Fallen Trees Strand Coast Starlight 3 Days

Fallen trees created a chain of events that led to an ordeal for Coast Starlight passengers last weekend that lasted for three days.

The southbound Coast Starlight was halted near Oakridge, Oregon, after trees fell on Union Pacific rails in southern Oregon.

That occurred on Sunday but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the passengers were moved to Eugene with Union Pacific ES44AC No. 5478 pulling the train there.

The lead locomotive of the Starlight struck a tree and became disabled at about 6:19 p.m on Sunday.

Closed highways precluded evacuating the stranded passengers, but the train continued to have head end power for lights and heat for the 184 passengers.

Heavy snow also had to be plowed from nine miles of track before the Starlight could be moved back to Eugene.

Amtrak said during the time the Starlight was stranded it had ample food and beverages and that passengers received complimentary meals.

It is Amtrak’s practice to stock trains with an emergency food supply in the event of a situation such as this.

However, passengers who contacted news media organizations via cell phone reported that the food had run out by Tuesday morning.

The UP rescue locomotive had arrived on Monday night.

“We sincerely regret the extended delay customers on the southbound Coast Starlight experienced due to extreme weather issues while traveling with Amtrak,” said Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek in a statement to Trains magazine.

“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.

“With local power outages and blocked roads, it was decided the safest place for our customers was to remain on the train where we were able to provide food, heat, electricity and toilets.”

Naparstek said Amtrak will offer the stranded passengers refunds “and other compensation as appropriate.”

In the meantime, the Coast Starlight that left Los Angeles on Sunday was held at Dunsmuir, California.

Amtrak later sent that train back to Los Angeles with its passengers still on board. It reached Los Angeles at 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

The scheduled northbound departure of the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles was cancelled.

Some passengers affected by the service disruption were rebooked on San Joaquins, Pacific Surfliners, Capitols, or Thruway buses.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the Starlight was to operate between Los Angeles and Sacramento, California.

Amtrak Cascades trains did not operate between Portland and Eugene due to a fire on a BNSF bridge over the Columbia River on Tuesday.

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