'Empire Builder' trips cancelled after North Dakota snow delays

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CHICAGO — Amtrak is dropping two Empire Builder cross-country trips this week and will be providing buses between Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., for departures over the next three days after the eastbound Empire Builder due into the Windy City Wednesday, March 8, became snowbound for almost 13 hours in a 25 foot-high drift five miles west of Rugby, N.D.

That train eventually arrived into Chicago today almost 21 hours late at 12:39 p.m. Meanwhile, the westbound train, which left Chicago Tuesday was delayed at a Leeds, N.D., passing track. 27 miles east of Rugby waiting for BNSF Railway crews dug out its counterpart, and is now running 15 hours late across Montana and Idaho. For the last two days, delays to other trains en route have been exacerbated by mudslides north of Seattle, snow, and freight train congestion.

With equipment in need of servicing and inspection, along with the fact that operating crews are out of position, there are no Empire Builder departures Thursday from either Chicago or Seattle and Portland. Buses are substituting for the westbound train Thursday as far as St. Paul, with no alternate transportation to the west, while on-time eastbound buses from the Twin Cities are set to operate Friday and Saturday mornings.

In North Dakota on Wednesday, 111 passengers were aboard the eastbound Builder and 96 on the westbound train while several attempts were made throughout the day to free train No. 8 from a wall of snow that had accumulated next to stored hopper cars. The Devils Lake Subdivision between Minot and Grand Forks was re-built over the last four years with new signals and continuous welded rail, but it is not BNSF Railway’s primary freight route across North Dakota.

Though emergency responders were notified as a precaution, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire that customers were kept comfortable by the on-board staff and complimentary food and beverages were offered during the all-day delay.

A passenger told the Grand Forks Herald that the railroad brought four locomotives to the scene in an attempt to pull the train out, but the effort hadn’t produced results by mid-afternoon. BNSF’s Amy McBeth added that 30 railroad workers then had to dig the snow out from under the train by hand before it was able to move.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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