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Mystery aboard Amtrak: what caused Train 8 to be delayed by 10 hours on Friday night?

October 9, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
Mystery and intrigue swirled around my Friday night trip to Grand Forks aboard the Amtrak train.

When I arrived at the train depot to board the 9:45 eastbound train, I was told the train had been held up due to a fatal pickup truck-train accident near Williston and it would take authorities several hours to sort out the situation. Fellow passengers waiting in the depot shared their stories of train collisions, derailments and speculated about the condition of train tracks in different states.

An older fellow who said he was from Costa Rica said knowledgeably that the federal authorities would probably not allow the train to leave the scene until the accident had been inspected by a local representative of the National Transportation Safety Board, who probably lived hours away and would have to drive to the scene. In short, we were in for a long night.

The hours ticked by as I mastered the different levels of "Angry Birds" and finished reading "Out of Oz" by Gregory Maguire and listened to the grumbling of tired, angry Amtrak passengers who had been on a train for many hours and were spending more waiting because of federal red tape.

Finally, at close to 6 a.m. on Saturday, the train finally arrived and I stumbled on board. It was there that I heard more lurid tales and speculation about what had caused the delay. Other passengers mentioned the FBI and drug dogs and alleged drug dealers aboard Amtrak.

One passenger said he thought the driver of the pickup truck was actually the accomplice of the suspected drug dealer or dealers on board the train and had parked his truck across the tracks in hope of stopping the train so his friends could make their escape. Someone else thought that the train was held up so long because the FBI and other law enforcement were spending the night trying to track down the miscreants. The train ended up idling for another hour or so in Rugby and the wait was presumably somehow related to whatever had happened the evening before. That allowed time for more speculation on the part of the passengers.

How much of this was an actual eyewitness account and how much a story embroidered upon retelling by passenger to passenger, I could not say. I'm told that calls to law enforcement in Williston over the weekend turned up no report of any such accident.

On the other hand, something certainly held up the train for close to 10 hours on Friday night. It was almost enough to make me swear off travel by train altogether, but the trip back on Monday morning was without incident. It was an hour late, but it's unreasonable to expect a train to always arrive on time. I can deal with an hour or two here or there. It probably beats driving with gas prices this high.


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