February 28 Service Suspension on Orange and Silver Lines and Uncommanded Movement of WMATA Train 916

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Orange Line Train 916 became disabled and unable to release its brakes at the Ballston station at approximately 7:12 a.m. on Wednesday, February, 2018. Train 916 was a six-car train with cars 5003-5002-5187-5186-5172-5173 en route from Vienna to New Carrollton.

Upon berthing at Ballston, Train 916 entered a condition called Brakes In Emergency (BIE) which meant the operator was unable to release its brakes. WMATA personnel performed initial troubleshooting to attempt to recharge the brake pressure on the train; they offloaded passengers from the train once determining they were unable to do so.

A brake trouble light was found on car 5187, and the brakes in that car were disabled in order to attempt to get the train to move; the troubleshooting was unsuccessful.

An eight-car Silver Line train following behind Train 916 (Train 619 with cars 7362-7363-7063-7062-7440-7441-7415-7414) was instructed to offload at Ballston by placing one door on the platform and allowing passengers to walk through to exit to the platform.

Orange and Silver Line trains began singlet-tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston at 7:24 a.m. Inbound trains were first to single-track by crossing over at East Falls Church from the inbound to outbound tracks using switch 1, and then crossing from the outbound back to the inbound track at Ballston by way of switch 3.

At approximately 7:32 a.m., Train 912 heading inbound had serviced the Ballston outbound platform, closed its doors, and was switching over tracks to continue normally to Virginia Square (figure 1). Train 611 was on the platform at Ballston and was next in line to cross over at the interlocking to follow 912 (figure 2).

At the same time while the operator of Train 916 was in the process of troubleshooting and preparing for recovery by Train 619, the train began to roll forward without any input from the operator. Train 916 stopped approximately 200 feet beyond the end of the platform at which point it had passed a red signal (K04-02). The signal was red because the Ballston interlocking was aligned to allow Train 611 traveling in the direction of Largo on the opposite track (Track 2) to cross over to the inbound track (Track 1) in front of Train 916.

After reporting the uncommanded train movement to Rail Operations Central Control (ROCC), the WMATA personnel on the train were instructed to re-enable the brakes on the train which had previously been disabled; this was to regain control of the train and ensure that it stopped.

The lead car of Train 916 came to rest about 25 feet short of switch 3A (figure 2), fouling the Ballston interlocking. Rail service was suspended between Clarendon and East Falls Church while crews inspected the switches and train to determine if any damage or derailment had occurred.

WMATA personnel determined there were no injuries, derailment, or other damage to either the switches or the train during the incident.

The entire incident lasted from 7:12 a.m. to 8:37 a.m. when rail service was restored between East Falls Church and Clarendon. Trains 916 and 619 coupled successfully at Ballston and the disabled train was taken to West Falls Church Yard for further investigation to determine why the train lost brake pressure.


Figure 1: Estimated Location of trains at Ballston at 7:32 AM from DC Metro Hero
Figure 2: Estimated Location of Trains in the area of Ballston at about 7:31-7:33 AM

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 9:35 a.m. on Mach 6 to add additional information about the brake trouble indicator found on car 5187.


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