Metro derailment caused by possible failure in equipment

September 3, 2013

 

(Source: Railway Technology)
(Source: Railway Technology)

A piece of equipment known as a “dummy truck,” which is used for moving around Metro rail cars that aren’t working, appears to have failed and possibly caused the derailment of a Red Line train last week.

Jim Benton, chairman of the Tri-State Oversight Committee — which helps oversee Metro’s safety — said the dummy trucks “for whatever reason could have been the cause of the derailment.”

“It is one of the possibilities,” he said. “Maybe the wheels were bad on the dummy truck. All of that has to be looked at in detail.”

A truck on a rail car holds the wheels, motors and brakes. A dummy truck has no motor but is used to move trains that are not working from one area to another. Dummy trucks are similar to “a donut tire on a car,” Benton said.

On Friday, dummy trucks were on two cars of the six-car train when it derailed near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop. A portion of the Red Line near Rhode Island Avenue was shut down for several hours during the morning commute and passengers had to use shuttle buses.

Benton’s group received a preliminary report from Metro on the derailment. Benton said Metro officials “did their due diligence on getting [TOC] the report quickly.” Typically, he said, the agency takes three business days to turn in a preliminary report.

“In this case, it came in real quick,” Benton said. “They wanted to make sure they had the report ready because of the severity of the issue.”

Benton said his group “would follow [Metro's] investigation” of the incident and “make sure they come up with corrective actions that address this situation.” He said that there may be a need for new training on how to use trucks and that some changes to the “mechanical specifications” of the trucks may need to be made.

“We’ll follow through to make sure these incidents don’t continue to happen,” he said.

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency had no response to the TOC’s assessment of its preliminary report.

“No comment on an ongoing investigation,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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