October 9, 2020 Red Line Train Pull-Apart Event Summary

On Friday, October 9, 2020 at about 12:18 PM EDT, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Glenmont bound Red Line Train 108 (T108) consisting of eight 6000 series cars (cars in direction of travel L6074-6075+6079-6078+6113-6112+6067-6066T) experienced an pull apart1 between the 2nd and 3rd cars, cars 6075 and 6079, in which the coupler assembly on the cab end of the second car (6075) failed and detached from the carbody structure. Train 108 contained approximately 103 passengers aboard along with the operator of T108. All passengers were evacuated via select side doors between approximately 1:53PM and 2:12 PM. Two passengers were evaluated out by DC Fire and EMS onsite with no passengers transported to hospitals. Damage preliminary appears to be limited to car 6075; however WMATA will inspect all 8 cars involved during the investigation, which will be conducted along with an investigation by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) into the incident.

Incident

T108 departed Union Station at about 12:17PM and was ascending a 3.93% grade and entering a right hand curve while it transitioned from subway to surface, or at grade operation and had travelled approximately 1,200 feet from the outbound end of Union Station’s platform when the train’s emergency brakes automatically activated (as designed) on all eight cars after the coupler assembly separated from car 6075, resulting in cars 6074/6075 coming to rest approximately 60-70 feet away from the remaining 6 cars. (T+0) (time in minutes since uncoupling occurred). After T108 came to a complete stop the train operator contacted the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) to report that the train had lost it’s brake pipe air pressure and would attempt to recharge the brake pipe in a attempt to move the train – unaware at the time the the train had pulled apart. The ROCC Controller that manages the operation of the Red Line OPS-1 (RTC-1) contacted a rail car mechanic (CMNT) located at NoMa; at the same time a non-revenue train, Train 805 (T805) was passing on the inbound track, T805 contacted the ROCC to inform them that T108 had uncoupled between cars 6075 and 6079. RTC-1 made a transmission for the locations of rail supervisors; T108 contacted RTC-1 to inform them that the console on lead car 6074 now indicated 2 cars; at which point RTC-1 instructed T108 to perform a ground walk around to inspect the train and see if there were any injuries. Approximately 9 minutes later RTC-1 inquired T108 if there were any injuries, which T108 responded negative, over the next 2 minutes (T+9) RTC-1 assigned T108 as On Scene Commander (OSC) and initiated WMATA SOP1A (which is a checklist to follow during an emergency and at the same time initiates emergency procedures), also T108 reported that a railroad tie in the vicinity of the train was smoldering, T108 retrieved a fire extinguisher and proceeded to extinguish the rail tie, which was confirmed extinguished 9 minutes later. (T+20 ) About 1 minute later a rail supervisor Unit 4 (U4) had arrived at T108 after walking from NoMa and OSC responsibility was transferred from T108 to U4 at 12:39PM (T+21). A member of WMATA Safety Department arrived at Union Station at about 12:42PM (T+23) and requested permission from RTC-1 to walk to T108 along with 2 Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) officers. At about 12:45 (T+26) U4 confirmed that third rail power was de-energized on both the inbound and outbound tracks (Note: Once third rail power is de-energized for any reason the train’s HVAC (Heat/Ventilation/Air Condition system) shuts down, as well as the majority of the train interior lights for roughly 90-100 minutes at which point all lights extinguish). WMATA Emergency Management and MTPD took command of the incident at about 12:49PM (T+31). Two minutes later U4 reported the some of the side emergency doors had been opened to allow airflow on T108; due to the fact that T108 was on a incline some of the car end doors had difficulty remaining open. At about 1:00 PM (T+42) there was a shift change at the ROCC; the incoming RTC-1 over the next 15 minutes proceeded to request information that was given at the beginning of the incident, such as headcounts, status of the smoking rail tie, and if power was confirmed de-energized. At about 1:12PM (T+54) DC Fire reported a passenger on the trackbed, and RTC-1 asks U4 to perform another ground walk around to look for the passenger who is eventually found and escorted back aboard one of the last 6 cars.(T+54 – T+63) During this time RTC-1 asks the railcar mechanic for recommendations on possibly moving the trains, including asking at 1:18PM (T+60) if the train is still connected, and how far apart the cars are once informed that the train had pulled apart. From 1:15PM to about 1:50PM there were several discussions over the radio between RTC-1 and CMNT on options to move the trains. At 1:50PM (T+92) passengers began self evacuating with the assistance of DCFD; evacuation of all 8 cars is completed by 2:12PM(T+114) with passengers exiting via an emergency access gate onto Amtrak property at Union Station. The lead pair of cars were recovered by a train out of Brentwood Yard at 4:37PM arriving at the yard at 4:57PM followed by the trailing six cars under their own power arriving at Brentwood Yard at 5:04PM

Train 108 History

T108 entered passenger service on Friday, October 9th at 5:58AM from the Shady Grove Rail Yard; departing Shady Grove at 6:07AM as T108-6074-Glenmont-8 (The format is Train ID-Lead Car-Destination-Total cars in train), arriving at Glenmont at 7:17AM and departing back to Shady Grove as T108-6066-Shady Grove-8 at 7:25AM, arriving at 8:34AM; T108-6074-Glenmont-8 departed Shady Grove at 8:39AM arriving at Glenmont at 9:54AM; T108-6066-Shady Grove-8 departed Glenmont at 9:59AM arriving at Shady Grove at 11:13AM. T108-6074-Glenmont-8 departed Shady Grove on the incident trip at 11:32AM. T108 was operating in the manual mode with Automatic Train Protection enabled, the primary method of passenger operations (revenue service) on WMATA since Automatic Train Operations were suspended following the June 22, 2009 collision outbound of Ft. Totten on the Red Line.

Events of Concern

  • Apparent lack of coordination within the ROCC, including the transfer of information between shifts
  • Train 109 was single tracked via the inbound track pass the incident train at about 12:30PM after the operator of Train 108 had reported a smoking crosstie under Train 108
  • Nine minutes elapsed between the initial report of the incident and the implementation of WMATA SOP1A and appointment of T108 operator as initial On Scene Commander
  • Twenty-One minutes elapsed between the incident and the first mention of third rail power being de-energized, during which time T108 operator reported a smoking crosstie and the extinguishment of that crosstie
  • Thirty-One minutes elapsed between the incident and transfer of the Incident Command to WMATA Emergency Management upon their arrival
  • Blanket announcements informing personnel of the emergency and subsequent suspension of service from Gallery Place to Rhode Island Av only occurred four times in the first 114 minutes of the event – At 12:23PM; 12:54PM; 1:03PM and 2:07PM
  • Fifty-Three minutes elapsed before any radio coordination was made between the ROCC and on-scene personnel as to what action could be taken to move the train in order to evacuate the passengers aboard.
  • The RTC-1 issuing a permissive blocks for the recovery train (Train 705) at 4:31PM in violation of the Metrorail Safety Rules and Procedures Handbook (MSRPH) vs. the absolute block that is required of a train moving opposite of the normal direction of rail traffic

During the first 53 minutes since the initial report here was no discussion between ROCC and OSC on a plan to remove the passengers from any of the rail cars. The RTC was occupied with collecting information and redirecting train traffic between the two segments of the Red Line. The first blanket announcement from RTC-1 that service was suspended from Gallery Place – Rhode Island Av didn’t occur to until 12:54PM (T+36) with follow up blanket announcements at 1:03PM and 2:07PM. DC Fire and EMS was dispatched via Box Alarm to NoMa station at 12:36 PM (T+18) arriving at about 12:48PM. At 1:26PM (T+68) RTC-1 requests all personnel to clear the trackbed in order to restore third rail power, over the next 21 minutes RTC-1 discusses 2 plans to attempt to move the trains, one of which is discarded due to the damage during the pull-apart; the other due to a concern that the two car set could loose power while crossing a crossover, also during this time frame U4 asks about third rail power and reports passengers are getting anxious. At two points 1:06PM (T+48) and 1:47PM (T+89) DC Fire requested permission to enter the trackbed – was denied both times by RTC, and stated that permission to enter had to come from the incident commander, which had cleared DCFD to enter trackbed which DCFD proceeded to do at 1:46PM. From 1:06PM to 1:50PM there was multiple instances of conflicting information originating from WMATA ROCC to OSC and DCFD personnel.

Possible Solutions

  • Utilized Train 104 that was at NoMa enroute to Shady Grove to evacuate the passengers from the first two cars 6074-6075 by offloading the train at NoMa and clearing the crossover at Union Station, reversing, crossing over from the inbound to the outbound track to place Train 104 in front of car 6074 and reverse to within 3 feet of car 6074 to allow passengers to walk into Train 104 to be moved to NoMa or continue on towards Glenmont. Also utilize Train 110 that was two trains behind Train 108 by offloading Train 110 at Gallery Place then proceeding to move Train 110 to within 3 feet of the rear car of Train 108, car 6066; and walking passengers onto Train 110 which would then take the passengers back to Union Station. Time to complete this option would have been roughly 72 minutes at 1:30PM
  • Evacuate the passengers from the first two cars and escort them via the trackbed to the platform at NoMa and move the passengers into the last 4 cars of the 6 trailing cars, uncouple those 4 cars and move back towards Union Station. Time to complete this option would have been roughly 83 minutes at 1:45PM
  • Expediting evacuation to the trackbed. Time to complete this option would have been roughly 75 minutes at 1:33PM

1 The definition of both train pull apart and undesired uncoupling as given in the Metrorail Safety Rules and Procedures Handbook (MSRPH) is as follows:

Train Pull-Apart: The separation of a train at the location of the mechanical couplers while the train is in motion or starting up from a stopped position without any manipulation of the uncoupling controls by the train operator or at the semi-permanent couplers between married car units. Usually accompanied by damage to the mechanical coupler or the semi-permanent coupler and their associated draft gear.

Undesired Uncoupling: The separation of the train at the mechanical couplers while the train is in motion or when starting up from a stopped position without any manipulation of the uncoupling controls by the train operator. Usually this type of uncoupling or train separation will not cause any damage to the mechanical couplers or the electric coupler heads.

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