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Author Topic: Extreme Trains - Empire Builder
Judy McFarland
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I really enjoyed watching this show, although as others have said, the host is a little hyper. It was a little distressing to see him repeatedly leaning out of the vestibule window when the train was in motion. He even jokes about getting bugs in his eyes!

On a lighter side, I recognized Doris McCarthy as the car attendant we had on our way back from the Izaak Walton Inn last winter. She was a trip in her high-heeled boots - but very efficient and one of the best attendants I've encountered.

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My new "default" station (EKH) has no baggage service or QuikTrak machine, but the parking is free! And the NY Central RR Museum is just across the tracks (but not open at Amtrak train times. . ..)

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Gilbert B Norman
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Allow me to note "I saw it"; no further comments are warranted.
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MontanaJim
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I watched the show last night, i thought it was pretty good, one of my favorites of the series. It was good to see some of the behind the scenes stuff, like loading food and supplies and baggage at Chicago's Union Station. I noticed the host opened the window on the Car's entrance door and looked out while the train was moving, against Amtrak regulations. If he can do it why cant other passengers? And no offense to the Empire Builder, but I wonder why they didnt pick the Zephyr instead?
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sbalax
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I enjoyed the show, too, but the shots of the host leaning out the window and, apparently out the open door of the rear car bothered me a bit. Also, what happened to the private car that was on the train in the early segments

If you all find this guy a bit over the top you would not enjoy Huell Howser on KCET, the public TV outlet in Los Angeles! Those of you in Southern California will know what I mean. He does a "Golly!" that rivals Jim Nabors.

Frank in still wet SBA

I also noticed that one table in the diner was being used as a "service center" covered with supplies.

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train lady
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"I saw it too" and was disappointed.It sounded as if all the other trains are nothing compared to the EB. Also I think the scenery of the Zephyr is far superior and IMO Henry's book Zephyr would have been an infinitely better program. They made it sound as if you go right through Glacier. Secondly, I have yet to find an attendent who was up all night making up beds. OK so I am being picky.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Obviously, Frank, the train was photographed on several different days. Here is the "PV" MILW #53, now owned by the Friends of 261, that appeared on the #7 departing Chicago.

http://trainweb.org/DOMEmain/picMILW53H.jpg

Montana Jim, you raise a valid point, some passenger will have seen the show, open the vestibule "Dutch Door" and , when "jumped", will state "hey I saw them do that on TV".

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yukon11
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I really enjoyed the Empire Builder episode. I have never been to Chicago's Union Station, but I was impressed. In some ways, it reminded me more of a modern airline terminal than an Amtrak station.

As far as the scenery going through (below) Glacier, I thought the episode did not really show the vast and spectacular scenery along the way. The section on the building of the Cascade tunnel and the trek over to see the original tunnel was also interesting.

Richard

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birdchops
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I just came back from the EB, and well...I have yet to be blown away by any car attendant on board, and the reailty is there are 2..sometimes more...tables in the diner stacked high with supplies.

The V.P. of On board Service needs to take some lessons in my humble opinion, especially when one is paying over a thousand dollars one way in a bed room. Also, I felt sorry for the PDX bound passengers who were tacked onto the end of the train and had to walk multiple cars deep to get to the diner, skiring arms and legs in several coaches and some drunk in the lounge car armed with a lap top DVD. I realize it may be a necessity but geeze....

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sbalax
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I agree, Ms. Birdchops. They could get any number of people from any good airline to show them how to pack a galley. And why can't there be a supply point somewhere along the line? Airlines do downline catering when it's not feasible to double pack.

The way they "service" the potable water supply seemed a little, uh, primitive. How about a shut off nozzle for the hose?

Thanks, Mr. Norman for the link. The private car only appeared in one shot, I think.

Frank in cool and wet SBA

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Railroad Bob
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Overall, I enjoyed the episode- even though the irrepressible host seemed to have sipped one too many Rojo Toros (red bulls?) He reminds me of Bo Gryls, the guy who has to "survive" his way out of inhospitable environments by eating large insects, etc. Still, his enthusiasm for trains is not a bad thing! I could see the chefs rolling their eyes as he opened and slammed the diner storage bins in rapid succession, and why did he check that tiny little bag, when it could have easily gone into his roomette? But what I liked most about the episode was:
---The interesting cab ride and discussion up there;
---The side story about the steam loco and "dumping" the firebox ash;
---The very thorough and WELL DONE historical review of the Great Northern and Jim Hill with the story of the early "switchback" route and visit to the old tunnel portal;
---The no-nonsense and workmanlike repair of the drainage system in the current tunnel with discussion of the ventilation system; the public rarely hears about these esoteric kinds of RR operations;
---Seeing the actual employees in their job environments; I used to work with Doris McCarthy; she is a 30+ year employee and knows what she is doing in those sleepers. They led on that she "stayed up" all night; that's rare- usually the workers find a way to get their down time. As to the choice of the Empire Builder, being that it is billed as one of the "premier" trains service-wise, I think it was a good route to be profiled.

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Railroad Bob
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quote:
Originally posted by sbalax:
The way they "service" the potable water supply seemed a little, uh, primitive. How about a shut off nozzle for the hose?

Hi Frank- I believe there is a white color-coded (for potable) shut off valve on those hoses; but it has long been Amtrak and earlier tradition to flush the area around the car fill intake to get the dust and dirt out of there. I've filled many an Amtrak car when I used to work out there, and if a supervisor saw you connect the potable fill hose without blasting the fill area clean, an employee might get written up.
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Mr. Toy
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I was a little disappointed that they left out the part about the train splitting at Spokane. I didn't see the relevance of servicing a steam locomotive in Pennsylvania, or wherever it was. In all, though, I thought it was a fun program. Yeah, the guy's kinda hyper, but he's fun to listen to.

Several years ago I watched the Zephyr getting water at SLC at 4:00am. I observed that they rinsed the area around the filling tube before inserting the hose. I seem to recall they had shutoff controls on the hose nozzles, but I expect water is considered more precious in Salt Lake City than in Minot.

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The Del Monte Club Car

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palmland
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What surprised me was the failure to discuss the great heritage of the train from its days as the GN streamliner in the 50's.

While I liked the part on the preparation of the train prior to departure and the discussion on the sleeper, more time should have been spent on extolling the lounge car. But then none of that would have been dramatic enough for the host.

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
Obviously, Frank, the train was photographed on several different days. Here is the "PV" MILW #53, now owned by the Friends of 261, that appeared on the #7 departing Chicago.

http://trainweb.org/DOMEmain/picMILW53H.jpg

Montana Jim, you raise a valid point, some passenger will have seen the show, open the vestibule "Dutch Door" and , when "jumped", will state "hey I saw them do that on TV".

Ahhhhh, Superdome #53. I enjoyed this car several times when she was in the employ of the NCDOT.......in fact, #53 was in the consist on my final trip as a volunteer train host.

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Railroad Bob
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quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Toy:
I didn't see the relevance of servicing a steam locomotive in Pennsylvania, or wherever it was.

Yes Mr. Toy, how that bit got into the show is puzzling; since the air time could have been used in any number of better ways. Nothing was mentioned of the glorious days of the Milwaukee Road and its famous "400" speedsters, or it might have been nice to show the old GN logo with the mountain goat to the viewers. Or why so much time was taken showing the host digging the 6 foot hole in the snow? I was hoping he would "uncover" the old rail or something in that hole, but it was more like Geraldo Rivera's Al Capone vault-- nada!
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Henry Kisor
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As GBN said, I saw it, and no further comments are warranted. Except that that was one weird show.
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20th Century
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I also feel that more a bit more time should have been spent featuring the sightseer lounge car. As for the steam locomotive servicing "display" in Steamtown,Pennsylvania I guess it was to emphasize the task involved when the Empire Builder was powered by steam engines. That might have been the only location available at the time. I think this location was used on another episode for exhibiting the works of the steam locomotive.
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Mr. Toy
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On the plus side, the program presented Amtrak's long distance operations in a favorable light.

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The Del Monte Club Car

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amtraxmaniac
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I concur with Mr. Toy. It would have been nice to see the split at Spokane. They mentioned that train 8 is turned to train 7 the next day. I thought the 8 becomes the CONO, then the CONO is turned to the 7. Are the CONO and EB different trainsets now?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Patrick, at one time with New Orleans as base, #58 turning same day for #7 and vv was the equipment assignment; that assignment prevailed when Bourbonnais occurred March 15, 1999.

Presently Chicago based equipment is assigned #59 next day to #58 continuing same day as #21 and vv.

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Gilbert B Norman
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At this time, the episode on the UP 844 is now available at Comcast On-Demand. I watched it earlier this evening.

I must say Matt is a bit more restrained here. As soon as I shut this electronic answer man down, I'll go watch the Transcontinental episode airing tonight - that will be HDTV.

Update: after viewing "Transcontinental" last evening Matt is back again with his WOW, awesome, and cool. Also of note, he never once referred to the "transcontinental" by its generally accepted name of the Overland Route.

But I remain astounded the access Union Pacific gave the production company to its facilities - including the (rightly so) "Fortress" Harriman Operations Center.

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RR4me
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I watched the episode last night on the transcontinental route, and it was followed by a repeat of the refrigerated fruit express episode. My wife, who was forced to watch peripherally as she did some stuff in the kitchen, thought it was the same show!
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yukon11
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I missed the "Transcontinental" episode last night. The History Channel will be repeating 3 episodes this Sat, Jan 3rd. 2pm is the "Overnight Train", 3pm is Circus Train" and 4pm is the "Transcontinental" episode. I would like to see "Overnight Train" again. I watched the "Circus Train" for a few minutes, last week, then turned it off when Matt went into the elephant car to shovel manure.

Richard

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HopefulRailUser
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The Transcontinental one was interesting. I didn't know they used remotely controlled engines to put the trains together. There was good info about the relationship between the conductor and the engineer. And for once we didn't have to go to Steamtown.

Henry, you are very kind. But the cameraman has nothing to do with Matt's kinetics, just the angles we see him bouncing around at. However, he did get to clean the engine bathroom out this time, better than elephant manure. Maybe.

Is this it or are there more shows?

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Vicki in usually sunny Southern California

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yukon11
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Vicki: I think there are least 3 more episodes. One on thermite welding, another on a maintenance car, and one, which I want to be sure to see, on a "train watching hotel".
Here is a promo...sorry about the initial commercial:

http://link.history.com/services/link/bcpid1896837970/bclid1830065110/bctid1834378232

Richard

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City of Miami
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Thanks for that link, yukon. I can watch entire episodes, in segments, on line. I just watched the Empire Builder one. Made me want to take a trip!!

Now I know who 'Matt' is. He said he was a conductor?

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SilverStar092
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I enjoyed the EB episode as much as any and was delighted at some of the detail stuff they showed. The baggage loading at Chicago was interesting and non-railfans have to be impressed by the on board scenes and should enjoy learning how sidings, signals, etc. work.
On the down side, I immediately recognized the car attendant from a 1997 trip on the Builder (and confirmed this in my detailed travelog notebook). She started that trip being very thorough but later on failed to help any elderly couple downstairs with their luggage and the old man took a bit of a tumble that could have been real bad. She never did much beyond making up beds and we decided at the end of the trip that a tip was not warranted just for doing the minimum. As we detrained she sarcastically said "That's for your support" and muttered something about us to a red cap at Chicago Union Station. Sometimes being a senior employee does not make one a shining example.

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