Amtrak Train Stuck for 37 Hours, What Happened and Why?

Photo Courtesy of Rebekah Dodson

“This is hell and it’s getting worse” is how one of the one hundred eighty-one passengers onboard an Amtrak train on the Coastal Starlight Route from Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington described the terrifying events that began to occur on the morning of Monday, February 25, 2019. The normally thirty-five-hour train ride unexpectedly became a seventy-two-hour journey due to weather leaving the train stranded in snow and ice for an additional thirty-seven hours.

This route is often considered by many to be one of the most scenic train routes. Through the windows, passengers can see the breath-taking snow-covered mountains, forests, valleys, and the Pacific shoreline. However, even beautiful views such as this can become quickly tiring when being trapped aboard a train for an extensive amount of time.

This surprising and jaw-dropping event occurred due to snow storms causing fallen trees and tree limbs, making traveling conditions unsafe to continue traveling in. The passengers, including families with children, college students could not be released off of the train due to these weather conditions and the fallen power cords surrounding the area.

All passengers were told that they would be delayed by a couple of hours but quickly it became more than evident that would not be the case. In a special phone call interview, while still being stranded on the train with Washington Post passenger, Rebekah Dodson explained that “everyone knew something was wrong because we had stopped so fast” and that the event “wasn’t fun at all”. Although not ideal, the train luckily remained heated, powered, with food and a positive atmosphere. The people passed time playing cards, dancing to a teenager playing a ukulele, sleeping, and watching the over-a-foot-of-snow fall, making it a great opportunity to get to know each other.

Although the passengers were treated with the most care possible, they felt there was more they could do, regarding the circumstances. After the first night onboard, they quickly began using their imaginations, with the limited resources, to help one another. One passenger recounts that they had begun putting washcloths together, simply just to create makeshift diapers for children and babies aboard as well as necessary feminine products for women who needed them. Railroad officials working day and night explained that they were “doing everything in [their] power to make sure [passengers] were comfortable.”

When discussing the series of events that lead the unfortunate circumstances, the Chief of operations, Scot Naparstek, stated that  “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” which is exactly what they did. With all 181 passengers and numerous crew members onboard, it is reported that, fortunately, there were no injuries during the thirty-seven-hour duration of being stuck on the train.

Photo Courtesy of Record Searchlight

Following the train being stranded it arrived at Eugene, Oreg0n. Unfortunately, many passengers still had to continue their prolonged travel to get to their destination. Many of them opted for their own transportation for the rest of their journey and others returned to the train, after it received the proper maintenance it needed, in Eugene. Lastly, the train made a stop in Portland, Oregon to continue to Seattle, Washington.