It could not have happened at a worse time with people trying to get home for the holidays. They were stuck for hours at Penn Station.
The trains are running again but there are still delays because of the disruption in service.
It was a descent into chaos as thousands of impatient, tired, and frustrated holiday travelers and commuters stared longingly at the Amtrak train schedule.
"There's been thousands and thousands of cranky people walking around," said Allison Forese, a traveler.
"I've been delayed about an hour and twenty minutes in total," said Phil Mainiero, a traveler.
Robert Francis was headed to Connecticut a day early to surprise his girlfriend, but that surprise was delayed, just like all of the trains leaving Penn Station.
Officials blame the problem on a power failure to compressors that run the track switches.
Newscopter 7 was above Penn Station as police blocked off the transit hub during rush hour on the busiest travel day of the year.
NJ Transit, Long Island Rail Road, and Amtrak were at a standstill as crews worked to fix the problem.
"Out of all of my family and siblings to come in, I'm the last one so they're all waiting on me," Mainiero said.
For travelers trying to get home, waiting is all they can do.
One woman was knitting what appeared to be a scarf, although it might have well been a sweater or blanket, she would have had enough time.
Others are tired of waiting.
After six hours on a bus from Williams College in Massachusetts, Eric Dietsche said he has given up on mass transit.
"I was hoping to take the Long Island Rail Road, but at this point I'm really just waiting for family members to come get me," Dietsche said.
Amtrak officials say they will offer refunds or vouchers to people who bought tickets, but chose not to travel because of the long delays.
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