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Yes, of course yesterday's fire along the Northeast Corridor was caused by lightning

Fried Amtrak electrical equipment at Forest Hills

Fried Amtrak electrical equipment coated with fire-suppressing foam. Photo by Keolis.

Mother Nature just doesn't like trains, it seems. Keolis reports that yesterday's two-alarm fire in an Amtrak signaling vault at Forest Hills was caused by lightning.

And since Amtrak and commuter rail share the Northeastern Corridor, that meant problems for both rail systems - and will likely cause problems during tomorrow morning's inbound commute:

Inbound passengers on the Franklin and Providence/Stoughton lines should expect 20-30 minute delays coming into Boston tomorrow. Needham Line rider should see some delays, too.

All inbound Providence/Stoughton trains will bypass Ruggles (passengers should get off at Back Bay, then take the Orange Line to Ruggles).

Keolis is hoping things are back to normal by the afternoon rush.

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Comments

100 years ago there wouldn't have been such violent thunder storms...er, or electronic train switching equipment to catch fire.

No, blame the age of the equipment for getting hit! Yeah, that's it. Lightning hit it because the MBTA is underfunded.

Or, perhaps it just wasn't well enough grounded to begin with.

{edit] OK UHubbers: do what you do. Use events to support your favorite political agendas!

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Really, Ben Franklin begs to differ.

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Was over in that neighborhood this am, walking dogs around Peter's Hill in the shank end of the Arboretum.

Where exactly was that bridge? I'd love to see a plaque or marker put up there.

Edit--never mind. See the location later in the linked story. Will check it out next trip.

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Yep. Climate change.

But, hey, there's a place for people like you. People who love to drive and ignore settled science. It is called FLORIDA. You should move there, maybe.

But don't bother pulling your head out. You'll drown faster that way.

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Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S.

ttp://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85600

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The equipment obviously wasn't wearing bright reflective clothing, no way the lighting could see it that time of night. Not the lightnings fault. There, that political agenda is supported for you.

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Otherwise known as Doctor Beverly Scott who has dealt with tornadoes, blizzards, floods and now lightning!

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MBTA diesel commuter trains can use the Fairmount line to bypass this, but Amtrak trains are electric and the Farimount line isn't. What are they doing?

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Inbound on Amtrak 2252 now (Acela express) conductor just warned us that the usual 10 min trip between 128 and Back Bay Sta would take 35-40 mins due to aforementioned events, signal problems, etc. Train was nearly an hour late leaving Penn,

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OK, so it's not an exact rhyme, but I think you can do something with it.

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Those appear to be transformers. Probably a dielectric fire, which is a *very* common failure mode of power circuits. Did keolis actually say "lightning"?

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Woke me up, too. Around 5 am, I think. I don't know if it hit this transformer box, but we really did have a lightning bolt.

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Just surprised just a large collection of critical electrical equipment didn't have some kind of basic lighting rod protection....

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If it was indeed lightning, I would imagine that the transformers being set in a concrete culvert below ground level, and inside a vault that is recessed well into the wall, probably made them not expect lightning.

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... but lightning is something that electrical engineers are trained to expect, and therefore to design structures and circuitry accordingly. Surely, such a piece of critical infrastructure should have substantial lightning arrestors and other protections against rare but inevitable lightning strikes.

It's possible such measures were neglected in the original design of the vault or perhaps they were never installed properly. It's also possible; through neglected maintenance; that ground conductors loosened up, or other components of the lightning protection system became ineffective.

When preventive maintenance budgets are slashed beyond reason, things like lightning protection probably have a very low priority. Lightning's chief weapon may be surprise, but it should never be totally unexpected.

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I'm going to assume they've declare the signal system suspended in the immediate area and are issuing "warrants" for track occupation.

Anyone know for sure?

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Lightning? I live 1,500 feet from that electrical vault and was awake pretty early yesterday morning. I didn't hear any thunder.

You know what else looks like lightning? Arc flashes from poorly maintained 450 volt electrical equipment.

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I don't know if there was lightening but the early morning rain storm definitely had thunder. I don't live as close as you do, but not too far away.

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the flash of bright light woke me up (in Somerville), then a few seconds later I heard the thunder.

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I'm curious why the trains have to bypass Ruggles. Does this mean that all trains are using the southernmost track, which does not have a platform? If they're trying to squeeze all traffic through one track I'm surprised the delays aren't even worse.
Or are they just choosing not to have the trains stop at Ruggles?

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I assume that means the trains are diverting to the Fairmount line.

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Nope, they're still stopping at Back Bay and Hyde Park, neither of which are served by the Fairmount line. Also, GPS tracking still shows trains using the Corridor.

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They have no automated control of the switches around Forest Hills, is my guess. Once they put you on a track at Readville, you're stuck on that one until after Back Bay, and vice versa.

I earlier questioned whether they were issuing "warrants" for track occupation, however they are still showing the signal system as operable. Rather than issuing warrants, they're talking crews past stop signals, which means going so slow that they have to be able to stop within half the line of sight.

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Being stuck on the same track from Readville to Back Bay doesn't explain why they can't still stop at Ruggles as normal though, unless the only track in service is the one that doesn't have a platform at Ruggles.

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Sometimes it is difficult to figure out just what track a train will end up on. Don't want to pick up people in Providence, telling them you "might" stop at Ruggles and then give them the boot at 128 and say, "Sorry, we're not going to the right track." In addition, they're going so slow they might want to make up the time from not stopping.

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1) That's no excuse. At Readville, send trains onto the correct tracks based on whether they're stopping at Ruggles or not, just like they normally do at either Readville or Forest Hills. Not only possible, but easy! Trains do not choose their own paths, and no not end up in random places. It's perfectly easy to predict which track they'll end up on, because it's what track the dispatcher sends them on to. That's the point of a dispatcher.

2) When you're already going slow is when you DO want to stop, because you lose less time and waste less fuel than stopping when you'd otherwise be going track speed.

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...telling Amtrak and Keolis to update their dang infrastructure...this equipment looks like my dad's spooky workshop back in the 60s...

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