The Sunday morning derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in the Bronx left travelers temporarily stranded at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station, some of them scrambling to find other ways out of town.
The tragedy, which killed four people and injured scores, temporarily halted Amtrak’s Empire Line Service between New York City and Albany.
The announcement of the delay in service came over the intercom at the Albany-Rensselaer station around 8:05 a.m. Sunday, according to a security worker there. At that time, people were lined up to board the 8:15 a.m. train to New York City.
“Some people just got in their cars and drove; some people went to the bus station; some people are sitting around waiting. Not much more you can do unless you can play that Powerball and hit that 200-and-something-million-dollars. You won’t have to worry about nothing then,” he said with a grin.
Around 10:15 a.m., employees at Amtrak’s customer service desk were handing out copies of bus schedules and encouraging travelers to find alternate modes of transportation to get downstate.
Jeff Ciprioni of Brooklyn was sitting calmly in the station, sipping coffee and listening for updates for his train, which should have left about two hours prior. In addition to the cup of coffee, he had made a much more expensive purchase while waiting — a bus ticket — and he planned to shell out more cash for a cab ride to the bus station if his train didn’t arrive by early afternoon.
Ciprioni didn’t seem ruffled by the change in plans.
“At least I wasn’t on the Metro-North,” he said.
Vincent Barr of Manhattan, who had been visiting family in Voorheesville for Thanksgiving and was also waiting in the train station, shared a similar sentiment.
“It’s an inconvenience for us, but for the people that were on the derailed train, that’s pretty terrible,” he said.
His laptop perched on his knees, Barr resolved to use the delay to get some work done.
“It will force me to be productive for a few hours,” he said.
New friendships formed between stranded travelers trying to pass the time at the station. Connie Bass of the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx was chatting with Amanda Bongiovi of Piscataway, N.J., as the two waited for separate delayed trains.
“Connie and I are getting along great,” said Bongiovi. “She’s a chit-chatter; I’m a chit-chatter. I think it worked out.”
Bass said the Metro-North train derailment happened not far from her home and that people had been calling her to make sure she wasn’t on that ill-fated train. Her morning commute to work on Metro-North would be affected by the derailment, she predicted.
“You can’t get upset because people had a misfortune just now. You can’t get upset about it,” she said.
There was one person in the train station who was downright thrilled about the delay. Seven-year-old Isam Hakim of Colonie was there to see off his sister, Sumayyah, who was on her way back to SUNY-Plattsburgh after the Thanksgiving holiday.
When he heard about the delay, Isam exclaimed, “So that means you can’t go to school. Yeah! She still gets to stay here!”
To the relief of likely everyone except Isam, around 11:30 a.m. Amtrak began boarding what should have been the 8:15 a.m. train to New York City. According to an Amtrak employee, the train previously scheduled for 10:15 a.m. would follow about 15 minutes later. Trains would be moving at reduced speeds in the Bronx, where the derailment occurred, he noted.
Some people who did not wait out the delay at the train station wound up across the river at Albany’s Trailways Greyhound Station, where the line stretched out the door around noon.
“Amtrak customers have been calling. We’re accommodating them as best as possible but unfortunately there’s not a lot of seats left available,” said Anne Noonan, vice president of marketing and traffic at Adirondack Trailways, who was watching buses pull out of the busy terminal Sunday afternoon.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year for the bus industry, she said, noting that by day’s end, at least 30 or 40 buses would depart for New York City from the station, transporting a total of more than 2,000 people.
The crowd waiting to board buses looked to be only slightly larger than normal, she added.
Amy Marshall of Saratoga Springs had initially planned to take an Amtrak train to get back to college at Stony Brook University, but not wanting to wait out the delay, she bought a bus ticket. She was in good spirits while waiting in the long line in the stuffy bus station and said she didn’t think her trip would wind up being too much longer by bus.