OAKRIDGE, Ore. (CBS Local) — A train with 183 people on board is finally moving again after being stuck for 37 hours in a snowy spot in Oregon, Amtrak said.
No one was injured Sunday night when the train hit a tree that had fallen onto the tracks at about 6:18 p.m. But heavy snow and debris on the tracks kept 183 passengers on the Coast Starlight Train from going beyond Oakridge, Oregon, about 45 miles southeast of Eugene.
With power outages and blocked roads reported in the area, officials decided that the train was the safest place for passengers to stay because it had food, heat electricity and functioning toilets, Amtrak Executive Vice President Scot Naparstek said in a statement.
“With more than a foot of heavy snow and numerous trees blocking the track, we made every decision in the best interest of the safety of our customers during the unfortunate sequence of events,” he said.
Passenger Carly Bigby said the snack cart on the train was empty and people had run out of diapers for their children.
“A lot of the [older] kids have been really good but they’re having to run up and down and it’s a lot,” she told CBS affiliate KOIN. “Especially the food – it’s not really food they’re liking. Moms are doing all they can right now.”
Bigby also said Verizon is the only cell phone provider with reception in the area, so some people haven’t been able to easily contact family off the train.
Another passenger said the mood on board had remained surprisingly upbeat.
“It’s just been like a giant kumbaya party,” Rebekah Dodson told CNN early Tuesday. “Strangers are playing cards. A teenager played his ukulele to kids to get them to sleep. Ladies who have never met before were dancing in aisles.”
Still, she said, the “hardship” had been stressful. Some Los Angeles-bound college students had panicked because their professors wouldn’t accept their excuse for missing class, Dodson said. “So we’ve had a couple of meltdowns, some panic attacks, a lot of anxiety.”
Dodson is a college professor married to a disabled Marine veteran with two children.
“My husband is disabled and doesn’t cook. A couple of people actually saw my tweet in my hometown and brought them pizza last night,” Dodson said. “So – I’m trying not to cry – sorry. Hopefully – I can’t even get home for another two days because Amtrak has canceled service until Friday, and I’ve canceled all my college classes, too.”
Amtrak tweeted Tuesday morning that the train was back on the move and was returning to Seattle, but that due to weather conditions, delays were expected as the train heads back north.
The train is being pulled by a Union Pacific locomotive back toward Eugene, said Tim McMahan, spokesman for Union Pacific, which owns the Oregon rail line where the train had been stranded.
Amtrak said it did not charge passengers for food on board during the delay.