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Smoldering railroad tie stops trains

A smoking railroad tie on the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto shut down train service on Friday afternoon. It was the second incident this week, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

The incident occurred at 3:15 p.m. after a train engineer spotted the wooden tie smoldering. Police and fire departments halted two trains through the area, which is between the Churchill Avenue crossing and the California Avenue station. Southbound train 156 was stopped at the Palo Alto station; northbound train 261 was stopped at the California Avenue station. There was no impact to any other trains, Dunn said.

Police and fire personnel searched the tracks on foot. The smoldering tie was reported at milepost 30, four-tenths of a mile north of the California Avenue station and north of Peers Park, Dunn said.

A similar incident occurred earlier this week. Dunn did not know the cause of the smoldering ties, she said.

"It's the first time I have ever heard of anything like this," she said.

Crews did not locate the smoldering tie, according to dispatch. The fire department cleared train passage at 4:15 p.m., Dunn said.

Comments

Posted by hoax?, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

What really happened? Was this a hoax? An optical illusion? Dirty train windshield?


Posted by Lance P., a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm

As a retired railroad track supervisor I can assure you that this is a common occurrence. I saw smoldering ties at least 3-4 times per summer during my time on the railroad. Wood ties are treated with creosote which is petroleum based. When the ties get old and dried out a cigarette butt or a spark can ignite them. They usually don't burn but will smolder for hours and sometimes days. A single burned tie is not a hazard and having a fire department called to investigate is overhyping the situation. Stopping trains is beyond that. What did I tell my track inspectors when they came upon a smoldering tie? Time to take a leak!


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Lance, that was beautiful.


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