HELL ON WHEELS: Amtrak passengers had no water, heat for hours amid foul odor as 'toilets were at max'
DETROIT, MICHIGAN: Local passengers who boarded an Amtrak train departing Metro Detroit were left in darkness, stuck with a foul odor, and without water and heat for hours after the train experienced a slew of mechanical issues.
The problem began at around 9.00 am on Friday, October 7. Amtrak confirmed that train 351 was stopped due to a power issue with the engine. Another engine was later brought in. “Train 353 coupled to Train 351, and the train operated as a double-draft set to Chicago, IL,” a spokesperson with Amtrak said in a statement.
But by the time the other train arrived for help at the stop in Battle Creek, a foul odor had taken over the air inside the train as, without power, there was no way to flush the toilets. “So by the time we pull into Battle Creek, the toilets are at the max, full capacity and the cars are starting to smell,” Dana Thomas, a passenger on the train, told Click on Detriot. “Everybody wanted to get off, we asked, we begged.”
Thomas and her family boarded the train in Dearborn just before 7.00 am. The family was slated to arrive in Chicago at 10.32 am CST. But the mechanical issues with the train delayed their arrival and the family eventually had to cancel their trip. Dana said the journey finally resumed at around 7.00 pm. “The conductor says ‘Welp, my time is up.’ We said, ‘What does that mean?’ ‘A new crew has to take over because my time is up.’”
After covering a few more miles, the train was stopped again as the crew discovered an urgent situation with the brakes. Amtrak said that once the crew solved the issue, the journey was delayed again due to battery issues. “It’s getting dark, people are starting to panic,” Thomas said. “You start hearing screaming on the train, somebody had a full panic attack.”
“Then all of the sudden, people started escaping,” Thomas said. “So they warning us that there are seven live tracks one way and three the other way. And people couldn’t take it anymore, they called Ubers and people were actually stopping on the freeway picking people up. It was madness.”
The passengers managed to spend a few hours on the train and eventually decided to board train 353, which had a water and heat facility. The 17-hour ordeal ended around midnight in Chicago. Thomas said while her family canceled their trip, many other passengers missed weddings, funerals, and other special events.
“People collectively coming together to make sure the story of Amtrak 351 is told because Amtrak’s response has been absolutely abysmal because they were more concerned about the train than the passengers or the people within the train,” Dana said.
Meanwhile, Amtrak has returned passengers’ ticket fares, offered traveling vouchers, and delivered apology emails after the embarrassing incident.