More details emerge on CTA Red Line subway track fire

Here are some -- sometimes strange -- fact we've learned in the aftermath of Sunday's track fire just south of Clark/Division station on the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line:

The fire started when an electrical arc ignited curve greases used to reduce the screeching noise of wheels on the metal track.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez used the incident to plead for more capital dollars in improve the agency's aging infrastructure.

Though Tuesday's Trib report noted there are other ways to control friction between wheels and rails that don't involve the older curve-greaser technology.

The Tribune also reported how the smoke may have spread: "The operator of a Red Line train who reported a fire in the subway on
Sunday was told by the CTA control center to proceed through the smoky
tunnel after he told officials the fire had dissipated, the president of
the rail workers union said [Monday]. . . . But by passing over the fire, the train dragged smoke all over the
place,'' [union leader Robert] Kelly said."


Meanwhile, less than a day after the accident, some knucklehead exploded firecrackers around 1 pm Monday at State and Jackson on the Red Line. This caused another smoky scare, though no injuries.


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  • 1. I guess that debunks the "wooden ties" theory.

    2. However, using "curve greasers" as another justification to plead for "more capital money" is probably pushing it. For one, I remember when the 6000s screamed through that curve with their windows open and no greasers (or even Vinnie Barbarino) and still, as a matter of behavioral conditioning, expect to hear that. It can't cost that much to change a couple of them.

    3. For people like MK (who admittedly wasn't there), I hope that the NTSB investigates this one. We sure learned a lot about CTA operations from the NTSB investigation of the Blue Line derailment at the Lake/Milwaukee curve.

  • What's wrong with the operator? He thought the fire was out and told the control center that. Based on that info, the Control Center told him to operate through the smoky area and go to the next station.
    OK - all makes sense. Except....the fire wasn't out.

    So when the operator sees in front of him that the fire wasn't out out, why doesn't he contact control for revised instructions? Why does he operate right through a fire?

    And why does the union president present this as if the Control Center is to blame? The operator acknowledges he gave (albeit unknowingly) the wrong info.
    I just think something is missing from this account.

  • Golly. I leave town for a few days to enjoy the excitement of Milwaukee and I miss all the fun.

  • I will try again. Just the mere fact that there is conflicting information about communications efforts tells me that the CTA needs to keep working so that if an accident happens again, everyone agrees information got out there.

  • The NTSB investigates everything associated with the accident, not just the immediate cause.

    Why don't you read the report on the Blue Line derailment? I did, especially after people posted on the old version of the Tattler that Big Baby and the crew were "scapegoats," because the union said so.

    Also, by saying that I want to see an NTSB report, I sure am not saying that I am jumping to conclusions.

  • MK, you're right about the Columbine book. I read it. Very well-written and researched. But as you note these are different situations. And there were some eyewitness accounts published in comments that were not filtered by the media.

    Regardless, I still submit the CTA can do better on passenger communications. Just like we all can. We're all humans.

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