RUE Episode 23 Empire Builder Interview

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My guest Tyler and wife Amber at Portland, Oregon. This is where the Empire Builder begins its Eastbound journey.

This episode features an interview with a passenger from Amtrak’s Empire Builder.  English learners see how much of this interview they can understand while learning about this magnificent train that’s a legacy from the Great Northern Railroad.  Click here to watch the entire episode.

Segments: Click below to view by segments:

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

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Beautiful bridge across the Columbia River
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This bridge crosses the Mississippi River. It was both an engineering achievement and a huge investment by the Great Northern Railroad

My guest and I had a lot of ground to cover – literally and in terms of content – so there’s very little here beyond the basic interview.  The episode did, however, include a ride aboard Amtrak’s Cardinal, hugging the New River in West Virginia.

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The lodge at Glacier National Park. The Great Northern Railroad helped establish this National Park. Amtrak has a station here.

This episode was all about developing greater listening skills.  There were no specific language activities beyond watching the interview and the video clip and seeing for yourself how much you understood.  We’re often our harshest critics when learning a second language.  Progress is not always obvious or readily assessed. Real conversation like the interview in this show is the best way of seeing the progress made in practical applications. As I stated in the program, if you understood enough of the interview to enjoy it, you’re  making solid progress in listening skills.

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A Great Northern locomotive and tender on display at the station

Video clips: Besides the interview, Episode 23 included a video clip of the westbound cardinal as it rumbles through the banks of the New River in West Virginia. Click Here to watch the video clip.

Watch or download the same video  Click here.

Here’s a link to a You Tube video that has drone footage of Thurman, West Virginia, one of the stops on the Cardinal as featured before the Empire Builder interview.

…and here’s one flying over the New River bridge.  Click here.

…A PBS Program on the New River Gorge.

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The Chicago River. The Empire Builder Eastbound terminates in Chicago.

Bonus Videos:  We didn’t include part 3 of the westbound journey of the Cardinal on the TV program.  Click here to see that clip.

Here’s the same video on Click here.

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Inside Chicago’s magnificent Union Station.

You also get a bonus video of the entire westbound journey of the Cardinal.  It includes all of the three parts already featured, plus some extra footage.  Click here. To see it on, click here.

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This is Tyler’s favorite image from the photos he took.

When Liz and I reached Chicago, we hung out in the Metropolitan lounge of Chicago’s glorious Union Station.  Later the same day, we boarded Amtrak’s Southwest Chief train, a heritage from the Santa Fe Railroad.

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This is my favorite image.

Program notes: Our interview lasted about 14 minutes.  While we were both excited about the interview and dazzled by the images, we both felt we would have featured more interesting stories if we had had more time.  I plan to have Tyler back for a bonus video in the near future.  Watch this page (RUE Episode 23) for the bonus video.

Language Objectives: Retell some parts of an interview about a travel experience (Listening Comprehension and using Prior Knowledge of a topic to understand an interview about that same topic.)

Academic Content Objectives: Transportation: Trace the route of the Empire Builder train from Portland, Oregon to Chicago. Explain the naming by Amtrak of the Empire Builder. Geography: List the land forms along the Empire Builder Route and name the states through which this train carries passengers. List at least three cities served by the Empire Builder.  History: Recall the building of the Great Northern Railroad and explain how this endeavor differed from other transcontinental railroads in the United States. Name the founder of the Great Northern Railroad.


Based on the interview and photos in this episode, trace the route of the Empire Builder. Use a map to find the locations discussed in the interview, then use you English skills to trace the main parts of the trip from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinios.

Next Episode: In Episode 24, we ride the California Zephyr Westbound, as if we were exploring the American West for the first time.  We also learn a few things about writing a persuasive letter.  Click here to visit the Episode 24 page.