Red Line service restored after derailment

Crews pulled what appeared to be a train involved in Friday's Metro derailment along the Red Line tracks through the Rhode Island station, while passengers tried to board shuttle buses. (The Washington Post)
August 30, 2013

The portion of the Red Line that was shut down Friday after a non-passenger train derailed in Northeast Washington was back in operation Friday afternoon, Metro officials said.

Service between Fort Totten and NoMa-Gallaudet stations had been suspended early Friday as a result of the derailment, which did not cause any injuries but created headaches for thousands of riders during the morning commute. Service was restored about 1:30 p.m.

The derailment involved a six-car train that went off the tracks just north of Rhode Island Avenue station about midnight, as it was being moved from the Brentwood rail yard to the Greenbelt rail yard for maintenance, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

There were no passengers on the train, which derailed near Evarts and Reed streets in Northeast Washington, and no injuries were reported, according to the transit agency.

Red Line service between Fort Totten and NoMa-Gallaudet stations was shut down, and about 40 shuttle buses were called in to move riders between the closed stations.

At the Rhode Island Avenue station during the morning, there were no crowds as a steady stream of buses rolled in throughout the morning rush hour. Metro workers in yellow vests walked the tracks and platform areas of the above-ground station, while supervisors tracked times on handwritten papers of buses coming and going into the station.

Stessel said the situation could have been worse. Thanks to the Green Line, which runs parallel to the Red Line in that section of the rail system, riders were able to use another Metro line. And because it’s the Friday before Labor Day weekend, Metro said its ridership is down by roughly 10 percent.

Additionally, the timing of the derailment meant that Metro had several hours to mobilize shuttle buses before the rail system opened, Stessel said.

Still, riders were annoyed, expressing frustration and confusion about where to go.

“It throws a monkey wrench in your day,” said Brian Gladden, as he waited for a shuttle bus to take him to Union Station so he could catch a MARC train to his job in Baltimore. Luckily for him, his sister had called him at 6 a.m. and warned him of delays so he wouldn’t be late for work.

Nearby, Carlise Burton waited for a shuttle bus.

“It is big-time frustrating,” she said of the delay. She had to get off a train at Fort Totten after coming from Southeast Washington. “You pay so much for Metro, and they can’t seem to get anything right.”

Michelle Eatmon of Landover was also waiting for a shuttle bus at the Rhode Island Avenue station.

“I am totally turned around,” she said as she waited for a bus. “You just feel lost when you have to get off the train and go another way.”

Meanwhile, about a dozen Metro employees worked to fix the tracks where the train derailed. The derailment site is less than a quarter-mile north of the Rhode Island Avenue station, in an industrial area of mostly warehouses and behind a chain-link fence.

According to Stessel, the train was being driven by an operator but was also using “special maintenance equipment” when it derailed. He said preliminary information “does not point to a problem with the tracks or rail infrastructure or the rail car.” He said there also did not appear to be problem with switches in the area.

“The operator didn’t realize four cars back there was at least one wheel that had come off the rail,” he said.

The third rail, signal cables and other track components were damaged in the incident, officials said. The derailment remains under investigation.

This is not the first train derailment on this portion of the Red Line. In April, an out-of-service Red Line train derailed between the NoMa-Gallaudet and Rhode Island Avenue stations as it was leaving the Brentwood rail yard.

Metro officials blamed that incident on several factors, citing a “stiff” new wheel, a curved section of track, the train’s slow rate of speed and dry conditions. Officials tried to assure Metro’s board of directors that a similar incident was unlikely to happen on the main-line tracks that carry passengers.

The area where Friday’s derailment occurred is scheduled to be out of service starting at 10 p.m. Friday night through the Labor Day weekend for previously scheduled rebuilding work.

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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