Metro-North Delays Continue After Fire Destroys Switching Control Center

Only two of four tracks are available from Greenwich to Harrison, NY.

The fire on May 10, 2014 at the Metro North switch control center in Cos Cob. Photo: Greenwich Professional Firefighters.
The fire on May 10, 2014 at the Metro North switch control center in Cos Cob. Photo: Greenwich Professional Firefighters.

Update: 4:05 p.m., May 12:
This just in from Metro-North:
Metro-North’s Train Time App, website information, and station LCD monitors rely on the signal system to track the status of trains and provide train information. Due to the damage to the control house that affects the signal system between Stamford and Port Chester, there will be inaccurate reporting on the status of trains while going through this section of the New Haven Line.  Once trains have cleared the section, their current status will be updated to provide real-time train information.  

Update: 3:35 p.m., May 12:

The cause of the fire that destroyed a Metro-North switching control system in Cos Cob remains under investigation, a railroad official said Monday afternoon.

"But at this early stage there is no indication that it results from the actions, or inactions, of any individual. We are developing a timeline and cost estimate for fixing the destroyed, highly complex wiring boards and other components," Aaron Donovan, the MTA's deputy director for External Communications, said in an email.

Donovan added, "In the meantime, rush-hour Metro-North trains will be subject to delays of 5 to 10 minutes while we do our best to work with the infrastructure limitations.  (We are limited to two tracks in each direction throughout the day instead of our usual approach which uses three tracks westbound in the morning and one eastbound, shifting to three tracks eastbound in the evening and one westbound.)"

Greenwich Fire Marshal Shawn McDonnell, who is investigating the cause of the fire, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Original story:
Metro-North officials said Monday that a fire that destroyed an important remote switching control house near Cos Cob on Saturday morning may result in 5 to 10-minute delays for New Haven Line customers.

The railroad is only able to use two of four tracks in the peak direction through a nine-mile stretch, officials said in a statement. The fire has also eliminated the ability of the railroad to operate trains around problems if any arise in this area.

The switching control house at Cos Cob allows trains to switch between all four tracks. Because of the loss of the control center, Metro-North trains are limited to two tracks in the westbound direction and two tracks in the eastbound direction between Port Chester, NY, and Stamford.

During peak periods, trains normally use three of the New Haven Line’s four tracks to travel in the peak direction. Limiting peak-direction trains to two tracks in a nine-mile stretch creates a bottleneck that will result in congestion-related delays through that area.

The highly complex process to restore limited switching capability at Cos Cob is ongoing, and a manual control panel is expected to take weeks to implement. Many extra operations employees have been called in to work with all available resources to reduce customer impacts.

Under the immediate solution to the loss of the switching center, trains can continue to operate safely through this area. There is no loss to safety protections as a result of the fire.

Metro-North will have extra customer service personnel at Stamford, New Haven-Union Station and New Rochelle for the first weekday of a new timetable. Rescue switching locomotives will be on standby to assist should any train does become disabled.

The schedule to replace the damaged control house is being developed. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

tlkensington May 12, 2014 at 10:37 AM
When will it stop with Metro North? Seems like anything that can go wrong, is.
Andrew Mitchell Blum CT May 12, 2014 at 07:24 PM
Last time it was this bad was August of 2001. Without a reliable train system it completely changes how employment dynamic in the area. The system should have improved over the past 13 years, not gotten worse. I'd love to see a train system throughout the entire state but if they can't get a 50 mile stretch right then that will never happen. Andrew Mitchell Blum Fairfield, CT


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