Tuesday, October 9, 2012

MBTA Green Line train derails at Brigham Circle

All photos courtesy of Scott Page
Human error has been detrermined to be the cause of an MBTA green line derailment at Brigham Circle.

Yesterday at around 4:00 pm, MBTA Type-7 LRV #3633 derailed at the crossover at Brigham Circle station.

#3633 struck it's sister car Type-7 LRV #3634 which was sitting on the opposite track. The trains sustained minor damage during the accident. #3633 has some minor body damage (missing panels) and also sustained damage to it's center truck and articulation. #3634 also had some minor body damage. Also during the derailment, a light pole was bent over and a catenary wire bracket was broken off the line.

Most news outlets here in Boston are reporting only one form of human error was to blame in this situation. I believe, however, that there are three different ways people are at fault.

1: The Inspector at Brigham Circle Station

     -When Green Line trains terminate at Brigham Circle (which is all weekends and sometimes during the week) the inspector at Brigham must switch over the tracks so the trains can cross over and switch back outbound and return to the central subway. Today that did not happen. The inspector at the station failed to switch the track back over and subsequently the train derailed, thankfully only causing minor damage and not many injuries. I must however give the inspector a break. An MBTA press release stated that the inspector is an 18-year veteran of the MBTA who has had no prior major incidents.

2: The operator of #3633
     -Every operator that is trained to drive a trolley on the Green Line is taught to read their rail (make sure the switch they will be passing over is in the right direction) at every crossing and switch throughout the system. This however was not done today. If the operator had been paying attention to the rail in front of them, they would have noticed that the switch was not set properly and the accident would have been prevented.

3: The Administration/Inspector
     -According to the MBTA website, the schedule for the Green Line 'E' branch on Columbus day was the same as a Saturday schedule. The only exception was that trains would terminate at Heath Street instead of Brigham Circle like a regular weekend. Today that did not happen. If 'E' line trains were terminating at Heath St. this incident would have been avoided all together. This can however be blamed on a headway adjustment, meaning that the inspector at Brigham stopped the train before Heath because there were not enough Lechmere trains in the central subway (Which is done on a regular basis during the week).

Overall, this accident was not the fault of just one person and hopefully it was a learning experience for everyone involved.

After the incident, it took MBTA personnel six hours to get the trolley back on the tracks. #3633 and #3634 were then moved to an MBTA maintenance facility for evaluation and repair.


  1. I was on train #3633. When it stopped to go back the opposite direction the operator of the lead car seemed confused and stressed out at what was happening. Overall it was a mess and a very scary situation for everyone

  2. You're right on except for one thing: I don't understand how any fault can be placed on the train being turned there. The infrastructure exists and crews should be trained to perform any likely operation whether it is used in daily operation or not. Turning a train at an unusual place is one of those.

    While this wouldn't have happened had the train not been turned where it was, that doesn't make it a fault. Taking an extreme to look at the logic, this would have been prevented if a mechanical difficulty at Symphony caused the train to be taken out of service. Clearly, the fact that the train didn't break down is not a fault. Any operation that, without other error, is perfectly safe is not a fault of anything.

    Just a clarification!


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