There are derailments at Metro on a regular basis, they just aren’t reported in the media.
They can get away with it because there’s no oversight and because there typically aren’t any passengers on board.
Most of these derailments happen in the train yards. There are several yards around the system, typically they are located just beyond the end-of-the-line ‘terminal’ stations — Glenmont (B98), Greenbelt (E99), Shady Grove (A99), etc. There are some exceptions like Brentwood Yard (B99 – near Union Station) and West Falls Church Yard (K99) in VA.
The ‘wallpaper’ for this blog is a photo I took at one such derailment behind the Shady Grove station (A15). In fact, there were two (2) derailments there within about one month — at the exact same spot (with just a couple feet). In both cases a lot of emergency equipment showed up and there were helicopters flying over the area but there was nothing reported in the news.
The derailments in the yards do not usually get that much attention. Needless to say, they are almost never reported by the media.
Although there are usually no injuries and passengers aren’t involved, any derailment is a serious matter. It is an indication that there is something wrong — operator fatigue, improper track maintenance, running a red signal, wheels not ‘turned’ properly, etc. If the cause is not discovered and dealt with promptly the next derailment might involve a revenue train on the mainline.
Below are some photos I took at the two (2) derailments behind A15. The first three are from the derailment on March 24, 2009, and the others are from April 23:
WMATA and emergency personnel.
What was left of one of our impedance bonds. They’re pricey — I’ve been told about $5,000 each.
This shot was taken looking southeast/inbound. The concrete building in the distance houses the Shady Grove station (A15) ‘Blockhouse’, as well as mechanical, electrical, ATC, and COMM rooms. In the foreground is a switch and a switch machine (the gray box to the right). The yellow piece is a ‘switch block’, which is nothing more than a block of wood that is inserted into the switch to prevent it from moving from the desired position — in this case ‘normal’ or straight though.
Hmmm…that doesn’t look right.
What’s left of the third rail, third rail cover, and insulators
This was the replacement for the impedance bond that was destroyed in the first derailment a month earlier.
In my humble opinion, incidents this serious should be reported to the media, and any government agencies that may have an interest — the Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC), the FRA, the NTSB, federal and state OSHA, etc.
We all pay for accidents like this — the labor and materials involved in cleaning up the mess. More importantly, as I mentioned above, a derailment like this should be a cause for concern, and initiate an investigation rather than a yawn.