A fun day was had by all…

10 minute read

October 27, 2005, 11:48 PM

Now that I’m back home, I’d like to tell you about my surprisingly eventful day in Washington on Wednesday. As I mentioned before, I spent much of the day railfanning with my friend Matthew Tilley. The day was “surprisingly” eventful for two main reasons. One was an incident at New Carrollton, and the other was an incident at Ballston.

I met up with Matthew Tilley at Rosslyn Center, where we’d previously agreed to meet. Not finding him right away, I looked outside the door, and saw a person matching his description outside. The person pulled out their cell phone. I had a feeling that mine would be ringing shortly. Not wanting to be detected, since I knew what I wanted to do here (you’ll see), I quietly stepped outside the door and waited. My cell phone went off as expected. “Hello?” Matthew says, “Where are you?” I replied, “I’m right behind you.” He turned around and hung up the phone. We ended up sitting at the tables on the first floor of Rosslyn Center for a few minutes before starting out, talking about what Metro and what we were going to do for the day and such.

Then we started out. Blue Line in the direction of Franconia-Springfield. We went as far as King Street. There, we got off, and I discovered a strange object on the platform:

Mystery item on the platform at King Street

Funny that for all the fuss Metro makes about not leaving unattended items in trains or stations that they leave their new blast-resistant trash cans sitting unattended in their boxes on the station platform. That just struck me as odd. Of course, looking at the sizes of the boxes, the fact that the company name on the box is BlastGard International, and that there’s a shipping label specifying Branch Avenue Yard, it didn’t take long to figure out what it was. It just struck me as odd but also quite funny.

I also got a picture of Matthew at King Street, and here he is:

Matthew at King Street

From King Street, we caught a Yellow Line train to Huntington. We checked out the view up top, watching some trains move in and out of Huntington, and then went down to the other mezzanine to check out the Exeloo, which was closed on this particular occasion. A shame. Oh, well.

Back on the platform at Huntington around 1 PM, while photographing Breda 2021, the same rail supervisor who gave me problems while photographing the “money train” at Huntington on August 31 came by. He said to me, in an accusatory tone, “Didn’t the police officer talk to you about taking pictures in here?” I just replied, “He was fine with it.” The rail supervisor walked off without saying anything. I don’t think he was pleased that the officer sided with me on that day and not with him. If this particular supervisor gives me any problems about photography a third time in the future, then I will consider it harrassment, and deal with it as such.

Following that, we rode up to L’Enfant Plaza and transferred to the Blue Line, and rode through what I described to Matthew as the most boring stretch of Metro known to man. Seriously. From east of L’Enfant Plaza to Stadium-Armory, there is nothing really exciting. All the stations are island platform, with the waffle-style architecture, and one mezzanine. Seriously, nothing exciting. Then the bridge past RFK is fun, with the pocket track and the D&G Junction.

We arrived at Morgan Boulevard, and got out. Matthew’s comment was that the area was so peaceful and so quiet. My comment was that it was quiet only for now, because the station’s brand new. I said give it a few years, and development will catch up to it.

Getting back on the train, we got a CAF out to Largo – first CAF of the day for me, I might add. Matthew got a CAF to Rosslyn, making this his second CAF, but I got a Breda. At Largo, we headed over to the Boulevard at the Capital Centre for a little bit. One of these days, I’m going to spend a significant time over there. Then going back to Largo Town Center station, we went up to the top of the parking garage and over to the bridge (which connects both garages). Nice view from up there. Then we went down the other side and around to the “Largo Beacon” artwork. I took the opportunity to get better photos of it, since it was sunny. I also photographed the station entrance pylon for use as a photo feature. I’m sure I looked strange getting that shot, since I crouched low and close to the pylon to get it.

From there, we rode back in to Stadium-Armory (where I got some tunnel movies), and then back out again to New Carrollton. At New Carrollton, we planned a stop at the Amtrak station there for a snack, but first, we had some business to attend to. That was that we wanted to see the yard at New carrollton, which is accomplished by going to the top of the parking structure. The elevator wasn’t working on the end closest to the station, and so, not realizing there was an elevator on the other side as well, we took the stairs to the top, walking like five levels.

Getting to the top, we were disappointed to see that the leaves on the trees blocked much of the storage tracks from view. But you could still see quite a bit. We even saw a train leave the yard to enter service.

Then it was back to the New Carrollton Amtrak station (which shares a building with the Metro station). There, we got our snack, and ate it in the waiting room. Now let me share the seats in this waiting room with you. Take a look:

Seats at New Carrollton Amtrak station

Note the low design, and the flat design of the legs, sitting on smooth tile. Stay with me now.

So Matthew and I are enjoying our snack. I had a banana and a lemonade. Finishing those, I put the remains down on the seat next to me where I had my camera and such. Then I leaned forward to adjust my shoe. This caused the seat to slide backwards and flip backwards, landing me flat on my behind. I was unhurt. I was surprised, what with the loud noise of the chair crashing behind me, but completely unhurt. You see, I have a lot of padding down there, so I was well cushioned. My first reaction was to say, “I’m fine!” and then while I was down there, adjusted my socks as I was going to do in the first place. Nonetheless, a number of people in the waiting room checked to see if I was all right, and after I picked the chair up and re-seated myself, an Amtrak employee came by to make sure I was okay. I told him I was fine, too, all the while laughing somewhat loudly over the whole incident.

After that, we got back on the train, specifically CAF 5132. I got a great view out the back door of the train, as the cab was broken down in the last car. And I got lots of photos of the D Route from New Carrollton to Stadium-Armory.

At that time, while in the back of the CAF train, I also finally got the shots that I attempted to get back in May of the signals on the mainline railroad next to Metro’s right of way. You may recall that my May 25 trip to Washington entailed a walk along Minnesota Avenue in Northeast DC, looking for these signals, but the search was fruitless, since I really didn’t know what I was doing. And you know what they say – garbage in, garbage out. At the time, I said, “I give myself an ‘A’ for effort, but a ‘C’ at best for results.” Now I got results:

This is an older signal on the mainline railroad.
This is an older signal on the mainline railroad.

These are newer signals, which I first heard described as "Darth Vaders", since their shape somewhat resembles the helmet of Darth Vader from Star Wars.
These are newer signals, which I first heard described as “Darth Vaders”, since their shape somewhat resembles the helmet of Darth Vader from Star Wars.

Then the two of us parted company at L’Enfant Plaza. I had planned a trip to the Infoshop afterwards, while Matthew rode all the way back to Vienna.

Following the Infoshop, it was getting dark, and so I headed over to Pentagon City. I also was a little hungry. So getting there, I did my Pentagon City thing, getting dinner, the fruit smoothie, and enjoyed reading my “grown-ups’ newspaper”, aka The Washington Post. Then I went to Pentagon Row next to the mall to see if the ice rink was open yet. It wasn’t, but it’s nearly ready. It looked like all they needed to do was run a Zamboni across it and it would be ready. Check out the ice:

New ice prior to resurfacing
It almost reminded me of snow, though this is actually ice. Still, this is better than what was there the last time I was there two weeks before:

Tubing to keep the ice frozen
This is what the ice looked like two weeks ago – nonexistent. This is the underlying tubing that carries liquid, designed to keep the ice frozen even when the air temperature goes above freezing.

After spending time at Pentagon Row, I got on the Metro and ran into a fellow railfan, whom I’d first met while photographing McMetro back in May. So I rode as far as Metro Center with him. Fun stuff. So instead of catching my Orange Line train to Vienna from Rosslyn, I did it at Metro Center. No problem.

At Metro Center, I caught a four-car train of Breda rehabs towards Vienna. From front to back, the train consisted of 2017, 2016, 3043, and 3042. I was on 3043, the third car. This is important, as you will soon see. Just past McPherson Square, I saw a train in the A&C Connection, which is a single-track spur between the A Route (Red Line) and the C Route (Blue/Orange Line). It was a Rohr or a Breda, but I couldn’t tell which in the second I saw it. It was quite possibly the Money Train, but again, I couldn’t tell, since it went by so quickly.

So then we went past Rosslyn, and onto the line to Vienna. I really got to enjoy the beautiful African-sounding accent that our operator had, too. Court House, doors open left side. Clarendon, doors open right side. Virginia Square George Mason University, doors open right side. Ballston Marymount University, doors open right side. I planned to get off at Ballston, since I was a little early for my arrival at Vienna. Even though I plan my own itinerary up there, I do try to time my arrival at Vienna so that I don’t arrive before 11:30 PM. It has to do with parking.

Arriving at Ballston, I noticed that we were coming into the station a lot faster than usual. Then the next thought was, why haven’t we stopped? Then next thing I know, I saw the outbound wall of the station and we were back in the tunnel. And we’re stopped. I was standing at the last door of the third car. The door is flush with the exit sign in the tunnel just past the station. So we overshot the station and had three cars off the platform. One can almost imagine the perplexed look of the people on the Ballston-MU platform as the train failed to stop at the normal stop position for a four-car train (roughly in the middle of the platform), blew right through the station, and finally stopped with three cars in the tunnel, and only the last car on the platform. Then after a wait, we hear an announcement from the train operator that he would be passing through the train, and not to be alarmed. People were questioning why the operator couldn’t back it up from the cab he was in, and I explained to the car that it was easier to change cabs because to reverse the train from the outbound cab, it would sound the train’s horn and also require a spotter.

By the way, I was citing “n2deep” on Metroriders on this one, where he said:

A train is never backed from the opposite end. This would require permission from OCC and a flag person on the trailing end giving proceed directions. This will never happen. When a train is manually put into a reverse configuration the train horn will engage and continue to blow until the train is taken out of reverse configuration. I have never seen this procedure used, even in the train yards. It is just easier and safer to go to the opposite end and operate the train back into the station. Central Control never really likes this move because you have a train going in the opposite direction on that track.

Then next thing you know, here comes the train operator, literally running through the train. Once he got settled, we went back into the station, stopped at the correct stop position, and “Doors opening!”

Interestingly enough, due to the way the destination codes are set on the cabs on the different ends of the train, while we were moving back into the station, our train said this:


And that made sense, since the operator was working in the cab where the destination code was set for New Carrollton. Then once we were set in the station, I got off, and saw the train operator running back along the platform to get back to the correct cab. Then the sign changed back to Vienna, and they were off.

I kinda did whatever at Ballston, but mostly took a moment to jot down everything about the overrun while it was still fresh in my mind, including car numbers, and sequence of events.

Oh, by the way, I checked the yesterday’s service page for October 26, 2005, and this is what they said:

10:56 p.m. An outbound Orange Line train overran the platform at Ballston but was able to service the station.

Then after finishing at Ballston, my train was on the platform when I got off the elevator. I missed it because my farecard decided to act up at the faregate. I will be glad when Metro finally makes it to where you can use rail passes on your SmarTrip card. Just touch and go. It will make SmarTrip a lot smarter than it currently is.

Since I missed my train, I had to wait 20 minutes for another one. No problem. I played Tetris on my phone while I waited. Then it was off to Vienna, albeit later than I wanted.

All in all, it was a fun day. I love days like those.

Web site: Ballston-MU, where we blew right past the station before finally stopping.

Song: Sakura Saku, which is my phone's ringtone

Quote: "I will be passing through the train, please do not be alarmed." - Our train operator before his dash to the New Carrollton end of the train.

Categories: DC trips, Matthew, WMATA