Amtrak Passengers Stuck on Snowbound Train Say They're Without Food, Working Toilets

Passengers remain on board an Amtrak train that had to return to a Virginia station, where the train has stayed in place on Tuesday.

The Crescent left New Orleans on Sunday en route to New York. However, the train proceeded to get stuck on tracks north of Lynchburg, Virginia, due to downed trees. The train returned to Lynchburg on Tuesday, where it remains with little explanation to passengers experiencing a miserable trip.

"I get it that there are weather conditions," said passenger Sean Thornton in a phone interview to the Associated Press. "The real failure here was communication and management involvement."

According to Thornton, toilets have begun overflowing in the train cars, and food has run out. McDonald's came onto the train on Tuesday to provide food after passengers complained of hunger. He described the coach passengers on the train as having "a wretched, wretched experience." Furthermore, Thornton claimed that a member of the train's crew sent a message over the public address system telling passengers to stop airing their grievances to the crew and to instead call Amtrak's customer service line.

"If they can actually move this train, great," said Thornton. "But if they waste another day trying to figure it out, people are really going to lose patience."

Amtrak Train With Major Snowfall
Passengers remain on board an Amtrak train that had to return to a Virginia station on Tuesday, where the train has stayed in place. Above, an Amtrak worker walks along the tracks checking for debris beneath the train after it stopped on January 22, 2005, near Wilmington, Delaware. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Malcolm Kenton of Washington, D.C., said he and his aunt walked away from the train after it returned to Lynchburg and hitched a ride to a hotel several miles. He said he and his aunt are trying to rent a car or catch a train on Thursday because they don't want to wait at the station for an unscheduled departure.

"We've pretty much given up on getting back on the same train," Kenton said in a Tuesday phone interview from his hotel. A longtime Amtrak rider, he said he still prefers the train to driving or flying, but said the current delay is "among the worst" he's ever encountered. He said it seems like downed trees could have been cleared more quickly.

"Amtrak does not seem to do well in handling these situations when they arise," Kenton said.

A separate train bound from Roanoke, Virginia, to Washington, D.C., got stuck on the same tracks, said Tamera Ferguson of Lynchburg. She said her son spent 14 hours on the train before it returned to Lynchburg after 1 a.m. Tuesday. She said the railroad didn't offer stranded passengers other transportation or hotels.

The Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Virginia, reported a southbound train from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Lynchburg had also been delayed due to downed trees, while Amtrak reported that its New York-bound Silver Star train, which left from Miami, remained stopped at Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday morning because of downed trees.

A number of New York-New Orleans Crescents departing on Tuesday and later days have been canceled. Amtrak on Tuesday also canceled both directions of the Piedmont, which runs between Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina, as well the northbound Palmetto from Savannah, Georgia, to New York, and the northbound Auto Train, which operates from Sanford, Florida, to Lorton, Virginia.

The company also said it's operating "modified" service on some other routes along the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston and on other trains south of Washington.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.