3-Hour NYC Shutdown Snarls Amtrak Service

passengers boarding an Amtrak train in Virginia (November 2001)
Updated at 1:07 p.m. ET

An electrical problem outside New York City put train service at a standstill up and down the East Coast for three hours Wednesday, leaving commuters and holiday travelers stopped in their tracks or scrambling for alternatives.

Service was restored around 11:30 a.m., Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said, but residual delays were expected.

The problem occurred in North Bergen, N.J., where trains go under the Hudson River en route to Manhattan. Cole did not specify the nature of the power problem or what caused it.

The stoppage stranded thousands of travelers on trains and in stations from Boston to Washington, D.C. Some commuters in New York and New Jersey were able to switch to subway trains in and out of the city, but others weren't as fortunate.

At Penn Station in New York City, travelers packed a waiting area, sitting on suitcases with bags of holiday gifts scattered around them on the floor. A display board showed grim news for every train.

Lyn Hunt and four family members had been traveling since Saturday - or trying to. Their trip to Newark from England had to be rerouted through Chicago because of the snowstorm that swept up the East Coast over the weekend.

The family then traveled by Amtrak from Chicago to New York, only to be delayed again Wednesday as they tried to take a train north.

"We've decided that our motto is adapt, improvise and overcome," Hunt said. "We don't know yet how we will adapt or overcome this."

Her answer came just before noon when an announcement crackled over the loudspeaker that power had been restored and trains would begin rolling again.

At Washington's Union Station, at least one train was announced as canceled and some passengers said they were told by Amtrak personnel that the problems were related to cold weather.

Nicole West-Burns, who was getting off a southbound train, said Amtrak told her and other passengers getting on in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning that the doors were frozen shut.