Here’s a tour of our roomette on the Amtrak Empire Builder

As requested by very* popular demand, I’m here to take you on a little tour of our roomette on board the Amtrak Empire Builder, which we rode from Chicago to Seattle. That’s a journey of over 45 hours so if you’re considering doing the same, you might be interested to know what your accommodation might look like. Oh, and the bathrooms too. Everyone cares about bathrooms.


Sidenote: you know when you think you’ve taken perfectly fine photos and then you go back and look at them and you’re like, haha nope? So, sorry in advance. They’re directional**.

So, welcome to our roomette! There’s not room for both of us to stand inside so you go ahead, I’ll narrate from the outside.

Ah, that there’s my seat you see. Don’t mind my bag and box of donuts handily disguised in a Sainsbury’s bag. They’ll never know. I’m just figuring out where to put them so I’ve left them there for now. It’s fine, we can work around them I’m sure. The donuts come first, after all.

Anyway, as you can see, the seat is spacious and comes with a pillow. There’s a little control panel behind my head with a light, a plug socket (the only one in the carriage) and the heating/ventilation controls which don’t seem to do much. I’ve also been given a free bottle of water to go along with my refillable cup of Diet Coke which I got from the Metropolitan Lounge.


Turn fractionally to your right and you’ll see our ‘wardrobe’. It’s big enough for me to hang my fleece off it. Yes, that’s my fleece and that’s why I’m not a Fashion Blogger. It was cold on the train, alright?

You’ll also see the face cloths in their little cubby above. Real towels are stored in the shower itself – I’ll show you that in a minute.


Here we go with the awful shots. I’m sorry, it’s not your eyes, it’s my inability to focus on a task when overcome with excitement about the whole situation. This is trying to show you the storage bin which was beneath our ‘wardrobe’. It’s not very big but it’s fairly deep so we stored our emergency spare food in there (not needed in the end, thankfully) and our extension cable (very much needed due to aforementioned one plug in room situation).


Now look back straight ahead of you – you’ll see the table in its folded up position, with our free drinks perched alongside it. That’s the platform at Chicago out of the window, and if you look down you can see just how little space there is between the two seats (which face each other). Two long legged beasties will not be happy to share this roomette.


Now here’s the table in ‘open’ formation as we speed through the countryside. The two flaps fold out of it and it’s pretty sturdy. I like how it’s got a chess board printed on it. Oh and note the free waters – the steward will restock you on request, but we heard rumours that his supply is limited so if you’re a very thirsty person who worries about these things, make sure you make your requests in good time.


If you look to your left you’ll see another chair which is identical to mine, except it’s got the intercom channel changer thingy on the control panel plus the call bell for the cabin steward instead of the plug and HVAC controls.


Other than that it’s exactly the same so let’s look a bit further round to the left – yes, that’s both storage AND the way you access the top bunk.

I’ll let you think about that for a minute.


Underneath, there’s a little rubbish bin which you’ll need to empty yourself so don’t go crazy and overfill it. That box of tissues seemed a nice thought but ultimately just keeps getting in the way of our very limited space – I can’t foist it off on you by any chance, can I? Those are the curtains covering our little window into the roomette and the sliding door, which is open at the moment so we can conduct our tour. The door does latch shut securely from the inside but not from the outside.

Up above the shelf-ladder, that mirror is actually pretty decent. I think it’s better than I’ve seen in quite a few hotel rooms actually. Hi!


If you come back after dinner, you can see the cabin steward’s done the roomette up into sleeping formation. The seats join together to form a bed at the base, and another bunk flips down from the ceiling. The sheets are all neatly tucked in and there’s a spare blanket each. Two things to notice…

One… the grey straps to buckle in the inhabitant of the top bunk. We’re not playing around here…

Two… the little battery-operated nightlight which I took with me, ostensibly for the cruise but ended up coming in very useful in lots of different scenarios. Top travel purchase right there.


There’s no window in the top bunk but on the bottom bunk you can velcro shut the curtains if you don’t want to see the world (or you don’t want weirdos staring in at the stations you’ll stop at overnight). I would recommend an eye mask  (and definitely ear plugs, trains are noisy at night).

Okay, now let’s take a trip down the corridor to the bathroom. I’m not going to show you the actual loo because if you picture an aeroplane bathroom done in stainless steel, it’s basically that.

As for the shower, yes it’s a simple plastic cubicle with a removeable shower head but the water is hot and it works. It’s all plastic, all wipe-clean, and you can put your toiletries on that little shelf there.


Let’s ignore the strong smell of damp coming from the oilcloth curtain and turn our attention to the other ameneties of the shower stall. There’s a big pile of towels and you can use as many of them as you want, just put them in the red laundry bag when you’re done. The little basket has individually wrapped bar soaps in it and a bin for you to put the wrapper of said bar soap in… but that’s it in terms of toiletries so bring anything else you’re going to need.


And that concludes our roomette tour. Please see yourself out by the nearest exit because Personal Space.

Did you also see our ridiculous selfies through 7 states? Or the comprehensive guide to the Empire Builder? Sick of trains yet?


*Three whole people you guys!

**What we say at work about numbers that are clearly wrong but we don’t know how to get better ones

Linking up with Van, Marcella, Lauren and Isabel  for Wanderlust Wednesday and with  Kristen and Gretch for What’s New With You because Kristen was one of my popular demanders!



  1. 2nd November 2016 / 09:27

    Love it Rachel! We took roomettes last year on the Coast Starlight – have about 3 pictures (it was pre-blogging I know better now!!) Those roomettes are cozy! I get a little claustrophobic so had to be on the bottom bunk – my husband found it a bit close up top ( i think he could just about touch the ceiling with his nose) Our daughter had a roomette to herself and was like a spolit princess!! She loved it!!

    A great experience though- we love sleeper trains anyway (even though they are cramped and I never sleep!) and want to take more across America. I also have my eye on the Ghan as we move to Australia next year.

  2. 2nd November 2016 / 11:40

    That’s some tight living quarters! I can’t imagine being the person on the top bunk with need of buckles! Eek! Thanks for sharing! Now I’ll know what I’m getting into if I ever decide to book an Amtrak roomette! 🙂

  3. 2nd November 2016 / 12:20

    It looks claustrophobic but definitely a great traveling alternative. I wish a service like that existed in Europe!

  4. 2nd November 2016 / 13:01

    haha i love this! i mean that top bunk terrifies me a bit though, and this is coming from a bottom bunk fan. i am glad for the tour though! definitely enjoying all the shots – i mean look at that table 😉 hehe. good tips for sure!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  5. 2nd November 2016 / 13:42

    Looks like something out of the past.
    A strap to hold yourself in the top bunk – that’s both funny & scary all at once.

  6. 2nd November 2016 / 14:01

    I think this is so interesting since train travel isn’t all that common here! I’m not sure if I would enjoy this but I love the glimpse inside. What made you guys decide to travel by train rather than driving or flying?

  7. 2nd November 2016 / 15:32

    Thanks so much for the insight! It definitely looks small but also really cosy! I could happily spend a journey like this 🙂

  8. Jen
    2nd November 2016 / 16:24

    I think traveling like this is such a great idea!! Not it makes me want to travel more haha.

  9. 2nd November 2016 / 17:42

    So it totally makes sense that you’d want to be strapped in if you’re on the top bunk, but I definitely wouldn’t have thought of it! Your room is definitely very tiny, but it’s so functional too! I love your recommendation for ear plugs and an eye mask, and closing the drapes too because that could get creepy really quickly!

  10. 2nd November 2016 / 19:47

    I love the look of this, I imagine it to feel so cosy and exciting all at the same time! I took long distance trains in India and completely loved the experience so I’m sure I would adore this too!! 🙂

  11. 2nd November 2016 / 20:54

    The hardest thing about getting pics is that the space is so DARN tiny!! We took a train from Amsterdam to Stuttgart when we were in Europe. We actually shared a bunk. Big mistake. I just had too much luggage. Anyhow, what a cool experience and it is so interesting to see the set up. I hope that I get a chance to do the overnight train thing again someday.

  12. 3rd November 2016 / 00:11

    Hahaha.. That little thumbs up in the mirror at the end was hilarious. I would be making a thumbs up too if I saw such a huge pile of towels provided. I wonder.. Can you have it in sleeping formation for the entire 45 hours? #WanderfulWednesday

  13. 3rd November 2016 / 00:28

    I love the way you wrote this post! (& how you snuck donuts on board!) This was so fun and entertaining to read! Also, this little roomette doesn’t look so bad! For only 45 hours (or for 45 HOURS!) this looks like an okay way to travel! Better than being stuck in a plane seat for a long time! Thanks for sharing and giving us a tour 😀

  14. 3rd November 2016 / 05:17

    Haha this looks like so much fun, very cosy! It’s similar to an overnight train I took from London to Edinburgh, but I didn’t use the showers on that one.

  15. 3rd November 2016 / 13:25

    This was a really interesting look! Would you recommend making this journey again by Amtrak or would you go by plane next time? I like taking the Amtrak but haven’t gone longer than a handful of hours (usually the Portland to Vancouver route, which is beautiful by the way!)

  16. 3rd November 2016 / 16:17

    you can always foist tissues on me! haha. this looks TINY. were the, er, beds comfortable? and give me all the donuts, you don’t have room for them anyway. being strapped in to the bunk is terrifying but also makes sense. 45 hours is a loooooooooooooooooooong time. very well done tour/review thingy my dear, i do believe you have convinced me that i will never ride this train thingy but you’ve basically made me feel like i came along for the ride anyhow so that’s all good and well.

  17. 3rd November 2016 / 18:41

    Excellent – thank you for providing such a thorough and detailed tour!!! What an adventure!!! The showers are fascinating! I was considering taking the Amtrak from Chicago to Memphis, but never ended up doing it. I did, however, take an overnight train from Budapest to Prague, and similarly it was an extremely small space and not very comfortable.

  18. 3rd November 2016 / 19:04

    Awesome! I’ve been wanting to do a long train trip in the US, and love that you shared what the rooms look like!

    • Sharon M
      7th January 2017 / 01:18

      I have taken the Empire once, will again this coming July to Glacier National Park, and cant wait to board her again. I get a roomette and love it. It is easy to store my small 24” suitcase sidewase on the step, a small canvas carry-on on top of that and my small backpack put behind it. That way I have lots of leg room for myself. The top bunk doesnt get used. It is the only way I travel since I wont fly anymore. Amtrak is awesome!!!

      • 7th January 2017 / 19:29

        I got a bounce back from your email Sharon 🙁

        I’m excited for you taking the Empire Builder again! I wish I could do a repeat trip. Isn’t it a fantastic experience?

        I think having a roomette to yourself is ideal. Then you don’t have to worry so much about space constraints. It was just doable with the two of us, but I made my husband take the bunk, ha!

  19. 3rd November 2016 / 19:57

    Very cool tour! Super useful to know what it’s really like on the train! I always love your commenting haha and how British that you have a Sainsbury’s bag in the US!

  20. 3rd November 2016 / 22:42

    It’s amazing how much you can fit into a small space – I’d rather you than me in the top bunk though! We just travelled from Vancouver to Seattle by train, it was a much shorter journey than yours, but pleasant all the same. I know it takes longer but train travel is such an adventure, don’t you think?!

  21. 4th November 2016 / 16:21

    I’ve never heard of this but it seems like a fun way to get around! Definitely more interesting than a plane. Next time I’m going on a long trip I’ll look into this! Thanks for linking up with us 🙂

  22. Mili
    4th November 2016 / 23:48

    Half of me is afraid of feeling claustrophobic in such a small space but half of me finds it exciting! Your previous train posts made me want to take a long train trip but after reading this post I think I might be better with one that’s not overnight lol

    Mili | Sharmtoaster

  23. 6th November 2016 / 00:20

    Love that you did a tour! It’s so hard to tell anything from the train site, so this is very useful 🙂

  24. 7th November 2016 / 03:58

    Oh dear! I got claustrophobic just looking at the photos! There’s a few overnight train journeys you can do here I’ve always thought it would be a nice way to see more of Australia. I don’t think I’ll be able to cope with it though after seeing this, haha!

    I was going to attempt the overnight train to Sydney while pregnant, in the end not being able to get time off work for the days I needed stopped me, and I was over the cut off for flying. I’m so glad now, no way could my belly have fit in there!

    Hope you’ve had a great weekend 🙂

    Away From The Blue Blog

  25. 7th November 2016 / 13:48

    Wow, just looking at those photos I automatically felt claustrophobic. Looking at a few of the comments, I realized I wasn’t the only one. Props to you girl !

  26. Pieter
    13th February 2018 / 03:19

    Thanks for such a complete description of your trip, my spouse and I have done a lot of long distance train travel: most of the long haul trips in the US, also Amsterdam to Budapest, VIA Rail across Canada, both the Ghan and the Indian Pacific in Australia and even the Orient Express from London to Venice. Sadly the ranger program in the sightseer lounge cars may be going away, the decision was made to stop providing travel allowances for the rangers.
    I don’t see a mention of tipping for the dining car staff, (I know the whole tipping thing is a mess) we tip 15 to 20 percent of the menu prices even though the cost of the meal is included with your sleeper fare. Do a rough calculation when you order as you don’t get the menu back at the end of the meal. US$20 was fine for the sleeping car attendant although we tip as we get off the train.

  27. Thomas
    20th April 2018 / 07:18

    Taking the 27 Empire Builder from Fargo to Portland in July 2018. I have a bedroom by myself. Should be fine for space.
    Then the 11 Coastal Starlight from Portland to LA. Also, a bedroom.
    I will need shampoo? Soap in the Roomette bedrooms?
    I get on a 3:44 am in Fargo. Breakfast later in the morning in Minot?

  28. Janis
    31st January 2019 / 06:48

    Love this. I’m taking the Amtrak train cross-country this summer and wanted to see what the roomettes (and bathroom facilities) look like. I plan to check out the audio-book “Murder on the Orient Express” to listen to on the way.

  29. Sharon
    6th April 2020 / 13:23

    i enjoyed your tour of the roomette. i am 70 and going from syracuse, ny to chicago then to seattle. i have never been on a train, so my questions to you are: Are we assigned rooms to coordinate with our destination, like they said the train separates for portland…? where is the toilet? down the hall? shared by everyone on the car? and is it easy to go to the dining car? so do you get summoned to the meals? No rush on your reply, With this pandemic going on, i am not sure if it will be safe to travel in early august. How early do i need to make a reservation for a roomette? I guess i should just call them, but an experienced person, as yourself, i think the answers will be more exact. thank you rachel….sharon at:

    • Janis
      21st April 2020 / 05:14

      Hi Sharon,

      This isn’t my page but I saw your question. I took the train last summer so might be able to answer some of your questions. When changing trains you get a new compartment as long as you have paid for a roomette for that stretch of the trip. There are several toilets down the hall from the rooms. It is not hard to get to the dining car. It will be upstairs so if your room is downstairs you will need to go up and down. My room was two cars away from the dining car so had to walk a short distance. Someone comes around with your porter and gets your preferred time when you would like to eat (or what times are left) so you know when to go. I traveled alone so I was always at a table with three other people (never the same people twice). They always fill up the tables so you will meet some of your fellow travelers. All in all, I really enjoyed the trip. It was very relaxing.

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