May 2, 2019, Third Rail Cover Board Incident Involving WMATA Trains 902 and 609

On Thursday, May 2, 2019, at about 4:43 PM EDT Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Silver Line Train 609 in service to Wiehle-Reston East suffered several failures that resulted in the removal of the train from service at Rosslyn. The probable cause was likely from Train 609 making contact in approach to Stadium-Armory with a dislodged third rail fiberglass cover board, (see figure 1) that was struck by the prior train Orange Line Train 902. The contact between the cover board and Train 609 likely caused power cables connected to the third rail collector shoes on the second car of the eight-car train to become damaged, eventually failing and resulting in more than an hour of service delays.

At about 3:57 PM Train 902 operating on the Orange Line in the direction of Vienna made contact with a third rail cover board that became dislodged during a severe storm while traveling on an elevated structure 4,854 feet in approach to the Stadium-Armory station. Following an inspection by the train operator and a rail car mechanic, it was determined it was safe for Train 902 to continue.

At 4:12 PM, the next train, Train 609, a Silver Line train operating in the direction of Wiehle-Reston East stopped 4,854 feet in approach to Stadium-Armory station to pick up the rail car mechanic who had visually reviewed Train 902’s movement over the cover board. At 4:18 PM, while at Potomac Avenue,  the rail car mechanic reported that Train 609 was experiencing a reduced propulsion error message for the first car 7336, as well as the third, and fourth cars, 7333-7332 respectively. Twenty-three minutes later as Train 609 was departing Foggy Bottom, the rail car mechanic notified the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) that there was a rattling sound from the leading truck (wheelset) of the second car (7337), as well as a no current error message on car 7337, and software transmission error messages on the third and fourth cars (7333/7332).

Upon arrival at Rosslyn, the ROCC instructed Train 609 to offload it’s passengers and for the rail car mechanic to perform an inspection under the train. At 4:46 PM the rail car mechanic reported the source of the rattling and error messages was a severed third rail collector shoe power cable on one truck and a partially severed power cable on the other truck.

After holding at Rosslyn for fourteen minutes, it was agreed that Train 609 could be moved beyond the junction at Rosslyn at a speed not to exceed three miles per hour to allow Orange Line service to resume towards Vienna. This would also allow the rail car mechanic to secure the hanging power cable in order to move the train to the Alexandria rail yard. However upon stopping it was determined that there was insufficient space to safely secure the cable in the tunnel, after which Train 609 was moved to a location just before Arlington Cemetery station where third rail power was removed to secure the power cable.

Train 609 began moving towards Alexandria rail yard at 5:29 PM and single tracking operations were discontinued.

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Figure 1. Sample Third Rail Cover Board (white covering) Photo: Rail Transit OPS Group

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