Train Riders Struggle With Schedules

By Beacon Staff

During high summer travel season, Amtrak’s trains combat schedule disruptions due to Mother Nature and aging equipment. Recently, the Empire Builder, which stops in Whitefish, saw delays due to the Skyland Fire burning near Marias Pass. Meanwhile, the Cascades service running in Oregon and Washington lost railcars to maintenance, causing Amtrak to limit service.

Despite the Skyland Fire, the Empire Builder continues to run on its twice daily schedule through Whitefish, where over 68,000 annual riders embark or detrain. However, those riders transferring to and from coastal routes saw their itineraries swapped last week when a routine inspection of Talgo railcars used on the Cascades routes turned up mechanical concerns. “We found certain cracks in the suspension support system,” said Antonio Perez, CEO and President of Talgo, Inc. “We are acting very conservatively by removing the equipment from service. The safety of passengers has not and will not be compromised.”

The Cascades service operated by Amtrak runs four daily round-trips between Portland and Seattle, with additional connections to Bellingham, Eugene, and Vancouver, B.C. To substitute for sidelined Talgo railcars, Amtrak brought in additional railcars—some from as far away as the East Coast. Chartered buses are also covering some of the scheduled train routes.

Operating under new schedules and train numbers, the substitute train service between Eugene and Seattle will run at reduced speeds and will not include some of the Cascades amenities–business class, feature movies, or bicycle accommodations. Using Superliner cars, the Seattle to Vancouver, B.C. rail and the Empire Builder continue to operate with original train numbers and schedules.

Notifying passengers ticketed for a combination of the Empire Builder and Cascades, Amtrak provided full refunds for unused tickets. Normal schedules for both routes will resume when the Skyland Fire abates and Talgo cars return.