With no power, Amtrak passengers find they're boxed in for toilet use

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An Amtrak Acela Express rolls through Old Saybrook, Conn., in 2016. Passengers on a stalled Acela trainset during the holiday weekend had to use a cardboard box as a toilet.
Scott A. Hartley

NEW YORK — When an electrically-powered train loses power, nothing works.

That includes toilets. And as a delay mounts, the train may not go, but passengers still have to.

Passengers on an Amtrak Acela Express stalled north of Penn Station for about five hours on Sunday dealt with a rather rustic solution, according to a report on Boston’s WBZ-TV: a cardboard box became a makeshift toilet. (Please note: that’s makeshift.)

Passenger Nick Yeh told the station that an hour into the delay on Boston-bound train No. 2230, the crew opened doors on one side of the train “to help circulate air because it was starting to get warm and stuffy. Because we were out of power, the toilets were unflushable for the entire five hours we were waiting.”

Another passenger, Beth Jacobsen, explained the solution, which involved some out-of-the-box thinking (although hopefully not activity of a similar nature). “What the stewardesses ended up doing was making a porta-potty out of a cardboard box,” Jacobsen said.

Maybe the sturdy wooden packaging for those boxed lunches on some other Amtrak routes now makes more sense.

The train, with 299 passengers aboard, arrived in Boston about 8:20 p.m. It had been due at 1:35 p.m. An Amtrak spokesman told the Boston Globe the train stopped because of pantograph damage caused by “debris in the catenary.”


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