Who Deals with Problem Passengers?
Once an Amtrak train starts to move, the conductors are in charge. Through the entire schedule, from departure to arrival at final destination, when “situations” with passengers arise, most conductors are skillful in handling things quietly—moving one passenger seating in front of a noisy toddler or speaking with authority to a 20-somethin having a loud cellphone co version.
.The sole responsibility rests with the conductor and it’s considered a last resort, but passengers can be put off the train for any reason the conductor feels warrants it, including . . .
.Smoking. Passengers are given ample warning that smoking on board is prohibited. During routine announcements over the train’s P.A.system, conductors often say, “If you get caught smoking anywhere on this train, our very next stop will be yours! ”
.Drunkenness. Beer and wine are for sale to all passengers—with meals in the dining car and also in the snack bar in the lounge car. Sleeping car passengers may consume alcohol in their own accommodations; coach passengers must imbibe only in the lounge car. Any passenger with a snootful can be removed from the train by the conductors.
.Other issues. Remove a passenger from the train can occur in several different ways. Where and when it happens depends on the location of the train at the time and the conductor’s assessment of the problem passenger’s current behavior and state of mind:
.Chastened, subdued, apologetic? Wait until the next station stop and see that he gets off.
.Still angry and upset? The local police are waiting at the next station and provide accommodations for the sobering up process.
.Potentially violent? The conductor will have the engineer radio ahead and stop the train at a spot where the highway crosses the tracks and where the state police are waiting to take the individual into custody.
.The passenger is never informed that he’s going to be removed from the train. The moment of enlightenment comes when he notices the train has stopped, and he looks up and sees two burly conductors standing by his seat. Sometimes, if the conductor senses there could be real trouble, the conductor has the engineer call ahead and arrange for a couple of state policemen to meet the train at a grade crossing.
.There is only one lesson to be learned from this: Do not mess with the conductor!
If we encounter a problem with a passenger, how do we find the conductor on the train? Is there an aboard telephone? Buzzer?
Quickest and easiest way is to ask your car attendant. He’ll use the trains intercom to call the conductor and find out where he is. If you want to hunt him up yourself, they are often doing their paperwork at a table in the dining car or at an empty table by the snack bar.
So sometime in the 80’s I was traveling on the Zephyr with family (two young kids and the wife in two roomettes across from each other) eastbound to Chicago. We detoured thru Wyoming as there was track work happening on the D&RG. On my scanner I heard the conductor ask the “head end” to radio ahead for police to meet the train at the first available intersection to take a passenger off the train. Further conversations revealed an older black woman traveling alone in coach was tired of the car steward “making too much noise” and pulled her gun on him. Next the conductor quietly evacuated passengers near her to another car. We stopped at an intersection where the Wyoming State Police were waiting and they escorted her off the train. I often wonder what happened to her as there were no scheduled trains thru there at all.
My story took place on the old Desert Wind. A scruffy guy was going through the sleepers asking passengers if they had finished their small complimentary bottle of wine. When last seen, he was looking back at the train from the rear window of a Caliente, Nevada, police cruiser. But your story gets the prize . . . no contest!