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12-hour train trip in blizzard ends where it started

Katie Moore thought a train was her best bet to get around Sunday, but she didn't make it to her destination.

DENVER — When snow piled up in historic proportions last weekend, most Coloradans hunkered down, but Katie Moore was determined to head to the high country.

“Our initial plan was to take the train up to Glenwood on Sunday to go skiing for the week in the mountains," Moore said. 

Moore figured Amtrak's California Zephyr would be the most reliable way to get around in a Colorado blizzard. 

"But alas, Colorado had other plans," Moore said.

Moore said the train departed Denver at 9:00 a.m. Sunday and soon encountered its first hurdle in waist-deep snow and near-whiteout conditions.

“The first thing we ran into was that the snow was impacting the track switches, and so it required someone to manually switch the tracks," she said.

The train and its passengers were at a standstill for two hours, Moore said, waiting on a Union Pacific crew to navigate through a snowstorm to their location. The train got going again only to stop a couple of hours later.

“This time, it was actually to rescue the crew of stranded freight train," Moore said.

Somewhere near Nederland was as close as the train came to the mountains, Moore said. 

“We tried to get going again, and that’s when we really got stuck," she said.

The train couldn't get traction in the snow and the engine failed, she said. After a five-hour wait, Moore said the conductors made the call to head back to Denver.

“So our conductors then managed to steer the train in reverse back down the mountain," Moore described. “I just give them such kudos for their professionalism because I don’t think any of us on board actually knew at the time what that really entailed and what the risks were.”

A 12-hour trip ended in Denver, exactly where it started. Moore said one of the conductors told passengers the trip was in his top five "intense life experiences."

“I am so grateful that everything turned out okay and to have stories for years to come," Moore said.

Moore spent Sunday night at the Crawford Hotel in Union Station and booked a flight for the next morning. Her flight was canceled, so Moore got another ticket for the California Zephyr. 

“So here I am on Tuesday for round two!" Moore said, riding the train Tuesday afternoon.

Moore said the train had to stop several times Tuesday, but the trip was far smoother than Sunday.

"It will be a little adventurous, but we’re on the move and I’m optimistic," she said.

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