Incident Review of Loss of Propulsion on WMATA Blue Line Train 401 Outside Rosslyn Station (Rail Transit OPS Incident 16-0116)

Incident Summary

At about 2:01 PM EDT on Thursday, April 14, 2016, WMATA Blue line Train 401 to Franconia-Springfield, which consisted of eight 7000-series railcars (in order of direction of travel: 7042/7043/7041/7040/7036/7037/7079/7078) had departed Foggy Bottom and, while in approach to Rosslyn, reported a propulsion issue; the train was rolling back, and would be unable to make it to the platform at Rosslyn. T-401 was estimated to be approximately three hundred and seventy five feet from the Rosslyn station platform. The Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) instructed the train operator (T/O) to perform several basic troubleshooting steps, but was unable to rectify the issue. A rail car mechanic stationed at Rosslyn was soon thereafter instructed to walk to the train and attempt onboard diagnostics.

Train 612, a Silver line to Wiehle-Reston East following T-401 towards Rosslyn, was instructed to hold at Foggy Bottom at 2:02 PM. At approximately 2:14 PM, ROCC instructed T-612 to offload in preparation to recover and push T-401 to Rosslyn.

While attempting to diagnose T-401, the car equipment mechanic aboard reported the entire train was without third rail power, with only internal emergency battery power operational. Partial power to the train was restored at 2:20 PM, however it was still unable to move.

T-612 arrived at the location of T-401 at 2:32 PM and the ROCC were notified that recovery was not possible, as the two trains were on the upward curve outside the station. T-612 was instructed to reverse back to Foggy Bottom at 2:33 PM and enter service towards Largo Town Center. At 2:35 PM, Train 410 at Arlington Cemetery traveling towards Largo Town Center was offloaded for a second attempt to recover T-401. The two trains were successfully coupled at 2:54 PM. The 154 passengers on disabled T-401 were walked through T-410 to the Rosslyn platform shortly after 3:00 PM with the assistance of Metro Transit Police.

Concerns Noted During Incident 

Why was T-401 not attempted to reverse back to Foggy Bottom?

Why was no recorded attempt made to key up (operate) the train via the fourth car back to Foggy Bottom?

Why were passengers not evacuated onto T-612 and returned to Foggy Bottom at 2:32 PM vs. waiting until after 3:00 PM to exit T-401?

Why did ROCC not utilize engineering maps to realize that T-401 was in a location that could make coupling & recovering a train difficult?


T-410/T-401 commenced moving toward Alexandria Yard at 3:15 PM. The train moved down the line and entered the yard at 3:51 PM. Single-tracking operations on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines ended at approximately 3:30 PM. Normal service resumed two hours later at approximately 5:45 PM.

At the same time that the recovery of T-401 was occurring, a switch issue affecting switch 9 at National Airport caused delays in the opposite direction. Trains were required to pass through the north end of the station traveling toward Largo Town Center/Mt. Vernon Sq./Fort Totten at speeds no greater than 5mph.


The impact of these two delays caused 10 Orange and Blue trains to be offloaded, and three trains were instructed to express Eisenhower Ave. Normal service on the Blue and Yellow lines did not resume until after 6:00 PM; Blue and Yellow trains towards Huntington/Franconia-Springfield experienced delays up to around 20 minutes from Arlington Cemetery to Braddock Road as incident train T-401 cleared the line, and then as ROCC attempted to return service to normal thereafter.

The incident train, T-401, was a 7000-series train with 8 rail cars that entered service on or after November 2015. Recovery train T-410 consisted of 6 legacy (non-7000-series) rail cars. The investigation into the exact nature of the train failure is ongoing.