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Rerouted Amtrak disrupts Devils Lake business

Amtrak routes are being detoured in North Dakota, bypassing Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby.

Some in Devils Lake say the lack of reliable rail service is forcing them to stop using the service. For 19 years, Woodland Resorts has offered a Perch Express fishing package, bringing in anglers on Amtrak, but trains haven’t been reliable this year.

“I think we’ve had one where the folks actually arrived on time,” said Kyle Blanchfield, with the resort. “It’s been catastrophic.”

Travelers have been arriving up to 18 hours late, he said, forcing resort staff to advise people to drive instead.

Eastbound Amtrak trains are being detoured past Devils Lake. The railroad told Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson it’s because the rails are busier than ever.

 “Basically, so much freight is being transported now with oil, and just freight in general,” Johnson said.

Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks, so passenger trains are the first ones that get squeezed out.

“They want to serve Devils Lake. That’s what they do,” Johnson said. “But they lease track space and time from Burlington Northern, so they are the ones that call the shots.”

Travelers are being dropped off in Fargo or Minot and bussed in. Johnson said the railroad is working on solutions.

“But short term we just have to make accommodations, and it’s unfortunate that we have to get bussed from Minot back east,” Johnson said.

At Woodland, there is hope that the Perch Express can come back once the trains start arriving on time.

“Part of the experience is just coming up on the train, and you can sure blow that experience when they’re 18 hours late,” Blanchfield said.

Johnson said the Amtrak detour is especially frustrating because the railroad just finished a massive grade-raising project last year to ensure flood waters won’t disrupt service.

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