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Deep freeze strands rail, air travelers nationwide

January 7, 2014 • Business


Sarah Magnuson, of Columbus, Ohio makes phone calls after arriving at Union Station after her Amtrak train from Los Angeles became stuck in snow drifts on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, in Chicago. The severe weather forced hundreds of Amtrak passengers to spent the night onboard three trains stranded due to the snow in northern Illinois. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

CHICAGO (AP) — The Amtrak train slowed to a crawl as it hammered through snowdrifts in an empty stretch of Illinois countryside, delivering thuds and jolts to passengers, until it lurched into a mound big enough to grind its 8,000-horsepower engine to a halt.

About 90 miles short of their Chicago destination, passengers ended up stuck on the train overnight, reading books, watching movies on computers and taking what amusement they could from a conductor who cracked jokes over the intercom. Food ran low and some tempers boiled over, but staff kept the heat on, entertained children and even escorted small groups of people outside for smoke breaks.

“You hear those horror stories about the cars that stop in the snow and they freeze to death. I thought, ‘Oh God, this is going to happen, we’re going to be in blankets,’” said passenger Chris Smith.

They weren’t alone. Across huge swaths of the country, the polar vortex froze travel and left motorists, airline passengers and commuters fighting to Login to read more

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