Last Night’s Delays on the Manassas Line

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Follow up on service disruption 

Last Night’s Delays on the Manassas Line

We have just completed our debrief of last night’s delays on the Manassas Line with the Keolis Transportation and Mechanical managers.  The delays occurred when VRE train 327 (Departs Union Station at 3:45 PM) departed Burke Centre station and experienced wheel slip going up the grade just south of the station. The combination of leaves on the track and moisture from the light rain resulted in leaf oil creating a condition where the train could not get enough traction to crest the hill.


The train then had to make a reverse move back past Burke Centre to try to get enough speed and momentum to make it up the hill.  It took an additional two attempts to clear the hill. Unfortunately, the time to accomplish all of this ultimately delayed 327 by 91 minutes.


327 normally turns at Broad Run to operate north again as 338 and then returns south as the final Manassas Line train 337.  Because of the delay, we could not turn 327 without further delaying 329 and the other southbound trains.  We would also not be able to get 338 back up to Union Station in time to turn for 337.  Therefore, we chose to cancel 338 northbound, and 335 southbound.  This allowed us to use 335’s equipment to operate as the last scheduled departure 337, ensuring no one was left without a ride.  We understand these adjustments create a challenge for our passengers and apologize for the inconvenience.


We have not experienced this challenge with leaf oil for several years primarily because we found a work around which would help prevent the poor traction issue.  On days when we believe the weather conditions are right to create the situation we saw yesterday, we ask Amtrak to turn our first two southbound trains so they come out of Union Station with the locomotives in the rear.  This allows the engineer to operate from the Cab Control Car and put sand down on the tracks in front of the locomotive which has the traction motor.  The combination of sanding and pushing the cars over the tracks generally clears the leaf oil and allows the locomotive to get enough traction to keep the train moving.


We did not make those adjustments to the operation yesterday.  Since the midday train 325 (Departs Union Station at 1:15 pm) was able to operate with no issues we thought the tracks would remain clear enough for the remainder of our service window.  That was obviously a mistake as the rain came into the area shortly thereafter creating the slick conditions.


That being said, as a group, we are committed to being even more aggressive with the call to enact the “Leaf Oil” plan.  We would rather go through the process of turning the trains unnecessarily than face the challenges we saw last night, creating issues for our passengers.


Once again, we apologize for the inconvenience.

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FAQ: Why do trains sometimes wait in Alexandria?

If two trains come into Alexandria at approximately the same time, or slightly out of order, they will most likely leave in order of the schedule; even if the next scheduled train arrived later. CSX dispatchers often have trains pre-aligned to crossover based on the schedule. If the dispatcher changes a signal, it has a safety feature that will “time out” and no signal can be obtained for either train for ten minutes. To prevent further delay, the dispatcher will not change the signal.

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Note: Updates are not typically available for delays under 10 minutes as time is often made up en route.