It is fairly common for an airplane flight to "divert" (make an unscheduled stop) at an airport it normally doesn't stop at, even at airports that airline doesn't normally serve at all, for various reasons, usually involving emergencies. Does this ever happen with Amtrak? Do Amtrak trains ever make unscheduled stops at commuter-only stations which Amtrak normally passes through without stopping?

One scenario I can think of is if for some reason the regularly scheduled commuter train is unexpectedly out of service and an Amtrak train happens to be passing through, perhaps they could arrange to have it pick up the commuters along its route, although I've never heard of this actually happening.

Another possible scenario could be that it becomes known that the track ahead to the next scheduled Amtrak station has become blocked, but there is a commuter station ahead before the blockage.

Evidence with photos would be appreciated.


1 Answer 1


There are a few YouTube videos that turn up on a search for Amtrak "unscheduled stop", including ones at Cortlandt (a Metro-North station) and Old Saybrook (a Shore Line East stop that does get Amtrak service, but not normally train 160).

But consider that unlike a plane, a train does not have to be at a terminal to make an unscheduled stop. Anyone who has taken Amtrak long-distance will have been sidetracked (literally), or sat stopped in the middle of nowhere, sometimes for hours, to wait for a segment of rail to clear up ahead or for other trains to pass.

If Amtrak needs to discharge passengers at an unscheduled stop, it's only logical they would choose the nearest station that can handle passengers, being a landmark as well as a place with road infrastructure, necessary whether whether you're handing passengers off to a bus, the paramedics, or the police.

Amtrak actually makes a number of regular stops at commuter stations around the country, though you cannot purchase a ticket to or from there officially.

For example, on the Penn Line of the MARC commuter train serving Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Md., Amtrak train #151, a regular Regional service on the Northeast Corridor, stops at Perryville, Aberdeen, and Edgewood to pick up monthly/weekly ticket holders. This is noted clearly on the MARC schedule but not on Amtrak's. In fact, it is impossible to buy a ticket from Perryville to Baltimore Penn from Amtrak. An agent will not book you one, and that station will not appear in your list of options on the website or a Quik-Trak kiosk.

For a third type of unscheduled stop, there is an example from a bit further down the line. Back in 2010, a MARC train missed the Odenton station, and an Acela was conscripted to pick up the stranded passengers and return them. Odenton is not only not served by the Acela, but is not normally served by Amtrak at all.

  • Anyone who has taken Amtrak long-distance will have been sidetracked (literally), or sat stopped in the middle of nowhere, sometimes for hours, to wait for a segment of rail to clear up ahead or for other trains to pass I've done many 1000s of kms of Amtrak (Iowa-California-Texas-Illinois) and this never happened to me on Amtrak. Passenger trains have the right of way over freight trains, and since recently this is enforced. With Canadian Via Rail, however, I've spent many hours per day standing still waiting for freight traffic to clear.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 16:53
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    @gerrit Admittedly, the place where I get sidetracked all the time on the NEC; usually it is only for a couple of minutes to let the Acela pass. But for example, we were delayed almost three hours taking the Carolinian from Washington to Charlotte, waiting and then stuck being a freight train. Empire Service, similarly, never less than an hour delayed between New York and Syracuse. But in fairness, my Christmas trip to Pittsburgh on the Capitol Limited from Washington got in almost an hour early.
    – choster
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 17:15
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    Right, it still happens, I just mean that it is an exaggeration to say that it applies to anyone who has taken Amtrak long-distance.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 5, 2015 at 17:34
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    Thanks! The Cortlandt and Odenton indcidents are "perfect" examples of what I was looking for.... an Amtrak train stopping to take on and/or discharge passengers at a station that Amtrak is never scheduled to stop at. Cortlandt is even "perfecter" because there is a video showing it.
    – JoelFan
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 3:03

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