Train Running Late? Here’s the Best Way to Deal With It.

I must have written about this incident before, but it bears repeating, especially in light of all the delays the Empire Builder has been facing over the past several months.

It was probably 20 years ago and I was traveling from Chicago to Seattle on – yes – on the Empire Builder. It was lunchtime on the second day, which meant that we were about a third of the way across Montana, probably just a few miles east of Malta.

I was having a second cup of coffee in the dining car and enjoying a conversation with an Englishman – probably in his 50s, as I recall – with whom I was sharing a table. A delightful fellow, he was touring the U.S. by train and was absolutely bubbling with enthusiasm over the experience.

As we were about to head back to our respective accommodations, a conductor passed through the dining car and stopped at our table. He recognized me because I had interviewed him earlier that morning, compiling information for my book.

“I’m sorry to tell you this,” he said, “but a freight train broke a wheel and derailed about 20 miles up ahead of us and it’s going to take them a while to get it fixed and moving again. I would guess we’ll probably be as much as four hours late into Seattle.”

Seated across from me, the Brit positively beamed. “Jolly good!” he said. “Then we really are getting our money’s worth, aren’t we!”

As far as he was concerned, we were going to be getting an additional four hours of train travel and at no extra charge.

I’ve never forgotten that because it’s exactly the right attitude to bring aboard when you take any long-distance train ride. Besides, what’s your hurry, anyway? If your train is running late, that’s the time to sit back, relax, and order another cup of coffee. Or tea.