Amtrak nearly back on track after winter storms

Amtrak nearly back on track after winter storms

CHAMPAIGN — Five-year-old Franklin Davis gets a kick out of seeing a train come around the bend.

On Thursday morning at an Amtrak station in Centralia, Mom might have been just as excited.

"I was surprised it showed up," Rachel Weinstein said after she and her son stepped off Train No. 390 and into Champaign's Illinois Terminal, "because they've been canceling them the last couple days."

Weinstein had hoped to arrive in Champaign to meet family on Wednesday, but this week's deep freeze kept Amtrak from some of its scheduled rounds.

Chicago-based Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Thursday that the three trains servicing Champaign — City of New Orleans, Saluki and Illini — were mostly back on track after days of delays and cancellations (nine since Sunday). However, Amtrak canceled today's southbound Saluki and northbound Illini as Chicago Hub Service restoration — which includes placement of crews, locomotives and railcars in proper rotations — continues through the weekend.

"It's been frustrating for them, but most of our passengers have been understanding," Magliari said. "They know we've been facing some difficult conditions."

Francois Proulx was part of a bustling Amtrak lobby in Champaign on Thursday morning. The UI professor was headed — on schedule — to Chicago for the 129th Modern Language Association convention. He said some of his students, scheduled to leave by train the day before, weren't as fortunate.

"I was a little nervous that I wouldn't make it," he said before boarding the Saluki.

At Amtrak for 13 years, Magliari said "I can't recall a series of days where we've had this much disruption in this many directions to and from Chicago."

For Champaign's hub, however, it could have been worse. The UI doesn't resume classes until Jan. 21.

"I guess it's good timing — certainly for our markets where there's heavy university traffic," he said. "The good news is that it's 2014, where registration for the spring is done mostly electronically. Imagine if this were 1994 instead of 2014 when you had to be there to register."

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