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Federal Railroad Officials Abandon Stranded Train

Spencer Platt/Getty Images (file)(WILMINGTON, Del.) -- Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman had an appointment to keep, and he wasn’t going to let the massive power outage that occurred Saturday on his rail line’s Northeast Corridor stop him; neither were Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo or Amtrak board member Jeff Moreland.

The three were expected at the gala unveiling of the newly re-named “Joe Biden” train station in Wilmington, Delaware, Saturday afternoon but they found themselves among the thousands of other Amtrak passengers who were temporarily stranded on trains along the popular Washington, D.C., to New York route.

Boardman, Szabo and Moreland -- who heard just hours before that Vice President Biden was slated to make an unscheduled appearance at Saturday’s event -- abandoned a stranded Acela Express train at Baltimore’s Penn Station where an awaiting car ferried them to Wilmington.

The three railroad leaders – who were seated comfortably in the train’s First Class car and had just finished a light breakfast when the train suddenly stopped and lost power just after 9:30 a.m. – were escorted from the coach by security guards and a small entourage of assistants.

What the rail company’s CEO and his counterparts left behind was a train that remained stranded in Baltimore for more than two-and-a-half hours as Amtrak engineers scrambled to repair a broken transformer outside of Philadelphia. The train, like many others, lost electricity, including the power to flush toilets. Passengers were allowed to stretch their legs on the station’s platform.

Others followed the railroad officials’ lead -- frantically arranging to rent cars or find transportation to an airport. The train that the three were riding, which left Washington at 9 a.m. began moving again at 12:28 p.m. -- roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes behind schedule.

Boardman said the incident highlighted the need to overhaul the entire power system along the Northeast Corridor -- the busiest in the country and said Amtrak recently filed an application with the Federal Railroad Administration to make such improvements.

The Wilmington station, which now bears Biden’s name, recently underwent a two-year $37 million renovation, paid for with a combination of funds from Amtrak, the government's stimulus program and the state of Delaware. Saturday’s event featured tours of the station, “food and refreshments” and even a performance by the Wilmington Children’s’ Chorus.

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