« Eastern-European Evil Eyebrow | Main | Lessons learned from Blue Line subway fire »

Fire, train derailment close Blue Line at Clark and Lake; passengers evacuated

From CTA_HQ at CTA Alerts:

There is no Blue Line subway service bet. Damen & Washington. Customers can take #56 Milwaukee/other CTA service.

And this from lesyeux at 6:07 pm:

Heavy, thick, black smoke possibly from Thompson Center. 15-20 ambulances. People covered in soot up from tunnels.

And lesyeux gave this update at 6:17:

"8th car of a train derailed Dragging caused heavy smoke & sparks, no fire Not enough buses 4 the masses No train 2 OHare."

I'm not sure whether lesyeux is an eyewitness.

CBS2 news report here.

In an eerie coincidence, Gapersblock today published this post, referring to the RedEye's cover story on what to do in a CTA emergency:

"Your bus is aflame? Fear not."

Gives me chills.


I was on the Blue Line train that came right AFTER the one that derailed and caught on fire. We were stopped at Clark/Lake and as soon as they cut the power I got out of there. Coming out of Clark/Lake I ran into firefighters who didn't know WHERE THE FIRE WAS. There were endless police/firefighters streaming into Clark/Lake under the impression that the problem was there.

I walked from Clark/Lake to Grand (my car was parked by Grand) and came upon the group of train evacuees. There was a single cop with them and one fire truck. This was at 5:35 - about 1/2 hour after the incident.

I understand that the rolling stock from the 1960's will catch on fire and have technical problems. How about in the future the CTA will tell the rescue personnel where the incident actually is. It's kind of embarrassing to be asked by firefighters whether the fire is at the station I'm exiting or somewhere else. Also by the time I got to Grand there were cops coming out of the station saying on their radios that the fire is not at Grand.

At least I feel vindicated that I vindicated my "they cut the power I bug out" rule. Just about everyone else stayed on the train.

I was watching TV and the news was interrupted. The Blue Line shut down due to fire. I went to my cell and there was nothing about this from the CTA HQ. Where was the CTA on this? It was already 5:28 PM and nothing from the CTA.

I started typing as much information from TV as possible because I know the Smart People who have this service, will read it, and go into their Alternate Route mode and let their people know they will definitely be unexpectedly late tonight. Those on the other end want to know if they should hold dinner or just get out the Tupperware & wait for a call.

When I get these reports on my cellphone, I want to know what happened, where, and how will this affect my way home or destination. But I also want as much detail as possible.

While you're waiting for the bus or another train, you can read these messages & realize just how lucky you are to be standing and waiting for a bus instead of a doctor.

Thank god for this system Kevin created. I tell everyone who has a cell phone, get plugged into this because you never know when you'll need information about how to get around Chicago . . . even if you drive a car!

It was recently reported that US Cellular put up $2.9 million to run their cables underground so CTA passengers can have access to make calls. After today, I think AT&T & Sprint will ante up their $2.9 soon enough. And all those who were against these 'annoying' cables will have a change of mind.

Some passengers don't want to hear others on their cells. But after today, they just might change their minds. If you read the reports from all the TV stations online, you'll read, 'there was no announcement' 'we heard nothing' 'we were on our own'.

No one wants to be on their own underground, not even the CTA employees. If we'd had those cell phone cables, you would have read on your cell, what was going on sooner, made better decisions and been able to call for help.

That's the whole idea of having those cables underground . . . to call for help!

Simon: Thanks for the first-hand account; it is gripping. Smart move re: bug out-- when it comes to "fight or flight", I'm all about, "where's the flight of stairs?".

Please reconsider, though, your embarassment at providing whatever information you can to first responders arriving at the scene. It's unrealistic to think that there won't be confusion in the early moments of an emergency.

That's actually the exact impetus behind CTA Alerts-- the idea that we can help each other with what we know.

LesYeux: Thanks for the updates and the early heads up. You're right about the need for service underground-- imagine the info we could have disbursed!

K, so...I stop off at the GAP outside the Washington Blue line station to buy a shirt and then head down to the El. I wait, along with a crapload of other people, for the next train, which takes about 15 minutes. And then when it comes it's so full I just decide I'll wait for the next one. So, I wait for another 10 minutes until another train lumbers into the station. It's a tight fit, but I'm anxious to get home now. A few moments pass, and the driver comes on and says that we'll be standing for a few minutes because the train ahead has some "mechanical problems." We all sigh, but this happens often enough that it's not really out of the ordinary. However, when 10 minutes pass...then 15...then 20, and the driver keeps thanking us for our patience, people are getting irritated. Then, the driver comes on and says, "Attention passenges: we are being asked to evacuate...er, to vacate the station. There will be buses mmmphlmmmmpoorojfdfhdsgfhsdgfkdsfkvsvskbk.b."

Yeah...completely effing USELESS.

So, we all herd out of the train and the station like so many sheep, and there are indeed buses out on the street...and they are full, and they are leaving... Sigh. So, I walk a block to try to catch the 56 bus. Well, there is a HOARDE of people waiting at the bus stop. And so, silly me, I'm thinking, gee, the Blue line runs up Milwaukee Avenue...the 56 bus runs up Milwaukee Avenue...they're gonna send more 56 buses to get us outta here. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

In the next 40 minutes that I waited 3, count 'em, 3 56 buses came. WTF was up with that?! I saw 20, 20, 20, 20X, 157, 20, 20...dammit! The first 56 bus that shuffled up to the stop was jam-packed, I couldn't get on. The next 2 were practically back to back, and they stopped further down the street (BEFORE the bus stop), behind another bus, and they filled up down there and then drove away. I finally got on a 56 bus at about 6:10. We were smooshed. As we crawled and jerked through traffic on our way out of downtown, we saw no fewer than 20 fire trucks scream past. Amblances, cop cars, CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) semis with "tactical response unit" on the sides, and then MORE firetrucks, these with "Special Operations" on the sides of them. What in purple bunnyrabbits was going on here?

I try to call my husband, who works up in Lakeview, and he manages to tell me he can't get on his train, either, so he's just gonna walk to 3-4 miles home...and then our phones die. I try to call a friend, but all circuits are busy. I start to not have good feelings. I peer down a street a few blocks down, and they have a triage-type setup going on there, in the middle of the street. People are on stretchers, their faces covered in soot. Someone else on my bus is talking on a phone--that ISN'T a complete POS with POS service--and I hear that there was a derailment and/or a fire just outside of Clark & Lake, just one stop north of where I get on to go home.

So, but wait a minute...if it just happened one stop up, and I let that one pass for a less-crammed train...WHOA. Shocked

I rode the bus for about 50 minutes on what is normally a 40-minute trip, but that wasn't terrible, considering... I managed to thwap no less than 4 people as the bus lurched to a halt in my neighborhood, and then I walked home. I should have just walked home to begin with, but I had no scope of what was going on.

Polish beer now, please...(whew)

Like Simon, I was on the train behind the one that derailed. When I got out of the turnstile at Clark/Lake, I saw and asked a reporter "what happened?" All of a sudden I was looking into a bunch of TV cameras, and was telling them how we were simply told to and got off the train, that I didn't smell smoke (in the train behind the one that derailed), and then they asked me my name. Also like Simon, I'm wary of when the lights get cut during a delay, too : )

I think that what likely happened is this:

Going Northbound, the train always jerks three times in that long stretch between the Clark/Lake and Grand stops. Once, a pause, then twice successively. I bet that train was cruising and the last car--with the weight of passengers and because you always feel the sway more in the back of the train--fell off the track, sparked, and something caught on fire because of those three bumps.

I saw a guy talking on channel 2 news about actually escaping the train that caught on fire. Go to the channel 2 web page and go to the video about the incident titled "Passenger of L Train Describes Accident, Evacuation" and listen to some of the stuff that he says. I think it's a good lesson that one should know what the heck to do before an emergency happens. If it's like Chris Smith (the guy in the video) says, there isn't anything like glow-in-the-dark strips on the escape path to direct you where to go. I hope that Chris' experience is just because of the extreme smoke, but still, there better be a darned easily visible set of instructions of how to get out of that tunnel in an emergency!

Oh, here's the link to that video: https://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/local_story_192183214.html

I still don't know why the number of people on this service isn't 4.2 million instead of 422?

When I watched this on TV, I felt there should have been someone out there passing out flyers letting people know, 'hey, your cell phone can do more than just take calls or make calls, it can save your life'.

I hope after this, more people sign up for the Alerts & voice their opinions on the Tattler. We need input & people to improve this service. And boy, does it need improving. They're spending $550 million to upgrade the LaSalle district. And will this include any of the nearby CTA stations?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, DXO!!

Unfortunately when there is an emergency on the rail system the bus system doesn't know untill way later. There's not radio communication between bus and rail at all!!!

Going home about 6:30, our driver on the Brown Line kept apologizing for the crowds and said there was an "equipment problem" on a Blue Line train between Clark & Lake and Grand. Some equipment problem!

As with Tony and Simon, I was at the train that was stopped at Clark/Lake at the time of the derailment. The train operator first said that we were being delayed due to an emergency between Grand and Chicago, which had me assuming that they needed to take someone having a heart attack off a train before any others could proceed. (The announcement turned out to be mistaken, as the derailment was apparently between Clark/Lake and Grand/Milwaukee.) It was shortly after they cut the power that they had an announcement mentioning "Fire Department activity" and ordered everyone off the train about two minutes later.

Upstairs I was trying to find someone who could tell me where I could catch the nearest replacement bus, but the only people at the Thompson Center with a clue told me to stand back and wait for a CTA spokesperson to make an announcement, though a police officer shooed me and some others out of the building before I could hear when was happening.

I decided not to bother with the buses--rail replacement buses are always too crowded to be worth waiting--and just walked the five miles home. I'm extremely fortunate that I'm not one of the people stuck in the tunnel, but it would have been nice for the CTA to direct its confused passengers to their alternate options.

I started carrying a mini-mag flashlight in my backpack a few years ago. The sole purpose is in case of emergency when on the train underground. I have not had reason to use it yet, but yesterday's events make me feel less foolish about my little flashlight.

My thoughts went out to everyone affected yesterday.

SmoothB makes an excellent point about the lack of communications on buses. When will the CTA get buses with walkie talkies on them? I've often wished the buses had this system just because they could use it to flag down a bus I need going in another direction. Kreusi needs to look into this.

Buses need better communications. And they need better communications between buses & trains. Too many times the buses just drop people off instead of having the right information to take them further or to let them off earlier.

Again at this point, keep your cell phones charged up at work or wherever, carry your portable chargers with you, (a Ziplock bag) if it's not too much trouble, and stay in touch with this service, CTA Alerts.
Now, it's become more invaluable than ever.

I'm glad no one was killed & I hope all those who had to be taken to Northwestern Hospital fully recover.

You know, I was looking up information on this incident today and am absolutely shocked and confounded that this is being covered up. Let's look at the facts and some simple logic: it's the busiest route (or one of the busiest routes) of the CTA trains, it was during the peak of the evening rush hour when the train was fairly close to the city still, the reports admit a fire and derailment of one car (more on that later) but no other details are vague at best, there was a successful terrorist attack on a commuter train in India the EXACT SAME DAY during the evening rush hour, it wasn't even reported right away, the response was quite large and high profile (from a post above: "semis with 'tactical response unit' on the sides, and then MORE firetrucks, these with 'Special Operations' on the sides of them"--sounds like more than just a fire), the emergency teams didn't know where to go, the affected commuters were not given instructions or told what was going on, the authorities that did report it to other commuters merely hid the real incident/danger with generic reports, and those are just the glaring obvious ones...

With all these facts taken into consideration, it's pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that this was a deliberate incident and some sort of foul play was involved, terrorist or not. This was not just some simple accident that happens all the time, as they try to make you believe by playing it down.

One of the affected commuters interviewed on TV said the first thing that came to his mind was "terrorist attack"--because he had heard about the one in India in the morning...

Look at the derailment accident in Chicago in September last year--all five cars derailed. It's pretty standard to have multiple cars derail in the case of a derailment, because of the nature of a derailment. It would take a clean break of one of the cars at a single point to break off one car and have just that car derail. Hmmm, so we're supposed to believe a fire was able to eat through the connection of the car that derailed (in a very short period of time, no less--remember, the entire route isn't that long, the train had recently left the city (think maximum collateral damage) and no one even attempted to put it out?

I myself was on Lake Shore Drive going Northbound at ~6:30 PM and witnessed plumes of white smoke around the buildings of Michigan Ave--I'm still not sure what the hell that was. Maybe it was just low-hanging clouds...?

I drive on Lower Wacker Drive for my morning and evening commute--the next morning the lights were completely out in one specific stop on Lower Wacker Drive. Now, let's apply some common sense for a minute and think about what it takes to take out traffic lights (there was no storm that day)... I don't know about you, but I just can't fathom a fire/derailment of a single train car taking out a set of traffic lights near Michigan Ave.

I'll end the post with this: do your own research, connect the dots, ask questions, look into these stories and don't just accept bullshit excuses as reality. We have been attacked over and over since 9/11 but the authorities don't want to admit it and expose just how bad of a job they are doing and how powerless they really are against this sort of thing. Call me crazy, but I'm not stupid.

I'm just glad I'm moving to the suburbs.

I posted this on an earlier blog but it probably goes better with this topic.....

I was in France when this happened. The only english speaking channel we could get was the BBC. This is how the reported the situation, "A metro line that connects one of their airports to the city downtown area caught on fire and had to be evacuated through an underground hatch. Apparently they call this metro line 'the blue line' and it had what looks like 100 people on board at the time. Some passengers reported seeing smoke and thinks the train derailed. Their officals said the conductor does not know if the train in fact did derail or not."

The comments to this entry are closed.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Fire, train derailment close Blue Line at Clark and Lake; passengers evacuated:

Share news tips