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Trains are now single-tracking, two stations still closed, after derailment

The latest: Metro restores service on disabled lines, but only single-tracking

What’s happening now:
• Trains are running again at four of the six closed stations.
• Trains are single-tracking from McPherson Square to Federal Center SW. Two of the stations on that stretch, Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, remain closed.
• A train without passengers derailed Thursday morning at the Smithsonian station, closing six stations until about 2:30 p.m.
• The derailment snarled the morning commute and will likely cause similar, though less severe, headaches for evening riders.

[Riders react to major Metro delays Thursday morning]

[Metro’s biggest meltdowns of the past three years]

Updated at 2:35 p.m.

Four of six Metro stations — all but Federal Triangle and Smithsonian — are open again. Trains are now single-tracking through the stations that were closed to Blue, Orange and Silver Line trains throughout the day.

This entry has been corrected to reflect the fact that Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations remain closed.

Updated at 2:12 p.m.

Metro said that by the evening rush hour, it may be able to resume service on one track at the six stations that have been closed all day.

But single-tracking is the best case scenario, and even that might be out of the question, interim general manager Jack Requa said.

Requa said that since the train derailed this morning, workers have been able to remove two of the six rail cars. That might enable Metro to run trains on one track on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines between McPherson Square and Federal Center SW during the evening rush.

Requa said Metro still has not figured out the cause of the derailment.

“We know this is a great inconvenience to our passengers, but we are doing our best to resolve the situation,” Requa said. “We have to know what happened so we can prevent it from happening again.”

Updated at 12:30 p.m.

Metro said Thursday morning’s derailment of a train may have been caused by a problem at an interlocking — an area of track where trains move from one track to another – between the Federal Triangle and Smithsonian stations.

Officials stressed that the exact cause is still under investigation.

“It could be a problem with the infrastructure of a switch, it could be rail car related, it could be human error. Right now we don’t know the cause,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

Read more here on the cause of the derailment.

Updated at 10:03 a.m.

By 9:30, the crowds around the Federal Center SW station had thinned, but riders still filled two shuttle buses trying to get them around the stations that shut down on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines after a train derailed at the Smithsonian stop.

“I might take the scenic route,” said Victoria Pleasant, 20, as she debated walking to L’Enfant to transfer and then ride to her job in Anacostia. She estimated that her hour-long commute from Benning Road, which costs about $5 each way, would stretch to an hour and a half with the delay.

She doubted her bosses at her internship would mind, saying, “The Blue Line is always really messed up.”

At the McPherson Square stop, lines remained long, even as rush hour drew to a close. Metro Transit Police officers were providing instructions to tourists and passengers.

Jonathan Ntuk, 29, had boarded a Silver Line train from the Wiehle-Reston stop more than an hour earlier.

“This is pretty normal for Metro,” he said. “Just a lot of confusion. . . . They’ve been trying to give a lot of directions, but it’s just frustrating.”

His commute, he said, was taking him to a job near Metro Center station.

“It’s already taken a little over an hour, so we’ll see when I finally get there.”

Scott Eckhart, who was chaperoning a tour group of 24 Boy Scouts and interpretive dancers from La Junta, Colo., said the transit experience had been less than ideal. The group had been intending to take a tour of the District today.

“It was very hot and crowded,” he said, referring to a Silver Line trip from Ballston-MU station.

The group had initially gotten into the shuttle line. But after a few minutes, they turned around and began walking up 14th Street.

Metro has suspended service on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines between the McPherson Square and Federal Center SW stations (Video: WUSA9)

Updated at 9:29 a.m.

Metro officials said the six-car train went off the tracks early Thursday morning when it was going through an interlocking area between the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations.

The train had several 1000 series and 2000 series rail cars on it, Metro said. Four wheels came off the track. The operator stopped the train. Because the derailment happened inside a tunnel, Metro officials said, it is more difficult to get the train back on the track. It could have an impact on the evening commute.

Metro officials said they do not know exactly what caused the derailment at this point.

“We have no reason to believe this is human error,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. He could not offer any details about the train operator.

There was minor damage to the rail cars. No injuries were reported. The driver has been taken off duty and is being tested for drugs and alcohol per the transit agency’s policy.

Stessel said the train was headed from a rail yard and, after turning around at Federal Triangle, would have gone into service as a Blue Line train starting at the Smithsonian stop. Metro officials have pulled standby buses into service to help stranded commuters. But many riders were experiencing delays — and what they said was little information as to where to go — at several stations in getting on shuttle buses.

“We know this has been an incredibly difficult morning for our customers,” Stessel said. “We are doing everything we can to restore service as quickly as possible.”

Updated at 9:08 a.m.

Metro said service may still be affected in the evening rush hour on three lines through downtown because of an early morning train derailment.

The transit agency’s acting general manager, Jack Requa, said crews were working to figure out how much the track was damaged in the area where a train went off the rails at the Smithsonian station just before 6 a.m.

Although it was not immediately clear what caused the train to derail, Requa said it was a six-car train that had 1000 and 2000 series rail cars on it. Three of the six rail cars were impacted, he said.

Requa also said the rail cars going off the track did not seem to have any impact on the tunnels or infrastructure of the rails in that area. He said crews will look at the impact on switches and the tracks in that area.

For riders, it was a rough, rough morning with long delays and confusion at rail stations and on shuttle buses as they tried to find their way around the mess.

Erica Fisher, 25, sighed when she saw the crowd of people pooling to get on a shuttle bus at the McPherson Square stop.

“No point getting on that bus,” she said.

Fisher, who got on the Metro at the Cheverly station around 7:30 a.m., said she usually gets off at McPherson to walk to her barista job in Foggy Bottom. She said she did not hear about the derailment until she got into the Metro car: “Too late, too late.”

But she seemed unsurprised by the Metro mishap: “They’re too expensive, and there’s always something wrong.”

At McPherson Square, a line for shuttle buses wrapped around the station entrance.

While trains were running at short intervals toward Virginia, passengers headed in the other direction were diverted onto shuttle buses — and their shrugs and groans were evident. At one point, buses clogged all three lanes of I Street.

“It’s absolutely horrible,” said Sam Kingston, 35, who was traveling from the Suitland station to a job in Rosslyn. “I was at the Metro at 7:30. It’s 9 right now, and I’m halfway there.”

A normally half-hour commute turned nightmarish for Courtney Klein, who was going from Rosslyn station to an IT consulting internship on Capitol Hill.

“It’s annoying, but it’s living in the city,” the 20-year-old said.

Updated at 8:25 a.m.

At the Federal Center stop, Metro workers with yellow vests and bullhorns told passengers where to go to catch buses around the troubles on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines after a train derailed at the Smithsonian stop.

“Step back so the bus can pull forward!” they shouted.

Vincent Johnson, 19, said he was taking a bus instead of his usual route on the Orange, Blue or Silver line from Federal Center down to Rosslyn for his student training as an auditor. A resident of Marlboro, Md., Johnson said that his father, who works nearby, usually drops him off at the station.

But walking through the crowd of people on D Street, he said he was unsure which route went to Rosslyn. “I don’t know what bus I’m taking.”

Updated at 8:02 a.m.

Metro said normal service is back on the Red Line. But problems still remain — and are expected to last through the morning rush hour — on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines after a train went off the tracks at the Smithsonian stop.

The derailment is causing no trains to run on those three lines between the Federal Center and McPherson Square stations.

Metro is offering free bus rides in the downtown area and shuttle buses at the affected stops. But riders are advised to avoid the rail system because there are major delays and it is not clear how long it will take to resolve the situation.

Updated at 6:54 a.m.

Metro said trains are no longer sharing a track on the Red Line. The transit agency said riders who are impacted by the troubles on the system can get a free ride downtown.

There are no trains running on part of the Blue, Orange and Silver lines because a train — with no riders on it — went off the tracks at the Smithsonian stop.

Original post at 6:01 a.m.

A Metro train — without passengers aboard — derailed Thursday morning, causing service to be suspended on parts of three rail lines. Also, trains are sharing a track on the Red Line between Friendship Heights and Medical Center stops because of a disabled train outside the Bethesda stop.

There are no trains running on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines between the Federal Center and McPherson Square stations.

Basically, avoid Metro if possible today.

Few details were immediately available on the derailment. The train on the Orange and Silver lines went off the tracks at the Smithsonian stop. The derailment happened at a switch, according to Metro. Metro Transit Police said no passengers were on the train at the time and no one was reported to be injured.

Metro also said Silver Line trains are running only between the Wiehle Avenue and East Falls Church stop. Riders are advised to avoid using the system and to expect delays and crowded stations and platforms.

Riders are advised to use buses to get around the delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. The transit agency warned in Twitter messages that riders should expect slow going, crowding and delays in the morning rush hour.

In an earlier Twitter message, Metro had said there was a disabled train at the Smithsonian stop.