MAX train derailment cripples morning commute, TriMet investigating cause

Crews work to melt the ice off the MAX tracks after a train derailed Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. (KATU Photo)

Blow torches, picks, shovels: any tool available to clear the snow and ice that caused a Max train to derail at Rose Quarter.

It happened around 4:30 a.m., when a train traveling on the blue line tried to switch to the yellow line track, a maneuver that happens twice a day as trains get in position.

"You picked the worst spot to derail. If it was on like one line that wouldn't be a big deal, but this is where all four of them meet. This is literally the worst spot you could have had this happen," said Mike Zink, a TriMet rider.

Only a few people were on the train when it derailed about 10 feet off the track, making the Yellow and Orange lines inoperable, and backing up the entire MAX system.

"I came out from Hillsboro and we usually get on the Max right away we waited 30, 35 minutes just for one to show up," Zink says. "Each stop was packed and then got all the way into town and they just dumped us at Old Town because they're just piling up."

Crews worked for a few hours to melt and remove the snow and ice, enough to tow the train back to realign the wheels. It worked, expect for the back end that was still a couple feet from the track. Crews then employed a jack to lift the train, slowly inching it over to realign with the track.

"It took about a four hour operation and turned it into about 30 minutes," says Dan Blair, TriMet's Rail Equipment Maintenance Director.

An entire team of engineers and track maintenance crews watched in great anticipation. KATU was live on the air and on our Facebook page around 7:30 a.m. as the train slowly moved back into place.

"Here we go, it's moving - oh great new guys, look at this, slow, slow, slow. They're making sure it's staying intact," reporter Jackie Labrecque said as it moved back on.

So why did the train derail? TriMet reps say they're looking into it.

"It is under investigation and we look at everything," says TriMet spokesperson, Mary Fetsch. "What's the cause and are there things we can put in place to prevent something like this from happen - even though it's only happened this one time."

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