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Train strikes car in Atherton


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.

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1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Well, there was a bit more of a delay - I had a family member on a train following the one that hit the car - it stopped at Redwood City station. Delay of one hour or so quoted then. My family member said lots of riders were trying to get Uber rides. I drove over there to pick up my family member at the RWC station, it was dark and absolutely pouring then.
I think drivers need to use their commonsense as GPS 'aint perfect - try not to end up on train tracks!

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Grade separation anyone?

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:15 pm

So pleased nobody was hurt in this.

I know the tracks are there and once I nearly ended up on the tracks on Mary in Sunnyvale in poor weather with poor visibility. I can see how someone who is unfamiliar with the area could make this mistake late at night in the rain.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 18, 2014 at 2:35 am

Technically I believe the locomotive weighs 260,000 pounds and the passenger coaches about 120,000 each, so a million pounds is for the whole train. Given that every axle has its own brakes, the stopping distance of a train has less to do with weight than with the small friction coefficient of steel wheels on steel rails. Even worse when the rails are wet. Pretty scary looking photo. Fortunate that nobody was hurt. Glad I chose to drive to Millbrae and take BART into the City on Tuesday.

2 people like this
Posted by relentlesscactus
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

"Grade separation anyone?"

Got $80 million plus the will/dollars to fight all the neighbors whose land will be taken for it Midtown?

1 person likes this
Posted by Full Coverage?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

Who is going to pay to repair that locomotive?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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