Amtrak Conductors Have Low Tolerance for Problem Passengers.

Over more than 20 years, I’ve racked up a lot of miles on Amtrak. And I can think of just four incidents where I personally witnessed a passenger causing trouble. That’s not to say there aren’t people on board many trains that are potential problems. It’s just that Amtrak conductors are very, very good at nipping trouble in the bud.

I was reminded of all this when I came across a news story yesterday about some bozo who apparently assaulted an Amtrak conductor on the Empire Builder. Big mistake!

I’d guess that booze was involved in this case. Liquor and cigarettes are the two most common problems people bringing their own booze on board or sneaking smokes in the lavatories or in the vestibules between cars.

When they occur, the conductors deal with those problems very directly: they look the perpetrators right in the eye and say, “Once more, and our very next stop will be yours.”

If they sense the problem passenger will act up again or even become violent, the conductors ask the engineer to get on the radio and request the dispatcher to contact the state police. A couple of officers are sent to meet the train at someplace where the tracks cross a state highway.

A veteran conductor told me that once they make that decision, they never tell the passenger he’s going to be removed from the train. That’s just asking for trouble. So the train makes what appears to be a routine stop in the middle of nowhere, possibly to let a freight pass, and suddenly the troublemaker looks up to find two big state cops standing there, handcuffs at the ready.

It all happens quickly, almost always quietly, and usually unbeknownst to all but a very few of the other passengers.

The moral of the story is: He who provokes an Amtrak conductor will soon discover there’s not a lot going on in Wolf Point, Montana, at 1:30 in the morning.