A southbound Caltrain struck a car on the train tracks at Fair Oak Avenue in Atherton at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 16. The driver was able to escape the car before the collision, said Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman.
"The driver stated he was following his GPS at the time before he got the vehicle stuck on the tracks," Schapelhouman said.
Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said that "that is not the first time" that drivers have followed GPS instructions to turn and ended up on the train tracks.
"It was raining really hard at the time," she said, and visibility was probably bad.
The car was pinned underneath the train and carried about 1,500 feet down the tracks, catching fire before the train came to a stop, according to Schapelhouman. No one was injured and firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.
Passengers got off the train at the Atherton station and were able to get on the next southbound train, Dunn said. No one on the train was injured.
Dunn said the car was not removed from the tracks until about midnight, causing Caltrain to run trains in both directions on the northbound track.
"At that time of the evening, the commute is over and we are in hourly service," she said. Nonetheless, "there were train delays because of the single tracking."
Dunn said that a locomotive weighs a million pounds. "A locomotive doesn't stop on a dime," she said.