Event Review into WMATA use of Revenue Trains for Inspection of Possible Fire/Smoke Event on October 23, 2016

On Sunday, October 23, 2016 at approximately 3:22 PM EDT sparks were reported on the WMATA Red Line tracks between Dupont Circle and Woodley Park stations; the primary concern of this review is the use of eight revenue trains to inspect and assist with determining the location of a potential fire/smoke producing event. The area involved in this incident is located in a single bore tunnel in which both tracks 1 and 2 are located within the same tunnel.


On Sunday, October 23, 2016 at approximately 3:22 PM EDT, WMATA Red Line Train 151 travelling between Dupont Circle and Woodley Park station in the direction of Shady Grove reported to the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) that sparks were visible between the tracks 2,900 feet outbound of Dupont Circle at Chain Marker A2 101+00.

Upon confirming the report with the operator of Train 151, the ROCC instructed the following train travelling toward Shady Grove, Train 152 to offload its passengers to perform a visual track inspection, which resulted in a negative result on any sparks, and the train was returned to service at Woodley Park. ROCC personnel then requested Trains 205, and 109 travelling on the inbound track (Track 1) to perform a visual track inspection without offloading passengers, both with negative results at approximately 3:38 PM.

At approximately 4:00 PM Train 105 travelling on Track 2 towards Shady Grove reported “pretty bad sparking” at the same location as Train 151. ROCC implemented single track operations via Track 1 from Dupont Circle to Van Ness.

Emergency Response Team 607 (ERT607) arrived on scene at Dupont Circle at approximately 5:02 PM and proceeded to the reported area of concern and after initial inspection noticed no evidence of arcing or smoke, and requested a test train. Train 110 was offloaded at Dupont Circle at 5:30 PM and was instructed to proceed at normal speed to attempt to duplicate the issue, which  it was unable to.

ERT 607 restored normal service to both tracks at 5:36 PM but remained at the location wayside to observe as several trains passed. ERT 607 requested two trains accelerate from a stop at the incident location at the same time, which was performed by Trains 101 and 105 at approximately 5:41PM. A second test was requested and performed by Trains 159 and 203 at approximately 5:55 PM, after which ERT 607 removed Track 2 from service again. At 6:02 PM ERT 607 requested a third acceleration test, which was performed by Trains 102 and 106 at 6:08 PM at max power.

At 6:09 PM ERT 607 identified 2 studs arcing at CM A2 98+70, approximately 300 feet prior to the initial reported location. Track 2 was de-energized for stud removal over the next 30 minutes with power being restored at 6:32 PM. A non-revenue train, Train 810, was utilized as a test train followed by Trains 103 and 108 performing a dual acceleration test at 6:56 PM and resulted in a good test and resumption of normal service.