A major power outage stranded thousands of rush-hour commuters Thursday between New York and Washington, stopping trains inside sweltering tunnels and forcing many passengers to get out and walk.
Power was restored throughout the heavily traveled corridor at about 10:30 a.m., more than two hours after outage, Amtrak said. NJ Transit trains were running on a limited basis Thursday afternoon and were expected to resume normal service after 9 p.m.
The outage stranded five trains in tunnels — one in Baltimore and four under the Hudson River heading into New York. The last one lurched back to life at 11:15 a.m. after stranding passengers for more than three hours in the heat and darkness.
“We no sooner entered the tunnel than even us non-engineers noticed we were coasting, the air conditioning had gone off and something was very wrong,” said Jeff Oppenheim, who was headed from New York to Washington D.C.
Joe Piasecki of Washington Crossing, Pa. was among 100 passengers who climbed down out of a stalled train near Elizabeth, N.J., to walk nearly a mile to the nearest station.
“It’s a kind of eerie, end-of-the-world feel,” said Piasecki, who boarded the train in Trenton. “You have these two trains sitting here dead, not moving. You can’t see any cars or anything else moving.”
At New York’s Penn Station, Jan Brayan waited for more than two hours to catch a train.
“There are things you can control and things that you can’t,” said Brayan, who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I just try to keep in touch with my patient side.”
Commuters complained that bathrooms on board the stalled trains backed up and some sat on the floor of the sweltering cars.
Krista Barry spent the morning of her 23rd birthday reading a book for more than 90 minutes.
“Everyone is calling me on my cell and saying, ’Uh, happy birthday; too bad you’re stuck,”’ said Barry, who boarded the train in Trenton bound for her job as an office temp in Manhattan. “At least I get to relax and not go to work.”
‘A lot of frustration,’ in the dark
In Baltimore, Larry Willis, 63, of Upper Marlboro, Md., said he and other passengers were stuck in the dark for about 45 minutes in a tunnel.
Passengers remained quiet during the outage but there was “a lot of frustration,” said Willis, who had been traveling to Newark, N.J., to catch a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.
Another Amtrak train made it through the Baltimore tunnel but lost power within a mile of New York’s Penn Station, passengers said. Terence Hanrahan, 41, of San Francisco, was heading from Washington to New York for a wedding with his wife and two children, ages 3 and 18 months.
“We almost made it. Then they said, ’Wait patiently,”’ Hanrahan said. “With two screaming kids.”
Hanrahan’s wife, Wendy, said passengers the were herded onto an overcrowded commuter train with little explanation.
Despite the inconvenience, some stranded passengers weren’t entirely soured on train travel.
“It beats flying,” Terence Hanrahan said in Baltimore. “I’ll take the train over flying any day.”