Train Trip, Part I (or “I wanna be an Empire Builder”)

It’s 5:11pm.  Jules and I are off on our big adventure – crossing half the continent in a train.

The journey began at 12:30pm, when we boarded a Cantrail coach (bus) in Surrey. Less then ten minutes later, we hit our first—

Excuse me, but we’re currently skirting the Puget Sound, just a few feet from the water and it’s GORGEOUS!

Sorry. Ahem. AS I was saying, we hit our first hitch—the Canada-US border.  Apparently, we’d hit rush hour for tour buses and it looked we might be stuck in the border wait for a couple of hours. No big deal, you’d think.  After all, if we were in a hurry, we’d fly. But the train was leaving at 4:40pm, with or without us.  We sat for 20 minutes or so, pondering our possible fate. Then the bus driver announced that another Cantrail coach heading for the train station was finishing up with customs, almost ready to go.  The four of us who were trying to catch the #8 train jumped off our bus, cut to the front of the line in customs, and jumped on the other bus, just 5 minutes before it headed into the US.  Yes! (I pump my fist.)

The bus ride continued uneventfully until we hit stop-and-go traffic on the outskirts of Seattle (on a Saturday?!). The bus’s lurching starts and stops were not great for those with weak stomachs, but we persevered and arrived at the train station in serviceable shape, half an hour before the train was due to pull out of the station.

Unlike airports that require vast amounts of uninhabited land around the runways, the Seattle train station is wedged among buildings, deep in the most urban part of Seattle. It was hard to get a sense of the train station from the outside—

Oh, hey! We’re passing a cruise ship! Looks like a sideways skyscraper floating on the water.

As I was saying, I got a dim impression of brick on the outside, though that impression could be completely wrong.  Inside, the station was a weird mix of bus depot (dingy, yellow walls, florescent lights, and clumps of people sitting or standing around) and baroque cathedral (ornate, vaulted ceiling and ornate walls).

I hear the haunting sound of a train whistle off in the distance – oh, wait, that’s us!  Heh, heh.

Jules looking for Platform 9 and 3/4

After a half hour wait, we boarded the train, a double decker with passenger seating upstairs.

The train’s interior is not plush, but it is comfortable.  LOADS of leg room.  Delta would wedge another row of seats into the gap where our legs rested comfortably on adjustable leg rests.

Jules getting comfortable on the train

It’s taken me well over an hour to write this installment because the scenery keeps changing and I have to stop and look.  Right now, we’re in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.  I recommend them.  The mountains and winding river are incredible, and when you can’t see them it’s because you’re tunneling through dense forest. Here are some pictures.

Picture taken on a bridge

Hey, what do you want from me?  The train is moving!  (It might work better to take a movie, but I’m too cheap to pay WordPress for video upload.)

Tunneling through trees

I’ll continue with Part II of the train trip another day.  I know, I say that a lot, and Part II doesn’t seem to ever appear.  But it’s all just part of a larger plan.  Really!

About Marie Loughin

I love reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. My current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where I get to play god with characters from myth and legend. My Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, is available at Kindle Books and other e-book retailers. You can find me at my blog ( and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
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7 Responses to Train Trip, Part I (or “I wanna be an Empire Builder”)

  1. Blue Jean says:

    What? You weren’t abducted by Loki, the God of Tricks, and spirited away from this mortal plane?

    Dang. NOW I’m disappointed.

  2. Wow – I can’t get over how much leg room you have! My Amtrak experience hasn’t been nearly so luxurious but I really do enjoy not having to keep an eye on the road & just looking at the scenery. I wish we had better/more options for rail travel here in the Plains. I’d love to be able to hop a train for Denver or Dallas. I did KC to St. Louis in June. Amtrak needs to upgrade the padding on the seats on that route!

    As it is, I’ll have to settle for more time on the rails in the UK… on Saturday. 🙂

  3. There’s still time. We still have the return trip.

    • Max R. Matteson, II says:

      Hi Marie,

      Your Aunt Ruth and I just returned from Colorado and flew Frontier Airline. It’s just like all the rest. The seating was designed by small Asian people, I’m sure. We six footers and about are lucky if our knees are not jammed up against the seat ahead of us. Don’t tell your Dad that I had anything remotely negative about flying. Now, about your trip – it looks great! And what leg room! Your Anut Ruth and I are thinking about that train trip from Toronto to Vancouver. Last September we attended a 57th USNA Class of ’53 Reunion in Bremerton then boarded one of those cruise ships that you spoke of there in Seattle. That took us up to Alaska for a week. I can’t wait to finish this and get on to part II.
      Love, Uncle Max

  4. Pingback: Train Trip, Part III (or “I wanna be uninhibited”) | I WANNA BE . . .

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