Stranded train passengers head to Bay Area

February 2, 2008 11:37:46 AM PST
Passengers on an Amtrak train that was halted near Donner Pass on Friday night following a snowplow accident on the tracks were headed the Bay Area on buses this morning, an Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Tracks reopened today at 7:50 a.m. after a snowplow blocked the tracks Friday afternoon and halted two California Zephyr Amtrak trains, spokeswoman Karina Romero said.

A Union Pacific Caterpillar D9 tractor with a plow on the front was clearing snow from train tracks several hours from the Bay Area between Truckee and Reno, Nev., around 2 p.m., when it fell through the decking of a rail bridge.

The tractor landed on the tracks below the bridge, causing minor damage and completely blocking the railway.

Train 5, which was headed to Emeryville from Chicago, was stopped at Truckee. When it became clear the tracks were not going to be cleared within a few hours the train was pulled back to Reno and all 165 passengers were put up in hotels, Romero said.

Those passengers were put in buses and passenger vans today and were expected to arrive at their Bay Area destinations this morning. Buses were not available for those customers last night because of the large number of Amtrak buses that have been sent to Glendale, Ariz., to assist with Super Bowl crowds, Romero said. Buses were sent overnight to Reno to pick up the stranded travelers.

Train 6, which was headed to Chicago from Emeryville, was stopped at the small town of Gold Run, located on the border of California and Nevada, Romero said. As there was no large town nearby to put all 215 passengers in hotels, the train was refueled to provide heat and electricity for the riders and it sat on the tracks until this morning.

Passengers from Train 6 were offered buses back to the Bay Area, Romero said. Sixty travelers took up the offer and returned home, while the other 155 passengers had a complementary dinner on the train and waited overnight before they resumed their journey.

After the tractor broke through the tracks Union Pacific crews had to bring a crane to remove the tractor from the tracks, Romero said. Minor repairs had to be made to the tracks and then freshly fallen snow had to be cleared before Train 6 could resume its journey.

Train 5, which was halted in Reno, will be turned around and readied for the journey to Chicago, Romero said. Passengers who were scheduled to make the trip from Emeryville to Chicago today will be bused from the Bay Area to Reno where they will board the train.