A train trip to remember ... or not!
ARLINGTON — Abby Taylor of Princeton says she’s pretty sure she’s not stepping foot on another train until spring.
Taylor is one of a couple hundred passengers stranded Monday afternoon through early Tuesday morning on Amtrak trains stuck between Arlington and Mendota, stopped by snow-covered tracks, on their way to Chicago.
From the warmth and comfort of her Princeton home late Tuesday morning, Taylor talked about the train trip she started but didn’t get completed.
Taylor said she and her friend, Janese Kunkel, had met up at the Princeton Amtrak station Monday afternoon and were both returning to their homes in Chicago. The train was already a couple hours late, apparently due to the weather, and didn’t leave the Princeton station until 3 p.m. Monday.
The start of the trip was basically uneventful, though there were times she couldn’t see out the window because of all the snow being blown up from the train tracks. About 30 minutes into the trip, the conductor announced the train was approaching Mendota, the next scheduled stop.
When the train started slowing down, she didn’t think anything about it, but then the train came to a complete stop before reaching Mendota, Taylor said. She looked out the window and saw only cornfields on both sides of the train. There was a small farm house about 200 yards away. She didn’t see any roads.
About that time, the announcement was made that the train was stuck, and they would try to jerk the train back and forth to see if they could break through some snow drifts, Taylor said. The jerking was very mild. About an hour later, the announcement came that the train engine was frozen, and another train was coming to get the passengers.
However, that second train got stuck too, Taylor said.
Taylor said about 10 p.m., passengers were told a freight train would be coming to pull out the stuck trains. Passengers were never told they could be spending the night on the train.
Finally, in the early morning hours Tuesday, the train stuck behind Taylor’s train was pulled back to Princeton, and those passengers were unloaded. The empty train was then taken back to Taylor’s train, and those passengers were transferred into the empty train. Taylor, Kunkel and the other passengers arrived back at the Princeton station about 7 a.m. Tuesday.
All things considering, things went pretty well on the overnight adventure, Taylor said. The train was warm and heated, though there wasn’t much food in the cafe car, just some small pizzas and hot dogs. The cafe car was closed by 6 p.m. Monday, but passengers were served some beef stew and mashed potatoes about 7 p.m.
As far as the atmosphere among the stranded train passengers, Taylor said most people were pretty calm and collected about the whole situation. People visited with others, played cards and tried to make light of the situation. She was able to watch some videos on her phone and also spent time doing “a whole lot of nothing,” Taylor said.
When they did get back to Princeton, Taylor said she and Kunkel both decided they did not want to board one of the waiting buses or wait for another train. They would figure out another way to get to Chicago, with Taylor’s mother, Ginger Freeburg, agreeing to drive them back to Chicago Tuesday afternoon.
Taylor said she’s not upset with Amtrak about the stranded train, but maybe next time there should be consideration to canceling trips sooner rather than later when the weather is bad.
But for now, after 16 hours on a stranded train during a snowy and frigid night in Illinois, Taylor said she was just glad to be home.
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