Amtrak passengers delayed but happy

Amtrak passengers who arrived in Omaha on Monday after being delayed for hours are, from left, Mary Lou Nieman of Sebring, Ohio, Walter Luntz of the Lexington, Kentucky, area, and John Larkin of Omaha.

An Amtrak passenger train headed to Omaha was delayed twice — once by a car stuck on the tracks, then by a fallen tree — for a total of 9½ hours Sunday and Monday just south of the city.

The first delay occurred around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, when the train struck a car that had been abandoned on the tracks near Bellevue’s Fontenelle Forest, said John Larkin, 72, of Omaha.

Larkin said he boarded the train in Miami, Florida.

“It had been a smooth ride,’’ Larkin said. “I flew to Miami about a week ago with my daughter and then took the train back.’’

Sarpy County 911 dispatchers said the crash occurred near East 16th Avenue and Front Street in Bellevue. The wrecked car eventually was removed from the tracks, and the train headed for its destination 3½ hours later.

Then, around 2:15 a.m. Monday, the train struck a tree that had fallen across the tracks a couple of miles north of Fontenelle Forest. Larkin, who had gotten the details from employees on the train, said he thought the tree became wedged up into the engine and its brakes.

High north-northwest winds, with gusts around 45 mph, reportedly knocked down limbs and trees in the region from late Sunday into early Monday.

The Amtrak office in Washington, D.C., did not return a phone message seeking comment on the delays.

Larkin also estimated that 50 to 60 people on the train were served breakfast around 7:15 a.m. after full power was restored and emergency lights no longer were needed.

By 7:55 a.m., he said, a new engine was brought in and the passenger train was on its way, pulling into the Omaha station about 10 minutes later, he said.

No injuries were reported.

Despite the delays, the Amtrak crew earned praised from other passengers after they arrived at the station.

Mary Lou Nieman, 62, of Sebring, Ohio, said she was en route to Omaha to visit a son and grandson.

“I can’t complain about Amtrak,’’ she said. “We were treated very well. Amtrak took good care of us.’’

Walter Kuntz of the Lexington, Kentucky, area, said the trip was his third Amtrak train ride in 15 years. He was coming to visit his wife, who is doing contract work in Omaha.

“It was a good trip,’’ he said.

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