Stranded passengers arrive in Chicago after Amtrak trains get stuck in Illinois

Hundreds of Amtrak passengers have finally arrived in Chicago after spending the night stranded on trains to the west of the city.
January 7, 2014 3:27:43 PM PST
After more than 14 hours stranded on Amtrak trains, the first of 500 passengers arrived in Chicago's Union Station - by bus - Tuesday morning.

Three Amtrak trains ? the Southwest Chief from Los Angeles, the Illinois Zephyr from Quincy and the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay area -- became stuck in blowing snow and ice on Monday afternoon. The first two trains were stranded near Mendota, Ill., which is 90 miles west of Chicago. The third train, the California Zephyr, spent the night in Galesburg at a BNSF rail yard.

All 500 passengers were put on charter buses to complete their trips to Chicago. The first of those buses arrived Tuesday morning around 7 a.m.

Arriving by bus wasn't the plan for hundreds of Amtrak passengers stuck all night in a snow drift.

"This is the first time I ever took a train, I didn't want to take a bus all cramped and I wound up on a bus anyways," said Anthony Corbo, stranded passenger.

"I originally got on in Kansas at 8:00 a.m. yesterday, it's been a 26-hour ordeal for me," said Luke Charbonneu, stranded passenger.

Buses carrying passengers from three Amtrack trains arrived all morning and into the afternoon at Union Station. Passengers were bused back after their trains came to a halt in Mendota, Illinois Monday afternoon beginning at 3:15 p.m.

"They came over the loud speaker and said, we are stuck in a 10 foot snowdrift and we are not going anywhere soon," said Sarah Magnuson, stranded passenger.

"When the drifts began to scrape the side of the train that was my first clue and then it stopped," said Kay Stauffer, stranded passenger.

And it was for stopped for 13 hours. It's been quite a trip for Stauffer and her family, who began their trip in California last week.

"We went from Pasadena to a funeral in Topeka, Kansas, then our flights kept getting changed, changed, changed, so we decided to take the train," said Stauffer.

The fear of flying is why Boston-bound Jennifer Assenza and her fiancé took the train from Los Angeles. Sporting clothes fit for L.A., the couple never expected to wind up in Chicago.

"I don't even know what day it is, I'm so disoriented right now. We spent the whole 15 hours waiting there with no food, no water, couldn't wash your hands, couldn't brush your teeth. We didn't even want to go to the bathroom," said Assenza.

And the trip is far from over as the couple wait in a long line to rebook a train back home. Other stranded passengers were more than happy to step through the slush to get inside a warm rented car, or use any other mode of transportation rather than the train.

"This is my first time riding the train ever, and I wouldn't do it again, no," said Percy Robison, stranded passenger.

For those passengers who weren't able to find transportation out of Chicago, Amtrak provided them with a voucher for a hotel.

"We want to hear from all of these passengers, all 500 of them," Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said. "We want to know what we did well.. . And we want to hear from some of the customers who didn't think we did very well."