Dealing With Amtrak Delays.
I wrote a couple of days ago about Amtrak’s Empire Builder being stuck near East Glacier, Montana. An avalanche of snow damaged and buried a stretch of track at Marias Pass, halting all rail traffic.
It was a mess. Several hundred passengers stranded with no clear estimate when the track would be reopened. So Amtrak did the only thing it could do: passengers loaded on buses, taken to Whitefish, and accommodated in one way or another depending on their destinations.
It’s always interesting to see how people react to something like this. No one is happy, of course, but some people are just overwhelmed and lose it, taking out their frustrations on the Amtrak crew.
Most passengers understand that the on board crew is not to blame—in fact, the crew members are more inconvenienced than the passengers—and react the way this passenger did on the stranded Empire Builder:
“When we hit East Glacier that night and hit the avalanche, it was beyond Amtrak’s control, and the personnel on the train couldn’t have been nicer, feeding us and making sure we were comfortable. Some people look at it as a real negative, and it wasn’t a fun experience, but again it wasn’t anybody’s fault.”
Over the years, I’ve been caught in any number of situations that have disrupted what would have been a relaxing, comfortable train journey. Best case scenario is when the problem can be resolved in a relatively short amount of time . . . short enough so you don’t have to leave the train for the dreaded Amtrak bus. The worst of those in my experience—caused by damage to tracks—resulted in a bus ride from New Orleans to Orlando, which took twelve very long hours.
But my poster boy for these incidents is a middle-aged British gentleman I met years ago on—yes— the Empire Builder. We had been seated together for lunch in the dining car and had just introduced ourselves when the conductor came through the car. I had chatted with him earlier, so he stopped at our table to report that a freight train had broken down up ahead of us. “They’ll get it fixed”, he said, “but it’s going to take a while. I’m afraid you’re probably going to be four hours late into Seattle.”
My tablemate beamed. “Jolly good!” he exclaimed. “Then we really are getting our money’s worth, aren’t we!”