‘Nightmare’: 500 stranded on Amtrak trains overnight
BY STEFANO ESPOSITO AND ASHLEE REZIN Staff Reporter January 7, 2014 6:48AM
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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:19AM
Barbara Case’s train from downstate Quincy was already four hours behind schedule when snow and ice began to scrape the sides of the Amtrak locomotive Monday afternoon.
The train stopped and Case, 73, thought it would fun to take a photograph of the snow bank blocking her view.
The novelty wore off very quickly after Case became one of an estimated 500 passengers stranded overnight Monday on three Chicago-bound trains — halted due to snow and ice buildup.
“It was a nightmare,” said Case, who finally arrived at Chicago’s Union Station at 7 a.m. Tuesday. “It’s still a nightmare because I still don’t know how I’m going to get home.”
Case was on her way home to Port Huron, Mich., after visiting her daughter and grandchildren in Quincy for the Christmas holidays.
Case spent the night on the train after it halted at 3:30 p.m. Monday, about 75 miles southwest of Aurora. Two more trains, both heading in from California, were also stopped overnight, with some passengers stranded for up to 14 hours, an Amtrak official said. In all three cases, passengers were provided complimentary food and beverages, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. Even with more than 8,000 horsepower engines in each train, snow and ice buildup rendered the tracks “completely impassable,” Magliari said.
Case, who recently had hernia surgery, uses a walker to get around; that meant she got to sit in the business lounge on her train, making her overnight ordeal somewhat more bearable.
“We weren’t cold, but it was irritating to say the least,” Case said.
It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that another engine arrived to pull the stranded train back to the closest station. There, buses took passengers on to Union Station, Case said.
At 9 a.m., a weary-looking Case sipped coffee and stood near the end of a line that snaked toward the Amtrak ticket counters. She said officials told her she would need to pick up a new ticket to complete the final leg of her journey into Michigan.
“I just want to go home,” she said.