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Winter storms batter Amtrak from coast to coast

CHICAGO — The Union Pacific stack train derailment just south of the Normal, Ill., Transportation Center early Saturday kicked off a challenging Presidents Day weekend for Amtrak trains across the country. That derailment led to cancellation of Lincoln Service trains and a reroute of the Texas Eaglebetween St. Louis and Chicago [see “Digest: UP derailment in Normal, Ill. …,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 13, 2021]. Snow and icy conditions in the Pacific Northwest and from Arizona through the South have caused cancellations of the following service:

— Heartland Flyer (Oklahoma City-Fort Worth): Sun. Feb. 14 through Tues. Feb 16 — Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio): Cancelled Sunday and Tuesday in both directions between St. Louis and San Antonio

— Sunset Limited (Los Angeles-New Orleans): Cancelled Sunday eastbound and Monday westbound. The train that left New Orleans on Saturday had mechanical problems west of El Paso on Sunday and departed Yuma, Ariz., Monday at 10:39 a.m., almost 11 hours late.

— Coast Starlight (Seattle-Los Angeles): Cancelled between Portland, Ore., and

Sacramento, Calif. on Monday. The southbound Starlight that left Seattle on Saturday arrived into Los Angeles at 12:40 p.m. Monday afternoon instead of 9 p.m., Sunday night, and the northbound Starlight due into Seattle on Saturday evening got in at 9:06 p.m. on Sunday, more than 25 hours late. Heavy snow and downed trees between Portland and Eugene, Ore., caused both trains to hold hours for open track. Meanwhile, Amtrak Cascades train nos. 500 and 505, the only daily service operating on the Seattle-Eugene corridor, were short-turned at Portland from Seattle on Saturday and Monday, and canceled entirely on Sunday.

--Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles): Saturday eastbound and westbound trains were cancelled

--City of New Orleans (Chicago-New Orleans): Cancelled southbound Monday, Feb. 15 and northbound Wednesday, Feb. 17 (the day after Fat Tuesday). Elsewhere, lengthy delays

The Empire Builders into both Seattle and Chicago arrived 6 hours late Saturday (in Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited was held 39 minutes for connecting passengers). Monday’s trains are running about three hours late westbound and four hours late eastbound. The eastbound California Zephyr is also operating more than four hours late into Chicago on Monday.

In the East, major disruptions occurred south of Washington, D.C, on Saturday, causing multi-hour delays to the Carolinian (New York-Charlotte) and Palmetto (New York-Savannah, Ga.), which then severely affected their northbound counterparts on Sunday. The daytime northbound Palmetto, further stalled by freight train interference and recrewing delays, arrived into New York Monday at 8:03 a.m.; it was due Sunday at 11:56 p.m.

And an almost 9-hour en route delay to Saturday’s southbound Auto Train (also affecting the Silver Star, Carolinian, and Palmetto) caused it to arrive at its Sanford, Fla., terminal at 5:47 p.m. Sunday instead of 9 a.m., pushing back that day’s 4 p.m. northbound departure to 10:47 p.m.. The train’s Lorton, Va., arrival on Monday was delayed 6 hours to 3 p.m. Since the equipment makes a same-day turn, Monday’s southbound train was pushed back at least 3 hours.

There were other disruptions caused by severe weather sweeping across the country, and more cancellations are possible.

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