Travellers spend night on 3 snowbound Amtrak trains
An Amtrak train kicks up fresh snow Jan. 3, 2014, in Schodack Landing, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mike Groll
CHICAGO - Hundreds of Amtrak passengers who spent the night onboard three trains stranded in snow in northern Illinois have begun to arrive in Chicago, rail line officials said Tuesday morning.
About 300 passengers on two trains that were stuck near Mendota, about 80 miles from Chicago, boarded buses in Princeton for the final leg of their trip, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari. They began arriving in downtown Chicago around 7 a.m. Tuesday and more were expected to arrive throughout the morning.
A third train loaded with 217 people spent the night at a BNSF rail yard in Galesburg; they were taking buses for the final 150 miles to Chicago.
The trains — The Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area — got stuck after 3 p.m. Monday in blowing, drifting snow and ice that Magliari said made the tracks impassable.
Several passengers speaking to news outlets by cellphone said conditions on the trains deteriorated and that they went long periods without food.
"The conditions is cold; we're wearing coats. And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn't had any food all day," Laurette Mosley told ABC News. "The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded."
Mosely was travelling from California to Chicago to attend her mother's funeral.
Magliari said emergency workers were on standby, and that train crews handed out food and prepared for any medical issues, though he said there were none. He said the bathrooms on board the trains were working.
"There was no good reason to take people out of warm trains ... into the cold," he said. "We sheltered them in place."
Another passenger, Bryan Plummer, told ABC News that they were given dinner but no snacks during the 15 hours they were stranded.
"I inquired about breakfast service and they stated that at this time there was none planned. When the sheriff's officer that was on board here, when he left around 3 a.m. this morning, he stated that the Red Cross was involved and was trying to get us some meals," Plummer told ABC.
Amtrak cancelled nearly two dozen trains in Illinois on Tuesday because of the cold and lingering snow from a weekend storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas of Illinois.
Magliari said crews were clearing tracks and hoped to resume operations Wednesday.