ATLANTA — Passengers aboard an Amtrak train say they were stuck on the tracks for nearly 40 hours when a winter storm delayed their trip.
Amtrak’s Crescent, which left New Orleans on Sunday on its way to New York, got stuck north of Lynchburg, Virginia, Monday. The train returned to Lynchburg and stayed there until it finally headed northbound again late Tuesday.
Sean Thornton, of Richmond, Virginia, was a passenger on the Crescent and boarded the train with his daughter when it stopped in Atlanta on Sunday. The Thorntons had been visiting friends in Atlanta for the holidays and expected the train to arrive in Charlottesville around 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Thornton said the trouble began when the train didn’t show up on time late Sunday night and got into Atlanta around 2 a.m. Monday.
He said over the course of the day, there were issues along the way.
“As the train continued to stop on its tracks … we continued not to be told anything by Amtrak,” Thornton said. “We eventually stopped moving … We were in a no reception zone for cell phone service and train WiFi. As a result, nobody could communicate with loved ones or hotels during the evening.”
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To make things even worse, Thornton said Amtrak employees made an announcement around 5 p.m. that they were out of food. He also said he heard that there were toilets backed up in the main cabin.
“At some point during the evening, a very irate female staff member got on the PA system and basically yelled at everybody to stop complaining to staff and to just call Amtrak headquarters to complain instead. She indicated that the staff also had complaints and that the staff would appreciate customers telling management about their experience. It was pretty shocking,” Thornton said.
Thornton said around midnight, the train was slowly moved backward behind the train station in Lynchburg where it has been parked since.
“Passengers weren’t told that they would be staying in the train for the night. We all just sort of set-up waiting to hear what they would be doing with us and fell asleep wherever we were,” Thornton said. “During the evening one of the passengers arranged for someone to bring water to the train and to pass it around. At around 10 this morning somebody went and obtained a bunch of McDonald’s and passed that around the train.”
Thornton said they were waiting on Amtrak inspectors to come out and check out the train Tuesday. They said there was no talk of alternative transportation to get them to their destination at this point.
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Channel 2 Action News contracted Amtrak for a comment and they sent a statement saying:
“An Amtrak train which departed New Orleans on January 2 is stopped north of Lynchburg, Va., due to ongoing weather conditions. Once the tracks are clear, service will resume en route to New York. Our staff is working to make sure food and water is available for customers.”
It has since reached its Charlottesville, Virginia destination, according to the passengers.
According to the Associated Press, a number of New York-New Orleans Crescents departing on Tuesday and later days were canceled.
Amtrak on Tuesday also canceled both directions of the Piedmont, which runs between Raleigh, and Charlotte in North Carolina, as well the northbound Palmetto from Savannah, Georgia, to New York, and the northbound Auto Train, which operates from Sanford, Florida, to Lorton, Virginia.
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