Metro train smashes into another at Va. rail yard

By Matt Zapotosky and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 30, 2009

Three Metro employees were injured early Sunday when a train headed into the West Falls Church rail yard smashed into a parked train, in a crash that destroyed three train cars and caused at least $9 million in damage, authorities said.

In addition to the three cars deemed beyond repair, the remaining nine cars in the two trains all had some damage, Metro said.

They were being examined to determine whether repairs can be made, Metro said Sunday night. New cars cost about $3 million each, Metro said.

Among issues raised by the crash was the safety of Metro's older, 1000 series cars. Two of the three cars considered beyond repair were in that series. Both of those cars derailed, although neither was at the point of impact.

No passengers were aboard either train, and regular service was not affected when Metro opened at 7 a.m. because the crash occurred in a rail yard, said Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman. All three employees were treated at a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening and released, she said.

Farbstein declined to identify the employees.

The incident occurred at 4:27 a.m. as Train 902 was headed back to the rail yard for cleaning, Farbstein said. It was the last train of the night, Metro said. (The Metro system remains open until 3 a.m. on Sundays.)

If all had gone according to plan, Farbstein said, the six-car train would have stopped directly behind another that was being cleaned by two Metro employees, a man and woman. The employees were waiting to get into Train 902, Farbstein said.

But Train 902 instead crashed into the back of the parked train. The train's speed was not immediately known.

The impact injured the two cleaners, who were in the rear car of the parked train, and the operator of Train 902, who was in the front of that train, Farbstein said.

Both trains had two older, 1000-series cars sandwiched between newer ones as part of Metro's response to the fatal June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people and injured 80, Farbstein said. The older cars have been criticized for a tendency to crumple inward like a telescope in a crash. Metro officials have acknowledged that they conducted no engineering analysis to show that sandwiching the cars improves safety. Farbstein said she did not know whether any telescoped Sunday.

One of the derailed 1000 series cars had been among the six cars on each of the two trains. Both derailed cars were deemed unrepairable. The third car to be deemed unrepairable was on the parked train, apparently next to the rear car. It was not one of the 1000 series cars.

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