Home LIRR Photo: Derailed LIRR train still wreacking havoc

Photo: Derailed LIRR train still wreacking havoc

by Benjamin Kabak

A non-passenger train sits derailed in Rego Park, Queens, on Monday night. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

A non-passenger LIRR train derailed on Monday night near Rego Park, Queens, and although crews worked through the snow and sleet two nights ago to rerail the train, the incident is still impacting commutes. According to the LIRR, their crews have been working non-stop to repair nearly three quarters of a mile of track damaged when the train jumped the rail, and cancellations during peak hours are expected through Friday.

One of Second Ave. Sagas’ Twitter followers who was a few blocks away from the derailment described it as an earthquake, and the impact has aftershocks, so to speak. The LIRR had to cancel 11 peak hour trains in the morning and seven in the evening. A few have been diverted from Penn Station to Atlantic Ave. while others run only to Jamaica. The full list of changes is available here.

According to the MTA, the derailment knocked one of the four tracks between Jamaica and Penn Station out of commission. Crews have to replace concrete ties, the running rail and the electrified third rail as well. As yet, there has been no determination of the cause of the derailment, but an investigation is ongoing.

After the jump, scenes from the derailment courtesy of Patrick Cashin and the MTA.

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Kevin P. March 20, 2013 - 8:03 am

Sorry for the nitpick, but the correct phrase is wreaking havoc.

Someone March 20, 2013 - 9:38 am


Jerrold March 20, 2013 - 2:30 pm

I had noticed that too. It must have been a confusion with the word “wreck”.

Someone March 21, 2013 - 10:16 pm

The article still says “wreacking havoc”. It’s wreaking. Not nitpicking here.

CarrollGardener March 20, 2013 - 10:21 am

What is a “non-passenger” train – is this just confusing shorthand for one that was running empty?

BBnet3000 March 20, 2013 - 10:30 am

Im assuming they mean non-revenue. This is clearly a regular train full of seats for passengers.

Ant6n March 20, 2013 - 10:33 am

Dead-heading; Dead running?

Someone March 20, 2013 - 10:40 am

Which is shorter- “an empty passenger train currently unused in revenue service”, or “a non-passenger train”?

Patrick March 20, 2013 - 7:05 pm

Well, quite a few uneducated news agencies have even been reporting it as a “freight train,” so the term can be confusing.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

John-2 March 20, 2013 - 11:25 am

At least non-rush service wasn’t affected, especially in the late-night hours. Would have been oodles of fun trying to get to Jamaica from Manhattan with Fastrack in effect along the Northern Blvd./Broadway sections of the E/F/M/R lines.

Ant6n March 20, 2013 - 11:56 am

It’s wierd how similar these m7’s look to subway cars … The pin and cup coupler looks like it is a multi-function coupler; can the trains actually split and join on the fly?

SEAN March 20, 2013 - 12:29 pm

Yes, all they need to do is zip & unzip them like a pair of Levi’s.

D.R. Graham March 20, 2013 - 12:52 pm

As the term is called cutting and running. I don’t know about LIRR policy but if it’s anything like NYCT policy then it’s very much ill-advised. Cutting/Uncoupling is usually suppose to be performed with the trains brakes in emergency.

All coupler types used these days have the brake pipe air lines going through the coupler with the electric portions below the coupler itself. Cutting and coupling can be done reasonably quickly. After the coupling process the train is charged and the air lines connect, the couplers lock together and the electric portions advance to join together.

Ant6n March 20, 2013 - 1:11 pm

As I understand it, the tightlock coupler (H) used by most commuter railroads can be a multi-function coupler (it was used as such in the UK), but those have never been used in North America. So personnel has to be on the ground to hook up the HEP etc.

Isn’t putting on the emergency breaks simply a matter of pushing button/lever? Sounds like something that could be done in a train station.

It seems that LIRR could have lines where trains split along the way, at least technically. This can be useful when the number of train slots in downtown is limited, but not the length of trains, and the length of trains is limited in branches, and a reasonable frequency desired on the branches.

Walter March 20, 2013 - 4:41 pm

Coupling/uncoupling on the M-series equipment (M1s through M8s) is extremely easy and fast. For uncoupling, Just press the uncouple button and move a bit, and the train uncouples and the airbrakes go into emergency. Then just charge back up and you’re good to go. For coupling, its as simple as making sure the pins are lined up correctly and then smashing one car into another. Then just charge up and go.

The M1s (RIP) through M6s have the same size pins, so can be coupled together, and have been in rescue situations. The M7s and M8s have different size pins from the older stuff, but themselves can be coupled together for moves, rescues, etc.

The only place in the region I know of where coupling occurs outside the yards is the New Canaan Branch. One 4 or 5 car train enters New Canaan, reverses and enters the middle track, and then another 4 or 5 car train enters the station, reverses, and hitches onto the other train in the middle track, and then the new combined train returns to Stamford as a deadhead. Policy, however, states that coupling should not occur with passengers, because it can be an uncomfortable experience.

Ant6n March 20, 2013 - 8:39 pm

Interesting! I wonder what could be done to mitigate the jolt felt by the passengers (I hear that one of the features of Scharfenberg couplers is that they couple even at very low speeds).

Patrick March 20, 2013 - 7:02 pm

The LIRR does not couple/uncouple trains enroute. The M7’s can only run in sets of 12, and many of the trains going into Penn Station are already 12 cars. Plus the only real instance where this could take place is at Valley Stream between the West Hempstead and Long Brach/Far Rockaway branch trains. But it’s easier to just have the people cross the platform and have the same 6-car set bounce back and forth all day.

Furthermore, they can’t couple desiel sets off the desiel branches to eletric trains to give one-seat rides to more people from out east.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

Ant6n March 20, 2013 - 8:35 pm

The 12 Car limitation is unfortunate. If it was 16 cars, then the platforms could be extended on the main line, and 8 car trains run on branches.

Of course even splitting 12 car trains may result in higher frequencies on branches using shorter trains. Then again, given the staffing levels and costs of LIRR, this may not make sense.

Patrick March 20, 2013 - 9:52 pm

Many portions of the LIRR are already at capacity, even on the east end. During rush hours just about everything is used to the max. Projects like the Ronkonkoma Branch double track project, Colonial Road Improvement Project, Massapequa Pocket Track, Jamaica Improvements, expanded capacity in yards, et cetera will all help increase capacity on the east end. Hopefully some of these will be done by time ESA opens, or we might not have track space on places like the Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson, Port Washington, and Babylon Branches to run trains to the new stations,

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

Stephen Smith March 20, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Gotta wonder – would these trains have been able to cause this much damage to the tracks if they were standard EU-compliant rolling stock, and not FRA-regulated behemoths?

Someone March 20, 2013 - 7:13 pm

What’s EU? Oh, you mean European Union?

No, it was the tracks themselves, which were not welded correctly.

Patrick March 20, 2013 - 8:33 pm

Well hevier trains can cause defects in rails to come out more quickly and with greater size. Nontheless, the LIRR’s track is built to support the heavy trains that have been rolling over them for decades. But untill the LIRR comes out with an explanation, there is no definitive way of telling what caused the derail.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

Walter March 21, 2013 - 1:22 am

Were the concrete ties themselves defective? Metro-North has had a ton of problems with defective concrete ties on the upper Hudson Line and especially in the Bronx. Concrete ties were even changed two years ago on the New Haven Line under warranty, because they rotted out from underneath.

Nathanael March 24, 2013 - 2:30 pm

I’m wondering about this myself. Normally, derailments don’t damage the TIES. So the fact that the ties are being replaced says “bad ties” to me.

Patrick March 24, 2013 - 4:17 pm

I don’t think the ties were defective. When the train derailed the last four cars were dragged along the track for 3/4-mile, smashing into stuff along the way. Concrete ties aren’t normally designed to have 4 M7’s clanking down the middle of them at 70 m.p.h., so seeing as they cracked here doesn’t really surprise me. All in all, they had to replace something like 1,540 concrete ties and 3,700 feet of third rail. It’s the fact that the last four cars were literally dragged along derailed for 3/4 of a mile is what caused the most damage. I summarized what happened in “layman’s terms” in this post on my blog.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

Patrick March 24, 2013 - 4:12 pm

The LIRR has released a “customer explanation” on the March 18th Derailment. You can see what the statement said, plus what really happened on the MTA’s Website or at this link here.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today


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