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Amtrak quietly cancels Washington service to California after derailment

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train pulls into Olympia’s Centennial Station in 2011. The train is not running between Sacramento and Seattle after a bridge in California was damaged in a freight train derailment. It’s expected to begin operating again in mid May.(STEVE BLOOM/staff photographer)
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train pulls into Olympia’s Centennial Station in 2011. The train is not running between Sacramento and Seattle after a bridge in California was damaged in a freight train derailment. It’s expected to begin operating again in mid May.(STEVE BLOOM/staff photographer)

You can’t get there from here.

At least on a train.

Washington State has been cut off from California after a bridge was damaged in a freight train derailment.

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, its signature West Coast train, is running only between Los Angeles and Sacramento.

A Union Pacific bridge over the Sacramento River just south of Mount Shasta, California, was damaged April 25 when a freight train derailed. The Coast Starlight has been shut down north of Sacramento since then.

The closure is expected to last until mid-May, said Justin Jacobs, a Union Pacific spokesman.

“The structural integrity of the bridge was damaged by some of the cars during the derailment,” he said.

Tickets for the Starlight can be booked on Amtrak’s website for the May 18 train and thereafter. The last Starlight to stop in Tacoma was on April 24, an Amtrak employee said.

“It’s a flexible and fluid time line,” Jacobs said of the repair work, which is in a difficult location to reach. “Hopefully, sooner than later.”

Amtrak Cascades regional trains are still running between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. and from Seattle to Eugene with stops in Tacoma, Olympia, Portland and other locations.

Cancellation of the Starlight came to light when a reporter looked into booking a ticket. Amtrak has not mentioned it on its Twitter account or blog.

Jacobs said Union Pacific leaves it up to Amtrak to notify the public of route disruptions for passenger trains.

Amtrak apparently did not notify the media of the Starlight’s suspension. Press releases on the Amtrak website in April highlighted improvements to Penn Station and “Dunkin’ Donuts Hot Coffee Now Available On Board Amtrak Acela Express.”

Alternative routes exist. BNSF Railway operates a line between Klamath Falls, Oregon, and Sacramento that Amtrak has detoured onto in the past.

“They did not approach us,” BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said of Amtrak on Wednesday.

He said several hurdles would have to be overcome before a detour could be arranged on the BNSF route.

Amtrak media personnel did not immediately return queries Wednesday.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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