The day – Delayed trains start running again after a tree fell on wires and caught fire

Trains in Connecticut and Rhode Island began to run again hours after New London firefighters and Amtrak said a tree fell on wires over New London tracks on Saturday night.

“The tree has been removed and Amtrak is working to resume service as soon as possible,” Amtrak public relations manager Olivia Irvin said in an email late Saturday night.

A passenger on train 167, which had stopped between stations north of New London, said the train started running again around 10:54 p.m. Train 169 has also since started running again.

New London Fire Battalion chief Mark Waters said the department received the call at 5.35pm that a tree had fallen onto the catenary wires – the overhead wires that supply trains – then caught fire and was burning above the wires. He said around 9:20 p.m. the tree was still on the wires and Amtrak had crews on the tracks.

He said the tree fell near the Ocean Avenue overpass. There are no casualties.

A darkened Amtrak train blocked the State Street crossing next to the city’s Union Station for several hours.

CC Walsh of Boston, who was returning home on the Amtrak train on Saturday evening from a job interview in New York, said Amtrak police and a conductor told him the train hit trees a few miles in rear and that the trees had caught fire.

“We were told the power lines were down on both lanes,” she said.

Walsh said it took him a while to realize the train had stopped around 5:30 p.m. The electricity on the train went out and passengers were getting up and walking around, she said. They waited over an hour for a specialist team to arrive to deal with the downed power lines. The train ran out of water, she said.

The passengers were eventually allowed to get off the train. Walsh said she was told she could make other travel arrangements.

A Shore Line East train sat higher on the tracks. Several passengers on that train bound for New Haven huddled on the platform, seated on benches and stairs, their luggage strewn around them, waiting for the trains to start rolling again.

Waters said the fire department responded, but has since referred the situation to Amtrak. He said firefighters couldn’t put out the fire due to high voltage in the catenary wires, so they had to wait for the power to go out, which took about 45 minutes. He said that after the electricity went out, the tree above the wires was still smoking, but it finally stopped.

Maggie Vatter is one of the people stuck in New London, and she’s trying to get back from New York to Boston for her younger sister’s wedding on Sunday morning.

She said she went to New York to pick up car parts for the 1966 Pontiac GTO that she was going to give her sister as a wedding present. Speaking shortly after 9:30 p.m., Vatter had been stuck at Union Station for several hours.

She said passengers received periodic updates over the intercom, but the updates were inconsistent as to when they were departing.

“It’s just kind of a mess, but I try to keep the good faith,” she said.

Other passengers expressed their frustration on Twitter about Amtrak’s lack of updates.

Amtrak Northeast tweeted at 6:33 p.m.: “Due to firefighter activity near the tracks, all trains running west of New London (NLC) are temporarily halted. Updates will follow as further information will be provided.” Amtrak said shortly after that train 88 was stopped in New London, Acela train 2254 in New Haven and train 167 in Westerly.

Amtrak tweeted at 7:50 p.m. that train 194 is stopped at Old Saybrook, at 8:43 p.m. that train 169 is stopped at Kingston and at 8:50 p.m. that train 168 is stopped at New Haven, all “due to the firefighters activity near the slopes.”

A message was left for Amtrak.

This is a developing story.

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