On Monday, January 9, 2017, at 5:20 p.m., an eastbound train experienced white smoke coming from underneath a train car while at City Hall Station. Passengers disembarked and the track’s third rail power was turned off. The smoke started to fill the platform and passengers were instructed to leave the station and walk to nearby Broadway Station where a train would be waiting to continue with their trip eastbound. DRPA police responded to the scene. The smoke dissipated and PATCO began steps to continue service single-tracking around the out of service train. Text alerts, PA announcements, website and social media messaging were made with that information.
Shortly after, the Camden Fire Department arrived and requested complete closure of the station so they could investigate the cause of the smoke. All third-rail power was turned off for the safety of first responders. PATCO expected service to resume relatively quickly and did not take trains on the line out of service. NJ TRANSIT started to cross honor our tickets for customers who wished to use NJ TRANSIT buses as an alternate travel option. At 6:02 p.m. the all clear was provided to restore third-rail power and allow trains to bypass through the station. Service resumed with residual delays.
The disabled train was moved to the Lindenwold Yard Maintenance Facility for further inspection. The cause of the equipment failure was an undercar power cable that shorted out. The train car protective fuses opened as designed and disconnected the car from the third rail. The power cable connects the third rail shoes to the car electrical systems. This was the first time a power cable failed at this particular location and PATCO immediately instituted a fleet wide power cable safety check on the remaining 58 legacy cars. The train car involved in this incident received a complete in-depth maintenance inspection on October 14, 2016. No power cable issues were observed during this inspection.
The transit car overhaul project has vastly improved cable routing and fastening techniques of undercar power cables. Thus, eliminating the potential for similar future incidents.
The NJ State Safety Oversight Office, that oversees PATCO’s safety, is currently investigating the incident along with PATCO, and that required corrective actions are in place.
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