Congestion, flooding disrupting 'Southwest Chief,' 'Texas Eagle,' 'California Zephyr'

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The westbound California Zephyr passes through West Hinsdale, Ill., on May 23, 2019. The westbound Zephyr will return to its regular BSNF route today after two days of detours and cancellations, while the Southwest Chief and Texas Eagle are also experiencing service disruptions.
TRAINS: David Lassen

CHICAGO — An early morning track closure Friday because of flooding at La Plata, Mo., has temporarily shut BNSF Railway’s Chicago-Kansas City, Mo., route used by the Southwest Chief. The Chief joins the Texas Eagle and California Zephyr in the ranks of Amtrak long-distance trains affected either by flooded tracks or host-railroad freight congestion. Amtrak says both the eastbound and westbound Chiefs will be affected today, and believes this will be just a one-day interruption.

Eastbound passengers arriving into Kansas City this morning on the Chief transferred to buses that are continuing to substitute for Missouri River Runner trains between Kansas City and St. Louis. Buses to Kansas City will substitute for today's scheduled westbound Chief departure from Chicago.

The Union Pacific tracks between Kansas City and St. Louis are open, but the railroad advised Amtrak and the Missouri Department of Transportation that, because of flooding elsewhere, heavy freight traffic would significantly delay passenger trains. Amtrak and the state agency jointly decided to substitute buses for the two daily River Runner round trips.

A similar situation is occurring with the Texas Eagle, which starting today will only operate between Chicago and St. Louis and in Texas between Fort Worth and San Antonio. The suspension between St. Louis and Fort Worth will last through at least June 7.

“UP isn’t denying us access,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari clarified for Trains News Wire, “but because Amtrak currently does not have an enforceable right of preference, we determined that it would be best to not create trainloads of ‘never again’ customers delayed hours on a congested railroad.” The plan was to route Eagle passengers to and from west of Dallas-Fort Worth on a Heartland Flyer-Amtrak Thruway Bus-Southwest Chief routing through Oklahoma City and Newton, Kan., but this morning’s problem on the Chief route makes that a torturous detour.

Meanwhile, today’s westbound California Zephyr will be back on its regular BNSF Railway route. It did not operate east of Denver yesterday in either direction owing to lack of crews and congestion on the previously-planned UP detour over the former Chicago and North Western east of Omaha.

The westbound Zephyr that detoured on the UP out of Chicago on May 29 was 8 hours late departing Salt Lake City this morning, while the eastbound detouring train which ran over the UP yesterday departed Omaha more than 2 hours late at 7:50 a.m. but arrived in the Windy City at 12:44 a.m. Friday morning, losing 8 hours on the detour.     

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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