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Normal Service Resumes on the Red Line

Video: Metro Center Evacuated

UPDATE (10:45 a.m.): Metro officials say normal service has resumed on the Red Line after the removal of a six-car train that lost one of its collector shoes.

UPDATE (10:03 a.m.): Metro officials say trains are not single tracking anymore, but there are residual delays as they return to normal service. Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates says email alerts that say single-tracking are old.

UPDATE (9:55 a.m.): Normal traffic has resumed on the Red Line this morning after smoke and fire appeared on the tracks near Metro Center, according to the transit agency. Residual delays continue.

Metro spokeswoman Angela Gates said that a collector shoe, which sends power from the third rail to the train, fell off a train, causing a fire under the lead car of a six-car train. No injuries were reported, and Metro's trying to figure out why it happened. DC Fire is still on the scene, officials said. The fire was extinguished at 9:28 a.m., officials said.

According to spokeswoman Cathy Asato, the incident caused one train to offload at 9 a.m., spurring delays in both directions as trains single-tracked from Farragut North to Judiciary Square.

A customer traveling on the Red Line this morning described the incident as "a series of small explosions as if transformers were exploding."

ORIGINAL POST: Single-tracking is causing delays on the Red Line, stemming from an earlier incident at Metro Center. According to Post reporter James Hohmann, there was smoke coming from the first car of a six-car train. Metro reported single-tracking from Farragut North to Judiciary Square as of 9:45 a.m. Metro reported that the Metro Center situation was resolved but there are continued delays in both directions.

By Mike McPhate  |  October 6, 2009; 9:40 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Metro  | Tags: Red Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Headaches on the Horizon
Next: Metro: Car Backed Into Bus, Fled the Scene


Reliable transportation as it is.

Posted by: miminor | October 6, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Another pitiful performance by Metro during an emergency situation. When I arrived at Mt. Vernon Square Station at 9:29 this morning, announcements said Red Line had delays but an earlier problem at Metro Center had been resolved. But when I arrived at Gallery Place Station, it was a mess. We were directed to the opposite platform. I waited 25 minutes and not a single train came in the direction of Shady Grove, causing me to miss at 10 a.m. health appointment in Woodley Park. Had they made correct announcements that Red Line serve was shut down, I could have left and gotten a taxi. Instead I waited for a train that never came and missed the appointment. Horrible customer service yet again!

Posted by: LucasWall | October 6, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Depending on what time Metro gave you these updates, they were just flat out wrong. I was on TWO separate trains that offloaded this morning, one at Van Ness at about 9:20 and the second at Dupont Circle just before 10am. When offloaded the second time, the garbled messages seemed to indicate that either single tracking WAS still going on, or that there was NO way to get through Metro Center at that time. I wound up taking a cab the rest of the way to work. My normal 40min commute took me 2hrs and 20min this morning. Way to go Metro!

Posted by: amreb | October 6, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I was on the train that caught on fire, and this could of been avoided if we were off loaded at the previous station before resuming the trip to metro center. There was a supicious clanking noise underneath the train moments before the fire, instead of off-loading the train, the conductor continue the route into the tunnel. She even noticed the noises, and had difficulties intially resuming the trip. It took about 2 to 4 minutes for us to depart the platform. Metro needs to train their employees to take ALL precautions when operatoring these trains. They might not be so fortunate next time, and it's not right for them to gamble with other people's lives. This situation could of been avoided.

Posted by: smithe0808 | October 6, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I too was on the train that caught on fire, and was seated in the front carriage. I disagree with the criticism of Metro and the driver regarding their response. The the initial impacts were felt as the train began to move out from Gallery Place towards Metro Center. The collector shoe likely fell off the train prior to the one I was on since we felt the impacts on both sets of wheels on the front carriage and saw the sparks flying before the driver could bring the train to a complete halt. The driver should be commended for communicating to the passengers throughout and remaining calm as she did so. The train was checked out by at least two Metro officials before departing Gallery Place. At all times we were aware that as a consequence of the impacts we were to be evacuated from the train when it reached Metro Center after those initial checks had been made. As far as I could tell, Metro officials were aware of smoke under the train at Gallery place, but not fire. I am quite sure that they would not have made the decision they did had they known that the problem would later result in a fire at Metro Center.

Again, the driver should be commended for keeping her passengers fully informed of what was happening throughout this incident.

Posted by: cameron7 | October 6, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I was also on this train. I disagree. I think the conductor used very poor judgment in taking us into the tunnel after we winessed at least two small explosions. It could have been a disaster.
They clearly need more training for the safety of the riders. I won't ride again.

Posted by: kmware | October 6, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I was on a train just outside Van Ness station when the problem began and despite repeated announcements about single tracking we never made it to Metro Center until over an hour later after single tracking had apparently ended. Should the Post still have the reportorial resources to investigate a recurring local story that affects hundreds of thousands of local commuters, it would be interesting to look at how Metro handles single tracking and if it could be more efficiently managed.

Posted by: joelkaufman | October 6, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

I was on the train that caught fire. I am not sure whether the train operator provided enough or too little information. I am just glad we got out safely. It was very disturbing to see small explosions and smoke inside of a dark tunnel. The passengers in my car also got the sense that the train was scraping alongside another train or the wall, as it moved through the tunnel. We were jolted back and forth several times. To passengers, it felt completely out of our control, and it was. While it was a difficult morning, the bright spot was in people comforting other people, and once outside the train trying to figure out together the best way to stay safe.

Posted by: ksaverino | October 6, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I was on the train behind the train that caught on fire. We were told there was an emergency situation on the train ahead of us. First when we were just outside union station we were told there was a sick customer on the train ahead of us, then when we got to Gallery Place it was the Emergency Situation. I was sitting in the first car of the train and could see the flames at Metro Center. Gallery Place station was filling with smoke when our conducter let us out of our car with his door key because they had shut off power to the third rail. He then went through the car opening all the doors to let people out. I'm pretty sure that people either had to come through the train or the tunnel to get out of that train because we were only one car into Gallery Place station. Our conductor kept us informed the entire time of what was going on, one of our passengers was having an asthma attack as well so I applaud our Conducter for his control of the situation.

Posted by: Dimples91173 | October 6, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

I was on the platform at China Town RIGHT next to the front of the train where the explosion happened.

I always go to the front of the platform since the first car is usually less crowded, but when I got to the front of the platform and saw how many people were loading onto the train (that caught fire), I decided I’d wait three minutes and take the next train. So, I was literally 20 feet, tops from where this all happened.

After loading, the train started to go forward and probably made it five feet or so before it stopped because there was a huge boom sound. Over the intercom at the station, they called a metro worker down to the train. The metro worker was there for a couple of minutes and then the train started to leave the platform again. Immediately there was a series of explosions. With each explosion, fire shot up through the tunnel at the front of the train. After a few explosions, I ran behind a cement pillar and then after the last explosion, I ran up the escalator. During this time, the train would inch along a little and then stop with each explosion. As I was making my way towards the escalator, the train drove through the flame into the tunnel to Metro Center.

I’m glad no one was hurt, however, I would like to say that not ONE metro employee directed anyone in the crowds towards an exit, announced that there was a problem, or tried to assist anyone. I’m pretty sure everyone thought there was a bomb or a fire or something – especially those of us next to the front of the train. It was pretty terrible. I stayed up on the street by the Gallery’s Place entrance and not a single metro employee came and told us what was going on. We just stood there waiting for an explanation while the police and firefighters came in huge flocks.

Very scary.

Posted by: esc1 | October 6, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad I rode my bike in this morning. After practically being held prisoner at L'Enfant last night, I don't think I could have handled this morning's meltdown.

Posted by: freckleface | October 6, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

There was a sick customer on the train I was on (the train that later caught fire). That passenger was taken off at Union Station. The driver made two announcements about that and then thanked passengers who helped staff get that passenger off the train so that they could receive urgent medical attention. It's unfortunate that passengers in trains behind ours got mixed messages, leading them to believe that a sick passenger and the later emergency situation were one and the same thing. There were no 'explosions' on our train. There were clearly loud jolts as each set of wheels hit the equipment lying on the tracks which in all likelehood had come off an earlier train. There was also significant sparking from metal on metal contact which later resulted in a fire, but it is not accurate to say there was a fire when we left the station at gallery place. There was some concern among passengers in the first carriage, but other than that (thankfully) a lot of gallows humor. One of the messages from the driver to the train whilst in the tunnel after we had started out towards Metro Center clearly aimed to calm panic coming from further back in the train. It seemed evident that the emergency button must have been used somewhere. It seems as though passengers on other trains and those later evacuated from Metro Center had a far worse time of it than those immediately exiting the train actually in difficulty.

Posted by: cameron7 | October 6, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I was on this very train, ON the first car, and as soon as the conductor moved forward there was an instant explosion. The train couldn't have moved more than 24 inches. The train wasn't even in the tunnel but a small portion of the front area because I was seated in the middle of the train and I could see clearly the platform and people standing outside of the train, so there was no excuse for not offloading customers at Gallery Place. Whoever is saying they did a good job probably works for metro and is trying to cover their own behinds. I've written Metro so many times about problems and they never take you seriously; always assuring me that metro is very safe, which was what I was told over a year ago when I complained about the red line trains, and again they assured me it was safe, now many lives have been taken and affected due to the collision earlier this summer, and even after that catastrophe, I warned metro about conductors going way to fast on the green line and was told "well miss if you can't give a precise time or conductor there's not much we can do". Why do you need exact information!? This is information that ALL conductors should know. On the green line, not even a week after the accident on the red line over the summer, had to be going over 90 miles per hour, when they told the public they are to only go 35mph. Metro should be ashamed of themselves. Seems to me they care more about money than the lives of the people who PAY them their salary by commuting every day. Shameful!

Posted by: DCLady3 | October 6, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't work for Metro now , nor have I ever in the past and am in no way connected to the organization. I described the incident the way I saw it. DCLady3 and I couldn't have bben more than feet apart in that first carriage. She is absolutely entitled to her view. Perhaps it just goes to show how people standing right next to each other will view an emotionally charged and dangerous situation differently.

Posted by: cameron7 | October 6, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Well we certainly can't prove anything online about NOT being employed by someone now can we? I wasn't emotionally charged at all, I remained seated and calm, but that's how I handled myself, but regardless of being emotionally charged or not, if someone IS emotionally charged, passengers have every right to be under the circumstances, given the fact that we are just now barely getting over a major catastrophe just months ago where people were killed on the same line. How could you possibly know where I was when you don't even know me? The situation was handled POORLY. You have a right to your opinion, but facts and opinions are two different things. The fact still remains the car had a major malfunction, caught on fire, and should have been offloaded AT Gellery Place. The conductor took a MAJOR risk moving that train through that tunnel and she made a poor call, and there is no excuse. Metro cares more about budge than they do about human beings safety. That was an assinine move on the part of the conductor. Every was telling her to open the doors and she refused to. She made it up in her mind to take a risk and if someone had been injured or killed then that would be yet ANOTHER law suit on the hands of Metro and believe me I would testify against them because they are shameful.

Posted by: DCLady3 | October 6, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

DC Lady you asked "How could you possibly know where I was when you don't even know me?". Well you stated in your post that you were "on this very train, ON the first car" and "seated in the middle of the train". Stop getting in such a huff over something you just told the whole world.

I'm going to have to agree with cameron on this, it seems that everyone sees things differently. Some people on this blog are refering to "explosions" while others are refering to "sparking". To me, an explosion involves explosive force that causes destruction. It doesn't sound as if the sparking and grinding was putting anyone in immediate danger.

It was stated that "The train was checked out by at least two Metro officials before departing Gallery Place." So obviously these officials gave the go ahead to the conductor. I don't think you can fault the conductor for doing his or her job here. If your boss tells you to do something, don't you follow through with the order? My guess is they knew something was wrong with the train but needed to move the train forward to clear the tracks for a following train and why not try to make it to the other major transfer station on that line?

Now that being said and hindsight being 20/20, obviously this turned into a more serious incident when the fire started, which did not happen until Metro Center. Until this point the only "danger" metro was causing was to their own equipment. Once the fire started it sounds like customers were evacuated quickly and in a calm manner. I have heard no reports of deaths, injuries, or hysteria happening. To me, if you come out of an emergency situation with this result, all personnel involved should be commended.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | October 6, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh and before anyone comes back at me yelling that "well if they knew something was wrong we should have been offloaded", let me just ask you this? How many times have people complained about Metro offloading trains for no apparent reason? Would you have not been annoyed if Metro offloaded the train and said "Uh, we think something might be wrong with the train", but then you see the train pull away seemingly fine? If a fire hadn't started and you had been offloaded you would be complaining about being delayed this morning anyway. Like I said before, hindsight is 20/20.

No, I am not a metro employee, just a metro rider of 14 years. Sure metro annoys me from time to time (mostly weekend track work) but it still gets me where I need to go and on the whole safer than a car any day.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | October 6, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

The "explosions" or "sparking" are apparently caused by arcing from the third rail.

While arcing itself is probably not dangerous to passengers, it's hard for me to believe that attempting to operate a loaded train that has lost one of its collector shoe is considered good practice. After all, look what happened. There was smoke when the train operator continued to move the train, and hours of delays resulted.

Shouldn't the Metro train operator and the Metro workers who looked at the train been instructed in how to handle a situation where there is arcing from the third rail? This isn't the first time that shoe collector has fallen off.

I've been driving my car to and from work, and believe me, even when there's traffic, I'm so happy not to be putting with MetroFAIL any more.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | October 6, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I was on the train (not in the car where it happened). I would consider what happened as explosions. I heard a couple of loud sounds like "pop", "pop" and then we continued on and then the explosion occurred. From my perspective, this occurred on the car behind the one I was in (I think I was in the third car according to where I got on by the elevator at Union Station). It seemed to be more of an explosion than what happens when a transformer blows in a storm. Anyways, with all the news coverage of what's been going on with the terror cell in CO (allegedly targeting DC and NY transportation hubs), I think people would instinctually be freaked and they shouldn't be ridiculed because of it. After the transformer-type explosion, I kept waiting for another explosion as from what I've read, bombings in other locations have gone off in a series of explosions, rather than just one. I do think the conductor did a fine job with the circumstances; however, I don't think we should have kept moving to get to Metro Center. Metro should come up with a plan to shut down tracks so people can walk out if need be. If (God forbid) this had been a real attack, the commuter would have had to walk if the train was incompasitated.

Posted by: commutercousin | October 6, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

To edit my previous post, I meant "escalator".
In addition, after the initial stop at Gallery Place where the metro employee walked the train, the conductor announced that there was a potential problem and Metro would decide whether or not we would have to offload at Metro Center. She did not say we were definitely offloading (at least, before the explosions occurred).

Posted by: commutercousin | October 6, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

To edit my previous post, I meant "escalator".
In addition, after the initial stop at Gallery Place where the metro employee walked the train, the conductor announced that there was a potential problem and Metro would decide whether or not we would have to offload at Metro Center. She did not say we were definitely offloading (at least, before the explosions occurred).

Posted by: commutercousin | October 6, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

I was on the train coming from Metro Center toward Gallery Place while the other train was sparking. We had just started toward Gallery Place when the train operator told us we were going to hold, due to sparks on the track ahead. We were happy to realize that the last car of our train was still connected to the Metro Center platform - so a few of us discussed our assumption that Metro would offload us at Metro Center, rather than drive on to Gallery Place through sparks/fire. Instead, we proceeded forward through the smoky tunnel. Not sure how/why that decision was made.

Posted by: elldee | October 7, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

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