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Amtrak passengers stranded for hours after breakdown

More than 250 Amtrak passengers were stranded without functioning bathrooms and power for more than four hours when their train broke down unexpectedly in Connecticut Tuesday afternoon, according to passengers and Amtrak.

A replacement train sent to rescue the passengers also broke down, according to Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds. She added that breakdowns of this nature are “absolutely” uncommon.

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“We’re still looking into the cause,’’ Leeds said.

Dale Cruse, a 44-year-old South Boston man, boarded the train at South Station at 11:05 a.m., expecting to arrive in New York City by 3:17 p.m.

“I got on at South Station and things were going pretty smoothly until we were about 45 minutes outside of Penn Station,” said Cruse, who had been traveling to New York for a business trip. “We went over a drawbridge and the train slowed to a stop, and after a few minutes the conductor explained that we hit a dead spot where the wires overhead that power the train had lost power.”

Mechanical issues brought Train 173 to a halt at 2:35 p.m., the Amtrak spokeswoman said.

Amtrak staff attempted to restart the engines multiple times, but failed, Cruse said.

“After about an hour or two, a rescue train pulls up next to us and stops, but at no point do the doors ever open for us to get on this other train,” Cruse said. “Then they announce that the train next to us hit the same dead spot and is dead in the water, too.”

The 252 passengers aboard Train 173 had to wait for the next update from the conductor. At about 6 p.m., several police officers boarded the train and began passing out water bottles and snacks to the elderly, and then the rest of the passengers, Cruse said.

A second rescue engine arrived at about 7 p.m. to tow the train to the Stamford station, more than five hours behind schedule, officials said.

Upon arriving at the Stamford station, passengers were transferred to another train bound for Washington, D.C., that left the station at about 7:45 p.m.

“One thing that really bothered me was that I was hitting up the Amtrak Twitter account, asking for information, and they gave me one or two statuses that they pulled off of their own website,” Cruse said. “I held my phone up for one of the conductors to see and he just looked at it and laughed, and said, ‘We’re not going to be able to do that.’ ”

Leeds said refunds would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Catalina Gaitan can be reached at catalina.gaitan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catalina_gaitan.
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