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Amtrak restores Empire Builder service across North Dakota, Minnesota

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Amtrak's Empire Builder passenger train will return to full service across North Dakota and Minnesota early next week.

Starting with the eastbound departures of Train 8 from Seattle and Train 28 from Portland, Ore., on Sunday, the Empire Builder will return service to missed stops in eastern Montana, North Dakota and western Minnesota.

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The westbound Amtrak Empire Builder Trains 7/27 will resume service to the full route effective with the departure from Chicago on Monday, according to a news release from Amtrak.

The announcement came after Amtrak learned that repairs had been made by BNSF Railway Co. to tracks west of Towner, N.D. The tracks and railbed, owned by BNSF, were damaged during recent flooding along the Souris River in northcentral North Dakota.

BNSF expects to complete the repairs by Sunday, according to Amy McBeth, BNSF spokeswoman, adding that the company had to repair about 1,500 feet of roadbed that had washed away, just west of Towner.

"To repair it, crews have had to lift the track and then dump riprap and ballast," she said. "This has been a challenge, given there is water on either sides of the track. They are essentially working from a platform in the water to make repairs."

BNSF owns the tracks, which are leased to Amtrak for use by the Empire Builder.

While the line will be in service, Amtrak's station and the boarding platform at Minot will remain closed. Both were damaged in the flooding and remain closed, according to an Amtrak spokesman. Amtrak service at Minot cannot resume until repairs are made sometime next month.

"We appreciate the patience of our customers and the work being done by Amtrak and BNSF employees to restore service," said Daryl Pesce, the Chicago-based Amtrak General Superintendent. "Amtrak and the predecessors of BNSF have together operated the Empire Builder since 1929 and no one can recall as much flooding and disruption on the route in these 82 years."

Amtrak service has been discontinued since early June, and during shorter periods earlier this past spring, because of flooding problems along the line in North Dakota and Montana.

In North Dakota, Amtrak serves the cities of Fargo, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Rugby, Minot, Stanley and Williston.

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to kbonham@gfherald.com.

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