Hey, there! Log in / Register

Lightning knocked out Amtrak

CBS News reports Amtrak is running between Boston and New York again after being out much of Saturday due to a malfunctioning circuit breaker Amtrak blamed on a lightning strike.

Free tagging: 


Like the job UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!


Although I still feel guilty not visiting my goddaughter after the 4th of July holiday I'm happy I didn't because the MBTA Commuter Rail to Attleboro depends on the same track as the AMTRAK to New York. The last time there was a problem like this I waited 4 hours stuck on the train between Sharon and Attleboro stations.

Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains are electric, and powered from overhead wires. But MBTA trains all have diesel locomotives, so a lightning hit that takes out electric power doesn't affect them.

My understanding is the outage was between New York and New Haven, well outside MBTA territory in any case.

I have never encountered a 4-hour delay on an MBTA commuter train (I have on Amtrak, though). Keolis, which runs the commuter rail for the MBTA, does a pretty good job in my experience -- certainly much better than the MBTA itself does with the subways.


Electric catenary being out doesn't directly affect the diesels, but whatever space the repair crews need to work could result in slow zones for safety passing the work crews, single-tracking areas that are normally two-track, and intermittent full shutdowns if overhead work is required.
So if this had happened in MA, it could well have had an effect on some commuter rail branches.


also affect the signaling infrastructure? Doesn't the commuter rail rely on those?
(i'm no expert)


Well... there's signal system even where there isn't catenary (the diesel-only branches), so I don't think so - but that's reaching the limits of knowledge that I'm fairly confident in.

I can't fully remember some of the articles from a few years ago, around the time that signals/communications were in the news with all the regional systems trying to meet the deadlines for Positive Train Control.
I thought I read something at the time about signals running through the rail (continuous-welded rail) as a carrier or something, or were some of them switching to fiber-optic?

I suppose power for signals could be coming from the same sources Amtrak gets it from for the catenary, but it would be different transformers or something. I don't think signals require anything near the voltage that the catenary does.

Several years ago, I was on an Amtrak train to New York, about ten or 15 miles east of New Haven, I witnessed from the rearmost car, the locomotive get struck by lightning. The lights in the cars went out briefly and the train rolled to a stop. After a minute or two the conductor got on the PA and explained that the locomotive got struck, and that they had to re-cycle the engine, which I guess is train-speak for turning it off and restarting it. I saw them lower and then raise the pantograph, then the lights went off again and came back on, the train then resumed its trip. Once in New Haven, the struck locomotive was removed and replaced with another locomotive, per the conductor, they did that more out of caution than anything. The delay by the time we arrived at Penn Station was only about 15 minutes. I was impressed at how quickly the Amtrak crews were able to do a loco change and resume the trip.