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Kyle Potter, Published December 11 2013

Heavy oil field freight train traffic forces some Amtrak cancellations through Fargo

FARGO – Heavy freight train traffic in the oil fields has canceled several of Amtrak’s passenger trips between Chicago and Spokane, Wash., through the weekend, disrupting service for hundreds of customers.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said freight congestion – combined with an early winter chill – led the company to cancel half of the eastbound and westbound trips on its Empire Builder route, which runs between Chicago to Seattle and Portland, Ore.

For Fargo customers, that means any trips – east or west – scheduled to depart early Friday and Sunday mornings have been canceled.

Thursday and Saturday’s westbound trips out of Chicago will stop in St. Paul, Magliari said. Friday and Sunday’s scheduled trips from the West Coast won’t run past Spokane.

Magliari said hundreds of customers have been affected by the cancellation, and the company has already contacted them and offered to rebook trips for the remaining service days.

The disruptions will allow Amtrak to reset their crews and trains and get things back on track, Magliari said. He doesn’t expect any more cancellations past Sunday.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the record freight traffic throughout the Midwest, the Dakotas and the Pacific Northwest – both oil and agricultural commodities – has created logistical challenges. The company is in the midst of improving and adding to much of its infrastructure.

But she said the harsh cold has been a big factor.

“Everything just runs harder. It slows things down,” McBeth said.