Amtrak working to free 183 passengers stuck on train in Lane County

Photo courtesy Carly Bigby.

EUGENE, OR (KPTV) - A train that was stuck in Lane County for about a day and a half was moving again Tuesday on its way back to Seattle. 

However, the train encountered another issue in Portland. 

Officials said the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train 11, which was traveling from Seattle to Los Angeles, hit a tree that had fallen across the tracks in Oakridge at around 6:20 p.m. Sunday.

None of the crew members or 183 passengers were hurt, according to Amtrak.

The passengers and crew members were stuck on the track in Oakridge for 37 hours.

Amtrak and Union Pacific decided to keep the passengers on the train because of road closures and severe weather conditions that made it nearly impossible for them to use alternate transportation. The storm also knocked out power in Oakridge. 

Passengers told FOX 12 that food and water was provided, but they were worried about running out. They were also worried about running out of some personal hygiene items and diapers.

Despite all that, John Gray told FOX 12 that he and others are OK.

"I've personally been on the train for probably 36 plus hour right now. After last night, but there are some people who have been on just a touch longer from Seattle," said Gray on Tuesday morning.

Amtrak and Union Pacific crews worked to clear the tracks and hook up a new engine to get the train moving again.

At around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Amtrak said the train began moving back north towards Eugene. Due to the weather conditions, additional delays were expected along the route.

Amtrak officials said donuts, coffee, food and toiletries were provided at the station in Eugene. Once the train was serviced in Eugene, it then went on to Portland. 

Unfortunately for the weary travelers, a fire on the railroad bridge in north Portland blocked train traffic Tuesday. 

Investigators believe the fire started by railroad crews working on the line using acetylene torches. Nobody was hurt, but some rail ties burned and crews had to physically inspect the line to make sure it was safe. 

Railroad crews from BNSF worked to reopen the bridge by 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. 

In the meantime, passengers arriving on the Amtrak train that had been stranded in Lane County were temporarily stuck again in Portland. 

"My husband and younger son flew home, and I volunteered that we would take the train home for an adventure, not realizing what an adventure it would be," said Jen Carlson upon arriving in Portland.

Amtrak said passengers' needs for further travel and accommodations would be addressed on a case-by-case basis. 

"Right now I feel good that I'm off the train. I don't even care that it's cold outside, just outside is good," said John Gray of Denver, after arriving in Portland. 

"It was fine, but it was very boring," said 10-year-old Henrik Lilot about the experience. 

Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scot Naparstek released a statement Tuesday, saying:

"We sincerely regret the extended delay customers on the southbound Coast Starlight experienced due to extreme weather issues while traveling with Amtrak. 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. Amtrak crews worked with local resources and the train is now enroute north to Eugene, Oregon. We will be contacting customers to provide refunds and other compensation as appropriate."

Trains between Portland and Eugene have been suspended potentially until Saturday due to track closures because of severe weather conditions. 

Amtrak said they "regret any inconvenience" and will "waive additional charges for customers looking to change their reservation during the modified schedule." Those changes can be made by calling 800-USA-RAIL.

Copyright 2019 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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