TrainJam 2023

A celebration of local first software, dweb, software builders, and trains!

Brought to you by Fission / Causal Islands, and the Gradient Retreat.

  • Departs from Seattle 4:55pm
  • Arrives Chicago around 5pm, Wednesday, Sept 20th. Approx. 2 hour layover
  • Arrives St. Louis 12:10am midnight, Thursday, Sept 21st (the morning / night before StrangeLoop starts)

Why TrainJam?

Avi Bryant, Gradient Retreat

We’ve seen at Gradient Retreat that there’s something magical about spending a few days completely apart from the routines and obligations of your regular life and job, with a group of like-minded people, where you can allow yourself to indulge in a level of creative focus and exploration that’s just not accessible at home.

There’s also something magical about trains. What could be better than combining the two?

Some Ideas

Post a note on the window of your roomette with what you’re working on. Door open welcomes people to pop in. Door closed for quiet time.

What’s a local first chat system? A Matrix Server that runs locally, but pops in and off the wider Internet as friends follow from afar.

A mesh network?

Meal mixer. Connect with a rotating group of folks over lunch and dinner.

Train Details

Empire Builder

It’s called the “Empire Builder” from Seattle to Chicago


People are in either single or double roomettes. Each roomette has a top bunk and a bottom bunk for sleeping.

We have booked all the roomettes (12 of them), plus the family room. There are shared bathrooms and showers in the hall.

There is just one power outlet per roomette, so bring a power bar!

Bedroom vs Roomette Amtrak Empire Builder Sleeper Bedroom Vs Roomette | Full tour of the Roomettes & Bedrooms - YouTube

Chicago to Seattle tour 2 Nights in Amtrak Superliner Roomette - The Empire Builder Experience - YouTube

Note: there are still some bedrooms (larger private bathroom/shower) still available, but unless we get more sponsors, they will be full price. Anyone reading this is welcome to book those directly to join us


All meals are included, as are drinks. You can eat in the dining car, or in your room, or in the observation car.

You can also get beverages outside of meal times.

Bring a water bottle!

You might want to bring some snacks.


  • “unconference” supplies, like sticky notes, pens, and paper. A shared extension cord / power bar (@boris to bring)

What are you bringing that might be interesting or shared by the group? Board games?


Boris made a Github repo, just because? You can PR in some info about what you’re working on if you want GitHub - TrainJam/trainjam

Otherwise, tag your posts with #TrainJam wherever you are in the wide internet to help us find each other :slight_smile:


Monday, Sept. 18th

TBD Lunch or afternoon coffee in Seattle?

Meet at 4pm at King Street Station
Train leaves Seattle 4:55pm

Tuesday, Sept. 19th

Wednesday, Sept 20th

Arrive Chicago ~5pm

Leave for St. Louis ~7pm

Thursday, Sept 21st

Arrive St Louis just after midnight

First day of Strange Loop

Friday, Sept 22nd

Second day of Strange Loop

Saturday, Sept 23rd

Local First Software Unconference

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Count me in!

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:raised_hand: decently sure I’ll be attending, so counting myself here too!

I’m in, and happy to help sponsor it financially.

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I might attend and would be interested in joining if I do.

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Count me in, too!

Yep was thinking of you Brian as being adjacent to the train start!

Yeah for sure! Just a short leg up from Portland, then hop on at Seattle. :100:


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I’d love to get in on this.

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“The car was acquired by Webb Rail in 2018, and is currently stored in New Orleans, LA awaiting restoration”

Can’t wait for Strange Train 2023. Is there anything I can do to help move this along so I can organize things around it?

wait I think we lost some of your text. both private train cars…

Sorry, fixed it up.

Looking at these screens for registration there might be $1300 bulk sleeper rooms available? We can’t tell through the website, so next step is likely getting on a call and/or finding a travel agent to help investigate.

Just piping up to say I’m still interested. I’d still be up for the whole 90-hour shebang from Seattle. Should be some gorgeous views. I’m equally up to fly across to ORD/NYC and take the train from that end.


Great. We’ll keep updating this page. Once we have something concrete (like availability of N sleeper berths), we’ll coordinate getting things booked and committed.

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Yay, for once my originally hailing from the midwest gets to come in handy to talk trains!

I’ll note from past experiences taking the NYC to Chicago route that it runs dreadfully late most times, so pad the 30h estimate out a bit for safety :slight_smile: But that’s also likely to be true on the Empire Builder run SEA to CHI…

The southernmost route you highlighted is also tricky in its own way: the Cardinal runs just three times a week (this is subject to change in a few years, but not by this fall: Amtrak Applies for Federal Grants to Improve Long Distance Network). A few cool views through WV and southeast OH though (nothing like out west, but still forests!)

For my own part, I’m slightly partial to taking the train the whole way over from Seattle for scenery’s sake, but flying into Chicago or New York are also fine plans - I’ll go wherever fun folks are going to be!


Sweet. Great to get some first hand feedback.

Another candidate for the ideas list: spend an hour or three hacking on someone else’s project, while you have them personally on hand to answer questions.

We could even do swaps. Hack on each other’s projects, answer each other’s questions.


I’m in, too! What a great set of folks to spend time hacking with.