Factual Timeline of Friendship Heights Smoke Incident (16-0125)

Train 107 was an 8-car Red Line train running in service from Glenmont station to Shady Grove station the evening of Saturday April 23rd, 2016. In approach to Friendship Heights at 7:17pm EDT, the train encountered smoke which started to enter the train. The train was reversed back to Tenleytown and passengers were offloaded by 7:36pm. The incident remains under WMATA investigation. DC Fire and EMS reported that there were no injuries and no passengers requested a hospital transport.

This report is intended to be a factual timeline of the events of the Friendship Heights incident. A follow-up report will analyze the incident management process and offer recommendations to improve the process, if any are found.


7:17p (T+0min): Train Operator of Train 107 reports the lead car of the train is “on fire.” (This is most likely due to a third rail collector shoe that briefly caught fire and fused to the third rail.) The train is stopped approximately 200 feet short of the Friendship Heights platform in the direction of Shady Grove.

7:18p (T+1min): The Train Operator is instructed by the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) OPS1 controller to move all passengers from the lead car, where the fire/smoke is visible outside, to cars further back in the train consist.*

7:21p (T+4min): The Train Operator reports the train has lost all doors closed; the train is now unable to move under normal circumstances. Based on passenger interviews, the Emergency Door Release on the lead car in the consist was engaged, causing this. The OPS1 controller requests a ground walkaround from the cushioning Operator, but this is never done.

7:23p (T+6min): A cushioning (off-duty) Train Operator riding aboard T-107 attempts to move the train back to Tenleytown, but is still unable to move the train due to the no all doors closed indication.

7:25p (T+8min): The Friendship Heights Station Manager has by now reported that there is smoke visible in the tunnel outside the station, and that the smoke is headed in the direction of the station.

7:26p (T+9min): Track units working on Track 2 outside Bethesda station due to the earlier insulator and subsequent damage start moving down towards Friendship Heights to help the OPS1 controller deal with the ongoing situation.

7:30p (T+13min): The Train Operator was instructed to cut out Automatic Train Protection, allowing the train to move. The train is given an absolute block to proceed towards Tenleytown at a low speed. The train is not allowed to move faster than approximately 5 mph due to possible self-evacuated passengers in the tunnel or on the roadway.

7:36p (T+19min): T-107 reaches Tenleytown platform 2, berths, and disembarks passengers.

7:41p (T+24min): Friendship Heights station is evacuated for heavy smoke in the station. DC Fire and EMS have been dispatched.

9:00p (T+1h42min): DC Fire and EMS have by now cleared both Tenleytown and Friendship Heights stations.

Service on both Track 1 and Track 2 from Van Ness (A06) to Medical Center (A10) was suspended from the time of the incident to system closing.

9:15p (T+1h57min): T-107 is moved from Tenleytown where it was offloaded to Brentwood Yard.


7:17p (T+0min): T-107 encounters smoke and fire near chain marker A2 296+00, 200 feet outside of the Friendship Heights station. Conflicting reports say there is either an arcing insulator on the tracks, or the front trucks of the train are on fire.

7:40p (T+23min): A possible arcing insulator is identified at A2 297+00, although the fire is mostly out at that point.

8:13p (T+56min): Power to the third rail is brought down again after additional smoke is seen. Power is confirmed down at 8:15p.

8:19p (T+1h2min): Smoke is reported to be coming out of a mechanical room at Friendship Heights. DC Fire and EMS investigate. It is unknown if this is related to the trackside insulator issues.

8:21p (T+1h4min): Additional track units and a supervisor inspect the A2 third rail and cables from Bethesda to Friendship Heights into the tunnel to Tenleytown.

9:00p (T+1h43min): Melted metal from one of T-107’s collector shoe is found on the third rail; power is brought down in preparation for removal of the excess metal and to clean the third rail.

9:43p (T+2h26min): Track units report that more insulators on the A2 track between Tenleytown and Friendship Heights require replacement, in addition to repairing the collector shoe damage.

10:04p (T+2h47min): Track units report a frayed cable on the A1 track between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown which requires replacement. Track 1 is kept out of service until system closing as Power personnel perform repairs.

Track and Power personnel stay on scene until system closing to perform the necessary repairs. Employees from the Safety department are also on scene. A work unit from Brentwood Yard is requested to Friendship Heights track 2 to return the track to be revenue-ready. The tracks were handed back over from maintenance personnel to ROCC for revenue service at 6:48am EDT on Sunday the 24th.

* The timeline was updated Sunday evening on the 24th to include this event.


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