Fallen crane causes strain on Metra
Would-be Metra riders wait at the Hinsdale station Tuesday afternoon eager to learn when the trains will resume running. | Kimberly Fornek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:09AM
WESTMONT — Metra Burlington Northern Santa Fe trains are moving again on a limited basis after the tracks were cleared through Westmont, where a crane lifting a crossing signal fell onto tracks earlier this afternoon.
A Metra alert about 4:30 p.m. said the crane had been removed from the tracks and the agency was restoring service for both inbound and outbound BNSF trains.
Train 1243, scheduled to arrive in Aurora at 5 p.m., left Chicago and will stop in Western Springs. Train 1245, scheduled to arrive at Fairview Avenue at 4:52 p.m., also left Chicago and will stop at to La Grange-Stone Avenue.
Metra’s alert said it was “uncertain if these trains will be allowed to continue to their final destinations.”
The crane, which was working on overhead railroad signals, tipped over and fell onto the tracks at Burlington Avenue and Grant Street in Westmont, just west of Cass Avenue, shortly before noon, according to a release from the village. No one was injured.
The mobile crane was lifting the cantilevered signal and tipped over onto the rails blocking all three tracks, the release said. BNSF personnel have been working to remove the cantilevered signal and the damaged crane.
Damage is primarily to BNFS equipment, although there is also damage to Verizon fiber optic cables, and Verizon service has been affected.
A message on Metra’s public address system at the Hinsdale train station announced there was an “obstruction” on the tracks, without mentioning a crane.
“All the trains are stopped. We will advise you when trains are on the move,” the speakers announced, with some of the announcements garbled.
People who were supposed to be on their way to meetings and tennis tournaments, or hoping to spend day sightseeing, instead waited patiently at the Hinsdale Metra station.
“I’ve been waiting here for an hour,” Judy Mulvenna of Hinsdale said a little before 2 p.m. She was heading to Chicago and was going to be late for a meeting.
When she heard the trains are delayed because a crane fell on the tracks near Westmont, Mulvenna said decided just to drive instead.
Nick Szczurek was going to a tennis tournament at the East Bank Club in Chicago, but he did not get very far. He had been waiting for an eastbound train for more than an hour.
It looked like he would miss the tournament, but was not too upset.
“It was kind of a last-minute thing. I play tournaments for practice,” said Szczurek, who plays on Emory University’s tennis team.
Daryl Moore of Pittsburgh came to the area for business.
“This was supposed to be a sightseeing day,” Moore said.
He left the Doubletree Hotel in Oak Brook about 12:30 p.m., planning to take the Metra to downtown Chicago.
“It’s disappointing to say the least,” he said.
Moore was concerned the trains would not resume running until rush hour, at which point he would be passed over by express trains.
Trista Wilson went to Chicago for a morning interview. She was on the westbound train heading back home to Lisle, when the train stopped in Hinsdale and told the passengers this was the last chance to get off and they wouldn’t be able to get back on.
About 75 percent of the passengers got off at the Hinsdale station, Wilson said. Then the train pulled forward, but there was an outcry from the passengers who had stayed on the train.
“They thought the train was going to stay in the station, and they could get off later if they wanted to,” Wilson said.
When they were told the train was moving west just about 100 feet to clear the street crossings and would stay there between stations, Woodward said another 20 people got off.
Wilson had not figured out how she would get the rest of the way home.
Paul Hanson was trying to hail a cab for his family. Paul and Candace Hanson, who live in Naperville, wanted to spend the day taking the train with their two sons, ages 4 and 2.
They had driven to Downers Grove, where they could park for free, and then boarded the train eastbound to La Grange where they had had lunch.
When they got on the train in La Grange for the return trip, they were not warned there was a problem on the tracks.
“They didn’t tell us anything,” Candace Hanson said.
But they soon heard other passengers talking about how there was something blocking the tracks ahead.
The train continued to Hinsdale.
“It just stopped right here,” Paul Hanson said. “They told us we could get off here, but not get back on. They didn’t give us an e.t.a. so we decided to get off and hail a cab.”
His wife was none too pleased with the situation, because “we are getting on nap time and we paid for our tickets round-trip. And this is as far as we got.”
Hanson accepted that “stuff happens.”
“The boys were supposed to have their first train ride today, now they’ll get their first cab ride, too,” she said.
Mary Sullivan of Park Ridge was taking the train to browse bookstores in Naperville.
“I go all over on Metra,” said Sullivan, who is enrolled in the Circuit Breaker program and thus, gets to ride free. “I don’t like to sit home.”
As she couldn’t continue west to Naperville, Sullivan hoped to return eastbound.
“I’ll browse bookstores in downtown Chicago.”
Mina White lives in Chicago and took Metra to her doctor’s office in the suburbs. She was happy to get out early from the doctor.
“I came here thinking I would get home early and that is not going to happen,” said White who had been waiting two hours already for an eastbound train.
Hearing there was a crane on the tracks did not lessen her frustration.
“Another day, the train’s stopped because the tracks are sweating, or there’s snow on the tracks. Everyday there’s a story,” White said.
Sun-Times Media contributed