December 18, 2014
Several dozen rail fasteners that rained down on Van Buren Street after an Orange Line train derailed Tuesday were likely knocked loose from the elevated L tracks when the train’s wheels came off the tracks, a CTA official said.
That clears up one question about the derailment that halted all trains in the Loop for about an hour Tuesday night, but it’s still not clear what caused the train to derail in what Chicago Transit Authority spokesman Brian Steele called “such a rare occurrence.”
CTA trains ran normally in the Loop Wednesday morning after the Orange Line train’s wheels came off the tracks at the LaSalle/Van Buren stop just before 7 p.m. Tuesday. The stop also serves the Pink and Brown lines.
Steele said repairs to the tracks were done overnight, and normal operations resumed at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. No injuries were reported, but Chicago police said six cars were damaged by the debris.
Much of the repair work meant replacing the several dozen rail fasteners that fell to the ground after the derailment, according to Steele.
“They hold the rails to the brackets that are attached to the rail ties,” Steele said.
He said it’s likely the train’s wheels banged into the tracks as it derailed, knocking some of the fasteners loose.
“It wasn’t every single one,” Steele said, adding there are “literally hundreds of thousands of those on the Loop elevated structure.”
Meanwhile, Steele said the CTA is reviewing records and videotape and planned to interview the train’s operator in hopes of finding out why the train derailed.
Patrons at the Sky Ride Tap, 105 W. Van Buren, were shocked when they saw the steel rail fasteners had fallen off the elevated structure Tuesday night. The metal, mixed with splintered pieces of wood, littered Van Buren for several blocks in each direction.
The patrons went outside to investigate when it seemed the whole building housing the bar shook — more than the normal turbulence from the CTA track that runs past.
“Thank God rush hour had died down and there were no people or cars on the street,” said Lenny Pomerantz, a 72-year-old financial trader who was inside the Sky Ride Tap when the train derailed.
In the minutes after the accident, people called 911, but cars were still driving under the tracks and trains were still passing over them, said Kevin Donegan, 34, who also works as a financial trader.
“We watched a fire truck and cop car drive by and when people did finally show up, they started cleaning up the pieces of metal before anyone even closed the street.”