Amtrak’s brochure describes the various routes and berths and lists packages with hotel stays, car rentals, and air fares (1-800-USA-Rail). It’s possible to arrange to get off at any stop and continue the trip later. Glacier National Park is a good place to do this. Many of its hotels are open only in summer, but the Izaak Walton Inn, built in the 1930s by the railroad for its workers, is open all year. Across the track from the stop at Essex, it’s a magnet for rail buffs (P.O. Box 653, Essex, MT 59916/Tel: 406-888-5700).
The west-to-east trip on the Empire Builder should assure daylight at Glacier Park, no matter how late the train, since it’s scheduled to pass through in the early morning. Your fellow travelers will be of every occupation and age. Local people often use the train for short segments because air service in the region is sparse. More than one rail buff aboard told me that the most consistently scenic Amtrak trip is the stretch from Denver to San Francisco on the Zephyr.
For background reading try The American Heritage History of Railroads in America , by Oliver Jensen. All Aboard with E. M. Frimbo , by Rogers E. M. Whitaker and Anthony Hiss, gives a lively picture of how a train lover feels as the golden age draws to a close.