Metro News Release

For immediate release: October 28, 2004

Metro details final investigation report into the August 19th pocket track train derailment at the Silver Spring Metrorail station

At today’s Operations and Safety Committee Meeting, Fred Goodine, Metro’s Assistant General Manager for System Safety and Risk Protection announced the probable cause of the derailment of a Metrorail train north of the Silver Spring Metrorail station on August 19, 2004. The combination of the following factors were identified as the probable cause of the derailment:

  • dry, unlubricated rail;
  • side wear on the switch point;
  • close contact of the wheel, on the rail; and
  • speed transition at the point of derailment.
On August 19, 2004, at approximately 2:16 p.m., the front wheels of lead car 5186 derailed on track 3 (pocket track) just north of the Silver Spring Metrorail station. The train traveled 62 feet before coming to a stop. No passengers were aboard the train, and the train operator was not injured. Train 205, a six-car Red Line train, was moving slowly out of the pocket track toward the inbound mainline track in Automatic Train Operation (ATO) to begin service at the Silver Spring Metrorail station in the direction of Grosvenor-Strathmore. The derailment occurred at a switch in a segment of track leading to the mainline track. The derailed train did not encroach upon the inbound or outbound mainline track. At the time of the incident, Red Line train service operated through the affected location with minimal delays to the customers. Mr. Goodine noted that between April 2003 and October 2004, three other derailments involving the 5000-series rail cars (CAF cars), occurred in Metro’s rail yards, or on tracks leading to a rail yard (yard lead track) with the following similarities:
  • All of these derailments occurred either inside a rail yard on a yard lead track, or a pocket track location, without passengers.
  • At the time of each incident, all trains were operating at speeds of 5 to 10 mph, and were negotiating tight curves.
  • At the time of each incident, these trains were operating on tracks that were dry and unlubricated. Under certain conditions (dry track, high coefficient of friction at wheel/rail interface, tight curves, speed transition), wheels have a tendency to climb up the rail. Lubrication of the track reduces this tendency.
"The one point that I would like to emphasize is that the 5000-series rail cars are safe for our customers," said Mr. Goodine. "In each instance, the trains were not carrying passengers. The incidents happened in a rail yard, yard lead track, or pocket track and in each location, the track was not lubricated. On our mainline or revenue service operations, all of switches are lubricated and the curves are not as tight as those in the rail yard or on lead tracks and pocket tracks. "It is also important to note that this is not the first time we have had to make changes to our rail cars and track," continued Mr. Goodine. "In the 1980’s after we received the Breda 3000-series rail cars, we had to make similar changes to the track inside our rail yards to conform with those cars. The same situation may apply here. We have a Rail Safety Subcommittee that is currently reviewing the operational characteristics of the 5000-series rail cars, along with track conditions to see if anything will need to be modified in the future." Mr. Goodine made the following recommendations:
  • Review Metro track standards for acceptable and allowable wear on the tracks at switch points.
  • Lubricate all switches that are similar to the switch at which the derailment occurred.
  • Move forward with the ongoing program to install guardrails on all switches similar to the type involved in the derailment.
  • Monitor all track inspection cycles and receive reports from inspectors for any trends or anomalies.
  • Establish a policy to conduct a full wheel/rail interface study for each new series of rail cars that Metro receives.
  • Conduct a wheel/rail interface study. This was recently approved by the Board to study current track and rail car standards.

News release issued on October 28, 2004.