Passengers rescued from stranded train

UPDATE, 12:52 PM.

More problems for Metro-North commuters today: delays up to 30 minutes from “weather conditions” and wire damage near Greens Farms station in Westport.

The delays started early this morning around 5:30 AM and continued throughout the days. By mid-afternoon,the longest delays were about 15 minutes.

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There were other problems for the railroad Thursday. Disabled equipment disrupted service on both the Danbury branch in Connecticut and the Hudson Line north of New York City. Bus service was provided on the Danbury branch, while Hudson Line northbound trains were unable make a few stops for a while.

Greens Farms is the area where about 200 passengers were stranded in frigid rail cars from about two hours Wednesday night.

Wednesday’s breakdown was in the same area where a Metro-North train was stranded due to extreme heat in July 2011, said John Hartwell, vice chairman of an advocacy group, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Passengers, sweltering in cars with no air conditioning, removed emergency windows and fled the train to walk along the tracks.

Metro-North said at the time that the problem was due to overhead wires that sag in extreme heat and become tangled in mechanical arms on top of the train cars.
Hartwell also questioned why no local police or rescue vehicles from Westport arrived Wednesday night.

Metro-North has been under heavy scrutiny by government officials and commuters after a series of problems and accidents over the past year, including a derailment that killed four people in New York last month, the death of a track worker in Connecticut in May and a failed electrical circuit that disrupted service on the heavily traveled New Haven Line for 12 days last fall.

In a 5:35 AM service advisory today, Metro-North said “New Haven Line Customers should anticipate delays of up to 20 minutes due to weather-related conditions and wire damage in the vicinity of Greens Farms. ”

On Wednesday, with the temperature near 10 degrees, passengers were moved to a warm rail car after being stranded in the cold on a train without power for more than two hours late Wednesday night in Westport.

All passengers were reported to be safe after they were stranded at 8:51 p.m. The passengers were transferred to the waiting train by 10:57 p.m., according to the railroad.

A rescue by a train dispatched from New Haven to unload the customers was delayed for an hour when it could not be routed to the adjacent track next to the disabled train due to a cold weather related switch problem.

Signal switch maintainers were able to repair the stuck mechanism by 10:51 p.m. and passengers were transferred a few minutes later.

In the interim, conductors gathered the passengers into three cars, and an operations manager and several MTA police were also at the scene shortly after the breakdown, according to spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.

Anders said frigid temperatures can cause problems with Metro-North’s aging equipment, including making catenary wires more taut and fragile.
“This is not … the first winter we’ve had weather-related problems,” she said. “It’s fairly normal and we are managing through.”

She said “The customers were not happy but they were calm,” Anders said.

But accounts from the scene told a different story:

Several Metro-North vehicles were at the scene of the stranded train late Wednesday into Thursday morning. Crews were working on top of the train, which had its outer lights flashing. Its interior lights appeared to be powered on.

Staff Writer Martin Cassidy contributed to this report.

ORIGINAL REPORT, 9 p.m. Wednesday:

A Metro-North train is reportedly without power in Westport and passengers on the train say they are waiting in the cold for a “rescue train” to come get them.

There are reports of electrical wires down in the area where the train is disabled. The train was reportedly coming from Grand Central Station.

Passengers on the train tweeted that the incident happened about an hour ago near the Greens Farms station.

Metro-North has confirmed on Twitter that a rescue train is on the way to a train with a broken wire. At least one passenger has said conductors told passengers that a rescue train is not coming because of a switch problem on the railroad.

We are working to contact Metro-North and get you more details. So far the railroad is not reporting any delays on its Connecticut lines.

Authorities in Westport said they were not aware of the situation with the train until they were contacted by a reporter.

It is very cold in Westport right now–temperatures are reported to be below 10 degrees right now and are expected to stay there until sunrise.

The Associated Press contributed to part of this report.

Wes Duplantier