Update: Texas Eagle burglarized at San Antonio

Gene Poon has updated this story for us, giving more details of a story that has implications for Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle passengers going through San Antonio and laying overnight on the train there.

San Antonio Police reportedly have gotten some suspects to talk about
how the Texas Eagle was burglarized, and passenger hand baggage stolen
while the train was laying over at the station with the occupied through
cars from Los Angeles. A conductor’s grip, and the credit card machine
in the Lounge car were also stolen.

There are some homeless people who “live” near the San Antonio station.
One of them got cleaned up and dressed nicely. He pretended to be a
passenger, came aboard with other passengers reboarding the through
coach from Los Angeles, then waited for the cars to be tied onto the
Eagle, and for the coast to clear. He then opened a door on the
opposite side of the train, where they could not be seen from the
station or the active platform. Others boarded, and they took the bags
from the downstairs racks, tossing them out the door to others who were
waiting. It took only a couple of minutes once the door was opened,
that was all.

I don’t have details about how a conductor’s grip and credit card
machine were taken.

Passenger bags were opened and valuable items such as electronic
devices, laptop computers and cameras were taken. Clothing was left
behind and the bags were ditched near the Alamodome stadium.

Original story:

Report by Gene Poon

The following was posted on “Railspot” on 25SEP2011. There is no
further information on Railspot or local media: “Today’s northbound
Texas Eagle from San Antonio was robbed overnight while at San
Antonio, with the cars in from LA being broken into as well as the
staff car. All luggage was taken belonging to the passengers as well
as the Amtrak staff that was downstairs in the cars. Reportedly,
even the possessions of the Amtrak crew, including the conductor,
were taken. Police believe it may have been done by a drug gang that
hangs out in the area.”

I have been unable to find any story about this incident in San Antonio
media. The original author on Railspot has posted that “Several
people have asked me my source on this report. I was called directly
from some folks on the train.”

It’s been several years since I occupied the Eagle’s through cars
during its layover at San Antonio, (passengers originating at San
Antonio are not permitted to do so) but when I did, the cars were
left with their doors closed. I can’t say whether there were any
employees aboard or nearby, but I was able to walk the train without
running into anybody at all. The doors in the Superliners were closed
but it would have been easy for anyone with a 2×4 a few feet long to
undo the dogs at the upper part of a side entry door (if they even
had been set); then open the door with the easily-reachable outside
door handle. For safety reasons, the side entry doors must be left
unlocked whenever the train is occupied. If there were anyone in
the station, any activity on the opposite side of the train would not
have been visible to them. There was more security at the
restaurant-bar in the former SP station a short distance east along
the tracks, than there was at the Amtrak station.

Here is an update from the source of the original story, posted the
next day: “According to Amtrak and folks on the Eagle, the stolen
luggage was found yesterday afternoon scattered about in the area of
the Alamodome (adjacent to the station). Apparently, a bunch of
homeless folks took the bags and tore into them looking for
valuables. According to San Antonio police, the bags are pretty torn
up and the clothes and such were scattered around the area. No
electronics or such were found, including things like the Amtrak
credit card machine used on the train and reportedly missing.
Passengers on the Eagle received calls yesterday afternoon/evening
with the basic information. According to folks on the train, after
the 10pm arrival, passengers were invited to get out and walk town
and the train doors were left open and the car attendants went
elsewhere to set up rooms, change sheets, etc. It wasn’t until
passengers got up Sunday morning for breakfast that anyone realized
that the bags were gone.”

One of the comments I received on this story said, “Fortunately,
Amtrak does not owe these passengers anything under its contract to
the extent non-checked baggage is involved. Passengers are solely
responsible for the security of their hand luggage carried on board.”
Unfortunately for Amtrak, it is likely that none of the “Guests” who
lost property will ever return.

Another comment brought up a serious topic: “I would think this
incident would raise alarm bells with Amtrak and the Department of
Homeland Security. If this many travel bags can be so easily stolen
from a train, imagine how many (bags) with weapons of destruction
could just as easily be added.”

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