There were long lines and longer faces at King Street Station and the Greyhound station when several hundred train travelers' plans were...

Share story

There were long lines and longer faces at King Street Station and the Greyhound station when several hundred train travelers’ plans were derailed Friday.

“I’d say this is an eight, on a scale of one-to-10 of annoyance,” said Tom Whelan, from Junction City, Ore., who had 10 bags lined up between him and a travel buddy at King Street Station Friday afternoon as they waited for a bus to Eugene, Ore.

Amtrak’s Cascades line interrupted its service from Seattle to Eugene and points between when inspectors noticed cracks in the suspensions of several trains during a routine check Thursday morning.

All five trains on the Cascades line, which normally has four daily round trips between Seattle and Eugene, were pulled off the tracks for a detailed examination. Spanish company Talgo contracts with Amtrak to make and maintain the trains.

“We decided in an abundance of caution that it was better to take them off service, because we wanted to study the root of the problem and analyze a quick solution,” said Nora Friend, a Talgo spokeswoman. “We have to be very cautious. We’re very serious about safety.”

Vernae Graham, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said Amtrak is refunding ticket prices or letting customers change their travel dates.

Friend said she did not know the cause or extent of the cracks. Lacking detailed analysis, she said they could be caused by scratches or deeper fissures. She said she hoped for answers and a restoration of limited service by early next week.

The high-speed trains are about 10 years old, and trains typically last twice that long, she added. They run up to 79 mph, traveling between Seattle and Vancouver in just less than four hours.

The Cascades line runs between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C. Service north of Seattle was not affected because different trains are used after Talgo removed its trains in April for retrofitting, Friend said.

The Coach Starlight, which runs between Seattle and Los Angeles, is also unaffected.

Many Amtrak passengers learned of the cancellations as they arrived at King Street Station Friday. When they were told there would be no backup buses, many made a mad dash to buy Greyhound tickets before those were sold out.

Elefa McBride woke up at 5:45 a.m. Friday to catch her 8:30 a.m. train to Tacoma, but at noon she was still in Bellingham after missing three sold-out buses.

Her bus pulled out of the Seattle Greyhound station about 6 p.m., at peak rush hour.

“Who knows about the freeway?” she said. “It’s just kind of frustrating, you know. You have to wait all day to get someplace.”

Amtrak did bring in one bus by late afternoon to take the last few riders stuck at King Street Station to their destinations, but Graham said Amtrak was not be able to find enough buses to help all passengers.

“It’s up to 1,000 people a day that this is affecting,” she said, adding that cruise season means fewer charter buses are available.

Many passengers were notified by phone and some read the news online. They said the company handled the problem fine.

Unless, of course, riding the train was the point of the whole trip.

Charlie Roman, 8, came from Southern California with his family to travel around the Northwest by train.

“I’m kind of sad, ’cause I don’t get to ride on the train. I like looking out the windows. There’s a lot of exciting things,” Charlie said.

His father, Burt Roman, said train mania runs in the family.

“I like the nostalgia of it, and I like the rumbling, and I like really seeing the country,” he said.

Roxana Popescu: 206-464-2112 or rpopescu@seattletimes.com