Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“A Damn Hard Thing To Do”

Back in the early part of June, three of Amtrak’s western trains had their schedules disrupted for several days because of flooding along the Mississippi River. Here’s a shot of the flooding at Burlington, Iowa, around that time. Burlington is in the foreground and the view is to the east, looking back into Illinois.

The California Zephyr, which runs daily between Chicago and the Bay Area, crosses the river over the swing bridge at the right of the photo. At the height of the flood, the westbound Zephyr couldn’t even reach the bridge because the tracks in Illinois were under 17 feet of water.

The schedule for the Southwest Chief – it’s the daily train between Chicago and Los Angeles – was also disrupted for several days. That train normally crosses the river at Fort Madison, Iowa, which is about 20 miles south of Burlington, but had to start and end in Denver during the flooding.

Similar floods farther up river in Wisconsin disrupted service for the Empire Builder, which is Amtrak’s daily train between Chicago and Seattle/Portland. During that time, however, St. Paul was the temporary eastern terminus for the train.

As it happened, I was on the Empire Builder during this time. One of the conductors summed it all up rather nicely, I thought: “Sometimes runnin’ a railroad is a damn hard thing to do.”

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