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Winter storm leaves teen stranded on Amtrak train for 13 hours

Many people were stranded after the severe weather left trees and debris on the tracks.
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 11:20 PM EST
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(WDBJ) - Train passengers were left with travel headaches after Monday’s winter storm.

Many people were stranded after the severe weather left trees and debris on the tracks.

“I accepted the fact that I was going to sit there and wait,” Eli Vollmer said.

But Vollmer didn’t realize just how long he’d be waiting on his Amtrak train.

The 19-year-old University of Virginia student is home in Blacksburg for winter break.

He planned to spend a few days with friends near Washington DC, but after boarding his train in Roanoke around 6 a.m. Monday, he never made it past Nelson County.

“We had stopped before because there were some branches on the track, so I just assumed it was something similar to that. I didn’t realize it was multiple trees and powerlines.” Vollmer said.

Amtrak said downed trees kept the train at a standstill.

“I was having fantasies of bringing a sledgehammer and having to hike through the snow to help people get out of the train,” Eli Vollmer’s father Matthew Vollmer said.

Vollmer’s parents started planning his rescue about 10 hours into what should have been a 5-hour trip.

“We would have been comforted a lot if we had just known what was going on,” Matthew Vollmer said.

Vollmer’s parents had been keeping an eye on Amtrak’s Twitter updates but felt like there could have been more communication.

Eventually Amtrak decided to return to the Lynchburg station where Vollmer’s father picked him up and spent the night at a hotel.

Train 176 Northeast Regional returned to the Roanoke station early Tuesday morning. Amtrak said, “We are working with each customer to return to their origin or reschedule.”

Meanwhile Vollmer said he doesn’t plan to get a ticket for another trip anytime soon.

“I hope no one ever has to go through that,” he said.

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