Passenger rail service sets alternate passenger options when air conditioning goes out
The Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services coordinator said a well-orchestrated plan Tuesday solved some transportation problems when the air conditioning went out on some Amtrak cars.
DES Coordinator Joe Parenteau said he was contacted by Amtrak Tuesday when the power went out on some of the cars on its westbound Empire Builder.
Amtrak offered the passengers the option of staying in Havre at the passenger rail service’s expense to wait for the next train, getting on buses Amtrak brought in from Great Falls and Helena to continue their trip, or getting back on the cars despite the lack of air conditioning.
Boxcars Restaurant, which provides meals for the Empire Builder, provided some extra sandwiches and water for people riding the buses, and North Central Montana Transit provided buses to take the people who stayed in town to Havre hotels, Parenteau said.
“All and all, it was a good, coordinated effort,” he said.
Originally, it was possible that Amtrak would have to unload all of the cars from the westbound train, which would have required dealing with 311 passengers and crew members, he said.
As it turned out, only a few cars had to be unloaded. Parenteau said about 18 hotel rooms worth of passengers spent the night in Havre, while one bus took a load of people to their destinations in Spokane, Seattle or Portland, and two more motor coaches took passengers to their destinations in western Montana.
One group filled much of that option. Parenteau said 47 people from Chicago, mostly retirees, were en route to Glacier National Park with the plan to then tour more of the state including Kalispell, the Flathead Valley area and Yellowstone National Park.
“They were quite grateful to get into an air-conditioned motor coach to continue on,” Parenteau said.
“All in all, it turned out quite well,” he said.