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Traveling on the Amtrak Coast Starlight and Empire Builder for a Spring Visit to the Izaak Walton Inn and Glacier National Park

Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, Montana

Traveling on the Amtrak Coast Starlight and Empire Builder for a Spring, 2012, Visit to Glacier National Park.

May 19 - 26, 2012

Photos and Text by  Comments welcomed.

"If I hadn't fallen down, the Conductor would not have seen me and stopped the train!"  Said my travel buddy, Don, wiping blood from his elbow as we loaded into the car to head home. 

That is how this great rail adventure ended; funny for me, painful for him.  He had left his backpack on the train on the final leg of our 6 day train trip to the Izaak Walton Inn from Fullerton, California.
  I had missed the whole Circus Act since I was ahead of Don and on the elevator when it took place.  He was good humored about the antics he had gone through, but successful in getting home with all his luggage.

We planned this six-day trip months before.  It would take one night on the Coast Starlight, one night on the Empire Builder, and two nights at the Izaak Walton Inn, with two nights on the trains returning home.  I had written two reports on the Izaak Walton Inn before (links to those reports at the end of this report), but wanted to experience the Inn's new developments first hand since those previous reports.

You can use the Table of Contents to go directly to any section of this report, or continue down this page to read the full report.


How much does it cost for this trip on Amtrak?

These numbers are for only one week in advance of travel.  Plan far, far ahead to get lower rates.

Northbound:  For the 48 hr. trip (2 nights) in coach from Fullerton, California, to Essex, MT, it is $222 for one adult, $444 for two. 

Add a roomette (bunk beds and all meals for up to two adults) on the Coast Starlight portion for  $336 and on the Empire Builder portion for $245.

Southbound:  For the 52 hr. trip in coach from Essex, MT, to Fullerton, CA, is $254 for one adult, $508 for two.

Add a roomette (bunk beds and all meals for up to two adults) on the Empire Builder portion for $295 and on the Coast Starlight portion for $461.

Total:  About $2,000 round trip with a roommette and meals for two for about 100 hours on the train.

Discounts:  AAA 10% on coach portion; Adult 62+ 15%.

Join Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) and earn points for all your Amtrak trips which you can use for travel, such as this trip.  Apply for and use an Amtrak Charge Card and earn points as well.  AGR has mileage sales each spring where you can buy 13,000 pts. for less than $300.  This trip takes only 15,000 points one way in a roomette...a $1,000 value!

Where can I make Amtrak and Hotel Reservations?

You can make all the above reservations at  However, if you want a seasoned Amtrak Travel Agent to make all these reservations for you, including your stay at the Izaak Walton Inn,  just give Carole Walker a call at:  (714) 952-2719.

Remember:  Earlier is better in reference to the cost of Amtrak Long Distance Travel.

Where I ate:

The dining room at the Izaak Walton Inn is called the "Dining Car" (I've never seen a dining car with these delicious choices and economical prices!)  At the end of this report there is a link to their extensive menu.

On this trip, all meals were included in the price of the roomette so the Dining Car on both the Coast Starlight and Empire Builder was  the place where I took all meals enroute. On the Coast Starlight sleeping car passengers have the classic Pacific Parlour Car in which to enjoy an alternative location for meals to the dining car.  Also, each afternoon there is wine tasting in this car.  Champagne splits are offered in sleeping accommodations on both trains.  I like to pick up some complimentary orange juice in my sleeping car and make my way to the Parlour Car with the champagne for a morning mimosa.


In East Glacier:  Since the Lodge was not scheduled to open until May 25, their restaurant was not open.

At the Izaak Walton Inn: 
We took 12 meals at the IWI in their Dining Car Restaurant, a variety  of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  Our average per meal, including tip, drinks, and some desserts, cost was $12.07.

In West Glacier: We had lunch at the McDonald Lake Lodge.

Izaak Walton Inn Accommodations:

Great Northern Room: Located on the 1st floor, 1 queen bed & 1 twin bed, maximum occupancy of three. 
$119 per night plus 7% tax

Other room rates:

Transportation during my stay at the Izaak Walton Inn

We made arrangements by phone to rent one of their SUVs at $69 a day with 150 miles per day included.  You return the car full of gas, but the nearest gas station is 20+ miles in either direction.  They know this and do not charge for the gas used to go get gas.

Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, Montana, with passing westbound Empire Builder.

Table of Contents

I.  Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, Montana

"...a family-owned retreat bordering Glacier National Park, in Essex, Montana.  Specializing in outdoor adventure and serious relaxation, the Inn hosts activities year round...."  --IWI website.

What I like about their quote above are the words:  serious relaxationNearly all guests that we met were interested in the train connection.  Ask at the desk for the map showing the best spots for photos of passing trains, and the milepost detectors.  Radio frequencies can be obtained at:

The Amtrak Empire Builder arrives at the Izaak Walton Inn about 9 a.m. eastbound.  With an early morning breakfast on the Empire Builder before you arrive at the in, you can hit the ground running for nearly a full day of sight seeing the same day.  In prior communication with the Inn, I had reserved one of their rental cars for about $70 a day with 150 miles a day included.  The room we wanted, Room 3, was not yet ready, so we put our luggage in another vacant room and Sarah agreed to have the luggage moved to Room 3 if it became available for our stay.

The weather forecast indicated a 40% chance of rain each day, with temperature about 46 during the day and colder at night.  We were prepared for both rain and cold, but since the weather was just a sprinkling of rain when we arrived, I decided we should see as much of the two Glacer National Park entrances as possible this first day before expected wetter weather arrived.

The first thing on my Shot List was to take my umbrella, camera, and tripod trackside to make a few quick photographs.

(Click any photo below for a double-sized copy; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Track side of the Izaak Walton Inn

In the Inn is this 1939 drawing of the hotel, built as housing for the Great Northern Railroad crew while building the RR.

This covered porch is a new development since my 2008 visit.  Many tables and chairs with great vistas of passing warmer weather.

From the new covered porch, as well as the original porch and all trackside rooms guests can see many passing BNSF freights each day.  The flowers and Railway Express Cart are a nice touch.  The  Inn's cabooses can be seen on the far hill and their new cabins are beyond the cabosses...all for rent by guests.

These two locomotive Helpers are based in the yard adjacent to the Inn.  You can see an employee switching the Helpers back into the yard.

Don enjoying the view from Room 3...first floor, trackside in the Inn.  I know of no other hotel where train watching is this convenient.  If you do, please let me know.

View of the Lodge and GN 441Locomotive (engine removed and restored to luxury accommodations, also available for rent) from the pedestrian bridge over the tracks.  Interior photos in my 2010 report.

About 7:30 p.m. the westbound Empire Builder passes the Inn after detraining passengers at the Inn's platform about 100 yards to the right.

Izaak Walton Inn rates for Lodge Rooms are $99 - 259 per night depending on time of year.

Family Cabins (shown in my 2010 report) are $189 to 239 per night.

GN 441  Restored Locomotive

$299/night (Two Night Minimum)

See my 2010 report for photos inside this GN 441 Locomotive.
(Link at the end of this report)

The Essex Yard used for snow plow storage, track crew machinery, helpers, and work trains.

While awaiting the next morning's Empire Builder arrival, I heard a freight locomotive coming and almost missed a photo of Amtrak's arrival...behind a BNSF freight locomotive.

The Sightseer/Lounge car on the Empire Builder passes the Izaak Walton Inn, eastbound.

The Izaak Walton Inn's van will pick you up at its platform and bring you to the Inn, or take you to your train when leaving.

Lobby of the Izaak Walton Inn.  A quiet, peaceful place to read and relax.  No Internet service in the Lobby, not cell service at the Inn.  Internet is available downstairs in the Bar/Lounge.

Dining Room  with guest, Tim from New Hampshire, on right.

Bethany (l) and her mother, Ann Barnett (r) of Staunton, Virginia.  Bethany won an essay contest about Empire Builder Travel in 2010 and won a trip to Glacier National Park.  Link to her essay at the end of this report.

Sarah from Evansville, IN, was very helpful getting us settled and getting us lined up with a rental car.

Our excellent waitress, Dani.

Michael from Glendora, CA, was out breakfast waiter.

Lounge in the basement of the Inn.

Notice that the foot rail under the stools is a section of track.

A second gaming room in the basement.

Above the dining room is an O-gauge model train of the Empire Builder from an earlier era.

Outside the Inn is "JJ" a caboose named after James J. Hill.  It is refurbished as luxury accommodations.

Caboose Lodging at the Izaak Walton Inn Resort ranges from $189 to $239 per night.  Luxury RailCars from $249 to 359.

Interior shots of the "JJ" Caboose.

The cupola must be a favorite place for kids.

There is a double bed in the cupola.

A patio with seating and a grill plus a view of the tracks.

Photo Credit:  Done Roe

Even Yours Truly can 'play trainman' on the deck of the JJ.

Sights within walking distance of the Izaak Walton Inn

May 16, 2012 9:30 am  •  By CLAIR JOHNSON

Two train cabooses that were parked south of the historic Billings Depot arenow at their new home in northwestern Montana to make way for the new Trailhead Plaza.

The two 60,000-pound cabooses were placed by crane on two semitrailers and transported to the Depot Inn and Suites in Essex where they will be refurbished into private guest rooms.  The IWI paid for the train cars to be moved.

The two cars are now in a small meadow adjacent to the Izaak Walton Inn, ready to be refurbished.

The older of the two cabooses donated by the Billings Depot is a crew car.

The second caboose from the Billings Depot.

The cabin to the right faces the same meadow as the two donated cabooses.  The cabin is being reburbished and will be available for rent soon.

There is always interesting railroad equipment in the nearby Essex Yard.

Guests arrive via all kinds transportation...not just trains.

Deer are plentiful, even in Essex.

You may note, this "Flower Bed" has wire over it to prevent it becoming deer food.

Look for this sign if driving Hwy. 2 between East and West Glacier...

And this one as you leave the Inn.

If you walk out to Hwy. 2, you will pass this humorous nameplate on one of the private residences:
"Broke Spoke Cabin" with a wrecked bicycle.

"Deer Food"

The Empire Builder passes the Izaak Walton Inn and the Inn's platform is about 100 yards around the curve to the east, after the sidings for the Essex Yard have joined the double-tracked main line.

The new platform, put in my Amtrak, is a great improvement.  The Inn's van can pull right up onto the platform so guests can unload their luggage onto the lighted platform and roll it to the van without walking on the crushed rock as before.  I image during snow that this platform is cleared for guests.

While waiting for our departing Empire Builder, this bear crossed the tracks east of the platform and I took this photo from inside the van.

The arriving Empire Builder westbound, at the Izaak Walton Inn platform.

II.  Coast Starlight
round trip from Fullerton, California, to Portland, Oregon, and Empire Builder from Portland, Oregon to Essex, Montana.

This trip is nearly as far as one can travel within the Western Zone of Amtrak.  Therefore, it costs the minimum number of Amtrak Guest Rewards points, 15,000, for a roomette one way from Fullerton, CA, to Essex, Montana.  I used my points one way and Don uses his points the other.  Since meals are included in the Diner or Parlour Car with room accommodations on the train, we had no expenses until we were in Essex.  This trip includes Business Class seats on the Pacific Surfliner from Fullerton to Los Angeles where the Coast Starlight originates.  In Business Class, riders have coffee and muffins or pastries and a newspaper included in the faire.  Once we arrived in Los Angeles, just 34 minutes from Fullerton, we and our bags were taken by a Red Cap to the First Class Lounge (The Traxx Bar) near the front of Los Angeles Union Station.  The red cap cart driver explained that the station was crowded with scheduled departures, but she would return for us and our luggage before the Coast Starlight's departure, which she did.  In the Traxx Bar, there was more  complimentary coffee and juices. 

Since the Izaak Walton Inn stop is a flag stop, and there is no station therefore no luggage service on the Empire Builder, we take our luggage with us on all legs of the trip.  Other destinations, however, do have baggage service.  We could have checked some bags from Fullerton to Portland, however, and just taken our bags on the Empire Builder leg.

Los Angeles Union Station

Near the exit to the old Harvey House, we waited for the Coast Starlight departure at the Traxx Bar, above right.

The Great Hall at Los Angeles Union Station.

For those who wish more than complimentary coffee there is a relatively new Starbucks.

A store has been added in the station with bananas and more.

On the platform for the Coast Starlight, there is a lot of activity with Metrolink, Pacific Surfliner, and Metro trains.  There is a free Dodger Stadium Express busfor those who have tickets for a Dodger game and who arrive by train.

Coast Starlight Round Trip between Los Angeles and Portland, OR.

The first leg was the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon.  First Class passengers are taken to the train, by Red Cap cart, before the coach passengers since there is some time required to load their luggage and find their room accommodations.  I like this early time to take photos of the locomotive and car interiors before passengers arrive.

Our lead locomotive as the earlier arriving Southwest Chief heads for the barn.

The Coast Starlight is the only Amtrak train to have the Pacific Parlour Cars.  They have a theatre downstairs

The Coast Starlight is the only Amtrak train to have the Pacific Parlour Cars.  They have a theatre downstairs, and a bar upstairs with half the car outfitted with tables and half swivel-upholstered chairs.

Pacific Parlour Car (above and below) is a car only found on the Coast Starlight and only available to passengers in the sleeping cars.   They have a different menu than the Dining Car for all meals and also conduct complimentary Wine Tasting each afternoon in this car.  The Bar in this car is open until about 10 pm as well.

These 6 seats swivel for viewing outside the car or conversing with fellow passengers.

Dining in the Parlour Car is 2 per table, so you usually dine with your travel mate unless you are outgoing and make acquaintances across the aisle or in the lounge area of the car.

Champagne splits are provided in the sleeping cars as well as fruit juices which Don combined as a Mumosa and enjoyed it in the Parlour Car.

View of the Pacific Ocean west of Santa Barbara from the Parlour Car.

This passenger showed me the nice photos she got of the coast with her iPad during wine tasting.  They were Los Angeles residents on their way to Chicago to visit.

The etched glass partitions in the Parlour Car.

Drinks, fruit, and ice are kept in Roomette No. 1 (above and right) for sleeping car passengers since there is not enough room in the coffee area.  All these items are complimentary during your journey.

Ice is replentished at Crew Change Stations, and newspapers are brought on board each morning.

Seating in the Diner is 4 per table, good for meeting fellow travelers.  After each meal, a car attendant will come to your room and give you the seating times for the next meal, and a slip reminding you of your seating time.  The dining car attendant will call passengers on the intercom when their tables are ready.

San Luis Obispo is a crew change stop with time to step off the train to stretch your legs.

The following morning, at breakfast, we had sunlight farther south than normal because we were 3 hours late.  A pedestrian trespasser had been hit by a train preceeding ours and the investigation and crew change took over 2 hours.

Being later than usual allowed for spectacular fiews of Mt. Shasta from 3 sides as our train circled the dormant volcano.

Our Coast Starlight trip was scheduled to continue to Portland, OR, but since we were behind schedule and unable to make the connection with the Empire Builder, we were told about 15 minutes before Klamath Falls that we would detrain there and be bussed to Pasco, Washington, to meet the eastbound Empire Builder.  Nine of us detrained, some having to retrieve their checked luggage from the baggage car, and we contined on a 5 hour bus trip northward to Pasco, Washington, where we boarded the Empire Builder.

The return trip on the Coast Starlight began at Portland with this view as we left.

Just south of Portland, we passed these restored Empire Builder private cars.

An electric generating plant in Oregon along the tracks.

The Pacific Parlour Car on this trip had been bad ordered with a brocken knuckle, but this beautiful new  Diner/Lounge was its replacement.  This car seemed to have more seating and some tables not used during dining time.  Don and I made good use of said tables for my laptop picture editing and his reading and report writing.

Wine tasting took place in this car each afternoon as it would in the Parlour Car.

The Parlour Car Attendant said any table without flowers would not be used by her during the day and that we were free to use the tables.  These were magic words to me and Don, both of whom like much more space for our work than what is provided in a Roomette.  In this particular car there were electrical outlets at each table/booth so I set up on one table (above) and don on the adjacent one (right).

Plenty of water in Oregon as well as railroad bridges over it.

Downtown San Francisco can be glimpsed from the Southbound Coast Starlight near Emeryville, CA.

Our train took a siding for a while between San Jose and Salinas and I enjoyed watching the harvest of food in the "Breadbasket of America".

In a slough designated as a wildlife refuge, I had seen on past trips some seals.  This trip the only ones I saw were these, each of a different color.  One seems to be wondering about the loud silver thing traveling through the refuge not far away.

On this Portland to Los Angeles Coast Starlight trip, as well as on the Empire Builder, I noticed a few new things about security on Amtrak.  On the Empire Builder there were two Amtrak Police Officers in uniform.  Later they were not in uniform on the Coast Starlight, so I engaged the most approachable of the two in conversation.  They had been to Chicago, from their Los Angeles base, to attend the NATO Conference that had just taken place.  There were domonstrators so these two helped the Chicago Police with crowd control at Union Station.

The second encounter was with a handler and a German Shepherd who sniffed all the luggage stored in the Metropolitan Lounge in the Portland Station as well as my backpack as I was trying to retrieve my ticket for the Lounge Attendant.

The third observation was in San Jose when 5 or 6 officers walked onboard and into the Parlour Car.  I first noticed them on the platform--with large coffees in hand.  The Amtrak Policeman said they were TSA police on a familiarization trip from San Jose to Salinas accompanied by an Amtrak Policeman.  They settled in the Parlour Car--large coffees still in hand and the Amtrak Policeman who boarded with them expounded on personnel and salaries openly within earshot.  Personally, the coffee carrying TSA officials only help promote the old addage, "If you want a Policeman, call the local donut shop."  I guess this might have changed to, "If you want an TSA Policeman, call the Parlour Car."

I asked the original Amtrak Policeman what he'd like me to put into this report.  He said they were viewed in a positive light by the majority of passengers.  The only ones who did not feel as positive about them were those rowdy passengers who had been drinking heavily and did not heed the words of the Conductor and were put off the train into the hands of a local sheriff at the next town.  I asked if this was the most common infraction they had to deal with and he added that theft was a second concern.  Theft mostly of cameras and computers and other items that had been left in sight of other passengers walking through the train.  He added that one section on the Empire Builder was becoming a problem.  It is an area of new oil discoveries where the town is booming and housing is not available.  Farmers have rented plots of their farm for workers to park a trailer for $1,000 a month.  The workers can only get to this oil field by train.  They work long days and when they get time off, they board the train, drink excessively, and become troublesome for the crews to keep them in order on the family-oriented train.

Empire Builder  Westbound - Essex, Montana, to Portland, Oregon

My goal on this third trip to the Izaak Walton Inn was to photograph the westbound Empire Builder not only passing the Izaak Walton, but also at some of the scenic spots in Glacier National park where I had photographed BNSF freights.  These spots are enumerated on the map you can obtain from the front desk of the Izaak Walton Inn.  I have included a copy of this map at the top of this report.  I feel the most accessible spots to photograph passing trains is along Hwy. 2 between Essex and the East Glacier Lodge and Depot.

Amtrak westbound Empire Builder nearing the Continental Divide and Marias Pass, west of East Glacier Lodge along Hwy. 2.

Snow Creek Trestle, best viewed from Goat Lick Parking Lot.

Official Amtrak Poster in our Coast Starlight sleeping car, taken at Snow Creek Trestle as my photograph was above and right.

Westbound Empire Builder passing the Izaak Walton Inn on its evening schedule.  Taken with zoom lens at 65mm.

This the same Same Snow Creek Trestle shot at 18mm on my Tamron zoom lens, just to show how far away this trestle is from the Goat Lick Parking Lot, so take a telephoto lens with you.

This shot of the same westbound Empire Builder, but earlier in the evening, was taken along Hwy. 2 just west of East Glacier Lodge.  Shot or two after this shot was the mountain-view shot you see above in this section.

The next evening we boarded the westbound Empire Builder on an overnight trip back to Portland.

Westbound Empire Builder passing the Izaak Walton Inn on its evening schedule of 7:41 p.m. in Late May, 2012.

Essex is last call for dinner on the westbound Empire Builder so there is not much time for photographs before dark.  This shot of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River was taken from our dinner table.

The second stop after Essex is White Fish.  A crew change station and time to step off and stretch if you like.

One last shot before turning in for the night and the morning Portland arrival.

Photo Credit:  Don Roe

Yours truly

This plant along the Columbia River was loading sawdust into an ocean-going freighter.

Logging is still thriving in Washington state.

Right, Vancouver, WA, Station, then a 90 degree turn to cross the Columbia River on two railroad bridges.

Leaving Vancouver, WA, the train crosses the Columbia River Draw Bridge, a 2,806 ft. structure leading onto Hayden Island.  Off Hayden Island, the train crosses a 1,516 ft. bridge over the Oregon Slough (a second channel of the Columbia River).  Finally, we cross the Willamette River into Portland.

Halfway across a swing bridge on the Columbia R.

North Portland

Nice new paint job and perhaps a new switch engine.

Right, Portland Station.  Time to store our luggage in the Metropolitan Lounge and head downtown via light rail or Shank's Pony.

III.  East Glacier Lodge and Amtrak Station

East Glacier Lodge as seen from the Amtrak Glacier Park, Montana, Station

Glacier Park, Montana, Amtrak Station with eastbound BNSF No. 5365 passing.

From the station, to the south you can hear freights coming and see them rounding the bend heading for the station and beyong to Two Medicine Bridge and on to Browning.

Inside Glacier Park Amtrak Station

Glacier Park Station was built in 1913.  The station is near 50 "living" glaciers and 9,000 - 10,466 ft. mountains.  The impressive, timbered lodge is partially constructed from trees estimated to be 600 years old.  The lodge was built by the Great Northern Railway to promote rail travel and to attract tourists to this beautiful area.  The park, with over 700 mi. of trails, is a hiker's paradise.  The Empire builder crosses the Two Medicine River high trestle just east of the Station.

Long mural of cattle branding above.

Right, Ticket Office with East Glacier Village across the mainline.

East Glacier Lodge

Even though it did not open until May 25, they were cleaning and preparing the lodge for business.  I slipped inside and took a few photos.  Additional photos in my 2008 or 2010 report.

East Glacier Lodge Interior with sections of 600 year old trees as pillars.

Luck for me they already had their 14 Historic Red Cars out for polishing before the season started.

East of East Glacier Lodge, on Hwy. 2 is Two Medicine RR Bridge.  Some day I'll get a photo like this with a train on that bridge.

IV.  Continental Divide and Sights along Hwy. 2 and the BNSF line heading west to the Izaak Walton Inn.

Marias Pass.  The train route through Glacier Park follows the "Mystery Pass" through the Rockies sought by Lewis and Clark and finally established by John Stevens.  Stevens, with assistance from a Blackfeet Indian guide, found the route on a mission for the Great Northern Railway in 1889, and is remembered by a statue below.  The Continental Divide here is 5,216 ft. above sea level, the lowest pass between New Mexico and Canada.  The obelisk monument is to President Theodore Roosevelt.

Photo Credit:  Don Roe

Yours Truly trying to claim a connection to "Slippery Bill Morrison" with no success.

On the west side of the Continental Divide, below Snow Shed No. 8, is a nice waterfalls on the south side of the road with plenty of parking for walking to the base of the falls.

At the waterfalls, I asked about Mountain Goat sightings.  One fellow told me that there were goats at Goat Lick, so we headed there, westward toward the Izaak Walton Inn.  This goat was above the official goat lick. 270mm lens shot.

This 23mm shot from the same spot shows how far the goat lick is from the viewing area.  Take a telephoto and binoculars with you.

On the opposite side of Hwy. 2 from the Goat Lick Parking area, were some more goats closer to the road for photographs.

It seems every mounted mountain goat and every one I've seen in the wild has had his front feet up on a rock.  Perhaps this helps him keep watch for preditors interested in diminishing his herd.

Java Creek Trestle is a favorite train photographing spot for me.  It is down a fire road just west a few feet from where the main line crosses over Hwy. 2.  Park by the road and prepare to navigate over, under, or around about 10 trees that have fallen across the road.  Once you are in the clearing by the railroad trestle, you can get photos like these.

BNSF No. 7460 leads a train of covered hoppers of grain or potash up through Marias Pass over Java Creek Trestle.

Stay for the Pushers; they make good photos as well.

Snow Creek Trestle looks good with any sort of train on it.

Peek out from under your umbrella while taking photos of trains and you might see a rainbow.

Big Sky Country looks good with a BNSF freight.

V.  West Glacier and Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald's south shore from the boat rental dock.

West Glacier, some 20+ miles west of the Izaak Walton Inn, has some interesting features including an historic railroad station called Belton-West Glacier.  Glacier Park opened in 1910 and the original Belton Chalet, the first lodge built by the Great Northern Railway for the park, is now restored and open to guests year round.  Snowfall here averages 100 - 200 inches per year.  At this late date in May, the Going-To-The-Sun Highway was not yet plowed open.

Picturesque Lake McDonald...fed by mountain streams, this clear blue lake with its snow-capped mountains in the background is a view that never disappoints locals and visitors alike. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park. It is ten miles long and 450 feet deep. In the year 1908, Charles M. Russell, famed cowboy artist of the west, had his summer home built at the foot of Lake McDonald by Dimon Apgar, Sr. Russell called his cabin “Bull Head Lodge” after the buffalo skull that was his trademark.

Charlie Russell was a familiar figure to the people of early Apgar; an outstanding figure with his cowboy hat, boots and the always present sash tied about his waist. Aside from his artistic talent, Russell had a knack for telling fireside stories.

--From Eddie's Menu

Belton-West Glacier, MT, Amtrak Station.

Inside Belton-West Glacier Station.

We had heard this crew talking with the Dispatcher on our radio.  Then we saw them adjacent to the West Glacier Station.

Across the tracks from the Station is this Canadian Visitor Information Building.  You can continue through Glacier National Park into Canada.  Take your passport if you want to return to the USA.

The Rocky Mountaineer display caught my eye as a future rail trip possibility.  They have several sections on which you can book passage.  Their cars are all domes and you stay in static accommodations each evening.

Just east of the Belton-West Glacier Station is a good spot to look down on trains, a tunnel, and the Flathead River.

Other Canadian attractions in their pavilion:

Another place I'd like visit in Canada.

Continue driving north and you will soon pass the GNP Sign, then stop at the Apgar Village area for some photos of the village and the southern end of Lake McDonald.  Further north up the east edge of Lake McDonald is the Lake McDonald Lodge.

McDonald Lake by Charles M. Russell

In the year 1908, Charles M. Russell, famed cowboy artist of the west, had his summer home built at the foot of Lake McDonald by Dimon Apgar, Sr. Russell called his cabin “Bull Head Lodge” after the buffalo skull that was his trademark.

Charles M. Russell said regarding his talent "Talent is like a birthmark – it's a gift and no credit nor fault to those who wear them." His commitment to the western culture is clear when he said "The West is dead... you may lose a sweetheart but you won't forget her." and again "A pioneer destroys things and calls it civilization." His love for western art and cowboys can be summarized in this statement "Spending that many hours in the saddle gave a man plenty of time to think. That's why so many cowboys fancied themselves Philosophers." Charles Russell was many things: consummate Westerner, historian, advocate of the Northern Plains Indians, cowboy, outdoorsman, writer, philosopher, environmentalist, conservationist, and not least, artist. He completed approximately 4,000 works of art during his lifetime. Russell greatly admired the American Indians, especially those of the Northern Plains. He was the first "Western" artist to live the majority of his life in the West. For this reason, Charlie knew his subject matter intimately, setting the standard for many western artists to follow. He painted in a time when there was considerable interest in the West. Charlie's works were popular because of their narrative subject matter, unique style, and dynamic action. In addition, he had the ability to accurately depict specific times or events in western history.

South shore of  Lake McDonald at Apgar Village.

Very clear water from melting snow and glaciers.

Rental boats stored for the winter.

The Village Inn at Apgar is my idea of accommodations as they might have been 50 years ago.  Rates here for a great variety of rooms range from $135 a night to $245.

Only a block from the shore is Eddie's Restaurant Gifts and Groceries.  It is under the same ownership and management as the Izaak Walton Inn.

Inside Eddie's I selected some items from the Huckleberry items shelves for the folks back home.  Two menu items caught my eye:  Slippery Bill Morrison's Grilled Turkey Club and Huckleberry Fiesling made in Flathead Lake, MT.

Across the side street from Eddies is the Ranger Visitor Information Station.  Stop in for post cards, books, and a free map of the park.

Eddie's has a nice sign advertising the Izaak Walton Inn, and their website.

This Robin knows that the early bird gets the worm.  We saw many robins in the park.

On the north end of McDonald Lake, you can see the rushing Avalanche Creek as it flows into the lake.

Lake McDonald Lodge was open for business so I took some interior and exterior photos and had lunch there.

This could be a photo from decades ago if it were in black and white.

The Lodge was actually running its Red Car Tours

Matt was taking a group tour out while we were at the Lodge for lunch.  He is a "Jammer" as earlier generation Red Car drivers were called because they had to "jam" the old White motorbuses into gear.  Of course the remodeling by Ford in 2001 eliminated the need for jamming gears, but the name stuck for the drivers.

Photo Credit:  Jammer Matt

Matt suggested that he take my photo by a Red Car as well...thanks Matt.

The Lake-Facing side of Lake McDonald Lodge is more picturesque.

The Lodge's boat dock and historic lake cruise boat.

The path leading down to the boat dock passes this ancient cottonwood tree.

This creed runs into Lake McDonald and is immediately adjacent to the Lake McDonald Lodge.

Rustic cushioned chairs face the lake with the sound of the creek making for a pleasant sit.

The three-story great room's expansive vertical space at the Lodge is uniquely decorated with tall indian-inspired painted lamps handing from the ceiling.

The table decorations of sunflowers in the Lobby caught my eye as they were backlighted from the large window above the fireplace.

Extensive Lunch menu in their restaurant.  I selected a flatbread sandwich of turkey, cranberries and fruit.

Right, I ventured to the second floor balcony for some more photos.

VI.  Whitefish, Montana and Amtrak Station

Whitefish, Montana, is an Amtrak stop on the Empire Builder route west of the Izaak Walton Inn.  Don and I were curious whether or not traveling there on Amtrak on some future date might be a good destination.    The Amtrak Empire Builder Magazine, Fall Winter 2011 issue says this about the town:

Whitefish - Originally nicknamed "Stumptown" from its logger heritage, this Alpine-style station matches the beauty of its natural setting.  Built in the late 1940s, Whitefish Mountain Resort is one of the nation's finest and best-kept northwest secrets.  Skiers enjoy high-speed quad chairs to the summit in seven minutes that also provide sightseers with breathtaking views in the summer.  On the border of Whitefish Lake; Kalispell and Flathead Lake are just 17 miles south.
--Empire Builder Magazine - Fall Winter 2011

Whitefish, Montana, Amtrak Station

Displays outside the Whitefish Amtrak Station

Inside the Whitefish, Montana, Amtrak Station

A working freight scale in the lobby.

This mountain goat ram seems unusual and I guess it is because he seems to have been sheered.

Having not had a Carmel Latte since leaving home, I was happy to find one in Whitefish.

Portland Station and City

Portland - The Chinook Indians were the first to use the site of Portland as a port.  It is said that homesich New England settlers flipped a coin to choose between Portland (as in Maine) and Boston (as in Massachusetts) for the name of their new city.  Today, Portland calls itself the "City of Roses; the cleanest, most beautiful city in America."  In the heart of the Columbia River basin, Portland was the largest city in the Pacific Northwest when it incorporated in 1851.  With the completion of the railroad 30 years later, it became a supply center for the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896.  Portland is known for its strong land-use planning and investment in public transit.  
--Empire Builder Magazine - Fall Winter 2011

Portland has an excellent public transit system with the light rail stopping a few steps from the Amtrak Station.  We walked downtown between our Empire Builder arrival and Coast Starlight departure, but returned to the station via light rail.

One storefront had this historic-appearing metal sign advertising Glacier Park.

Powell's Books was our, and many others, first destination.  I enjoyed the free Internet in their World Cup Coffee Shop.

This park sculpture seemed to need a smaller trunk.

Could not help but photograph this street sign with my Surname.  A friend said the man in the sign looked a bit like me!

An unusual name for a food vendor, I thought.  This area had many many food vendors similar to this all at one intersection.

An older style MAX trolley that we took back to Union Station.

Union Station from the pedestrian bridge over the tracks.

Union Station's directional neon including the Metropolitan Lounge.  Also notice the "rail fan".

What a great car free vacation traveling by train from Southern California to Montana's Glacier National Park.  The Izaak Walton Inn is the most railfan friendly accommodation you can find in the United States.  By that I mean, this Inn is unique in its location so close to an active rail yard, transcon main line, and has an Active Amtrak Stop.

A very close second is the Depot Inn and Suites in Silver Rails Country in Missouri.  I have posted eleven rail reports on Silver Rails Country and the Depot Inn and Suites.  Just go to:

•    Silver Rails Country - A Photographer's Paradise in Middle America  Located in Northeast Missouri (NEMO) at the La Plata stop on the route of the Amtrak Southwest Chief.  A Photo Essay featuring the Depot Inn & Suites, Silver Rails Gallery and Event Center, La Plata Amtrak Station, Santa Fe Espresso, Grandma's, West Winery, and five other photo essays around La Plata.

•    "Rail Travel Writing and Photography Workshop" October 16 - 20, 2011 Presented by Henry Kisor and Carl Morrison - Reasons for holding your next small conference in the center of Silver Rails Country at the rail-friendly Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, Missouri, on the route of the Southwest Chief.

•   Trains to Planes 2010:  Taking the Southwest Chief  to Silver Rails Country, La Plata, MO, for the Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville Air Festival  Sept. 12, 2010.

•    VIEWS FROM A SUPERLINER:  Southwest Chief from Fullerton, California, to LaPlata, Missouri, March 8 - 14, 2010, for the Silver Rails Gallery Opening, and return to Fullerton.

•    Silver Rails Country Attractions:  LaPlata; Kirksville; Macon; Higbee, and Hannibal, Missouri.  Missouri Wineries and more.  March 8 - 14, 2010

•    Silver Rails Gallery, La Plata, MO, Grand Opening, March 13, 2010.  A new Art Gallery devoted exclusively to Railroad Art of nationally known artists.

•    A listing of 5 earlier rail trips to the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, MO, from California 2006 to 2009:

        a.    "Trains to Planes" Taking the Southwest Chief to the Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville, Missouri, Regional Air Festival, September 11 and 12, 2009:
        b.    Heading to the Passenger Train Historical Society Meeting, Southwest Chief, Fullerton, CA, to La Plata, MO, August 7 - 10, 2008:
        c.    Chris Guenzler reaches One Million Miles Traveled on Amtrak, April 7, 2008:
        d.    La Plata, Missouri, Rail Events on February 23, 2008:
        e.    The 10th Anniversary of, December 9, 2006:

Click for
A Slideshow of all Photos on this trip in Large Format.

Video about the Izaak Walton Inn with interview of David Gatton, Manager of the Inn, Eddie's and the Glacier Village Cafe. 
David arranged for my stay as well:


Top of this Report | Table of Contents | My 2008 Izaak Walton Inn ReportMy 2010 Izaak Walton Inn Report | Izaak Walton Inn | Other Rail Travelogues by Carl Morrison | | Silver Rails Country | Train Travel Agent - Bella Vista Travel Los Alamitos, CA. 562- 594-6771 4012 Katella Ave # 102, Los Alamitos, CA 90720 ]

Menu from the Izaak Walton Inn.  Click this link and scroll to the bottom of the page. 
There is no link back to this page, so you may want to bookmark this page before you leave it:

Eddie's Menu (On the right side of the first screen):