Seattle to Minneapolis on “The Builder”.

I boarded Amtrak’s Empire Builder at Seattle’s King Street station this past Saturday afternoon. It was the start of a 20-plus day trip that would include seeing the Red Sox play two games in Minnesota, two in Boston and two more in Baltimore.

When I arrived on the platform at Seattle’s King Street station, a car attendant was standing at the entrance door of the sleeping car to which I had been assigned. 

He glanced at the sheet of paper in my hand and said “Number eight upstairs.”  Then he grabbed the handle of my suitcase and headed up the narrow stairway to the Superliner’s upper level. I followed with my shoulder bag, struggling to keep up, noting what seemed to me at the time as almost a discourteous attitude.

He marched briskly down the upper level aisle, stopping in front of roomette #8, my home for the next two-and-a-half days. The glass door was half open. He slid it to the right—opening the doorway completely— then back to the left, as though to completely close it. The door slid easily back to halfway . . . then jammed.

The attendant snorted. “I knew it,” he said. Then, more to himself than to me, “Just one more call to maintenance.” This being my umpteenth trip in a Superliner roomette, I squeezed into the room through the half-on doorway and said “I’ve got a bunch of  miles in Superliners. I can deal with this.” He looked directly at me for the first time, and nodded briefly. Then he gestured to a small piece of paper that was taped high up on the wall. One word was written on the paper: Ainsley. ‘That’s me,” he said and he headed back downstairs to greet passengers at the sleeper’s open door.

For the rest of the journey to Minneapolis-St. Paul, I wasn’t able to close the door to my roomette. Like Ainsley, I tried a couple of times, but without success.

After so many nights aboard Amtrak long-distance trains, I wasn’t particularly concerned. I just made sure that whenever I left the roomette, everything of any value was tucked away out of sight and the curtain was covering the entire front of the room.

To my surprise, when I returned to my roomette after dinner that first night, a female car attendant was making up my berth.   I asked her where Ainsley was. “He’s making up berths in next sleeper.”

“You mean to say,” I continued, “that you two are each responsible for passengers in more than one sleeper?” She rolled her eyes and nodded. “Ainsley and I together are responsible for three sleepers.”

An Amtrak Superliner has 22 rooms that can accommodate as many as 40 people and there are four lavatories and a shower room that must be kept clean.

But on this trip, two car attendants will be required to take care of three Superliners . . . and the train was running close to full.

I can report, however, that although we were unable to get the door to my roomette working properly, the curtain covering the doorway served its purpose throughout my journey and I slept well on both of my nights on board train #8

The only incident occurred when I was getting dressed and inadvertently bent over reaching for my shoes. In that very compact roomette, the curtain covering the half-open doorway slid off my derrière, which had poked out into the aisle.

At that precise moment, my lower extremities were covered by  boxer shorts and of course this all happened as two ladies from the next sleeper were passing through my car on their way to breakfast. Mercifully, they kept moving, although I do believe I heard a suppressed giggle. 

My next post will deal with the dining car, including both the service and the food.

Are we having fun yet?