, so at some stops it was announced that time would be long enough for stretching one’s legs and taking a smoke, if desired. We stopped at only a few places in Montana—Havre, Shelby, Cutback—and then we were seeing the wall of mountains tipped with snow. By this time it was evening and the train was a couple of hours late getting into East Glacier, but it still was daylight and the view of the beautiful, nearly l00 year old, Glacier Park Inn, a short walk from the station, with the background of these gorgeous mountains just at dusk was miraculous.
Traveling by train again after many years was a great experience for all of us and a great way to see the countryside and we survived!