During Monday rush hour this week, a Blue Line train that was scheduled for repairs did a very mysterious thing: it took off without a conductor on board. After quietly and slowly maneuvering its way around the curves of the Forest Park train yard after being parked there for a week, the rogue machine passed through the Forest Park station, headed eastbound on a westbound track and climbed a hill before ramming into another train at Harlem station and injuring 30 people. The media is calling it “the ghost train” and investigators are completely baffled.
The incident is unlike any “veteran city rail workers say they have seen” reports The Chicago Tribune, as multiple failsafes that should have stopped the train didn’t. Robert Kelly, the president of the local rail union, told CBS Chicago he’s never heard of anything like this in 27 years and called it a “great concern” considering “we have people working in these yards 24 hour a day, seven days a week.” To add more to the intrigue, the cameras facing the ghost train when it was parked in the yard the morning of were not working. No one saw anyone leave the train after the collision, not the conductor in the train that was rammed or the Forest Park station supervisor that ran after the rogue train while radioing ahead.
A source close to the investigation said it will be important to learn what the trackside signals showed at the time of the accident. At the track switches, called interlocks, trip devices are supposed to be engaged to put the train into emergency braking mode if it doesn’t have the proper lineup.
Mechanical failure and a crime have also not been ruled out. One theory was that someone hacked into the system. But they had not ruled out human error. This piece has more about the investigation:
The National Transportation Safety Board and CTA investigators have virtually ruled out sabotage. And now they believe the runaway train actually stopped and started several times before the crash because of some kind of control problem.