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Thursday morning, with the first eastbound Empire Builder into St. Paul five hours behind schedule thanks to continuing conflicts with freight trains and oil shipments in North Dakota, patience would surely be tested. Yet, for a group of passengers who say they have come to relish the relaxed pace, reasonable rates and more comfortable seating of trains vs. planes, the long wait wasn’t much of a hassle.
After 43 years, what’s a few more hours?
Kip Plourde, a Chicago resident who works in sales, said the wait and the ride and the Wi-Fi allowed him to get work done online. “I’m a new convert to rail,” he said.
Patrick Shirey, an adjunct professor of marine biology at Notre Dame, agreed — even though the train, scheduled for an 8 a.m. arrival, still hadn’t showed up by noon.
“A lot of people use this mode of transportation,” he said. “But you don’t buy a train ticket if you’re on a tight schedule.”
Sharyn Fahey of Wyoming, Minn., has been taking the train since the late 1980s. A fear of flying, and a desire to get to know her fellow passengers, keeps her coming back to Amtrak, she said, despite wait times that have gotten longer because of the booming oil fields.
“You meet people,” she said. “You see things. Nature, wildlife.”
Finally, by 12:55 p.m., after nearly five hours — and four decades — the wait was over for Fahey and her fellow passengers.
“Time to go,” she said, wheeling her luggage down the platform. “It’s about time.”
James Walsh • 651-925-5041