Trains collide, one derails, in Union Station yard

Rescue workers remove several injured workers from a train that collided with another near Union Station at I and 2nd streets in Northeast Washington.
Rescue workers remove several injured workers from a train that collided with another near Union Station at I and 2nd streets in Northeast Washington. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2010; 8:17 PM

A MARC commuter train derailed in a Union Station yard Friday morning after colliding with an Amtrak switch engine pulling two rail cars. The accident injured seven people and caused rail delays for much of the day, officials said.

No passengers were aboard the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train when the two trains crashed into one another about 9 a.m. along a section of storage tracks near 2nd Street Northeast, officials said. The accident caused a loud crash heard by residents of nearby homes, they said.

Seven Amtrak workers and two private individuals were aboard the trains, Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm said. Six Amtrak employees were taken to the hospital with a range injuries that were not considered life-threatening, and three workers were released by the afternoon, he said.

One Amtrak engineer was thrown against the console in the locomotive and suffered a bruised chest, said Joe McHugh, Amtrak's vice president for corporate communications.

The MARC train had seven cars. Four derailed, twisting at least one segment of track. An Amtrak locomotive was pulling a rail car and a privately owned passenger car with the owner and a man on board. One man injured his hand but declined treatment, Amtrak officials said.

"There are people who own their own passenger rail cars," Kulm said. "They contract with us, and we pull them around."

Damage to the cars appeared to be minor, and workers were placing them back on the rails Friday afternoon, McHugh said. "It doesn't take very long," he said.

According to McHugh, the cause of the collision was not known, but Amtrak investigators would examine switches and tracks, interview the workers involved and look at dispatches from operations personnel.

The trains were moving at slow speeds when they collided. One set of equipment was moving off an area of track so another could move onto it, McHugh said.

Amtrak halted some service and warned passenger on its Web site that delays of up to two hours were possible. Three of eight tracks at Union Station were available for service, rail officials said. Massive rail delays caused headaches for commuters to Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Some trains ran nearly an hour late.

"All train service was temporarily delayed, and it has had a ripple effect this afternoon" said MARC spokesman Terry Owens.

Amtrak operates MARC's Penn Line. CSX operates the Camden Line, which runs between Washington and Baltimore, and the Brunswick Line, which provides service between Washington and points north and west, including Frederick and Martinsburg, W.Va.

Virginia Railway Express trains were also delayed by the accident. VRE said the resulting congestion caused "a complicated ballet" through the area. Trains also had to operate at restricted speeds through the accident area. Keolis, which operates VRE's trains, asked its crews to report for duty earlier to allow for extra time to navigate through the congestion, VRE officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board does not plan to investigate the incident, spokesman Ted Lopatkiewicz said.

Ashley Halsey III, Carol Morello and Kevin Sieff contributed to this report.

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