An Attitude Adjustment Can Help With On-Time Issues.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) has a page on its web site that shows the on-time status of every Amtrak train anywhere in the country. It’s fascinating because it provides both a quick-and-dirty and also a detailed explanation of each train’s status. I take a look every few days just to see how things are going. As I write this—on Monday night about 9:00 p.m. Hawaii time—most of the long-distance trains are doing reasonably well, running on time or very close to it.
The exceptions, as have been the case for many months now, are the Empire Builders …referred to in the plural, because there are at least four Empire Builder consists en route at any one time, two eastbound and two others heading west. At this moment, just a snapshot in time, three of the Builders are running about four hours behind schedule, while one, a westbound Train 7, has apparently managed to run the oil train gauntlet in North Dakota without a problem and has just departed Glasgow, Montana, a mere 15 minutes behind schedule. There is, however, one ominous note: A third westbound consist still shows as being on-time, but it left Chicago 41 minutes behind schedule.*
This brings back a favorite memory which involves the Empire Builder and which I have probably recounted here before.
About 20 years ago, I was heading for Seattle on the Empire Builder and having lunch on the second day out of Chicago, so we were probably halfway across Montana. My tablemate that day was a man in his 50s from the U.K. He was touring the U.S., doing it all by rail, and enjoying the experience immensely.
About halfway through our meal, the conductor came through the dining car. I had chatted with him at some length earlier and, recognizing me, he stopped at our table. “I’m sorry to tell you this”, he said, “but there’s a freight train up ahead that derailed with a broken wheel. They’re working on it, but it looks like we’re probably going to be four hours late into Seattle.”
The Brit across the table from me positively beamed at the news. “Jolly good!” he said. “Then we really are getting our money’s worth, aren’t we!”
As far as he was concerned, he had just been given four additional hours of train-ride-across-America at no additional charge.
I’ve never forgotten that—obviously—because you might as well have that attitude when you climb aboard any of the long-distance trains in the U.S.
Plan for the possibility of a delay, even a long delay. That means don’t schedule any tight connections. Better yet, leave nothing to chance … stop overnight in Chicago or Seattle or New York or New Orleans, then resume your journey the next day. You’ll find the stress is removed, you’ll feel a lot more relaxed, and who knows? You might still get a free bonus: four or five hours of additional train ride … free!
* Checking 24 hours later, this train was 8-and-a-half hours later leaving Minot, ND.