HELENA — Empire Builder, the Amtrak passenger route that services northern Montana, is set to return to daily service beginning May 23.
Amtrak had reduced the route in January from daily to five days a week citing “staffing challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly active Omicron variant.”
Empire Builder is a long-distance Amtrak route that travels between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.
It services several Montana communities along the Hi-Line. The Empire Builder includes 12 stations along the Hi-Line that served 121,429 passengers who boarded or disembarked in the state in 2019.
The rail line was built in the 1880s and 1890s as part of the Great Northern Railway. Starting in the 1920s, the Great Northern began using the name “Empire Builder” to refer to its premier trains running between Chicago and Seattle and Portland. In 1971, Amtrak took over responsibility for nationwide passenger rail, and they maintained the Empire Builder service.
For more than 40 years, the Empire Builder has been the only Amtrak train running through Montana. The North Coast Hiawatha, which ran through Billings, Missoula and other southern Montana cities, was discontinued as part of larger cutbacks.
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