Empire Builder schedule
Empire Builder schedule

Empire Builder (Amtrak): Chicago to Seattle/Portland

The Amtrak Empire Builder is a daily Superliner train that travels between the Midwest’s heartland and the scenic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. The train provides service between Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, with several stops in between, including the vibrant cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis and Spokane.

This train expands its reach by splitting or converging, depending on the travel direction, allowing it to serve both Seattle and Portland. You can learn more about this in the article about trains with multiple route numbers.

This page provides the schedule for this train and explains its offerings.

It’s important to note that while this train travels between Chicago and Milwaukee, you cannot use it for those destinations; instead, you would need to take the Hiawatha or the Borealis. The Borealis is also an alternative to the Empire Builder for all stops between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

Amtrak Empire Builder route overview

A view of the Empire Builder and a hotel.
Empire Builder in Whitefish, MT

The Empire Builder takes you alongside the mighty Mississippi River, providing glimpses of charming small towns and expansive farmlands of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

As the train heads westward, it ascends into the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountains, providing passengers with breathtaking mountain views.

The passage through Glacier National Park in Montana is a standout. The park features snow-capped peaks, dense forests, and pristine lakes. Watch for wildlife; the park is home to various animals, including bears and elk.

For those interested, a map depicts the areas you will pass during the day and night. Take a look!

The Baby Builder – The Borealis

In May 2024, a new day train called the Borealis began operating between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

This train covers all the stops between The Builder and the intermediate stops of the Hiawatha. If you plan to travel between those cities, I highly recommend checking out the Borealis as an alternative to the Empire Builder. It’s a convenient and comfortable option.

The Empire Builders host railroads and on-time performance

Travel delays are an unavoidable aspect of traveling, regardless of the mode of transportation. Delays can happen due to Amtrak’s fault, natural disasters, unexpected circumstances, and other factors, including host railroads.

Between April 2023 and 2024, the average passenger’s on-time performance was 57.0%, with an average delay of 111 minutes.

Metra Locomotive

In April 2024, the passee’s on-time performance averaged 65.3%, with an average delay of only 72 minutes.

Host railroads, particularly those spanning 15 miles or more, play a significant role in Amtrak’s on-time performance. Here are the top two reasons why they have caused delays.

Metra caused delays with commuter rail traffic interference and slow orders. 

CPKS caused delays with freight train interference and slow orders. 

BNSF caused delays with freight train interference and slow orders.

The info for this section comes from the Amtrak Host Railroad Report, April 2024.

Coach Seating on the Empire Builder

Amtrak Superliner coach seats
Amtrak Superliner coach seating (Photo courtesy of Amtrak.com)

The Empire Builder provides coach seating with various amenities, including comfortable reclining seats with ample legroom, a fold-down tray, and a seat back pocket. For added comfort, there are foot and leg rests. 

Each seat has individual reading lights and 120v grounded electric outlets on the wall. You will want to bring an extension cord to plug more than one thing in and make accessing the power in an aisle seat easier. 

There are no middle seats; you can find storage above your seat and luggage storage on the lower level. 

Bathrooms are located on the lower level of the car.

Empire Builder coach car layout

There are a few different layouts, but this is the basic one.

Amtrak Superliner Coach Car Diagram
Superliner coach car diagram: Some cars do not have lower seating but have a space for baggage.

Sleeper Car (Rooms) on the Empire Builder

Amtrak Superliner roomette seat
Amtrak Superliner roomette seat

Amtrak sleeper car accommodation is an excellent option if you are looking for a comfortable and private place to sleep and enjoy your train journey. 

All rooms include traditional dining meals; more on that further down. Lounge access is available in Chicago, St. Paul, and Portland, OR; you need to show your ticket indicating your sleeper car reservation. 

Additionally, each room has a dedicated car attendant, seats during the day and beds for a good night’s sleep, drapes on the windows to ensure privacy and block out light, a closet or hook to hang clothing (with hangers provided by Amtrak), cupholders, a table between the seats, and night and reading lights. Amtrak provides pillows, sheets, and blankets. 

Passengers will also have access to upper—and lower-level bathrooms. As a passenger in these cars, you have access to the shower on the lower level; bedrooms have showers in their rooms. Amtrak provides soap, washcloths, and towels; they do not provide hair dryers or curling irons. From my latest experience, there has been shampoo, but it has not always been consistent. 

The sleeper car accommodations offered on the Builder

You can reserve these accommodations for yourself or with a friend, and if you book a room as a single, no one will share it with you.

  • Roomettes
    • Smallest of the rooms
    • Rooms 1-10 on the upper and 11-14 on the lower level.
  • Bedrooms
    • Twice the space of a roomette
    • These rooms are only on the upper level.
  • Family Bedroom
    • For two adults and two smaller kids.
    • On the lower level, with access to a shower down the hall from this room.
  • Accessible room o
    • Accommodations for passengers with mobility issues.
    • On the lower level

The layout can vary, but these are the basics. If your roomette number is 20 or larger, you could be in a transdorm car.

Superliner Sleeper
The layout of a Superliner Sleeper Car

Luggage: Carry on and checked

  • Amtrak’s checked baggage service allows:
    • Two bags up to 50 lbs and 75 linear inches per person for free.
    • Charges apply for additional and oversized luggage.
    • You can check up to four bags.
    • Not all locations can handle checked baggage.
      • Your first and last station must offer checked bag service to check a bag.
    • Click the station links below to see if they provide checked baggage service.

Each passenger may carry on:

  • One personal item, 25 lbs. (12 kg) and 14 x 11 x 7 inches, and 
  • Two carry-on pieces of luggage, 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each
  • If you transfer to the Pacific Surfliner at some point along your journey, the baggage size for that train is up to 28 x 22 x 11 inches each. 

Charges apply for additional and oversized luggage; check out Amtrak’s carry-on bag policy for more information.

Pets and service animals on the Empire Builder

  • Amtrak allows dogs and cats:
    • Up to 20 pounds combined weight of pet and carrier,
    • For trips up to seven hours.
    • Your pet needs to be on your reservation.
    • Paperwork is required and completed before you arrive at the station.
      • The online form will be sent to you after your reservation is complete, or you can find it in the My Trip sections on Amtrak.com or the Amtrak app.
    • Find more info in Amtrak’s pet policy.

If you have a service or comfort animal, please read the Amtrak service animal policy before booking.

Wi-Fi and the Empire Builder

This train does not have Wi-Fi, and cell service dead spots are along the route.

Accessibility on the Builder

A Wheelchair Ramp assists passengers with a wheeled mobility device in boarding and detraining. Lower-level coach seating and accessible bedrooms are also available for those with mobility needs.

Food offerings on the Empire Builder

Two food cars are on the Empire Builder; one offers grab-and-go food, while the other offers sit-down dining.

Amtrak Empire Builder Cafe Car

A sandwisch, coffee, water, and brownie from an Amtrak cafe car.
A meal from the Amtrak Cafe Car

Our café offers a diverse menu, including hot and cold meals, snacks, and a selection of hot, cold, and adult beverages. 

The Café is open to all customers from early morning until late at night, but it closes during the day for the attendants’ breaks. The cafe is not available on trains 7/8 between Seattle and Spokane.

Check out my Amtrak Cafe Car post for more info and current menus.

The location of the Cafe Car

To find the café, head to the lower level of the Sightseer lounge car, which separates the coach cars for each train section. If you are in the Seattle section (cars 7 or 8), walk towards the back of the train. On the other hand, if you are in the Portland section (cars 27 or 28), walk towards the front of the train.

Amtrak Empire Builder Dining Car

Dining car meals are complimentary for customers with sleeping accommodations or at set prices for coach passengers. Amtrak can limit seating for coach passengers based on availability.

AMTRAK PAN ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST
AMTRAK PAN ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST

The Empire Builder train provides a traditional dining experience to its passengers. The meals are chef-prepared and come with table service. Passengers in the sleeping cars can opt to have their meals delivered to their rooms. 

The dining options include breakfast, lunch, and a three-course dinner with selections for kids. Complimentary non-alcoholic beverages come with meals, and Amtrak offers the first drink with dinner for free! 

A wide array of wine, beer, and spirits is available. You can consume them with your meal or return them to your room.

For more information and menus, check out my post on Amtrak Traditional Dining.

The location of the Empire Builder’s dining car

The dining car is on the Seattle side (cars 7/8) between the coach and sleeper cars. If you are on train 27 or 28 headed towards Portland, you’ll have to pass through all the coach cars to reach the dining car. 

Please note that traditional dining is unavailable on train 27/28 between Portland, OR, and Spokane, WA. If you’re a sleeper passenger, your car attendant will provide you with food or further instructions.

Dining car meals are available by day.

This graph illustrates the daily meals served in the Empire Builder dining car.

DIRECTIONCITY SECTIONSDAY OF TRAVELMEALS OFFERED
#7/#27 WestboundChicago, IL – St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN1Dinner
#7/#27 WestboundSt, Cloud, MN – Sandpoint, ID2Breakfast, lunch, & dinner
#7 WestboundSpokane, WA – Seattle, WA3Breakfast
#27 WestboundSpokane, WA -Portland, OR3Breakfast*
#8 EastboundSeattle, WA – Ephrata, WA1Dinner
#28 EastboundPortland, OR – Pasco, WA1Dinner*
#8/#28 EastboundSpokane, WA – Devils Lake, ND2Breakfast, lunch, & dinner
#8/#28 EastboundGrand Forks, ND – Chicago, IL3Breakfast & lunch
*Your meal is handed to you by your car attendant.

How does the Empire Builder have two West Coast ending/starting points?

How does the Empire Builder have two West Coast destinations or starting points? It is easy; the Builder runs as two trains between Spokane and Seattle/Portland. It is one of Amtrak’s trains that split/come together during its route.

The Empire Builder schedule is the same for 7/27 and 8/28 trains traveling between Chicago, IL, and Spokane, WA.

Amtrak Empire Builder Schedule

See where the Empire Builder can take you (and when you get there too)!

Train 7/27
Westbound
Communities ServedTrain 8/28
Eastbound
Read DownDaily TrainMilesLast Stop
3:05pChicago, IL
Union Station (CHI) (CT)
04:45p
3:29pGlenview, IL (GLN) (Metra)174:12p
4:35p | 4:45pMilwaukee, WI
Downtown (MKE)
852:57p | 3:05p
5:55pColumbus, WI (CBS) (Madison)1501:47p
6:24pPortage, WI (POG)1781:17p
6:42pWisconsin Dells, WI (WDL)19512:58p
7:20pTomah, WI (TOH)24012:16p
8:04pLa Crosse, WI *
Amtrak Station (LSE)
28111:37a
8:34p | 8:40pWinona, MN (WIN)30810:54a | 11:01a
9:42pRed Wing, MN (RDW)3719:44a
10:56p | 11:13pSt. Paul-Minneapolis, MN*
Union Depot (MSP)
4108:33a | 8:50a
1:09aSt. Cloud, MN (SCD)4866:32a
2:10aStaples, MN (SPL)5525:27a
3:06aDetroit Lakes, MN (DLK)6144:27a
4:13aFargo, ND (FAR)6623:21a | 3:29a
5:34aGrand Forks, ND (GFK)7372:10a
6:59aDevils Lake, ND (DVL)82212:44a
7:53aRugby, ND (RUG)87911:49p
9:06a | 9:51aMinot, ND (MOT)94010:08p | 10:53p
10:46aStanley, ND (STN)9948:22p
11:59aWilliston, ND (WTN) (CT)10617:21p
12:34pWolf Point, MT (WPT) (MT)11684:32p
1:20pGlasgow, MT (GGW)12173:44p
2:20pMalta, MT (MAL)12832:43p
3:54p | 4:15pHavre, MT (HAV)13701:05p | 1:24p
6:21pShelby, MT (SBY) *147511:28a
6:51pCut Bank, MT (CUT)149910:27a
7:28pBrowning, MT (BRO) W15329:52a
7:48pEast Glacier Park, MT (GPK) W15479:36a
8:44pEssex, MT (ESM)
Izaak Walton Inn
15768:37a
9:27pWest Glacier, MT (WGL) (Apgar)16037:57a
10:06p | 10:21pWhitefish, MT (WFH)16267:11a | 7:26a
12:05aLibby, MT (LIB) (MT)17285:11a
12:55aSandpoint, ID (SPT) (PT)18132:20a
2:44aSpokane, WA *
Amtrak Station (SPK)
189712:37a
Train separates or comes together.
Train 7Train to/from Seattle
Skip this section for 27-28
MilesTrain 8
3:19aSpokane, WA *
Amtrak Station (SPK)
18791:15a
5:28aEphrata, WA (EPH)19989:58p
6:35a | 6:45aWenatchee, WA *
Amtrak Station (WEN)
20508:51p | 8:57p
7:18aLeavenworth, WA
Icicle Station (LWA)
20728:17p
10:03aEverett, WA (EVR)21715:55p
10:35aEdmonds, WA (EDM)21885:27p
11:29aSeattle, WA *
King Street Station (SEA) (PT)
22554:55p
Last StopStationsMilesRead Up
Train 27Train to/from PortlandMilesTrain 28
3:49aSpokane, WA *
Amtrak Station (SPK)
187912:17a
6:40aPasco, WA (PSC) *20259:06p
8:35aWishram, WA (WIH) (The Dallas)21506:59p
9:10aBingen-White Salmon, WA (BNG)21806:24p
10:35aVancouver, WA (VAN)22545:09p
11:17aPortland, OR
Union Station (PDX) (PT)
22554:45p
Last StopStationsMilesRead Up
This schedule is a guide; check with Amtrak for current times. ‘

Abbreviations

R = Receive passengers only; this means you can board the train, but you cannot buy a ticket on this train to this station.

D = Depart only; you can buy a ticket to this station but not from this station, and this train may leave early from this stop.

W = Seasonal station from October to April.

* = Stations with Amtrak Connecting Services.

Printable Amtrak Empire Builder Schedule

Amtrak offers you custom schedules for free! You can get the needed times or a schedule that includes connecting trains or services. Learn how to print Amtrak schedules! You can also learn how to print out route schedules from that link.

Kev’s thoughts on the Empire Builder

Amtrak Empire Builder
Amtrak’s Empire Builder (Photo Courtesy of Amtrak)

“The Empire Builder is a great way to travel between the Northwest and the Midwest. I’ve taken this train a few times and had a great time. I even met a local celebrity in the dining car. One of my favorite parts of the ride was traveling along the Mississippi and through my state by rail!”

If you’re in the sleeping car on the Portland sections of the train (27/28), it’s a hike to the dining car. The same applies to Seattle sleeper car passengers who want to go to the cafe car (between Chicago and Spokane). So, if you’re going only some of the way, consider that when booking.

This page has more information that can help you, including thoughts on boarding Amtrak, ways to save money when booking, and things to consider when you get a sold-out message.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to help you do your research! If you enjoyed this post and got something out of it, consider supporting Travels with Kev.

Kevin Monteith

Kev Monteith has been traveling on Amtrak since 2012. With over a decade of experience, he has been on over 800 trains, covering over 200k miles of rail. Kev enjoys helping others achieve their travel dreams by providing support and information. Outside of travel, Kev enjoys making music as an organist and outings with family.

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