Amtrak passengers forced to spend the night aboard three stranded trains which were stuck in snow have started arriving in Chicago. The trains, with over 500 travelers on board, were stranded in northern Illinois due to heavy snowfall.
The trains were stuck when the tracks were rendered impassable due to windblown snow and ice. One passenger reported to ABC News via cell phone that the train had collided with a 12-foot-high snowdrift causing the engine to stop.
Passengers aboard the stranded trains spoke to various news outlets via their cell phones, reporting that there were long intervals between meals and that the situation was worsening. One traveler who was traveling to Chicago for her mother’s funeral, Laurette Mosley, told ABC News that “The conditions is cold; we’re wearing coats. And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn’t had any food all day. The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded.”
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari stated that the trains were being used as emergency shelters from the cold to protect the passengers. He added that personnel aboard the trains distributed food to the passengers, first responders were on hand to deal with any medical emergencies and the bathrooms on the trains were in working condition.
Two of the stranded trains were full-service with café cars on board. The third train had only a snack bar.
Passenger Bryan Plummer told ABC News that they had eaten dinner, but there had been no snacks during the entire 15-hour-long ordeal. “I inquired about breakfast service and they stated that at this time there was none planned. When the sheriff’s officer that was on board here, when he left around 3 a.m. this morning, he stated that the Red Cross was involved and was trying to get us some meals.”
Not all passengers reported a dire situation. Sarah Johnson, 19, told WGN-TV and The Chicago Tribune that her and her fellow passengers were given beef stew with mashed potatoes, bread and something to drink just before 7:00 p.m. She reported that the staff remained pleasant and had done everything within their power to make the passengers comfortable and happy. Her only complaint was the lack of information received during the overnight hours.
Approximately 300 travelers who were stuck about 80 miles out of Chicago had to take buses in order to reach Chicago’s downtown. The tracks in this area were located in a trench, making it safer for Amtrak to keep the passengers aboard the warm bus overnight, rather than having to trek through snowdrifts in subzero temperatures. Chartered buses, loaded with Amtrak passengers stranded overnight, began arriving in Chicago at about 7 a.m. today.
Over 200 people were forced to stay overnight at a rail yard before boarding buses for a 150-mile trip into Chicago.
In all, almost 24 Amtrak trains were canceled in Illinois on Tuesday due to the severe cold and heavy snow. Amtrak is clearing tracks in hopes of preventing another situation where passengers are stranded and hoping to resume normal service to Chicago on Wednesday. Trains arriving between Boston and Washington and trains between Albany and New York City are running on altered schedules.
By Jennifer Pfalz
Lancaster Eagle Gazette