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“This train will now be off-loaded. All customers must exit the train at this time. This train is now OUT OF SERVICE.”

August 7, 2004, 12:48 AM

Yes, this phrase actually happened to me at Metro Center on Wednesday, on the Red Line platform in the direction of Shady Grove. That was delay number three of three delays I experienced on the Red Line. Let me tell you what happened…

First of all, after going out to Rockville to meet Oren of Oren’s Transit Page, I went out to Shady Grove to see the Shady Grove rail yard, the adjacent Ride-On bus yard, and get a rail-to-bus transfer to use on Ride-On a little later.

So after I got back to the train at Shady Grove and boarded, the train operator made this announcement:

“This is the Red Line to Glenmont by way of downtown Washington DC. Stand clear, doors will be closing.”

This was followed by the “doors closing” announcement and the chime. And we’re off! Or so we thought. Before we’ve even completely cleared the station, the train stops, and the train operator said that we are experiencing a delay and that we will be going back to Shady Grove and opening the doors again. So the train is put into reverse and we are back where we started. “Doors opening!”

After a few minutes, we’re off. I got off at Rockville, and caught the 48 Ride-On bus from Rockville across Montgomery County to Wheaton station. Wheaton, by the way, is home to the longest escalator in the western hemisphere. It’s a deep station. So I rode the Red Line out to Glenmont (one station) to get some Ride-On photos and also some new station photos. Got a really nice one from the mezzanine escalator that I’m now using as my background. Glenmont, due to the orange lighting, I’m guessing, makes for good backgrounds on the computer.

So after doing what I wanted to do at Glenmont, I left via train to go back to downtown Washington DC. Or so I’d hope. We had lengthy delays at Glenmont, Wheaton, and Forest Glen. And we were operating in Mode 2 (manual operation) the whole time to Takoma station. This was due to a flood in a control room at Silver Spring a week or so ago, which requires replacement of all the equipment in that room, leaving a “dark” area of the system at Central Control. The signals in the dark area actually had black garbage bags over them so that operators would know not to use them. At Takoma, the operator switched over to Mode 1 (automatic train control) and things progressed as usual.

I got off this train at Union Station, where I made a small pit-stop. Went to the bathroom, got a soda, etc. Then it was back to the train. Due to the delays from Glenmont to Takoma, instead of short-turning trains at Silver Spring, which they usually do, they were short-turning trains at Brookland-CUA. Thus we saw some odd signage, with trains signed for Brookland-CUA instead of Silver Spring. So I caught a Brookland-CUA train to see what they would do. Oren and I had discussed it earlier and we thought they’d just change ends at the station and go back. Turns out that the Brookland-CUA train went out of service and went beyond the station with a second operator on the other end. Then they turned around beyond the station.

From Brookland, I rode straight over to Metro Center, which I rode to in order to ceremonially complete my ride over the entire Red Line, so I could say I rode the entire length of the whole Red Line. So I got off my Shady Grove-bound train at Metro Center. Then I heard the train operator announce that due to a sick passenger on the train ahead of us at Farragut North, that the train would be delayed. Lovely. But I did take the opportunity to get some pictures of the end of the train (a Rohr). Then a couple of minutes later, the train operator announced, “Due to a sick passenger at Farragut North, this train will now be off-loaded. All customers must exit the train at this time. This train is now OUT OF SERVICE.” You could almost hear the collective groan of the passengers as they got off, and the train operator changed the sign to “NO PASSENGERS”. This was reinforced by a station announcement that Shady Grove trains would be arriving on the Glenmont platform, since Metro determined it would be best to single-track trains around the incident.

For those of you who don’t know, single-tracking involves using the same track to run trains going in both directions, alternating which direction uses the track. The best analogy to how single-tracking works outside of a rail system is in a road construction site. Have you ever seen the guys holding the SLOW/STOP signs? On one side is the orange “SLOW” sign, and the other side is the red “STOP” sign. Then they use that sign to let each side of the road take turns using the one available lane. That’s basically how single-tracking works.

So we’re on the other platform now, experiencing delay number three of the day. The Shady Grove train, a CAF, is single-tracked into the station on the Glenmont tracks. Weird seeing it wrong-rail into the station. The platform was fully packed. I had gone way beyond where the end of a six-car train would stop in order to get in the front to get pretty movies of the train wrong-railing in, since no one wanted to let me in the front otherwise to get movies, understandably, since they were jockeying for position on the train and in a hurry, while I was not in a hurry. It turned out to be a four-car train, which made one lady, who can be heard on the movie, say “A four car train!” and then laugh.

After they got the sick passenger taken care of and the trains moving, they had to clear the crowds. They opened the train that had been off-loaded earlier back up, and sent it to Shady Grove, causing all those already-somewhat-irritated people to go back to their correct side. Meanwhile, the first Glenmont operator announced that there were SEVEN trains right behind us to clear this load, and not to all get on the first train. I think I took that seventh train, since I wasn’t in a hurry, and didn’t particularly want to ride a train that was filled to its “crush load”. I think you’ll agree that would be somewhat unpleasant.

So once I got on a Glenmont-bound train, I went the 900 feet to Gallery Place-Chinatown, where I caught a Green Line train to Branch Avenue, and also a great shot of the Yellow Line artwork. Went to Archives-Navy Memorial, where I got off and went up topside to get some Panda photos, plus just sit down and take a moment on something that’s not moving. Then I got back on, took a Green Line CAF to L’Enfant Plaza, and got off again to transfer to a Yellow Line train to Huntington.

As a side note, I do make a specific point to always ride some part of all five lines in at least one direction on my trips to Washington. Sometimes it’s a little forced, as this was, and sometimes I can do it more naturally. This time was forced, as I deliberately took Green from Gallery Place to L’Enfant Plaza to get my “recommended daily allowance of Green Line”. Realize I could have caught Yellow Line at Gallery Place right off the bat and not worried about Green. But this is me we’re talking about.

So at L’Enfant Plaza I was waiting for a train. Got into an interesting discussion with a Capitol Police officer who was off duty and on his way home. Since Wednesday was the first day that Capitol Police were searching vehicles at checkpoints near the Capitol, it had made a lot of press, at least in DC, being front-page news on practically all the DC area newspapers. The officer’s response? “It sucks.” He also commented that he was more concerned about getting run over than about actually encountering terrorists. Not a surprise. I’ve been saying lately that if you want to give Homeland Security something useful to do, put them in charge of reducing the idiot count. That means taking the really dangerous morons, idiots, and bozos off the streets, who really don’t mean to cause harm but do it because they don’t have the common sense to know better and be more careful. I still say idiots are bigger threats than terrorists. Terrorists just put their work out where everyone can see it, whereas idiots aren’t nearly as showy when they strike, but can be far more deadly. Terrorists may do it and mean it, but idiots are otherwise good, law-abiding citizens who just simply aren’t bright enough to know better.

Okay… end of tangent. Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, L’Enfant Plaza. So I was there, and doing the other thing I like to do on these trips, and that is riding all four different car types. As such, I try to ride a Rohr, a Breda (as long as the seats are orange, it doesn’t bother me whether it’s a 2000, 3000, or 4000 series car to satisfy the Breda requirement), a CAF, and a Breda rehab. Sometimes it comes naturally, like how you can almost always catch a CAF on the Green Line, and how Rohrs are prevalent on Red and Blue. But sometimes it’s forced, like at L’Enfant Plaza. I sat out something like six trains to get a ride on a full four-car consist of Breda rehabs on the Yellow Line that I saw going the other direction earlier.

So I got my rehabs. And I went to Pentagon City, to the mall. Yay.

After that, I took the Yellow Line down to Huntington to visit the Exeloo. Did that, then took Yellow back to King Street, where I switched to Blue to go back to Rosslyn, and from there, Vienna, and then from there, home again!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee…

And yes, I want to make DC my life all the time, I really do. I enjoy the area very much.

Web site: The Schumin Web Transit Center for Metro - try and follow along with what stations I went to.

Song: The "song" that the Breda rehabs make as they leave a station...

Quote: "Four car train? Ha!"