Lowell Beardsley grew up loving trains. He and his future wife, Ruby, were raised in a small railroad town in Colorado.
“My daddy worked for the railroad,” said Lowell during an interview with NBC 7 Responds. “I was accustomed to riding trains.”
In July 2016, longing for some railroad nostalgia, Lowell and Ruby purchased two tickets for a cross-country trip through America By Rail. The twelve-day scenic rail trip cost $5,000 a piece and left from Union Station in Chicago. It headed west into Seattle and then returned east up into Canada and through the Canadian Rockies and then to Montreal back down to Chicago.
The 80-year-old former engineer and his wife decided to buy trip insurance just in case something happened before or during the trip.
“Looking at our ages and knowing that a lot of things can happen, we decided to invest in an insurance policy,” said Lowell.
Lowell said he did some research and purchased a policy from Global Alert Company, an affiliate of TripMate, for $798.
In July 2017, Lowell and Ruby flew to Chicago to board their cross-continental train.
The trip went as planned for the first nine days. During that time the couple traveled over the Rockies and into Seattle. From there they took a bus into Canada and boarded another train to head east. But just outside the small railroad town of Armstrong in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, Lowell and Ruby felt the train come to a shrieking halt.
“The train stopped. We didn’t know if it was a scheduled stop,” said Lowell.
Not long after the conductor’s voice came over the intercom.
“Well,” said Lowell, “there had been a derailment ahead of us, it was a freight train.”
Lowell said the conductor told them that he was going to see if there was enough room to get by the derailed train. And they lurched forward. The train soon came to a halt again.
“The engineer looked at it and said, ‘no way, Jose.'”
Lowell said the train backed up to the station in Armstrong to wait until the tracks were cleared.
And there they waited.
“They wouldn’t let us detrain because they didn’t know how long it would take,” Lowell said. “They wanted to be ready to go when the track was cleared.”
But that work, added Lowell, took longer than expected.
“Doggone, it took close to 24 hours, a day’s time essentially. We were supposed to leave on Wednesday morning and we didn’t leave until Thursday morning.”
Because of the delay, passengers were at risk of missing their train from Toronto to Montreal.
The travel company arranged to have the passengers bussed east in order to make the final leg of the trip. But Lowell said that doing so forced them to cancel a much needed overnight at a hotel as well as miss the most anticipated part of the trip, the stretch of track along Lake Champlain.
“It’s advertised as one of the ten most beautiful trips in America,” Lowell said.
After getting home, Lowell said he and Ruby decided to file a claim with TripMate.
“Well, we missed a day of a twelve-day trip so I asked for one-twelfth of our money back.”
Weeks later, TripMate contacted Lowell.
“I got a notification that my claim was denied. That didn’t sit well with me.”
TripMate, according to Lowell, said that although the trip deviated because of the derailment, a bus was provided and passengers only missed on leg of the trip.
Lowell filed an appeal. But when he didn’t hear back, he decided to call NBC 7 Responds for help.
Just a few weeks after NBC 7 got involved, TripMate contacted Lowell and informed him they would send him a check for his claim of $811.
“I got my money and I’m a happy camper, even after camping out one whole day on the train.”