Amtrak Train Stranded by Snow on the Move Again in Oregon

EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – A train carrying 183 passengers was on the move again Tuesday after being stranded for more than a day in an unusual Oregon snowstorm.

Heavy snow sent fallen trees across the tracks near Oakridge, Oregon, and an Amtrak Coast Starlight train en route from Seattle to Los Angeles struck one Sunday night. No one on the train was injured.

Crews worked unsuccessfully to free the train Monday, and on Tuesday morning a Union Pacific locomotive began towing the train back toward Eugene. Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahon said it took over 36 hours to get the locomotive to the location because workers had to dig through snow drifts and clear multiple trees from the tracks.

McMahon said there is no estimate on when the train will arrive in Eugene. From there, it will return to Seattle via Portland.

Amtrak kept passengers on the train, instead of evacuating them to Oakridge, because they were safer there. The small town has only two motels and the storm had knocked out power.

“The city was out of power so if we evacuated them, they would have actually been less safe than on the train where they had heat, food and facilities,” Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin told Courthouse News.

Amtrak said in a statement that it would refund customers and provide “other compensation as appropriate.”

Rebekah Dodson, a romance novelist from Klamath Falls in southern Oregon, was one of the stranded passengers. Reached by phone onboard, she said the train had made it to just a few miles outside Eugene.

With the ordeal almost over, Dodson said the worst part had been the sparse communication from Amtrak. At one point, she said, passengers went 24 hours without any updates.

“It was a little scary because we didn’t know what was going on,” Dodson said. “It was really tough to sit there thinking it could be an hour or it could be 12.”

In the end, it was over 40 hours from the time the train hit the tree until it returned to Eugene. But Dodson said there was a silver lining – the experience gave her plenty of material for a new book.

“I haven’t decided if it will be romance or horror, but it has definitely been both,” she said.

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