I hadn’t felt this excited about the actual journey in a long time. In our fast paced world, travel is too often reduced to destination rather than journey.
Visions of the past seemed to swallow the present and Amtrak’s Empire Builder, so named for Canadian-American railroad tycoon James J. Hill. Hill was dubbed the “Empire Builder” for his part in the expansion and development of America’s northwest in 1889 via his Great Northern Railroad (GNRR was the northernmost transcontinental railroad in the US and the only privately funded and successfully built transcontinental railroad). The route of Amtrak’s present-day Empire Builder (the federally-funded Amtrak assumed operation of Great Northern Railway’s beleaguered flagship train in 1971 and shifted the Chicago to St. Paul leg to the Milwaukee Road route) hasn’t changed much since the days of Hill’s GNRR.
Twenty-two years of operation for the CZ had commenced on March 19, 1949. It seemed impossible that a mere 80 years earlier greed, grit, and President Abraham Lincoln’s Pacific Railway Act of 1862 had seen east (Union Pacific Railroad laid 1,087 miles of track built by Irish laborers, by Mormons, and by veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies) meet west (Central Pacific Railroad laid 690 miles of track build by 12,000 Chinese immigrants) in the middle (give or take a few miles), at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869.
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