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Amtrak Derailment Disrupts Traffic

Breakdown Near Union Station Also Delays Commuter Service

By Martin Weil and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 21, 2005; Page B02

Thousands of people riding the train into and out of Washington suffered long delays yesterday for reasons unrelated to the inauguration: An Amtrak train derailed near Union Station, blocking key tracks.

No one was injured in the derailment, which occurred just north of Union Station a few minutes after 9 a.m. But the accident blocked or restricted passage into and out of the station well into the evening for commuter lines as well as Amtrak.


Amtrak says a malfunctioning mechanical switch probably caused the two cars in the seven-car train to derail. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

MARC Friday Schedule
From washingtonpost.com at 10:50 PM

According to MARC spokesman Richard Scher, the MARC Penn Line will be running on a holiday "S" schedule on Friday because of further track repairs. The Brunswick and Camden lines will run on their normal schedules.

See the MTA Maryland Web site for more information.

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The cause of the derailment, which affected two cars, was not immediately known. Amtrak said it was believed to be related to a mechanical switch malfunction.

MARC said it would run on an S schedule today on the Penn Line; the Brunswick and Camden lines are to run normal schedules. Amtrak said it expected to operate normal service this morning. Virginia Railway Express appeared largely unaffected yesterday.

MARC canceled six evening trains that were scheduled to carry passengers on its Penn Line between Washington and Baltimore, a spokesman said. To make up, other trains made stops not normally on their schedules. MARC also canceled its 6 p.m. train to Brunswick; its 7:15 p.m. train to Martinsburg, W.Va., was to run as far as Brunswick, and a bus would be available to go the rest of the way. Amtrak also canceled trains and combined others, a spokeswoman said.

Earlier in the day, many southbound trains on the Amtrak and MARC lines traveled only as far as New Carrollton, a few miles north of Union Station, where passengers were permitted to transfer to Metro.

The derailment occurred at 9:08 a.m. when a single set of wheels on each of two cars of Amtrak's Train 132 left the track "maybe a quarter of a mile north" of the station, Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski said.

The spokeswoman said the regional service train was headed to New York carrying about 80 passengers in seven cars. The train remained upright, and all passengers were evacuated safely.

However, the point at which the accident occurred was a place through which all trains must pass entering or leaving the station. It halted northbound traffic until noon and southbound traffic for at least three more hours, officials said.

Mark Roeber, a VRE spokesman, said midday trains had left on time, and evening trains circumvented the bottleneck.

Inauguration Day did play a role in the way authorities responded. Often, buses are used to shuttle passengers around a blockage. But with traffic restricted near the station, the Amtrak spokeswoman said, "busing was not an option."


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