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Red Line fails when a train derails

Red Line train off the rails

Derailed Red Line train. Photo by BFD.

The Boston Fire Department reports evacuating 60 people from an outbound Braintree train that derailed at JFK/UMass around 6:10 a.m.

The department reports one person suffered a minor injury but declined an ambulance ride.

The T is reporting "severe" delays on the Red Line.

The T started running shuttle buses:

Another view of the car (photo by Paul Nutting Jr.):

Derailed Red Line train
Free tagging: 


We're only three years away from new Red Line trains. (Although this was probably a track problem.)

This doesn't look like a track problem to me. Notice how only one car of the entire six car train derailed. If it was a track problem, you'd likely see more of the train off the tracks. This looks like something wrong with one particular car.


even if only one car derailed.


It was going through the switch where the track from the Cabot yard/shops joins the Braintree line southbound. Anytime a switch is involved, track becomes the first place to look. All of those switches were replaced just a few years ago, so the age of the infrastructure can't be blamed if it does turn out to be a track problem.

for delays on the Red Line due to switch issues at JFK/UMass, including 15 minute delays last night, reported at 8:12pm.

Of course, switch problems at JFK/UMass are nothing too unusual, but I wonder if this contributed to the derailment.

This is practically at the platform, hundreds of feet from a switch.

The derailed car is right on top of the switch between the access track from the yard and the main line.

and initially remained upright, then flopped over as it was being dragged. Not an uncommon scenario in derailments of this type.

There is a reason why us T workers call it malfunction junction.


MBTA will announce today that it is creating its own fire department to respond to all the derailments,fires, suicides,train accidents, medical issues, hazmat situations, homeless transports,that have overwhelmed the brave men and women of the Boston Fire Department.




That will fix things.
The kids had field trips today so they got to choose, stay home or deal with the delays, they chose their beds.


Bets on how long it will take until union officials start pushing for going back to two motorpersons? They tried that BS with ghost train.

Would a second motorperson not have been able to stop that ghost car? Seems better than having Operations having to kill power to make it stop...

The ghost train driver physically tied something off and stepped away. So if a second driver was in the same control area, all of that could have been avoided yes. But I believe operator #2 usually was at the other end of the train back in the day.

The GUARD was in the second-to-last car in the front cab and operated the doors. That was the second operator of the trains back then. Unless brakes were available from that cab too (probably wouldn't have worked as well either due to not being in front of the train anyway), I don't see any way the guard could have stopped the ghost train.

Operators can pass through the doors from car to car, no? It's not ideal/safe, obviously. But wouldn't they have access (i.e. keys, etc.) to move from train car to train car?

And some airlines are pushing to get rid of the co-pilot on short commercial flights. I can’t wait to fly on one of those flights.

I can't believe that buses have operated for years with only one driver and one steering wheel. How could we allow this when there are jobs, I mean, SAFETY is at issue?!

/s/ (added for Roadman)

But I'll assume you've never seen the cockpit of a commercial airliner.

I waited for a shuttle until just before 7 (almost 50 minutes) before hoping on an 8 bus to Ruggles then up the Orange line. Only one shuttle came during the time I waited. Got to work 1.5 hours later than normal.

Communication was terrible. T employees and police were rude (as were BFD and BPD, though I think they have less responsibility to be respectful here). No one seemed to really "take charge."

At one point someone said a commuter rail train would be making a special stop, get on if you're going to South Station - then a southbound train pulls in. That was the same time the one shuttle was boarding.

I know the T can't predict when major shutdowns like this will happen, but shutdowns are happening pretty much every day somewhere on the T - how are they not better prepared for this?

On a side note, anyone ride the 8 bus? That route seems especially chosen to pass through all the saddest parts of Boston.


I have built my life around a reliance on the T. Until the last couple of months, it has gotten me to work on time more or less. No longer.


The staff of the T and the BFD / BPD should never be rude. The people off that train had just experienced something very frightening. Even if the passengers were not rattled by the experience, the staff(s) should be very apologetic and anxious to help.
That said, I have seen the "victims" of such accidents be REALLY obnoxious and rude. You get what you give.

The MBTA staff on hand at JFK were really bad. They were making decisions with the buses that made things actively worse, and were extremely rude about it on top of it.


How were they rude? Any examples? You didn't by chance make suggestions as to what they should be doing?

I had forgotten about the 8.

I don't what I would have done in that situation as an alternative to waiting for the shuttle, especially when it was raining heavily earlier. Probably walk to Dot Ave and try to catch an 18, or walk JFK to Andrew along the park, or grab a citybike if the rack wasn't empty. The "18" or "walking" options work on the risky assumption that there would be something useful to connect to at Andrew.
Making the lateral move to another line, like 8 to Orange or (longer walk) outbound 16 to Orange, might be the better idea.

Its almost laughable. Almost.

The MBTA is unfixable without MAJOR intervention from an outside Federal agency with absolute power so we don't have every spouse, neighbor, and tangentially related cousin of developers and city officials dipping into the trough.

Of course that will never happen because the new residents of the city who sit in multimillion dollar apartments won't stand for the major construction.

So we deal with it. A world class city that can't get out of it's own way.

This is obviously not something the T can plan for, given the circumstances, although it seems that they had some idea that this might be a problem with switch problems yesterday (this is known to many as Malfunction Junction).

But the T really should have a playbook for what to do when any section of line has to be taken out of service. In this case, all Commuter Rail trains should have stopped in both directions (although lord knows they don't have enough spare capacity to carry the entire Red Line). There should be communication of which buses are operating where, whether shuttles or normal routes which can provide connections. The 8 and 41 would be reasonable options to get to the Orange Line, although they definitely don't have the spare capacity for thousands of Red Line passengers. And since it would take something on the order of 10 buses per Red Line train to carry the same number of passengers, the T doesn't have enough spare buses sitting around for something like this without robbing service from other lines.

My question is whether, given where the derailed car was sitting, it would have been possible to straight-line the interlocking and run everything on the Red Line from Alewife to Ashmont. The Braintree tracks are fouled, but could the T at least have made it through rush hour without having to bus the whole line. It might also have been possible to run Braintree service in to a "terminal" on the inbound track at JFK/UMass and have passengers transfer across over to the Ashmont tracks, or potentially even through-route some inbound trains across south of the platforms to the Ashmont tracks (there's a good track map here). This would have kept disruptions to a minimum on the rest of the line. I assume the issue would have had to do with power, and that the whole interlocking had to be shut down with the derailed train. But if there were a way to isolate the offending portion of the interlocking and deal with it after rush hour, it would have helped everyone.

There's a *much* longer term discussion about why we have such complex track work at JFK/UMass at all. A lot of it has to do with Cabot Yard, which was built in the '70s to replace the old Eliot Yards where HKS is now in Harvard Square. Of course, Cabot sits on some pricey real estate, and has long access tracks along the Old Colony to get in and out from the Red Line, as well as the complex junction at JFK/UMass ("Columbia Junction"). The T wants to double-down on Cabot but I'd wonder if it would make sense to look for some land in more outlying areas (like in the median of the Braintree Split) which could be used for Red Line facilities, freeing up the land at Cabot for development and freeing the T of all of the switches at JFK/UMass.


Maybe stop pitching and start reading

have the junction of the Ashmont and Braintree branches. This interlocking is where the bulk of the problems are occurring, and not the switches into and out of Cabot.

about the MBTA needing to be "prepared" as best as possible, but (sincerely asking) how does an entity like that "better prepare" for a mechanical failure/incident when there's no way of having complete foresight as to 1) when it will occur, 2) where it will occur, 3) what mode of transport it will occur on, 4) if enough staff is present to cover a shuttle, 5) what equipment is needed for deployment to correct the issue, dependent on how it plays-out, etc...

I don't disagree at all about needing to ensure back-ups are in place as best as possible for times where the s**t hits the fan. I just don't know how that can be effectively executed without digging into more resources (financially) to make it happen.

If the police were rude to you call 617-222-1201 and file a formal complaint. Chief Green will not tolerate his officers being rude to the riding public.

The infrastructure in this country is crumbling, and will continue to crumble. All of these old train systems, in Boston and elsewhere will continue to get worse. And the Fed would rather prop up the military instead of re-building America. And I say this with all the T problems in mind, not just today.


The T are trying to "justify" reasons for MORE "fare increases" .

or it will continue to fail and not be invested in the future. Pave over the tracks to allow buses, automated vehicles, etc. to drive traffic free without nearly as high capital or maintenance costs. Or invest $5B today and wait until that gets mismanaged, customers don't see the benefits, and then we will just need another $10B 8 years later.

At this point the only thing that will pull us out of the coming recession/depression (those bigly tax cuts don't pay for themselves) is war.

Boltons always wanted war except now have an unstable enough dictator that as the walls close in on Trump legally, I fully expect bombs to drop in Tehran.

Woah, wait. Werent we talking about the T?!?

That was scary. Hope you’re lying down with a cold facecloth over your forehead. Godspeed to you.

They didn't stop and go, stop and go; no 'scheduling adjustments'. Trains, even streetcars on the Green Line, moved fast (yes, a lot of squealing wheels). They didn't slow down to a crawl before entering stations. On the Green Line, trains simply entered into stations even if another train was in front already in the ststion; they didn't stop and wait in the tunnel until and the train in the station exited. Green Line stations underground have plenty of room for more than one two-car train.

Dunno. Afraid of legal liability of some kind, extra cautious? The singling system is that bad? Micro-managing?

Totally sick of the Charlie and the Great and General Court show with their hit song "Can't Subsidize the City that Subsidizes The Rest of the State" with the famous lyrics "can't ever fix it because we gotta punish everyone because some working class people got living wages and pensions!"

Can we just call for a riot at the statehouse garage already?


But a sit in around the garage isnt that bad of an idea actually.

I am starting to believe that Charlie Baker really has done nothing substantive or controversial for Massachusetts.

He could take a more active role is fixing the T
He could take a stand on the Weymouth Compressor station
He could grow a backbone
He could stop worrying about his political future and start working for the people of Massachusetts.

Milquetoast Baker


Some of us have been on the "Low Bar Baker" train for a while. (Because when you're a white man, doing a good job is a low bar.)



1) Washington State
2) Utah
3) Massachusetts

That the economy has plenty of money to fix the goddamn transit systems in the state.


It's sad that doing nothing gets him the highest popularity ranking among governors (https://morningconsult.com/2019/01/10/americas-most-and-least-popular-go...).

Doing nothing seems to be what works to keep your job in government. God forbid you ask citizens and businesses to contribute to maintenance of civilization.

Like be very popular.



have you seen the polls showing how popular he is?


Charlie fixed everything that was wrong with the T by firing Beverly Scott because the Red Line was shut down due to a huge snowstorm. Then he hired a man with zero transit experience, who is now gone too. Any other problems have been solved by cutting spending and privatizing services.

Seriously though, Charlie is a fraud, always has been a fraud,and will continue to be a fraud, but you sheep keep on voting for him. A recent article said he's thinking about a third term.


not show up at the polls at all, at least in the actual Boston area. Those are the people primarily to blame since you have everyone west of 495, including the entire 413 area code (aka Tea Party Country), voting for him unconditionally anyway. SHow up tot he polls abnd vote him out. Walk if necessary, if the T isn't working that day. Learn where your polling place is and make sure you're registered. This also applies for the 2020 election as 2016 had the exact same problem.

Beverly Scott said "you can't fire me, I quit."

Just now?

Orange Line, you're next!

Seriously, does the T have a crisis management team? There is a need for experienced people in that role and with the T's massive payroll, they should be able to fund it. There are men and women who love this stuff and are very good at it, dealing with the immediate aftermath of derailments or unplanned things, coordinating shuttles and routes in an orderly way and generally demonstrating to passengers that someone from T has "got this."

One common theme in all of these things seems to be that nobody knew what to do after rescues were made and the immediate danger was neutralized. Hire someone experienced please, not a state rep's nephew with a bullhorn and no training.


Did they get that derailed train out of the way? Is everything back to normal switching problems?