Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

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  by MetraBNSF
Union Pacific worker failed to fill 'er up, Metra says

By Virginia Groark and Courtney Flynn
Tribune staff reporters
Published August 24, 2006, 9:27 PM CDT

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/cust ... i-news-hed

Among the many woes of Chicago area commuters, here's a new one: The train ran out of gas.

A Chicago-bound Union Pacific North Line train sputtered to a stop at Central Street in Evanston about 7 p.m. Wednesday leaving 82 passengers stranded.

The problem was traced Thursday to a Union Pacific employee, said Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet.

"An employee was told on a number of occasions to refuel the locomotive and failed to do so," she said.

Metra riders reported that even the crew sounded bewildered when announcing that the train, which departed Kenosha at 5:51 p.m., had run out of fuel.

"I could hear them saying in disbelief, 'We're out of gas.' ... Like they were trying to register it themselves," said Chicago resident John Hines, 45, who was on the train.

Some stranded passengers waited an hour for the next train or used their cell phones to arrange for rides home. Others walked to their destinations or hopped on a Chicago Transit Authority train to finish their ride into Chicago.

Despite the inconvenience, several riders got a chuckle out of seeing a locomotive engineer in a predicament that usually befalls absent-minded or cash-strapped motorists.

"I thought they were only joking," said Joan Ellis, 43, who takes the train nightly from her baby-sitting job in Lake Forest to her Evanston home.

Typically, locomotives on that line are filled with diesel fuel in a Chicago yard before heading north on the rail route, which runs between the Ogilvie Transportation Center and Kenosha, Pardonnet said.

But on Wednesday, the Union Pacific employee never filled the tank, Pardonnet said.

The train left Ogilvie at 4:13 p.m. and made it to Kenosha without any problems. But on its way back to Chicago, it ran out of fuel north of the Central Street stop in Evanston and "sort of limped into the station," Pardonnet said.

Another train had to push the disabled one back to Chicago, she added.

Union Pacific, which operates Metra trains on the North Line, apologized to riders.

"We regret that and certainly apologize to the commuters and those who were affected," said Union Pacific spokesman Joe Arbona. "It was not our intention."

Train crews are responsible for monitoring fuel levels, said Arbona, who did not provide details about the incident. He would not say if the employee who failed to refuel the locomotive or anyone else was suspended or fired.

It was the first time in recent memory that a locomotive had run out of fuel during a passenger run, Pardonnet said. Union Pacific senior management officials told Metra Thursday that they were taking steps to ensure it would not happen again, she said.

  by doepack
Ok, now that I've stopped laughing, I guess if it had to happen, at least it occurred in Evanston, where CTA exists as an additional transit option. For the stranded commuters that could've used it, I wonder how many actually chose it as an option though, given the problems they've been having this summer.

Just think: If the train had been a round-trip run to Waukegan instead of Kenosha, it probably would've made it...

  by orangeline
Back around '94 or '95 I was on a BN line weekend train to the city that ran out of fuel between Clyde and Cicero. I think we waited about half an hour before another train ended up pushing us into Union Station. It was really hard to imagine this kind of thing could happen, but it did.