Last night, at approximately 6:30, I was passing through Metro Center on my way home from work. I was standing at the far end of the upper platform, waiting for a Red Line train to Glenmont.Other items:
A train to Silver Spring pulled into the station on the track closest to me. Shortly after that, I heard a Shady-Grove-bound train enter the station on the other track. Then, I heard several loud, metal-on-metal bangs.
I've never heard a train derail, but that was what I thought it was at first.
I looked around but couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from, since the Silver Spring train was blocking my view of the other platform. I didn't hear any screaming or any announcements from the train operator or station manager, so I reasoned it couldn't be that bad.
The Silver Spring train pulled out of the station and the other train looked fine - it was unloading and loading normally.
But as it started to pull away I noticed several spots of bright light under the front two or three cars, which I quickly realized were flames, A shower of bright orange sparks spewed from underneath the train as it moved out of the station.
After pausing for a moment to process the fact that, yes, the train was actually on fire, I hightailed it to the Metro Center station manager's booth. I looked for a Metro employee on the platform, but there wasn't one.
By the time I got to the station manager's booth, several other riders were already there, describing the incident to her.
I heard one of those women, who seemed to have been closer to the flaming cars than I was, say that it seemed to be the "loopy things that hang down on the bottom" (her words).
I can't confirm this, as I was too far away to see where exactly the flames were coming from.
The station manager assured us that the train would be taken out of service, and we all went our separate ways. I finished the rest of my commute without incident.
I've been taking most of the recent Metro safety issues in stride, since it's still the easiest way for me to get to work. But I have to say it was a little disconcerting to see a train with actual flames coming out from under it and to realize the riders on board had no idea anything was wrong.
I know there have been incidents with trains smoking or catching fire before, but do you know if this is an ongoing, consistent mechanical issue, kind of like the brake discs that were wearing out too quickly?
The loud bangs I heard initially made me wonder if there was something on the tracks that the train might have hit, but I saw another train pull in and out on that track after the damaged one, and there weren't any loud noises or sparks.
Could the brakes or something on the underside of the cars have ruptured/exploded as the train came into the station?
You or your sources at Metro would know much better than I, but this might be worth investigating.
Between the buses and the trains, Metro can't seem to keep the flames at bay. What next? Will Dan Stessel spontaneously combust during a press conference?
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