Overview:

Around 8am on March 21st, 2017, a non-revenue Yellow Line train departed Huntington station en route to Alexandria Yard. The train was allowed to traverse a switch outside Eisenhower Avenue station towards track which was deenergized due to SafeTrack Surge 13 activities.

Yellow Line service to Eisenhower Avenue and Huntington stations was suspended for approximately an hour from 8:20am to 9:25am while the train fouled the WMATA mainline. The train was later recovered and moved to a rail yard at around 2:00am the next morning, March 22nd.

Timeline:

  • 7:52am, March 21st – Non-revenue Yellow Line Train 702 departs Huntington Station en route to Alexandria Yard. Two WMATA personnel are onboard. The operator is instructed to continue towards King Street station (clearing the C97 interlocking), where the train would reverse ends and the second operator would operate the train to Van Dorn Street station. The train would then be required to reverse again in order to be routed into Alexandria Yard.
  • 7:55am – The Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) instructs Train 702’s operator to stop the train. The Rail Traffic Controller (RTC) advises Train 702’s operator that the train is being routed into Alexandria Yard at the incorrect signal (C14/06).
  • 7:55am – Train 702’s operator replies to the RTC that he believed ROCC was giving him a different routing into Alexandria Yard than what had previously been verbally discussed when departing Huntington station.
  • 7:58am – Train 702 is instructed to reverse ends, key up on the Huntington end of the train, and attempt to reverse the train back towards Huntington. The operator is unable to move the train due to loss of propulsion. The operator is instructed to break power knockout as a troubleshooting measure, but the train is still unable to move.
  • 8:02am – ROCC RTC asks if any cars in Train 702 are on emergency lighting or have their HVAC running, and advises he suspects the train may be on “dead rail” where third rail power is not being supplied.
  • 8:11am – The second operator on Train 702 confirms that the train is not clear of the mainline (Track C2), preventing additional trains from passing and servicing either Eisenhower Avenue or Huntington stations. (Track C1 is out of service due to SafeTrack Surge 13 activities.)
  • 8:14am – Yellow Line Train 301 is instructed to offload at King Street station and reverse back in the direction of Mt Vernon Square station. ROCC has requested a bus bridge be set up to allow passengers to travel to and from Huntington and Eisenhower Avenue stations to King Street station and further north.
  • 8:19am – The operators on Train 702 confirm that there is no third rail power being supplied to the entire train.
  • 8:20am – ROCC contacts Mobile Command, the function in control of the SafeTrack area, and requests a prime mover, a diesel-powered track work unit, to assist in moving Train 702.
  • 8:26am – Handbrakes are applied to Train 702 while a prime mover is located and moved into position. (Yellow Line service to Huntington and Eisenhower Avenue is still suspended at this point in time.)
  • 8:38am – Prime Mover 36 (PM36) is located and put into service to move Train 702. The unit’s operator begins moving towards the downed train.
  • 8:52am – PM36 checks in with ROCC and receives permission to cross over from C1 (the SafeTrack work area) to C2 at Huntington station, then move into position behind Train 702.
  • 8:52am – ROCC advises that their plan is to push Train 702 further onto the Alexandria Yard lead, and will store the train there until it can be moved out.
  • 9:04am – The On-Scene Commander (OSC) verifies that PM36 has successfully coupled to Train 702. The personnel on the train are advised to release all handbrakes, and cut out all trucks (essentially rendering the train’s brakes negligible) on the train.
  • 9:13am – PM36 begins pushing Train 702 onto the Alexandria Yard lead.
  • 9:16am – PM36 reports that the entire train is clear of the C14/16 signal and is out of the way of Yellow Line train traffic.
  • 9:22am – Train 702 is prepared for storage on the yard lead and handbrakes are reapplied on the entire train. Switch 3 outside Huntington station is clamped in the normal position so that it cannot be moved.
  • 1:01am, March 22nd – Handbrakes on Train 702 start to be released in preparation to remove the train from its current position. (The WMATA rail system closes at midnight, so this work was performed after revenue service ended for the evening.)
  • 1:37am – PM36 is given permission to begin moving at a slow speed back towards Eisenhower Avenue station pulling Train 702.
  • 1:49am – Train 702 is pulled back onto the mainline at Eisenhower Avenue station. Third rail power is restored, and the train’s brakes begin to normalize and build up air pressure.
  • 2:08am – Train 702 (now Train 800) is given permission to proceed towards King Street station en route to Alexandria Yard.
  • 2:32am – Train 800 is given permission to proceed to Alexandria Yard, and instructed to contact the yard’s tower operator.

Probable Cause:

Rail Transit OPS has determined that the probable cause of this accident was a lack of safety equipment configured for Switch 3 at Eisenhower Avenue station, which was improperly allowed to be thrown in a reverse position.

Contributing Factors:

  • Because safety equipment at Switch 3 at Eisenhower Avenue station was not in place, the switch was allowed to be utilized and moved into the reverse position towards the SafeTrack work zone.
  • Switch 3 at Eisenhower Avenue was not physically secured to prevent traffic from being routed into Alexandria Yard. At time of incident, the interlocking past this signal (C98) was out of service as crews worked to replace its switches.
  • Train 702’s operator verbally verified their instructions for how to proceed to Alexandria Yard with ROCC, but did not stop the train when the operator saw that it was misaligned at the C14/06 signal.

Recommendations:

  • WMATA should ensure that all entrances to work areas are blocked or prohibited to disallow accidental train movement.

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Rail Transit OPS Group is an independent, publicly-funded group that monitors rail transit operations, performance, and safety procedures to proactively address potential issues. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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