Train Operators Running Red Signals

In the news recently was a story about two (2) train operators running a red signal at Brentwood Yard (B99).  What surprised me wasn’t that they passed a red signal but rather that it was reported at all.

Ever since I started working at Metro in 1983, operators have been running red signals in rail yards (and, less frequently, on the mainline).  It doesn’t typically happen every day, or even every week, but it is fairly common.  Sometimes nothing happens.  Other times a switch is “trailed” (forced from one position to the other by the train wheels) or damaged (if the switch isn’t trailable) — which is the case at B99.  Occasionally a train will derail, particularly in yards like B99 where the switches mechanically lock and are not trailable.

Regardless of what happens, if it is in the yard it is (or was) very rare for the media to be notified.  It’s almost like, “What happens in the yard stays in the yard.”

Years ago at Shady Grove yard (A99) when switches were trailed they would often be pried back over to their original position without any report being filed.  This was a sort of goodwill gesture or “professional courtesy” between Maintenance & Construction (M&C) and Operations back in the day.

For a long time there was an “event recorder” at A99 (with the old ‘tractor feed’ fan fold paper) but last I knew there had not been one there for years.  The event recorder is a data logger that records when anything changes state — when a signal goes from red to lunar (clear), when a track circuit goes from occupied to unoccupied, or when a switch is thrown from normal to reverse.  Without the event recorder it’s more difficult to recreate exactly what happened.

I’m glad to see that Metro seems to be taking these events seriously.  In this particular case, it is worth emphasizing that the signal in question is on the left which is extremely unusual.  Almost all signals are on the right.  In addition, a train yard has numerous signals so it is understandable that this particular situation at B99 could be confusing.

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One Response to Train Operators Running Red Signals

  1. Pingback: Two more Metro train operators ran through red | Washington D.C. Metro From the Inside Out

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