Remember the February blizzard when Amtrak was the only reliable intercity transportation link on the Eastern Seaboard? The trains made their way, close to schedule, for several days while air and highway links were blocked. I know, having taken trains to spend that weekend in a New York suburb with minimal weather disruption.
Now, at the opposite end of the thermometer, would you believe that Amtrak is having a spate of troublesome weather-related problems? As the mercury soars near 100 degrees, its electric locomotives are overheating, causing circuit breakers to open. Often they can't be reset by train personnel.
At least two midday trains, the Colonial, bound from Newport News to New York and Boston, and the Palmetto, bound from New York to Savannah, broke down Monday between Washington and Baltimore. A third train, the Bankers, bound from Boston and New York to Washington, was pressed into a rescue operation. It pushed the Savannah-bound train from the Capital Beltway into Union Station.
The Palmetto arrived here about 1 hour 45 minutes late, the Bankers a little over an hour late, the latter's entire extra time spent doing the rescue.
An Amtrak spokesman, Cliff Black, said the only extra locomotive available to pull a disabled train off the line was used to assist the Palmetto. It was impossible to get the Palmetto into Washington without help from the Bankers, Black said, although there seemed to be plenty of idle locomotives sitting in the Washington yards that could have been sent to the rescue.
"I assure you everything was done to get these trains going," said Black.
One worthwhile note: the conductor of the Bankers went through the train to explain the delay. Imagine that! A railroad providing information to passengers!