Amtrak says passengers had the option of waiting on the train or in the station.
Kristine L. Charbonneau
Amtrak says passengers had the option of waiting on the train or in the station.

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Mechanical problems cause delay of 13.5 hours from scheduled departure time

One passenger says Union Station was unheated during some of their wait

(CNN) —  

Talk about a traveler’s nightmare.

Amtrak passengers cooled their heels – and the rest of their bodies – for 13½ hours before their train finally pulled out of Chicago’s Union Station on Thursday morning.

“I had on leggings, a pair of wool socks, winter boots, a long-sleeve shirt, zip-up pullover, a fleece, a winter down jacket, hat, gloves and scarf,” said passenger Kristine Charbonneau. “I ended up adding my sweatpants and blankets.”

Some of the Amtrak passengers shivered inside Union Station during the wait, she said.

“They had the heat turned down,” Charbonneau said. “Finally at 3 a.m. the facilities guy came in here and turned up heat — said he did it before morning rush hour. We were freezing down there.

“People were begging for food,” she said. “They finally brought snacks for us.”

The delay for Amtrak 48/448 was caused by mechanical problems, including frozen brakes, said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Winter weather caused other transportation problems, especially in the Midwest.

More than 400 flights were canceled Thursday at Chicago O’Hare and Midway airports, said the Chicago Department of Aviation, and the Minnesota State Patrol reported 589 auto crashes. The Iowa Department of Transportation said a dozen snowplows were involved in crashes with other vehicles, according to the agency’s Facebook page.

In Chicago, the Amtrak assengers arrived at the station expecting the train to leave at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. After the long wait, the train finally headed to New York and Boston at 11:08 a.m. Thursday, he said.

It’s expected to arrive about 5:30 a.m. Friday at Penn Station in New York, he said. Amtrak sold 144 tickets for the train, plus another 20 that will go to Boston only.

Magliari said waiting passengers could sit in the station or on the train, which has sleeping compartments and reclining seats.

“We fed people and had hot chocolate and drinks, of course, on the train,” he said.

To add to their frustration, the passengers endured a false start toward their destination.

The train initially left Chicago about 8 a.m. Thursday, but Norfolk Southern realized train employees had been on the clock too long, said Robin Chapman, director of public relations for Norfolk Southern. The train was ordered back to Union Station for a fresh crew, Chapman said.

“Amtrak 48 was ready to go but it was 10.5 hours late because it had had an engine failure,” Chapman said. “The crew only had 15 minutes left on their service time because of the hours of service regulation. We could not let them go.”

For the passengers, it was one more thing.

“We passed White Sox Stadium and stopped for about half an hour,” Charbonneau said. “Our conductor got back on and said that our replacement crew can only work for so many hours. … There were some people who were really upset.”

Amtrak will offer refunds, Magliari said. Charbonneau said she’ll be demanding one.

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