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Collision causes massive train delays

By Washington Post Staff Writers

derail110510.jpgScene of train accident at Union Station. Photographs by Ann Scott Tyson / The Washington Post

[This post will be updated]

8:04 p.m. Update: A final update from VRE:

Manassas Train #335 is arriving Alexandria. Fredericksburg Train #313 is arriving Crystal City. These are the last trains operating.

7:12 p.m. Update: MARC 881 is canceled. Train 879 is about 26 minutes late and is operating in its stead.

7 p.m. Update: Some good news for Penn Line riders -- sort of. The delay for Train 883 may be only 15 to 20 minutes. Passengers are being instructed to wait inside Gate B and to be prepared for departure once the train arrives at Union Station.

6:50 p.m. Update: VRE's Fredericksburg Line 311 departed Union Station 30 minutes late and will hold outside of L'Enfant for the disabled train to be moved. This will cause more delays

6:40 p.m. Update: Camden Line Train 857 will operate 30 to 35 minutes late because of the late operation of Train 848.

6:36 p.m. Update: VRE Train No. 333 will couple with 331 at L'Enfant. Estimated departure is in about 30 minutes.

6:27 p.m. Update: VRE 309 is 60 minutes late and will skip L'Enfant. Train 333 is at Union Station, running 40 minutes late.

6:22 p.m. Update: Train 883, scheduled to depart Union Station for Martinsburg at 7:15 p.m., will be delayed at least 30 to 40 minutes, MARC said. The delay could be even longer, officials said.

6:20 p.m. Update: MARC passengers can take the Metro option on the Red Line. Just show your ticket to the station manager for free access.

6:10 p.m. Update: Both VRE and MARC trains are reporting significant delays due to the earlier collision of two trains at Union Station. The resulting congestion has trains running as much as an hour late.

The situation was complicated for VRE when Train 331 on the Manassas Line overheated. That train is blocking the platform at L'Enfant, which caused Fredricksburg Train 309 to skip the station.

MARC reported that because of the congestion Train 450 to Baltimore Penn Station was operating 45 minutes late. Train 848 was 35 minutes late. Train 850 was 30 minutes late. Train 852 was expected to be 10 to 15 minutes late.

4:50 p.m. Update: Amtrak warns on its Web site that delays of one to two hours are possible for travelers through the Washington area.

3:30 p.m. Update: Virginia Railway Express officials say the movement of trains through the Washington region this afternoon will "be a complicated ballet as trains move in, out, and through Union Station."

VRE trains only have access to three of the eight trains that they normally use, and all trains must pass the site of the accident at "walking speed."

Officials said they could not estimate how trains might be affected because of the congestion at the station. Amtrak, MARC, VRE, freight and private trains all pass through the Union Station.

2:20 p.m. Update: Penn Line 424 (scheduled for a 2:15 p.m. departure from Union Station) will be delayed 15 to 20 minutes due to train congestion at Union Station, according to the MTA.

Rail officials said train delays should all be cleared by 4 p.m. Additionally, crews are in the process of placing the derailed cars back on the tracks. They expect that work to be completed this afternoon.

1:21 p.m. Update: Penn Line Train 422 will originate at New Carrollton instead of Union Station. An engine pulling private cars collided with a MARC train on Friday morning, according to Dave Clark, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration . There were no passengers aboard either train, he said. Four MARC rail cars derailed. Five crew members were injured.

12:50 p.m. Update: MARC says Brunswick and Camden Line trains are expected to have normal operations this afternoon.

12:25 p.m. Update: VRE officials say there is still uncertainty about how the accident will affect afternoon service. The Metro option is now open between L'Enfant and Crystal City "just in case."

12:05 p.m. Update:  Amtrak has opened one route into and out of the lower level at Union Station; they have access into and out of Tracks 22-25, according to VRE officials.  Track 22 is an engine-staging track, with no platform access, but there is platform access on Tracks 23, 24 and 25.

Amtrak is bringing Train 20 from L'Enfant into Union Station, onto 25 Track. Trains 84 and 176 awaiting track space in Union Station.

Crews for Train 301 and 325 will board their equipment at Union Station.

-- Jennifer Buske

11:50 a.m. Update: Penn Line 423 will terminate at New Carrollton, where passengers will transfer to Metro. The train will operate as 520 heading north at 12:31 p.m.

11:21 a.m. Update: Virginia Railway Express officials are unsure if the accident will affect its service this afternoon.

Officials said one Manassas Line train and were Fredricksburg train were "trapped" at the lower-level platform due to the accident. VRE plans to use those trains for midday service. VRE also said delays caused by the incident may ripple throughout the system and it may be necessary to open the Metro option for some VRE passengers.

11:15 a.m. Update: According to Amtrak, four rail cars are off the tracks. They are all part of the MARC train.

11:10 a.m. Update: Train 423 departed Baltimore 14 minutes late. Train 416 is running 10 to 12 minutes late approaching BWI Station.

10:56 a.m. Update: Penn Line train 423 is expected to depart Baltimore 15 to 20 minutes late.

10:55 a.m. Update: Penn Line Train 416 departed Union Station 18 minutes late.

10:45 a.m. Update: The National Transportation Safety Board does not plan to investigate the incident, according to NTSB spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz.

10:40 a.m. Update: MARC Train 418 will operate from New Carrollton Station, the MTA said. Passengers should take Metro to New Carrollton. The train has a scheduled departure time of 11:15 a.m.

10:33 a.m. Update: MARC Train 416 was expected to depart Union Station 10 to 15 minutes late due to the accident.

10:28 a.m. Update: McHugh said the investigation will examine tracks and switches. The incident happened on what are primarily storage tracks, he said.

-- Ann Scott Tyson


10:25 a.m. Update: The NTSB is reviewing details of the incident but hasn't made a decision on whether it will investigate.

-- Ashley Halsey III

10:20 a.m. Update: Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the low-speed collision occurred shortly after 9 a.m. when an unloaded MARC commuter train and a private railcar were changing tracks at Washington Union Station.

Three Amtrak employees and two occupants of the private railcar received minor injuries, Magliari said.

Both MARC and Amtrak, which operates MARC service on the Penn Line between Balitmore and Washington, temporarily suspended service on the line. But by 10:30 a.m. spokesmen for both MARC and Amtrak said service had resumed, though with delays.

Pete Piringer, DC Fire and EMS spokesman, said several cars on the trains derailed off the tracks, but remained upright, and there was no fire or danger from hazardous materials.

-- Carol Morello


10:15 a.m. Update: According to Amtrak spokesman Joseph McHugh, five people, all Amtrak employees, were injured.

-- Ann Scott Tyson

We have two reporters on the scene and photographers en route. Check back for details.

10:05 a.m. Update: D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer says the trains "bumped" shortly after 9 a.m. Friday but did not overturn. He said four or five train operators were being evaluated but that their injuries did not appear to be serious.

It was unclear how the accident happened. Amtrak reported that service to and from Union Station is temporarily delayed.

-- Associated Press

10 a.m. Update: Penn Line service has been suspended, the MTA said. Southbound Penn Line trains will terminate at New Carrollton. Metro will honor MARC tickets. Clark also said that Amtrak service has been suspended.

9:35 a.m. Update: An engine pulling private cars collided with a MARC train on Friday morning, according to Dave Clark, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration . There were no passengers aboard either train, he said. A portion of the MARC train derailed.

The Maryland Area Regional Commuter service is Maryland's commuter rail operation, which runs on three lines, the Brunswick, Frederick and Penn Lines.

Amtrak operates MARC's Penn Line; CSX operates the Camden Line, which runs between Washington and Baltimore, and the Brunswick Line, which provides service between Washington and points north and west, including Frederick and Martinsburg, W.Va. It was unclear how Friday's accident might affect MARC service for the afternoon commute or which line was involved.

-- Carol Morello9:30 a.m. Update: D.C. Fire/EMS is saying that it appears to involve a freight train. Several rescue teams have been deployed to the scene.

Original post: D.C. Fire/EMS officials are tweeting that there has been a possible train derailment at Union Station and there are reports of several injures.

From the Post's archives:

Brunswick Line riders endure months of delays

MARC riders struggle with delays

By Washington Post Staff Writers  | November 5, 2010; 4:15 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories, MARC, Maryland, Metro, Virginia Railway Express  
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Next: Metro to inspect all escalators


I'd like to know who is actually in charge of the railroads in this area! Between Metro accidents, threats and now this - well I can tell you that it leaves a great deal to be desired. They really should do a better job for the money that we have to pay!!! I guess it must be some sort of politically appointed job because they're not doing a good job of keeping it safe! Can we vote them OUT of office too? LOL

Posted by: DCutterDisbelief | November 5, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

@DCutterDisbelief As the article mentions, the rails around DC are operated by CSX, Amtrak, and WMATA. CSX and Amtrax operate under the supervision of the Federal Railroad Administration, while WMATA operates under the auspices of the NTSB.

If the collision involved a freight train and a CSX MARC train, it's entirely possible that both operations were privately-operated.

Despite last year's Metrorail accident, that system has actually been fairly safe over the course of its lifetime. Although it doesn't excuse the safety lapses that led to the accident, urban rail (Metro included) is one of the safest forms of transportation there is. You're more likely to get hit by a car on the way to the station.

Posted by: orang55 | November 5, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Good point. And, I'd like to know who spell checks messages on the MTA website. Here's the actual message about the derailment:

"Due to a derailment in Washington Union Station, all train service is suspended until further notice to accommodate emergency responce personnel and vechiles. Washington Metro will honor MARC tickets."

Posted by: linroy62 | November 5, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The spelling is a minor irritation. I'd like to get my hands on the throat of the official who blithely announces that Metro will honor MARC tickets. My response is, "Who will take me the remaining 50 miles to my home?"

Posted by: 74umgrad1 | November 5, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Which rail line was the freight train using? Was it coming into DC on the tracks used by Brunswick, Camden, or Penn?

Posted by: mcrochip | November 5, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

"Who will take me the remaining 50 miles to my home?"

well, this is the risk we take by moving so far out. stuff happens. everyone needs a backup plan.

Posted by: tiggs03 | November 5, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't a freight train locomotive. It was a switcher locomotive--the same thing that derailed an offloading MARC train at the platform either last year or the year before. It happened on Amtrak tracks and all persons involved were Amtrak employees, regardless which line the train came from.

I really don't know why this is such a big news item. No passengers would have been on the train (and weren't).

Posted by: one4all | November 5, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Quick! We need to spend another $1trillion on infrastructure to stop this from happening again. Or was it just some union member asleep at the switch?

Posted by: jdonner2 | November 5, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

From the photos, it appears to me they don't have enough people standing around with their hands on their hips.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | November 5, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Looks like I picked a good day to telecommute.

Are any other MARC riders peeved that MARC refuses to turn the heat on? After standing in the cold rain last night for an extra half hour because my train was late (again), it was insult to injury to find the air conditioning blasting on all the cars. Soon MARC won't have to worry about ridership since we will have all perished from pneumonia. When will the heat be turned on? I asked a month ago, and they claim the "Mechanical department is currently in the process of checking all the cars and making adjustments to the temperature". Just pathetic.

Posted by: eed017 | November 5, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Who will take me the remaining 50 miles to my home?"

well, this is the risk we take by moving so far out. stuff happens. everyone needs a backup plan.

Agreed. Live where you work, work where you live, together we can save the planet.

Posted by: Axel2 | November 5, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Its really pathetic on how little the American public knows about basic railroad operations. Just remember that you are a thousand times more likely to die driving to work that taking any form of mass transit.

Posted by: rademaar | November 5, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

==( / )===

Posted by: ajdfhdfgtsdgasd | November 5, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Well, for starters, WAPO could fix the headline on the homepage. It lists Metro trains colliding.

Has factchecking and accuracy fallen victim to budget cuts?

Posted by: charlieartist | November 5, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

@charlieartist-- I just noticed that too. WaPo often fails to fact or even common sense check their front page headlines. They had a feature article about the Exxon oil spill of 1889 up for a good hour a few months ago.

Posted by: TheGJ | November 5, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

@TheGJ: I had to go back to the front webpage to make sure I had read it correctly, after clicking the link and seeing nothing but talk of a commuter train accident.

Metro has enough problems as it is - they certainly don't need non-Metro accidents added to their plate.

Posted by: GreenMeansGo | November 5, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I thought this article was related to the Metro subway system. Could the headline be changed, please?

Still glad no one was seriously injured or killed.

Posted by: shejoy | November 5, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

MARC/MTA is back to their old non-communicative ways today. Yeah, the were saying there would be delays, but beyond that, they gave no practical, helpful information to help people get home any more quickly. We sat on a train for a half-hour w/no announcements made whatsoever about being delayed, how long it would be etc. Turns out the problem was we didn't have a crew. If there had been some communication, many of us could have hopped aboard the train on the adjacent track and left a about 10 minutes late instead of 45 minutes late.

We know things will happen
We know there will be delays
WE DON'T WANT TO BE MUSHROOMS (kept in the dark and fed ... well you know how that saying goes)

Posted by: zizzy | November 5, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Whether it's MetroFAIL, MARC, or VRE, public transit in this area is just horrible. God bless my car.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 5, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

"Who will take me the remaining 50 miles to my home?"

well, this is the risk we take by moving so far out. stuff happens. everyone needs a backup plan.

Agreed. Live where you work, work where you live, together we can save the planet.

Posted by: Axel2 | November 5, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse


A truly pathetic comment. Not everyone can live where they work. You can change jobs and not be able to find affordable housing where you do work or be able to sell your current home. You can have a spouse who also works and you got housing midway between your jobs. You might have chosen your home because of the good school system. You might have aging parents who need you to be close to them. Lots of other reasons, all of them quite reasonable, for nor living near your job. But in your little, narrow-minded universe, nothing else counts.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 5, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

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