CTA driver screams, then silence
So, this just happened: my Blue Line train may have been about to derail or be hit by an oncoming train. Not the way I was hoping to get home, frankly.
I’m riding on the train from O’Hare. It’s a moderately full train since the station was rather full when it pulled in. But everything’s fine, we’re moving.
We pull into Jefferson Park station. It is about 12:05.
Now we’re pulling out of the station. The driver comes on the PA and says: “This train will not stop at Montrose. If you want to go to Montrose, you’ll have to OOOOUUGUHHHHH!!!!!!!” and the train jerks to a halt.
And then the PA goes dead.
Well! No explanation as to what the hell that was. I immediately start to feel that something is wrong. But I’m in the fourth or fifth car, and I can’t see all the way to the front.
The driver does not come back on to explain it. It is obvious that something bad has happened or there would be an explanation. We’re sitting there a good five, six minutes. I stand up and gather my luggage. I start thinking, I’m going to have to evacuate mid-car.
We’re not all the way out of the station. I’m in the middle of the train, and I am still in the station, next to the platform. That seems safe. It’s not dark.
I chat with some guys from Boston. At this point it’s been a good twelve minutes or so; still no explanation. I’m texting people to say I think I’ve been in an incident.
My thesis is either that somebody jumped in front of the train, or the driver was attacked by a passenger. Either way, I don’t want to meet up with whatever caused that. I start thinking I’m going to open the doors manually and get off, because she hasn’t come back on to tell us what’s happening.
Then we hear the usual beep beep beep, “This train is experiencing –” and then that message cuts out too. I’m about done with this.
Finally. The driver comes hustling through the train from front to back. I ask her what happened. She says, “The train will be moving shortly!”
She never gets back on the PA. The train then starts running backward through the station. Stops again. The doors fumble and then finally open for good.
That is when I immediately bolt, because the hell with this.
I go up to the fare booth and ask what happened. The booth people, they don’t want to say. “You said you were at Montrose?” I said, “No, guys, the driver said we aren’t stopping at Montrose and then she screamed. What the heck happened?”
Here is what happened, according to them: As part of “Your New Blue,” CTA is single-tracking Blue Line in this area. That is why the Montrose station was going to be skipped: they’re working there. The driver ran a signal leaving the station. She screamed when either she realized her mistake or when the automatic safety system shut down the train. The booth guy said, “She screamed because she’s a rookie. The downtown control center called her and said, ‘Did you run a signal?’ Basically, you were about to either derail the train or be put on a collision course with an oncoming train on the single track.”
That is why she came running to the other end of the train: to back us up out of the danger area.
This was obviously very scary. You don’t expect to hear a driver scream into a PA at midnight — and then not explain it. I’m thinking either it’s a heart attack, a suicide, or some crazy passenger has just attacked the driver and is coming for us. It was ridiculous for her not to come on and tell us what happened — at least eventually.
More to the point, and it goes without saying, she should not have run the signal. She should have been careful around the construction zone.
And have we not had drivers blow through signals before on Blue Line? It seems like all the incidents involve Blue Line. Remember the Ghost Train? The stories about drivers posting through Cumberland without stopping because they were asleep? And the classic O’Hare escalator crash. Thank God no one was killed. And no one was killed tonight, including me.
I really hope this didn’t happen the way it was explained to me. If we were put on a single stretch of track where we could have been hit by an oncoming train, that is a huge safety lapse. This whole episode further strengthens my resolve never to be in the first or last car of a train. It’s just not worth it.
I may follow up with CTA to find out what happened. If I do, I will post about it again.