Metra service returns to normal, but cause of Bartlett rail crash still unclear
By Dave Gathman email@example.com October 22, 2013 12:24PM
Workers survey the damage after an inbound Milwaukee West line Metra train hit a truck in downown Bartlett Monday afternoon, causing major delays on the commuter line. | Jon Langham/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:24AM
BARTLETT — Rail service on Metra’s Milwaukee West Line between Elgin and Chicago was back to normal as commuters went to work Tuesday morning. But investigators were still trying to determine what caused a train to collide with a semi-trailer truck in downtown Bartlett late Monday afternoon, injuring three people and snarling much of Monday’s commute for thousands of riders.
Train 2242 had left Elgin’s Big Timber station at 3:22 p.m. Monday. It was only 15 minutes down the line, just coming into the Bartlett station, when it struck the semi at about 3:40 p.m.
Bartlett police Sgt. Geoffrey Pretkelis said the semi was crossing the Western Avenue crossing when the train struck it, only about a block west of Bartlett’s “old” train station at Oak Street and Railroad Avenue.
Metra spokeswoman Meg Reile said midday Tuesday that Metra police are handling the investigation but would not issue a report until they finish interviewing the engineer and truck driver, talking to other witnesses, reviewing the train’s data recorder and inspecting all equipment involved.
“We have no indication that the gates and warning lights were not working” at the Western Avenue crossing, Reile said.
Like all inbound trains on the Milwaukee West Line, the train was running seemingly in reverse, with its locomotive at the rear and the engineer sitting in a cab on the top floor of the first passenger car. The train hit the semi so hard that the cab-car went off the rails and a long scrape-like damage mark was left along the side of the car.
Pretkelis said the truck driver and two passengers on the train sustained non-life-threatening, apparently minor, injuries. They were taken to St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Their names and conditions were not available Tuesday.
The truck was an auto carrier transporting four automobiles. The truck and the cars onboard were crushed.
Early reports from the scene said some cars in a nearby parking lot also were damaged by flying debris, but Reile said that could not be confirmed.
Reile said restricted service on the Milwaukee West Line began again about 6 p.m. Monday, as soon as Metra officials verified that one of the two tracks was undamaged and had enough room for a train to pass the wreckage. However, trains were limited to “walking speed” through the crash area overnight.
Metra finally arranged for Pace to provide shuttle-bus service between Elgin and Hanover Park; however, by the time the first eastbound bus showed up at National Street Station at about 6 p.m., so did the first post-crash eastbound train.
Reile said four train runs Monday night were completely canceled and that 15 were delayed up to 65 minutes each.
The derailed car remained in downtown Bartlett until roughly midnight, until Metra could hire a crane truck strong enough to lift the rail car back onto its track.
Railroad Avenue (West Bartlett Road) and some adjacent streets remained closed to traffic in downtown Bartlett until the damaged train car could be cleared.