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“May I send them through the bulkhead door?”

July 25, 2007, 6:53 PM

Today on my way home from work, I got Rohr 1064, the second car in an eight-car train. The car had relatively new carpeting (it was the newer CAF-style striped carpet vs. the solid orange carpet), but mechanically, unless it’s going to see a second rehab, its best days are behind it, I’m afraid.

Here’s what happened. I’m talking on the phone to Mom. The train pulled into Rhode Island Avenue station. *ding ding* Doors opening! Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car. Doors remained firmly closed. *ding dong ding dong* Step back, doors closing! *ding ding* Doors opening! Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car. *ding dong ding dong* Step back, doors closing! *ding ding* Doors opening! Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car. Doors were still firmly closed. I tried to signal to the customers at the door to use the bulkhead door. They didn’t understand my signal. So I said, “Mom? I’ll call you back.” So now I got up, and headed over to the end of the car, and hit the intercom button. The train operator answered, and I told him, “The doors aren’t opening on 1064. May I send them through the bulkhead door?” The operator answered, “That is correct.” So I grabbed the handle and pulled open the bulkhead door on the “blind” end of 1064. Then I reached through and opened the bulkhead door of 1065, and pushed that door open. Then I addressed the car, saying, “Anyone who’s getting off here needs to go through this door to the next car.” About six or so people went through. “Anyone else?” Getting no further response from my fellow passengers, I gave the train operator, who was standing at the cab door of 1065 observing the operation, a thumbs-up sign to indicate that we were done, and closed the bulkhead doors. The operator closed the doors, and we were off.

The situation did not repeat itself at Brookland-CUA. The doors opened and closed normally. However, at Fort Totten, the problem repeated itself. This time, the exiting passengers followed the example I set at Rhode Island Avenue and called the operator, and then used the bulkhead doors to go to 1065 and whatever car was behind us to exit. Before leaving Fort Totten, the operator announced, “Attention passengers on car 1-0-6-4: If the doors will not open, use the bulkhead doors to exit through another car.” And of course now that he said that, the problem did not come up again, and it was smooth sailing all the way to Glenmont.

Why did I take such measures when I could have stayed in my seat and done the nothing that was required of me? Because every little bit helps, and I want to get home. If the train can’t continue in service because of a door problem, then they’d have to offload the train, and I’d be stuck waiting in the hot sun for the next Glenmont-bound train. Thus I’d have to sit out the next train, since it would only be going as far as Silver Spring, and then catch the second train. And likely, since that train would be carrying its own load of Glenmont-bound passengers, I wouldn’t get a seat. And we’d be squeezed in like sardines, in that turn-your-head-and-kiss-your-neighbor kind of way. No fun.

So I’d say that a lot of people were glad that I was on the train with them today, because I knew what to do, and did it safely. I notified the operator and asked permission to open the bulkhead doors, thus making sure that the train would not start up while we were moving passengers. That would not only be unsafe if the train had started up, but it would have also defeated the purpose of what we were trying to do – getting the people off the train who wanted off at Rhode Island Avenue. Plus, don’t forget – I live at the end of the line. I’m counting on that train to make it all the way to the end of the line to get home. If it can’t make it to the station listed on the side of the train, i.e. Glenmont, I have to wait for another train that’s in good enough shape to get me there. And then I still have to wait for a bus – either the Y or the 51 – to get home.

Yeah, some days it pays to be a rail buff, and knowing the trains and a lot of the procedures fairly well as a hobby.

Categories: Commuting, WMATA