You may have heard that a subway train in Chicago derailed at O’Hare on Monday. What you probably haven’t seen is the video of that event actually happening, and it is every bit as scary as you’d think.
Off The Rails
The good news is that nobody was killed in this whole disaster we’re about to unwind, so keep that in the forefront of your mind. Everyone taken away was in at least “fair” condition at the hospital. Which, when you see the video above, you’ll be forgiven for thinking was a miracle. But it was largely due to the fact that the accident was more dramatic than anything else.
The exact cause is still under investigation, but it appears that it was a one-two punch. The driver was apparently asleep at the switch, which as you may have guessed is a problem in of itself. But trains are generally designed to stop if the operator either falls asleep or dies; it’s where we get the phrase “dead man’s switch.” Yes, it’s literal.
Anyway, the NTSB’s investigation indicates that two backup systems failed, in fact. Not only is there the dead man’s switch, there’s also a trip alarm that’s supposed to trigger emergency brakes if a train comes into a station too fast. The arms were set off… but obviously, they didn’t stop the train.
Riding The Rails
It seems likely that this will trigger a larger investigation into Chicago’s public transit system and its safety features: Simply put, two backup systems failing is a severe risk to commuters and to the general public; imagine an elevated train hitting a curve too fast and derailing into a busy road. But for now, we can just be than
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.