THE PUBLIC BE D***ED REDUX. Winter comes, with Amtrak delays trying passenger patience.

About 450 Amtrak passengers were stranded at Union Station for nearly a day -- first in a cold waiting room, then on the train without food, water or, at times, functioning restrooms, passengers said.

The Empire Builder train headed to the Pacific Northwest, with stops in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, was scheduled to leave at 2:15 p.m. Monday but finally departed about 1:22 p.m. today.

Amtrak issued a statement early this afternoon that blamed the situation on "severe weather" that has caused "rail infrastructure and railcar issues, affecting deployment cycles for equipment and train crews."

Joseph Bordman, CEO of Amtrak, said a combination of subzero temperatures, heavy snowfall in the Pacific Northwest and high winds across the northern tier of states "has played havoc with our train equipment, including frozen water systems and snow-packed locomotives. It has caused problems on the rail lines themselves."

The Empire Builder will operate only as far as St. Paul, Minn., Amtrak said, adding: "No alternate transportation is available."

An eastbound train also was delayed more than half a day. Train No. 48, bound for New York state, was delayed 15 hours and 48 minutes, according to Amtrak. It finally pulled out of Union Station around 1:49 p., today.

The passenger rail carrier noted cancellations on its Lincoln Service, Wolverine Service and Lake Shore Service as well.

We had some of these problems a few winters ago, and at one time the introduction of electrically heated equipment was supposed to have ended these problems.

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