Amtrak train hits tree, 183 aboard stranded
Portland, Ore. – An Amtrak train traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles with 183 passengers got stranded in the snowy mountains of Oregon for at least 36 hours, putting a strain on passengers as food, patience and even diapers ran short.
The train came to stop after crew members spotted trees on the tracks. Railroad officials decided to keep the passengers onboard instead of letting them scatter in a town of 3,200 people that was dealing with its own problems – a blackout, snow and debris-covered roads.
“This is hell and it’s getting worse,” Rebekah Dodson posted on Facebook along with a photo of other passengers smiling into the camera after they had been stuck for 30 hours.
The Coast Starlight train came to a halt about 6:20 p.m. Sunday outside Oakridge, 1,200 feet (366 meters) high in the Cascade Range as a snowstorm descended on the region.
The train had electricity, heat and food. Passengers were able to communicate with the outside world. Some took the long unscheduled stop with a sense of humor.
Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek said the railroad regrets the extended delay “due to extreme weather issues.”
“With more than a foot of heavy snow and numerous trees blocking the track, we made every decision in the best interest of the safety of our customers during the unfortunate sequence of events,” Naparstek said, adding that customers would get refunds and other compensation.
Early Tuesday, the train was moving again – back to Eugene, its last stop before the delay. The Red Cross was waiting at the depot to help passengers.
Amtrak has not said when it might continue on its way to Los Angeles.
“The train is going back to Eugene due to weather and track obstructions,” Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin said.
The crew of 13 dealt with the situation as best they could. One reportedly fashioned diapers with napkins and safety pins.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight bills itself on its website as “A Grand West Coast Train Adventure.”
“Break free of congested airports and freeways to get up-close-and-personal with America’s spectacular West Coast. Hug rocky coastlines, glide beside the majestic Cascade Mountains,” the site says.
In this case, however, nature trumped modern human conveyances.
After the train began moving again Tuesday, Dodson posted a video on Facebook admiring the view.
“We are moving and it’s totally awesome,” she said as trees laden with snow swept past a window. “Isn’t it beautiful? I’m so excited.”
Carly Bigby, a teacher aboard the train, had been visiting Eugene with her fiance and was trying to figure out how to get back home to Klamath.
“I am exhausted,” she told KOIN, a Portland TV station.