A train derailment in Swanton led to a big spike in passengers in and out of Bryan’s station Friday, with Amtrak workers indicating several hundred people had come through over the course of eight hours Friday morning and afternoon.
That compares to 15 or so passengers at the station over the same time period on a normal day, one employee said. But fortunately, Amtrak had plenty of help in running things smoothly, from local school districts and station employees who worked to keep the flow of travelers moving through the company’s main route from the Midwest to the East Coast.
The situation began just after 10 p.m. Thursday when a freight train and an SUV crashed on Main Street, north of U.S. 20A, in Swanton. The train, traveling west, struck a Chevrolet Tahoe that had been left abandoned on the tracks. Thirteen train cars were derailed, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which responded to investigation the crash.
No injuries were reported, but three other parked and abandoned passenger cars were struck by debris after the initial crash. Authorities are looking for the Tahoe’s owner.
Friday morning, diverted passengers began arriving by school buses.
When apprised of the need by Williams County Communications Agency Director Dawn Baldwin, former Bryan City Schools transportation director Joe Beck, now serving in the same position at Sylvania Schools, got on the horn to local transportation directors to provide any available busing services.
Four buses from Bryan City Schools, three from Edgerton Local Schools and three from Millcreek-West Unity Local Schools all answered the call, while Sylvania Schools provided five of its own, for a total of 15.
“(It’s) going to be up to Amtrak and the crews as to how long (the operation continues),” said Beck Friday. “There was a large volume of people, 500 on each end, and 15 buses were full.”
Beck said buses that started in Bryan were filled with eastbound passengers who were taken to Toledo where they were dropped off. Then a group of westbound travelers would be loaded there and brought to Bryan to depart for Chicago. The five buses that started the morning in Toledo also picked up passengers there and dropped them off in Bryan before heading back.
“The superintendents stepped up and allowed this to happen,” Beck said.
Bryan City Schools Transportation Director Ryan Eberly was one driver to help provide aid.
“Things went pretty smoothly,” he said.
Eberly expected things to be back to relative normalcy by Saturday, while an Amtrak official indicated it would simply be a matter of how long it took to clean up the tracks in Swanton. The Toledo Blade reported that cleanup required not only car and container removal but also repairs to the track and signal. The Blade also indicated the rail line was expected to be down most of Friday, if not longer.
Amtrak officials could not be reached for further comment Friday. According to Beck, compensation to school districts for the buses and drivers is a topic that has been broached, but no determination had officially been made as of Friday.
Williams County Communications and Bryan Municipal Utilities advised regular commuters to avoid the area of the Bryan Amtrak station Friday afternoon.
“Due to a train derailment in Swanton, Amtrak is unloading trains in Bryan and shuttling passengers via bus,” Bryan Municipal Utilities posted on social media on Friday. “Police are asking residents to avoid the Paige Street and Amtrak station area, as it is very congested.”
While there were some understandably disgruntled travelers who had complaints about the issue, others had a positive mindset.
“I am happy. I ain’t got nothing to say. They’re (Amtrak) taking good care of me,” said Teresa Alexander. “God is good. Amtrak is good.”
One vacationer from Germany who did not wished to be identified perhaps put it best when asked to describe the day.
“Quite long,” he said.