UPDATE: Caltrain strikes crossing gate in Menlo Park, causing delays

Systemwide delays irk passengers during Tuesday's evening commute

The remains of a crossing gate, lying on the Caltrain railroad tracks at Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park, disabled a southbound train at about 5:50 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, when a piece of the gate damaged an air hose on the underside of the train, according to Caltrain.

A witness told transit police that a vehicle had crossed the tracks and run into the gate, damaging it, then left the scene, Caltrain spokeswoman Jayme Ackemann said.

Southbound train #264 came to a stop at the Menlo Park station, Caltrain reported. Damage to the train was such that the engineer could not restart the train, Ackemann said.

The incident disrupted Caltrain service throughout the evening. Passengers reported being delayed for up to 90 minutes at the California Avenue train station in Palo Alto. After southbound trains began running again, one local train was so packed with passengers that other riders could not board.

There were no injuries reported due to the incident.

Southbound train #268 was used to push the damaged train to a siding, freeing both tracks for normal traffic, said Caltrain spokeswoman Tasha Bartholomew.

The gates are wooden, Ackemann said. A collision between a vehicle and a gate that leaves the gate damaged is preferable to a vehicle bring stuck on the tracks.

"These things do happen," she said.

— Dave Boyce and Palo Alto Weekly staff

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7 people like this
Posted by Dani
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2015 at 6:40 am

Can someone explain how a train hits a crossing gate??

8 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2015 at 7:00 am

The crossing gate was damaged. I'm guessing the arm was bent toward the tracks by an earlier motor vehicle perhaps by a driver who was trying to beat the gate. When the gate came down, it protruded far enough into the tracks to be hit by the passing train.

That's only a guess, but it seems to me to be the most likely scenario.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2015 at 8:07 am

A train can't hit a crossing gate in its normal mode. The gate had to be in the path of the train.

Any idea why the crossing gate got in the way?

10 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2015 at 8:16 am

I'm going with MV Resident's theory: a vehicle clipped the gate arm trying to bypass it as it was coming down and bent it inward toward the tracks.

5 people like this
Posted by Rider
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2015 at 10:22 am

From one of the passengers, on Twitter: A car tried to race the train, hit the gate, the gate bent in, then train nailed it.

6 people like this
Posted by ugh Caltrain
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 15, 2015 at 10:52 am

1) Caltrain has terrible service anyway. every time there are delays or accidents they just leave passengers to fend for themselves. I assume this attitude was pick up form the airline industry.
2) The motorist who bent the gate is lucky to get away with it (and to be alive) someone should report them in and they can pay all the people whose lives they messed up by causing the accident and the repair of the train. Really should be some kind of repercussions.

3 people like this
Posted by 6thSense
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 15, 2015 at 10:59 am

Seems that someone hitting a barrier such that it protrudes into the path of a train is a much more significant/interesting detail than what was reported. How much time between bozo doing damage till train struck it? No warning sent to train driver? Bozo car driver not cited or identified? No statement from Bozo?

4 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2015 at 11:54 am

Ah, I see my guess was correct from the updated details of the incident.

A pox on the idiot driver who tried to bypass the gate, needlessly inconvenienced hundreds of passengers.

So much entitlement these days...

Like this comment
Posted by marie
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

I heard on the news yesterday that a pick up truck tried to beat the train and hit the crossing gate on the way down breaking it off and throwing it onto the track. then a train came along, struck the debris on the track breaking their air hose. people are so stupid. They see crossing gates coming down and think they can beat the train every time. This time it was a hit and run with the crossing gates, next time it will be them.

Like this comment
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2015 at 12:10 pm

It was a BUS driver from SAMTRANS:

Web Link

Speaking of bus drivers, they're really becoming a hazard. The 35 bus on Middlefield routinely blocks lanes of traffic waiting for non-existent passengers.

I always try to look into the buses with their blacked out windows to see how many passengers they're carrying. Yesterday at around 4:30PM, I saw about 7 buses and shuttles with a total of 3 passengers. I'd like to see some real statistics on bus use, not just religious prosletizing for their use.

4 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2015 at 12:18 pm

@Online Name:

The link you posted refers to an incident way back in 2013.

The news is currently reporting that it was a pickup truck that tried to beat the gate.

It was not SamTrans' fault this time.

2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Apologies. I didn't notice the date when the SAMTRANS item surfaced here.

2 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm

SamTrans -- like any public transit agency -- provides ridership statistics on the agency website. You can probably contact the SamTrans office for more detailed information if what you find online is unsatisfactorily detailed.

I'll leave it as an exercise for you to find this information at (hint: "About > Bus Operations") or you could use an Internet search engine to help you find the information you seek.

4 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm

The slow trains backed up traffic on Alma/Central horrifically last evening causing even more inconvenience to motorists. Another example of why undergrounding these tracks is well worth the cost.

5 people like this
Posted by OldGuy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm

We need grade separations. Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmont were all wise and did it in the '90s when federal money was available. Menlo Park too stuck in its past to act.

Plan for HSR and get the tracks and roads separated. It isn't rocket science- just common sense.

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

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