Union Pacific still recovering from recent Northwest snow storms

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SEATTLE — Union Pacific and Amtrak are both working to put their West Coast networks back together after a late-winter snowstorm severed its line between Eugene, Ore., and the California border and left a passenger train stranded for more than a day.

UP officials said Thursday the line was back in operation. It would not discuss how many trains were blocked or whether they were rerouted. But in a notice to customers earlier in the week, UP said heavy snowfall in central Oregon had led to more than 100 trees on the line south of Eugene.

“As we begin operating trains that were held in this region, customers should expect delays of 24 to 48 hours on shipments as we manage the backlog,” the notice cautioned.

One of those trees landed in the path of the Coast Starlight, which left Seattle and Sunday and made it as far as Oakridge, 40 miles south of Eugene, where it struck a downed tree. Amtrak said 183 passengers were aboard.

Getting the train back out was complicated by other trees and power lines that were down, Amtrak said in an email statement. Passengers remained on the train until UP crews could clear the line sufficiently to bring a locomotive in and pull it back to Eugene. Passengers eventually made it back to Portland and Seattle Tuesday night. To add insult to injury, passengers headed to Seattle were also delayed by a fire on a railroad bridge north of Portland.

Amtrak promised refunds and to work with passengers individually on alternative arrangements.

In the meantime Amtrak cancelled the Coast Starlight route north of Sacramento through March 1.

Oregon hasn’t been the only trouble spot this winter for UP. In a separate customer advisory, the railroad noted that it has implemented several steps to deal with system snarls, including deploying 107 surge locomotives and adding 300 crews from its furlough and alternate work training status program in February.

It has also tried to reroute trains away from congested gateways and terminals, such as Chicago and bypassed intermediate terminals where possible.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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